The American Gazette

Commonsense political and social commentary from "Flyover Country"

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Location: Rural Michigan, United States

Sunday, September 12, 2004

More Islamist Terrorism

1977, October 13 Lufthansa flight LH 181 was kidnapped by a group of four Arabs around the leader "Captain Martyr Mahmud".

1978 Palestinian Fatah terrorists on the Tel Aviv - Haifa highway kill 34 Israelis.

On April 18, 1983, a delivery van driven by a suicide bomber and carrying about 400 pounds of explosives drove up to the United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. It parked under the portico at the very front of the building, where it exploded. The front section of the embassy collapsed, killing 63 people. Seventeen of these were Americans, and eight of them worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. More than a hundred others were wounded.
The attack was motivated by the American intervention in the Lebanese Civil War. American troops had landed to try and restore order to the war ravaged country, and to prevent the country falling to communism or Muslim extremists. Many groups within Lebanon were opposed to the American presence but it is the militant group Hezbollah--under the code name "Islamic Jihad"--that is believed to have been responsible for the attacks. Some also suspect the OLP and extremists communists may have played a role.
The deadliest attack on a US diplomatic mission up to that time left many wondering what would come next. Just six months later, 241 US servicemen would be dead after another truck bombing. And 18 months after the first embassy attack, in September 1984, a car bomb hit the new, more secure US Embassy in East Beirut, killing 2 Americans and 20 Lebanese. After these attacks the American troops were pulled out of Lebanon by President Ronald Reagan.
Along with the Marine Barracks Bombing, the incident prompted the Inman Report, a review of overseas security for the US Department of State.


Marine barracks bombing
Marine barracks bombing in the news
The Marine barracks bombing was a major terrorist incident in the 1980s. It occurred on October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, where an international peacekeeping force was set up after the Israeli invasion in 1982.
The Bombing
On October 23, around 6:20 AM, a yellow Mercedes delivery truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the United States Marines had their headquarters. It turned onto an access road leading to the compound and circled a parking lot. The driver gunned his engine, crashed through a barbed-wire fence in the compound parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate, and barreled into the lobby of the Marine headquarters building. The Marine sentries had not had loaded weapons, and were not able to shoot the driver. According to one Marine, the driver was smiling as he sped past him.
The suicide bomber detonated his truck, which contained 12,000 pounds of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story cinder-block building into rubble, crushing to death many inside. The FBI later concluded that the blast was the largest non-nuclear explosion they had ever seen.
About twenty seconds later, an identical attack occurred on the French Paratrooper barracks. A truck bomb drove down a ramp into the building's underground parking garage and exploded, leveling the headquarters.
Rescue efforts continued for days. While some was hindered by sniper fire, some lucky survivors were pulled from the rubble, and were air lifted to Cyprus or West Germany.
Death Toll
The death toll was 241 for the Marine Barracks attack: 220 Marines, 18 Navy Personnel, and 3 Army soldiers. 60 Americans were injured. In the attack on the French barracks, 58 paratroopers were killed, and 15 injured. In addition, one Lebanese died in the Marine barracks attack and two Lebanese died in the French bombing.
The attack caused the deadliest single-day death toll for the American military since World War II. The attack remains the deadliest terrorist attack on Americans overseas, and today it is the fourth-deadliest terrorist attack ever.
Response
President Ronald Reagan called the attack a "despicable act" and pledged to stay in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said there would be no change in the US's Lebanon policy. On October 24 French president Fran├žois Mitterrand visited the French bomb site. It was not an official visit, and he only stayed for a few hours, but he did declare: "We will stay." US Vice President George Bush toured the marine bombing site on October 26 and said the US would not be cowered by terrorists.
In retaliation for the attacks, France launched an air strike in the Bekaa valley against Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions. President Reagan assembled his national security team to devise a plan of military action, and planned to target was the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards believed to be training Hezbollah fighters. However, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger aborted the mission, reportedly because of his concerns that it would harm U.S. relations with other Arab nations. Except for a few shellings from the USS New Jersey off Lebanon, there was no real military response from the United States due to the barracks bombing; however, the US did become involved in several fights in Lebanon during their stay.
The Marines were later moved offshore where they could not be targeted, but in February 1984 the International Peacekeeping Force withdrew from Lebanon.
Aftermath
The responsibility for the bombing is uncertain. Most believe the Hezbollah terrorist group, backed by Iran and Syria is responsible for the two barracks bombings, as well as the April 1983 US Embassy bombing. Several Shiite terrorist group claimed the attacks, and one, the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, identified the two suicide bombers as Abu Mazen, 26, and Abu Sijaan, 24.
Along with the April 1983 US Embassy bombing, this incident prompted the Inman Report, a review of the security of US facilities overseas for the US Department of State.

Gulf Air Flight 771 was a flight that flew from Abu Dhabi International Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to Karachi International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan.
On 23 September, 1983, while the Boeing 737 used was enroute to Karachi from Abu Dhabi, a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment. The plane crashed in the desert near Mina Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. All 6 crew members and 111 passengers perished.


TWA Flight 847
TWA Flight 847 in the news
Trans World Airlines Flight 847 was hijacked on June 14, 1985.
It was a Boeing 727 flying from Athens to Rome, piloted by John Testrake. It departed on a Friday morning at 10:10 am, carrying 153 crew and passengers. The crew included the flight engineer, Benjamin C. Zimmerman, the co-pilot, Philip G. Maresca, and the purser, Uli Derickson.
It was commandeered by two men shortly after taking off from Athens. The men allegedly smuggled pistols and grenades through the Athens airport security. A third hijacker, Ali Atwa, was bumped from the full flight. The Greek government arrested him.
The plane first stopped in Beirut for several hours. The hijackers allowed 19 passengers to leave. They took on fuel. The plane then went to Algiers. Here 20 passengers were released during a five hour stop. The plane headed back to Beirut. At the time, Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war. Beirut was split into sectors, with different militia controlling different areas. The Beirut International Airport was surrounded by a Shiite neighborhood. The airport had no perimeter security. People from the surrounding neighborhood could simply drive onto the runway.
At the second stop in Beirut things turned violent. The hijackers picked out an American Navy diver, Robert Stethem, from among the passengers. They beat him, shot him in the right temple, and dumped his body out of the plane onto the tarmac. Several passengers with Jewish sounding names were taken off the plane, but not released. Nearly a dozen armed men joined the hijackers.
The plane returned to Algiers again, where 65 passengers were released. It again returned to Beirut, landing on Sunday afternoon. It remained here. One of the TWA crew members, Uli Derickson, was widely credited with calming the hijackers and saving the lives of many passengers.
The Greek government released the accomplice Ali Atwa; in exchange, the hijackers released eight Greek citizens. One of the passengers was Demis Roussos, a Greek folk singer.
The initial demands of the hijackers included: the release of all Shiites captured by Israel in Lebanon, international condemnation of Israeli military activity in southern Lebanon, condemnation of US actions in the Middle East, condemnation of a car bombing in the Beirut suburb of Bir al Abed that occurred March 8. Rumors in Beirut suggested that the car bombing, which killed 80 people, was linked to the US Central Intelligence Agency.
By Monday afternoon, June 17, most of the hostages had been taken from the plane to a secure location. The 40 remaining hostages were protected by Nabih Berri, a moderate Shiite leader of the Amal milia. He was also an official in the fractured Lebanon government. One of the hostages was released when he developed heart trouble, the other 39 remained captive until June 30, when they were driven to Syria, boarded a US Air Force plane, and flew to West Germany.
Israel released most of the prisoners within a month after the hijacking ended. They stated that the release was unrelated to the hijacking and had long been planned.
One of the hijackers, Mohammed Homadi, was arrested two years later in Frankfurt, Germany. He was tried and convicted of Stethem's murder. He is serving a life sentence in Germany. On October 10, 2001, three of the alleged hijackers, Imad Mugniyah, Ali Atwa, and Hassan Izz-Al-Din were placed on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. Rewards of $25 million dollars for information leading to their arrests and convictions are currently being offered by the United States.





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