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25 Worst Acts of Terrorism Ever Committed

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Terrorism has quite a broad definition and people tend to have different views of what actually falls into the category based on their perception of a situation and who they sympathize with. So, realizing the subjective nature of the topic, for this list we try to stick to those events that the majority of the world would condemn as terrorist activity. From the streets of Baghdad to New York City, here are the 25 worst acts of terrorism ever committed.

25. Sicarii Zealots

It seems that terrorism goes back to even 2000 years ago when a Jewish extremist group tried to expel the Romans and their sympathizers at the beginning of the 1st century AD with the use of daggers hidden in their cloaks, hence the name “sicarii,” which means “dagger.” In a public gathering, the zealots pulled their daggers to attack not only the Romans and their sympathizers, but all Jewish collaborators including the Herodians and Sadducees.

24. The Reign of Terror

Popularly known as ‘The Terror,’ this was an era of violence that started on September 5, 1793 and ended only on July 28, 1794 during the French Revolution. The conflict between the Girondins and the Jacobins had resulted in mass executions including the death of 16, 594 people under the guillotine. This is also the first time that the word “terrorist” was used by Edmund Burke in 1795.

23. Felice Orsini

Orsini was an Italian revolutionary leader of the “Carbonari” who attempted to assassinate the French Emperor Napoleon III on January 14, 1858 while he and the Empress Eugenie de Montijo were on their way to the theater by throwing three bombs at the royal carriage. The incident resulted in the death of 8 bystanders while injuring 142 more. He was also a conspirator involved in dethroning the pope and attempted to assassinate Napoleon III believing that he was a major impediment to Italian independence. Interestingly enough his terrorist acts inspired the first Russian terrorist groups.

22. Wall Street Bombing

A terrorist attack that was centered in the Financial District of New York, this happened on September 16, 1920 and killed 38 people while injuring 400 more resulting in $2 million in damages. The attack involved a horse-drawn wagon containing 45 kg of dynamite with 230 kg of slugs detonating and instantly killing the brokers, clerks, messengers and stenographers working in the area and destroying the interior of the JP Morgan building. The crime was never solved though it was believed that the group behind it was the Italian anarchist Galleanists who were responsible for a series of bombings that year. It was also tied to labor struggles, postwar social unrest and anti-capitalist aggression.

21. St. Nedelya Church Assault

The assault happened on April 16, 1925 when a group of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) blew up the dome of the St. Nedelya Church during the wake of General Konstantin Georgiev, who was assassinated just two days prior by the same group while heading for an evening mass at the Sofia church. It killed 150 people, a majority of them prominent government and military officials, with 500 people wounded. The attack was carried out by the Military Organization (MO) of the BCP who were tasked to carry out isolated attacks with 25 kg of explosives mounted in a package above one the columns of the main dome at the south entrance of the church set to detonate with a 15-m long cable to allow the attackers a chance to escape.

20. King David Hotel Bombing

On July 22, 1946, the rebellious right-wing Zionist group, Irgun, carried out an offensive against the British by bombing the British Administrative Headquarters for Palestine, which was housed at the King David Hotel. This terrorist campaign concluded with the death of 91 people from various nationalities and injured 46 others. This is considered the deadliest terrorist attack to occur during the British Mandate era from 1920 to 1948.

19. The Cinema Rex Fire

The arson, which happened in a cinema in Abadan, Iran on August 19, 1978 cost the lives of 470 individuals, most of them unidentified due to the extent of the burns. When an Iranian newspaper reported that it was started by radical Islamists, it was shut down by the Islamic government, however, it was later found out that anti-Shah militants were behind the fire.

18. The Grand Mosque Seizure

This terrorist act, which occurred from November 20, 1979 to December 5, 1979, was a takeover by the Islamists dissidents of Mecca, the holiest place in Islam. The insurgents’ leader, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani, declared that he is the “Mahdi” or “redeemer” of Islam and all the Muslims should obey him. Hundreds of pilgrims who were present for the annual “hajj” were taken as hostages and a number of them were killed along with the rebels in the crossfire that ensued for the control of the site. The siege ended with the death of 255 pilgrims and militants with 500 injured.

17. Beirut Barracks Bombing

One of the major acts of terrorism in the 1980s, the event happened on October 23, 1983 at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs exploded near the housing of US and French military forces. The attack against the multinational forces in Lebanon was claimed by the organization Islamic Jihad, the nom de guere for Hezbollah who was receiving help from the Islam Republic of Iran. The explosives, which were equivalent to 5400 kg of TNT, resulted in the deadliest single-day death toll for the US Marine Corps with casualties that included 241 servicemen.

16. Pan Am Flight 103

Also known as the ‘Lockerbie Bombing,’ this event happened on December 21, 1988 in a Pan Am transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport on its way to JFK International Airport in New York. The Boeing 747-121, “Clipper Maid of the Seas,” exploded killing all 243 passengers aboard as well as its 16 crewmembers before it crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland killing 11 more on the ground. A three-year joint investigation of the Scottish police and the US FBI resulted in the arrest of 2 Libyan nationals who were handed over by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi also paid compensation to the victims’ families, though maintaining that he did not personally order the attack which resulted in more conspiracy theories.

15. Bombay Bombings

This tragic terrorist attack involved 13 bomb explosions in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. The assault on March 12, 1993 resulted in the death of 270 civilians with 700 more wounded. Organized by Dawood Ibrahim, the “don” of the crime syndicate D-Company, it was carried out as an act of vengeance against the widespread Muslim massacre from December to January and the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

14. Oklahoma City Bombing

The deadliest act of terrorism in the US before the 9-11 attacks, the bombing that occurred on April 19, 1995 in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, an office complex in Oklahoma claimed the lives of 168 people, 19 of which are children below 6 years old, and left 800 more wounded. It also caused damaged to 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, burned 86 cars, shattered the windowpanes of nearby 258 buildings, resulting in $652 million worth of damages. The perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh, was put to death by lethal injection in 2001.

13. Attack in Bentalha, Algeria

Also known as the “Bentalha Massacre,” this tragic event happened on September 22 to 23, 1997 when armed guerrillas stormed the village and killed 200 to 400 of its inhabitants. It started with an explosion near the orange groves in the Hai el-Djilali neighborhood at about 11:30 pm followed by assailants armed with machine guns, machetes, and hunting rifles going from house to house and slaughtering men, women, and children. This monstrosity was claimed by the Armed Islamic Group, who was also responsible for other massacres including that of the Hais Rais.

12. US Embassy Bombings

This is a series of terrorist attacks on US Embassies in the East African cities of Nairobi, and Dar es Slaam on August 7, 1998, which was the 8th anniversary of the arrival of US forces in Saudi Arabia. The truck bomb explosions were linked to the local terrorist group of al Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden. The trucks, which were laden with 3 to 17 tons of high explosive materials detonated simultaneously, with over 200 dead and thousands wounded as a result. Though it was directed at American facilities, most of the victims were local citizens with only 12 Americans casualties.

11. Karachi Bombing

The Karachi bombing on October 18, 2007 happened on the day former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was welcomed home after an 8-year self-imposed exile in Dubai and London. The blasts occurred during a motorcade on their way from the airport to the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Three police vans bore the impact of the explosions killing 20 policemen instantly and resulting in the death of 139 people, most of whom were members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

10. Bali Bombing

Considered the deadliest acts of terrorism ever in the history of Indonesia, this tragic event occurred on October 12, 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta. It resulted in the deaths of 202 people, including 38 locals. The attacks on local nightclubs were carried out by some members of the Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist Islamist group, with the use of two bombs placed in a backpack carried by suicide bombers and a car bomb while a third bomb exploded in the US Embassy in Denpasar.

9. Madrid Train Bombings

Also known as “11-M” this is considered the most tragic terrorist attack in Europe, occurring on March 11, 2004. The series of synchronized bombings on the Cercania commuter train in Madrid were believed to be headed by an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group. The explosions, which were just three days short of the general elections in Spain killed nearly 200 people.

8. SuperFerry 14 Bombings

The world’s deadliest terrorist attack at sea happened on February 27, 2004 and resulted in the sinking of SuperFerry 14, 90 minutes after it sailed from the port of Manila on its way to Cagayan de Oro City. Perpetrated by an Islamist terrorist group, it concluded in the death of 116 people. Believed to be an accident at first, investigations later revealed that a television set with 4 kg of TNT was the cause of the explosion. Though various terrorists groups claimed the tragedy, it was found out that it was the Abu Sayyaf, who was behind this atrocity.

7. London Transport Bombing

On July 7, 2005, a series of 3 explosions was heard aboard the London Underground trains across the city, while the fourth one exploded in a double-decker in Tavistock Square. The attacks, which happened the day after the city was chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, were caused by homemade organic-peroxide-based devices that were packed into backpacks carried by suicide bombers. The 57-minute attack concluded with the death of 52 civilians and 4 suicide bombers, while injuring 700 more.

6. Sadr City Bombings

This November 23, 2006 attack involved a series of car bombs and two mortar attacks. One of the most tragic terrorist attacks in Baghdad at least 215 people perished while 257 others were wounded. Having targeted the Shi’ite Muslim slums in the city, it resulted in a 24-hour curfew and the shutdown of the Baghdad International Airport. The Shi’ite Muslims also retaliated by burning 6 Sunni Arabs alive with kerosene.

5. Mumbai Train Bombings

On July 11, 2006, a series of 7 bomb blasts was heard on the Suburban Railway in Mumbai, which resulted in the death of 209 people and wounded 714 others. The bombs, which were inside pressure cookers to increase the after-burn thermobaric reaction were placed in the first-class compartments and exploded during the afternoon work rush-hour. Carried out by the Lshkar-e-Talba and the Students Islamic Movement of Inida (SIMI), it was in retaliation to the perceived oppression of the Muslim minorities in the regions of Gujarat and Kashmir.

4. Baghdad Bombings

One in the never-ending atrocities in Iraq, this terrorist attacks involved 5 car bombs that exploded across the city of Baghdad on April 18, 2007. This violence, which targeted the civilians in Shia that was still being rebuilt at that time, was reminiscent of the conflicts before the Iraqi capital was secured. With nearly 200 casualties, it came just as the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that the Iraqi forces would assume control of the country’s security at the end of the year.

3. The Al Hillah Bombings

This terrorist attack was committed against Shia Muslims, who were on their way to a pilgrim in Al Hillah on March 6, 2007. Two suicide bombers donning explosive vests mingled with the crowd who were celebrating a traditional festival. It claimed the lives of nearly 200 people.

2. Yazidi Communities Bombing

The second deadliest attacks ever committed after 9-11, it happened on August 14, 2007 when four corresponding suicide bombs exploded in the towns of Yazidi and Jazeera. The most deadly car bomb assault under major US combat operations, it had estimated casualties of 796 while 1, 562 people were injured. The two tons of explosives that the 3 cars and a fuel tanker carried crumbled buildings, trapping everyone beneath, while others wrecked and flattened entire neighborhoods.

1. 9/11

On September 11, 2001, a succession of four coordinated assaults was launched by the al-Queda in the New York City and Washington DC areas. Four planes were hijacked by 19 men and two of those planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, collided into the north and south towers of the NYC World Trade Center, which collapsed within two hours and led to the destruction of nearby buildings as well. The third plane, American Flight 77, targeted the Pentagon in Virginia while the last one, United Airlines Flight 93 whose aim was the Capitol in DC, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers tried to overpower the hijackers. These catastrophic events led to the deaths of 3,000 people.