Hostage Terry Anderson freed in Lebanon

On December 4, 1991, Islamic militants in Lebanon release kidnapped American journalist Terry Anderson after 2,454 days in captivity.

As chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Anderson covered the long-running civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). On March 16, 1985, he was kidnapped on a west Beirut street while leaving a tennis court. His captors took him to the southern suburbs of the city, where he was held prisoner in an underground dungeon for the next six-and-a-half years.

Anderson was one of 92 foreigners (including 17 Americans) abducted during Lebanon’s bitter civil war. The kidnappings were linked to Hezbollah, or the Party of God, a militant Shiite Muslim organization formed in 1982 in reaction to Israel’s military presence in Lebanon. They seized several Americans, including Anderson, soon after Kuwaiti courts jailed 17 Shiites found guilty of bombing the American and French embassies there in 1983. Hezbollah in Lebanon received financial and spiritual support from Iran, where prominent leaders praised the bombers and kidnappers for performing their duty to Islam.

U.S. relations with Iran–and with Syria, the other major foreign influence in Lebanon–showed signs of improving by 1990, when the civil war drew to a close, aided by Syria’s intervention on behalf of the Lebanese army. Eager to win favor from the U.S. in order to promote its own economic goals, Iran used its influence in Lebanon to engineer the release of nearly all the hostages over the course of 1991.

Anderson returned to the U.S. and was reunited with his family, including his daughter Suleme, born three months after his capture. In 1999, he sued the Iranian government for $100 million, accusing it of sponsoring his kidnappers; he received a multi-million dollar settlement.

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Terrorist gunman attacks Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida

Year
2016
Month Day
June 12

As Latin music blared inside Pulse, one of Orlando’s biggest nightclubs on June 12, 2016, a gunman forced his way inside and opened fire on the predominantly gay crowd. In the end, 49 people were dead and dozens more injured, in what was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

When the gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida entered the club with an AR-15-type assault rifle and a handgun, the nearly 300 people inside were winding down their Latin-themed night of dancing. When the first shots rang out, many described not noticing, thinking the bangs were part of the songs, until people started to fall the floor and others ran in terror. Some hid in the bathrooms.

“I heard 20, 40, 50 shots,” Jon Alamo told BBC. “The music stopped.”

At 02:09, the nightclub posted on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

As Mateen moved through the nightclub, he exchanged fire with the club’s security guard and, as more officers arrived on the scene, shots continued to be exchanged. Mateen then escaped to the bathroom, where he took hostages and told the police he had explosives he was ready to detonate.

While the gunman was in the bathroom, police evacuated those still on the club’s dance floor. Many tweeted or texted for help from the inside, including people trapped in the bathroom who hid in the stalls trying not to be seen. Others played dead. During the attack, Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS.

At the same time, officers secured the building and prepared to enter the bathroom using explosives on the outside wall of the building. At about 5 AM, the police stormed through their exploded hole, then shot and killed the Mateen.

At the time of the shooting, it was unclear if this was an act of terrorism or a hate crime. While the Mateen’s family said that he had shown anger towards two gay men kissing the week before the attack, evidence discovered in the years after the attack shows that this may have been a planned act of terrorism and may have had a different target—a Disney complex—before the Mateen got spooked by police.

Mateen had been interviewed by FBI officers twice in 2013, after making comments to coworkers about his connections to ISIS. He was questioned again in 2014 about a potential connection to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American suicide bomber who had attacked in Syria.

Seven months after the attack, Noor Salman, the Omar Mateen’s wife, was charged with obstruction of justice for making contradictory statements to the FBI, and aiding and abetting for allegedly ignoring her husband’s connections to ISIS. The FBI believed she may have known of his plan.

In March of 2018, she was found not guilty.

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Terrorists attack London Bridge

Year
2017
Month Day
June 03

During one horrific 8-minute period on June 3, 2017, eight people were killed as a band of terrorists drove a van through a pedestrian walkway on the London Bridge. The men then exited, armed with pink steak knives, and proceeded to slash and stab people in a nearby market.

The attack was the third to take place in London in 2017.

Just minutes before 10 pm a van filled with three attackers inconspicuously crossed the London Bridge twice. When it reached the end of the bridge the second time, the van made a U-turn, mounting the pavement and mowing down pedestrians.

At the end of the bridge, the terrorists crashed into a nearby pub, where they exited with knives taped to their wrists and fake bombs strapped to their bodies. The men ran from the vehicle, slashing and stabbing through the Borough Market as they screamed “This is for Allah.” They randomly entered bars and restaurants, stabbing whoever came into their path. People tried to fight them off, throwing crates, chairs and glasses, but in the end, 48 people were injured.

By 10:15 all three terrorists had been killed by authorities.

The terrorists were found to be Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a British citizen born in Pakistan who is believed to have been the leader of the attack; Rachid Redouane, 30, who said he was Moroccan and Libyan; and Youssef Zaghba, 22, a Moroccan-Italian man. The men are reported to have had large amounts of steroids in their system.

2017 was one of the most intense periods for terrorist attacks in England. Arrests for terrorism-linked offenses rose to a record 379 in the 12 months leading up to the attacks, an increase of 67% from the year before. 

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Terrorists attack Ahmadiyya mosques in Pakistan

Year
2010
Month Day
May 28

As Friday prayers came to a close on May 28, 2010 in Lahore, Pakistan, seven terrorists wielding guns, grenades and suicide vests stormed into two crowded Ahmadi Muslim mosques and opened fire, killing 94 victims and injuring more than 120. The coordinated attacks took place just minutes apart.

At the Bait-ul-Noor Mosque in Model Town—an upscale neighborhood in Lahore—people ran for their lives as three gunmen entered with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, opening fire on security personnel and worshippers alike. The attack lasted more than one hour as the attackers shot into the horrified crowd. Twenty-seven people were killed.

Several miles away, near Lahore’s main railway station, another three attackers barged into the Dar-ul-Zakir mosque with the same destructive intentions. They sprayed bullets into the congregation and took several hundred people hostage. A three-hour standoff ensued, as police and terrorists exchanged gunfire. Two of the attackers then detonated their suicide vests, killing 67.

The nightmare didn’t end for survivors the day of the mosque attacks. A few days later, gunmen attacked the intensive-care Unit of Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, where victims and one of the alleged attackers were recovering. Twelve more people, including police officers and hospital staff, were killed. The attackers escaped.

A Punjab provincial chapter of the Taliban took responsibility for all the attacks.

Although the incidents came as a horrifying surprise, a leader at the Model Town mosque expressed that they had been receiving threatening phone calls in the weeks prior to the attacks. When Mosque leaders reached out to the police for more security, they received no response.

Unfortunately, threats and violence are nothing new for the Ahmadi, who are always met with discrimination from majority Muslim sects. Though the Ahmadi consider themselves Muslim, Pakistani law does not. Even an act as simple as declaring themselves Muslim is considered blasphemy under the law, and can be punished with fines, prison time or death. Sunni Muslim conservatives have led a recent campaign to ostracize the Ahmadis, and Sunni extremists have made them the targets of violence.

The victims of the attacks were buried in Rabwah—the home to the Ahmadi’s religious headquarters. Although Pakistani ministers, politicians and other prominent figures issued statements of condemnation toward the attackers and their actions, none of them attended the services—likely due to fear of political and religious backlash for publicly supporting the much-maligned sect.

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Manchester Arena bombed during Ariana Grande concert

Year
2017
Month Day
May 22

Just moments after Ariana Grande finished the final song of her May 22, 2017 concert at Manchester Arena, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion on the premises, killing 22 concertgoers and injuring 116 more. ISIS claimed responsibility for what was the deadliest act of terrorism in Britain since the 2005 London metro bombings.

A scene of youthful fun turned to panic and violence as shrapnel and fire tore through the crowd pouring out of the Arena’s busiest exit. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw a flash of light. Some were knocked down by the blast, while others scrambled for safety in the chaos.

Frantic parents, family members and friends began what would be an hours-long search for their children, and those from whom they had been separated when the rush to safety began. Others took to social media with photos of their loved ones, using #manchesterarena to ask if any of them had been seen alive after the explosion. More than 240 emergency calls were made; 60 ambulances and 400 police officers helped in the search. The youngest victim was 8-year-old Lancashire native Saffie Roussos.

The attacker was later revealed to be 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Manchester native of Libyan descent whom investigators believe was radicalized after spending time in Libya in 2011. Although he was known to British security services, he was not part of any active terrorist investigation at the time of the bombing. Evidence shows that others, including Abedi’s brother, were aware of his plans, and may have helped to carry them out.

Just after the attack, Grande tweeted: “from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” Eleven days later, she returned to Manchester, visiting wounded fans and victims’ families.

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Three people killed, hundreds injured in Boston Marathon bombing

Year
2013
Month Day
April 15

On April 15, 2013, two bombs go off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and wounding more than 260 other people in attendance. Four days later, after an intense manhunt that shut down the Boston area, police captured one of the bombing suspects, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; his older brother and fellow suspect, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died following a shootout with law enforcement earlier that same day.

The 117th Boston Marathon began in the morning from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, with some 23,000 participants. At around 2:49 that afternoon, with more than 5,700 runners still in the race, two pressure cooker bombs hidden in backpacks exploded within seconds of each other near the finish line along Boylston Street. Three people died: a 23-year-old woman, a 29-year-old woman and an 8-year-old boy. Among the scores of others who were injured, more than a dozen people required amputations.

On the evening of April 18, the FBI released photos of two male suspects sought in connection with the bombings. That night at around 10:30, Sean Collier, a 26-year-old police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was shot dead in his patrol car on the school’s Cambridge campus. Authorities would eventually link the murder to the Tsarnaev brothers, who spent parts of their childhoods in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan but had lived in the United States for about a decade prior to the bombings. Soon after Officer Collier was killed, Tamerlan Tsarnaev carjacked an SUV, taking the driver hostage and telling him he was one of the Boston Marathon bombers. 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev followed behind in a smaller car before joining his older brother and the hostage in the SUV. The brothers drove around the Boston area with their hostage, forcing him to withdraw money from an ATM and discussing driving to New York City. When they stopped at a Cambridge gas station, the hostage escaped and called police, informing them the SUV could be tracked by his cellphone, which was still in the vehicle. Shortly after midnight, a gun battle broke out between the Tsarnaevs and police on a street in the Boston suburb of Watertown. One officer was seriously injured by gunfire but survived. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also seriously wounded, was taken to a hospital, where doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev managed to drive away from the shootout in the stolen SUV before abandoning it nearby and fleeing on foot.

That day, April 19, the Boston area was on lockdown, with schools closed, public transportation service suspended and people advised to stay inside their homes, as police conducted door-to-door searches in Watertown and military-style vehicles patrolled the streets. That evening, after police called off their search of the area, a Watertown man went outside to check on a boat he was storing in his backyard. When he looked inside the 24-foot vessel, he was startled to see blood and a person, who turned out to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, hiding there. Police soon arrived and took the suspect, who was wounded from the earlier gun battle, into custody.

At the time of the bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, while Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a community college dropout and former amateur boxer with a wife and child. Investigators believe the Tsarnaevs were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs but planned and carried out the bombings on their own and were not connected to any terrorist organizations. The brothers allegedly used the Internet to learn how to build explosives.

In July 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to the 30 federal charges against him, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. He went on trial in January 2015, and was found guilty on all 30 counts. He was sentenced to death but appealed the decision.  Tsarnaev is currently being held at a supermax prison in Colorado.

READ MORE: The Boston Marathon Bombing

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Ted Kaczynski pleads guilty to bombings


Year
1998
Month Day
January 22

In a Sacramento, California, courtroom, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him, acknowledging his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the “Unabomber.”

Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended Harvard University and received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. He worked as an assistant mathematics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, but abruptly quit in 1969. In the early 1970s, Kaczynski began living as a recluse in western Montana, in a 10-by-12 foot cabin without heat, electricity or running water. From this isolated location, he began the bombing campaign that would kill three people and injure more than 20 others.

The primary targets were universities, but he also placed a bomb on an American Airlines flight in 1979 and sent one to the home of the president of United Airlines in 1980. After federal investigators set up the UNABOM Task Force (the name came from the words “university and airline bombing”), the media dubbed the culprit the “Unabomber.” The bombs left little physical evidence, and the only eyewitness found in the case could describe the suspect only as a man in hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses (depicted in an infamous 1987 police sketch).

READ MORE: Why It Took 17 Years to Catch the Unabomber

In 1995, the Washington Post (in collaboration with the New York Times) published a 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto written by a person claiming to be the Unabomber. Recognizing elements of his brother’s writings, David Kaczynski went to authorities with his suspicions, and Ted Kaczynski was arrested in April 1996. In his cabin, federal investigators found ample evidence linking him to the bombings, including bomb parts, journal entries and drafts of the manifesto.

Kaczynski was arraigned in Sacramento and charged with bombings in 1985, 1993 and 1995 that killed two people and maimed two others. (A bombing in New Jersey in 1994 also resulted in the victim’s death.) Despite his lawyers’ efforts, Kaczynski rejected an insanity plea. After attempting suicide in his jail cell in early 1998, Kaczynski appealed to U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. to allow him to represent himself, and agreed to undergo psychiatric evaluation. A court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, and Judge Burrell ruled that Kaczynski could not defend himself. The psychiatrist’s verdict helped prosecutors and defense reach a plea bargain, which allowed prosecutors to avoid arguing for the death penalty for a mentally ill defendant.

On January 22, 1998, Kaczynski accepted a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in return for a plea of guilty to all federal charges; he also gave up the right to appeal any rulings in the case. Though Kaczynski later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that it had been involuntary, Judge Burrell denied the request, and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Kaczynski was remanded to a maximum-security prison in Colorado, where he is serving his life sentence.

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Chechen separatists storm Russian school

Year
2004
Month Day
September 01

On September 1, 2004, an armed gang of Chechen separatist rebels enters a school in southern Russia and takes more than 1,000 people hostage. The rebels demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from the disputed nearby region of Chechnya. September 1 was the first day of a new school year for millions of students across Russia, a day of celebration in schools that both parents and students traditionally attend. Nearly 340 people, about half of them children, died in the ensuing three-day ordeal.

The rebels stormed the school at 9:30 a.m., just after a ceremony celebrating the new school year had ended. They initially held more than 1,000 hostages, though some were released later that day. The hostages were crowded into the school’s gym, where they were surrounded by mines and bombs to prevent them from escaping. The rebels placed children along the room’s windows to discourage Russian authorities from storming the building and randomly shot off their guns to intimidate the hostages. Temperatures quickly rose in the overcrowded gym, forcing the hostages to strip nearly naked to stay cool. The captors refused to allow food or drink into the school; some hostages were forced to drink their own urine to keep from dehydrating in the hot building.

Finally, on the morning of September 3, the rebels allowed Russian emergency workers in to retrieve the bodies of those who had been killed in their initial assault on the school. Soon after, two bombs in the gym were accidentally detonated, one of which caused the gym’s roof to collapse. In the subsequent chaos, some hostages escaped. When the rebels began to shoot children, Russian special forces stormed the school. Over the course of the next few hours, the Russian troops secured the building, killing all but one of the 32 attackers. Rescue workers found hundreds of bodies in the debris of the burned-out former school gym. More than 700 others were wounded.

The secondary school was located in Beslan, North Ossetia, near Chechnya in the war-torn North Caucasus region of Russia. The people of North Ossetia are predominately Christian and have strong ties to Russia. Chechens, on the other hand, are mainly Muslim. Chechen separatists have demanded their freedom from Russia since soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and have increasingly turned to terrorist tactics to further their cause. Chechnya is important to the Russian economy because of several oil and gas pipelines that run through Chechen territory. It is estimated that at least 200,000 people have been killed in the ongoing Chechen-Russian conflict.

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Peruvian President Fujimori orders assault on Japanese ambassador’s home

Year
1997
Month Day
April 22

In Lima, Peru, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori orders a commando assault on the Japanese ambassador’s home, hoping to free 72 hostages held for more than four months by armed members of the Tupac Amaru leftist rebel movement.

On December 16, 1996, 14 Tupac Amaru terrorists, disguised as waiters and caterers, slipped into the home of Japanese Ambassador Morihisa Aoki, where a reception honoring the birthday of the Japanese emperor was being held. The armed terrorists took 490 people hostage. Police promptly surrounded the compound, and the rebels agreed to release 170 women and elderly guests but declared they would kill the remaining 220 if their demands were not met.

The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) was founded in 1984 as a militant organization dedicated to communist revolution in Peru. A few days after the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s home began, the rebels released all but 72 hostages and demanded the release of 400 MRTA members imprisoned in Peru. Among the important officials held hostage in the Japanese ambassador’s home were the brother of President Fujimori, Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela; supreme court judges; members of the ruling party; and a number of foreign ambassadors from Japan and elsewhere. President Fujimori, who was known for taking a hard-line stance against leftist guerrillas in Peru, did not give in to the key points of the rebels’ demands and in April 1997 ordered an assault on the complex by a 140-man special forces team.

After secretly warning the hostages 10 minutes before the attack, the special forces team set off a blast in a tunnel underneath the building, which surprised the rebels and killed eight of the 14 immediately. The rest of the elite soldiers attacked from several other directions, overwhelming the remaining terrorists. All 14 rebels were killed in the assault, including the leader, Nestor Cerpa, who was shot multiple times. Only one hostage, Supreme Court Justice Carlos Giusti, was killed in the attack, and of the several soldiers wounded during the rescue operation, two later died from their injuries.

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Flight 800 explodes over Long Island

Year
1996
Month Day
July 17

Shortly after takeoff from New York’s Kennedy International Airport, a TWA Boeing 747 jetliner bound for Paris explodes over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 people aboard. Flight 800 had just received clearance to initiate a climb to cruise altitude when it exploded without warning. Because the plane was loaded with fuel for the long transatlantic journey, it vaporized within moments, creating a fireball seen almost all along the coastline of Long Island.

The tragedy came just two days before the opening of the XXVI Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and many suspected terrorism. Suspicions of foul play seemed to be confirmed when a number of eyewitnesses reported that they had seen what appeared to be a missile shoot up toward the airline an instant before the explosion. The U.S. Navy and the FBI, in conjunction with the National Safety Transportation Board, launched an extensive investigation of the incident, collecting the scattered wreckage of the aircraft out of the Atlantic and reconstructing the plane in a closely guarded hangar. Despite continuing eyewitness reports, authorities did not come forward with any evidence of a missile or a bomb, and the investigation stretched on.

When it was revealed that several U.S. Navy vessels were training in the Long Island area on the night of the blast, some began to suspect that Flight 800 had been accidentally downed by a navy test missile. U.S. authorities ruled out the possibility of an errant missile strike by the navy, but a number of conspiracists, including former White House press secretary Pierre Salinger, supported the theory. The much-criticized Flight 800 investigation ended in late 1998, with investigators concluding that the explosion resulted from mechanical failure, not from a bomb or a missile.

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