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More Terrorism In The 1980's

November 4, 1979 Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran and held 52 Americans inside hostage. A rescue was attempted on April 24, 1980 but failed. The hostages were released on January 20, 1981 with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as President. Television was rife with images of huge mobs of crazed Iranians in Tehran chanting "Death to America, Death to Carter, Death to the Shah!" News from Iran had already indicated Khomeini's intent to have the hostages tried as spies.

For more detail on this crisis, click here!

(The Ayatollah Khomeini [left] and the deposed Shah of Iran [right].)

April 18, 1983 Seventeen Americans and 46 Lebanese are killed when a truck bomb plows into the US embassy in Beirut.

To read President Reagan's statement about this attack, click here!

October 23, 1983 A suicide bomber drives a van laden with explosives through the U.S. Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon. 241 Marines and Sailors are killed in the explosion. The Rules of Engagement covering this action stipulated the following: "Hostile ground forces which had infiltrated and violated USMNF lines by land, sea or air would be warned that they could not proceed and were in a restricted area. If the intruder force failed to leave, the violation would be reported and guidance requested." No live rounds were ever issued to the sentries on duty.

For more details about this attack, click here!

April 5, 1985 The La Belle Discotheque in Berlin was bombed, killing two American soldiers and a Turkish woman. There were 229 additional casualties, including 79 Americans, most of them soldiers. Independent communication intercepts by U.S., British, and German intelligence groups immediately confirmed Libyan sponsorship of the bombings.

To learn more, click here!

(Workers sort through the debris and rubble of the La Belle Discoteque.)

June 14, 1985 Hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which was en route from Athens to Rome. Culminated with the murder of a passenger, U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem. Stethem was shot in the back of the head and his body dumped onto the tarmac. Mohammad Ali Hamadei was the mastermind behind this act of terror. He was later arrested in Frankfurt, Germany and is serving a life imprisonment term. An Arleigh Burke-Class U.S. Navy destroyer today bears the name STETHEM (DDG-63).

USS Stetham
(USS Stethem [DDG-63] on the upper left crusing with USS Stout [DDG-55] on the lower right.)

October 9, 1985 Cruise ship Achille Lauro hijacked off of Port Said, Egypt by Palestinian Terrorists who kill invalid Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The hijackers surrender the ship at the behest of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Abu Abbas was the mastermind behind this attack and remains free today in Gaza. He is wanted in the United States and was convicted in absentia in Italy for the Achille Lauro hijacking. Achille Lauro caught fire off the coast of Somalia on November 30, 1994 and sank two days later.

For more information, click here!

Update: Abu Abbas was captured in Baghdad, Iraq on April 15, 2003 following Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(Left: Achille Lauro as she appeared during the 1985 hijacking. Right: Achille Lauro sinking after catching fire in 1994.)

December 27, 1985 Terrorists, under the masterminding leadership of Abu Nidal, attack Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport and Vienna's Schwechat Airport and kill nineteen people, including five U.S. citizens with suicide squads. Many innocent children are mercilessly gunned down by the attackers. Victims include: Natasha Simpson, age 11, daughter of Victor L. Simpson of New York, the Associated Press news editor in Rome. It was suspected that the Egyptian Government has been sheltering Abu Nidal from U.S. prosecution.

Update: Abu Nidal had taken refuge in Iraq in 1999. He reportedly committed suicide by shooting himself four times in the head. There is speculation that Saddam Hussein had been trying to cover up his own terror links as the U.S. investigated such links.

Terrorist attack, December 27, 1985 Terrorist attack, December 27, 1985 The evil mastermind behind this attack
(Left and center: Images of the Rome Airport during and immediately after the attack. Right: An image of Abu Nidal circa 1983.)

December 21, 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie. A bomb smuggled by terrorists into the forward cargo hold exploded while the plane was flying at 31,000 ft. The Libyan Government harbored the two terrorists responsible, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima until they were finally turned over for trial. The trial began in the Netherlands on May 3, 2000.

The trial ended on January 31, 2001 with a verdict of GUILTY for Megrahi and an AQUITTAL for Fahima. Megrahi is sentenced to a "minimum" of 20 years. Fahima went back to Libya where he was geeted with a hero's welcome by Maummar Qaddafi.

To read more about this tragedy, click here!

(Left: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima. Center: A Map of the U.K. showing where Lockerbie is in Scotland. Right: Probably the most famous photograph of the Flight 103 wreckage.)

Terrorism didn't end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The players changed, but the targets remain the same: Innocent People. Organizations like the PLO claim to have changed their views, but it remains to be seen whether or not they really will abandon the idea of killing innocent people. New terrorists are up and coming too. Osama Bin Laden has built an extensive network of terrorists and is well funded. Ironically, he used to recieve support from the United States during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden
(Osama Bin Laden. Photograph is undated.)

How do we stop terrorists? We don't. We can only keep them in check with a proactive policy of deterrence. Realistically, that is all we can do until National Governments completely and sincerely renounce terror tactics and bring known terrorists within their borders to justice.

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