National Independence Movements

views updated

National Independence Movements

T he end of World War II (1939–45) saw the start of a half century of worldwide conflicts, many of which used the tactics of terrorism.

One set of conflicts arose over the concept of nationalism, the desire to break away from one's current country and found a new, independent nation. During the nineteenth century, European nations (particularly Great Britain and France) controlled huge stretches of Africa and Asia as colonial powers. They conquered the native peoples then brought in European settlers, governing the new territories from distant capitals. At the end of World War II, some people in the English and French colonies were determined to achieve national independence. Some used the American Revolution (1775–83) as a model. These freedom fighters could not afford to set up regular armies, so they turned to terrorism as an inexpensive way to conduct their wars. Many of the independence movements also received support from the Soviet Union and China, and thus became caught up in the Cold War, a period of heightened political tensions between the two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, that lasted from 1945 to 1990.

Algeria 1954–1962: French colony or independent country?

Algeria, on the northern coast of Africa, became a colony of France in 1830 after the French navy landed troops there. Over the next seven decades thousands of French citizens (mostly Christian) moved to Algeria to set up farms and businesses while the French colonial government treated the native Algerians (mostly Muslims, or followers of the religion Islam) as second-class citizens.

After World War I (1914–18), native Algerians, especially those who had been educated in French schools, began demanding equal rights with the French settlers. The government in Paris was sympathetic to their demands, but the colons (pronounced kuh-LONES; the descendants of European settlers) resisted any move that might threaten their privileges. In the 1930s demands for equal treatment turned into a call for Algerian independence from France. The drive for equal rights and independence was delayed by World War II (1939–45) but started up again soon after the war ended. The colons were opposed to granting any of the nationalists' demands and instead supported making Algeria a part of France.

The National Liberation Front

The increasing tensions in Algeria reached a breaking point in 1954, when a group of eight Algerians living in exile in Egypt organized a revolutionary committee called the National Liberation Front (known as FLN, the initials of its name in French: Front de Liberation Nationale). On October 31, 1954, the FLN published a leaflet announcing its war for independence. It followed with surprise attacks on government buildings, police stations, military installations, and communications facilities in Algeria.

Throughout the next eight years the country was torn by a civil war in which Algerian Muslims fighting for independence introduced many of the terrorist tactics that would be seen later in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Religion and Nationalism in Algeria

The overwhelming majority of Algerian natives were Muslims, or followers of the Islamic religion. From the start Muslims were discriminated against by the colonial government. Algerian Muslims needed government permission to leave their villages or districts and were not allowed to hold public meetings or own firearms. Although they were French subjects, native Algerians could become citizens only if they gave up their Islamic religion and became Christians. Few Muslims were willing to take this step, and therefore they were not allowed to vote. The Algerian representatives to the French parliament (governing body) in Paris were thus elected by the European colonists.

At first the FLN limited their attacks to military and government targets. But in August 1955 the FLN launched an attack near the town of Philippeville in which about one hundred people were killed, including elderly women and babies. French authorities responded with force, reporting that their attacks in turn killed twelve hundred terrorists. (The FLN claimed French forces, including army, police, and gangs of outraged colons, actually killed twelve thousand Muslims in the attacks.) The incident pushed Algeria into a total war in which anyone, including civilians, women, and children, was considered a potential target.

Words to Know

a person who willingly helps an enemy of his or her country, particularly an occupying military force.
Colonial power:
a country that conquers and governs distant regions.
favoring members of one group over members of another group.
banished or removed to another place.
a person who places importance on living by a strict set of moral principles.
Guerrilla warfare:
war fought using stealth tactics by soldiers who stay hidden from the enemy.
an Arabic word meaning holy war.
the desire to break away from one's current country and found a new, independent nation.
not preferring one religion over another.
a form of Christianity that began in the sixteenth century when a group of reformers rejected many of the Catholic Church's rituals and practices, believing that faith was more important.
a democratic vote on an issue.
destroying equipment or weapons in an effort to hurt the enemy.
not tied to religion.
civilians acting as if they were policemen.
the idea that Jews should have a nation of their own.

FLN terrorist tactics FLN tactics included hit-and-run attacks on French army patrols, military camps, and police stations. The FLN also attacked farms, factories, and mines owned by colons, as well as transportation and communications facilities. FLN fighters kidnapped and executed French soldiers and colon civilians (both men and women) as well as suspected collaborators and traitors among the Muslim population. (A collaborator is a person who willingly helps an enemy of his or her country, particularly an occupying military force; in this case, the French army.) Even Muslims who simply refused to support the FLN were killed. In the first two

years of fighting, about one thousand colons and six thousand Muslims died.

The FLN used a combination of guerrilla tactics and terrorism. (Guerrilla warfare is fought by soldiers who stay hidden from the enemy and who make great use of the element of surprise.) The FLN remained a mostly political organization; it founded a separate arm, called the Army of National Liberation (ALN), which became an organized force of about forty thousand fighters. Of these, thirty thousand formed a more or less regular army, stationed in Morocco and Tunisia just across the western and eastern borders of Algeria. The remaining ten thousand stayed in Algeria, where, out of uniform, they launched surprise terrorist attacks on both military and civilian targets.

In September 1956 the FLN launched perhaps its most famous terrorist campaign, the Battle of Algiers. It started with three women planting bombs at sites in Algiers, the capital of Algeria, including one at the offices of the Air France airline. Over the next six months there were an average of eight hundred bombings and shootings per month, resulting in many civilian casualties. The French response was harsh, including torture and terrorism aimed at the Muslim population.

In 1957 French forces retook control of Algiers and destroyed much of the FLN command structure. But the victory came at a huge price: they had turned the Muslim population against them, and they had raised doubts among French citizens about the country's role in Algeria.

French antiterrorism

The tactics used in the antiterrorism campaign by the French army and the colons were highly controversial. The French army recruited about 150,000 Algerians, mostly volunteers, to try to defeat the FLN in the countryside, often using guerrilla tactics similar to those used by the FLN. The French army also applied the principle of "collective responsibility" to Muslim villages. If the army suspected guerrillas were active in an area, villages were bombed from the air or attacked on the ground, regardless of whether the villagers were themselves guerrillas. In some areas villagers were forced off their land and into concentration camps to keep them from aiding the FLN rebels. The official explanation for the army's displacing the villagers was that the army was protecting the villagers from extortion by the FLN. (Extortion is forcing someone to pay money by threatening him with violence.) About two million Algerians were moved from their homes in the mountains to the flat, dry plains farther inland.

In May 1958 the French military made its move. It seized power from civilian authorities in Algeria and demanded that General Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970), the leader of French resistance to German occupation during World War II, be returned to political power after a twelve-year absence. But de Gaulle, elected by the French legislature to lead a government in Algeria, soon decided the war in Algeria was hopeless and arranged a referendum (a democratic vote on an issue) on a new constitution, under which Algeria would have close ties to France but not officially be part of that country and the colons would share power with Muslims. The FLN tried to interfere with the election, fearing that the majority of Muslims might favor this compromise instead of the independent Algeria the FLN wanted. It launched a new campaign of terror in an attempt to make Muslims afraid to go to the polls.

Despite their efforts, more than 95 percent of the Muslims who voted favored the compromise. But the FLN refused to negotiate for anything short of full independence. As the conflict dragged on, people in France became tired of risking their sons' lives in the army in Algeria, and the harsh anti-FLN measures resulted in growing support for independence. A year after the referendum, de Gaulle, now president of France after the reorganization of the government, announced his support for Algerian independence, perhaps with Algeria still maintaining a special relationship with France.

De Gaulle's position angered the army and the colons, who felt betrayed after having demanded his return to power. In January 1960 colons rioted in Algiers while the army stood by and watched. Organized vigilantes, or civilians who take the law into their own hands, from the colon community launched terrorist attacks against Muslims and pro-government colons. Now the government was fighting the FLN and the colons at the same time.

The Secret Army Organization

Into this mix came a new terrorist organization, formed by members of the French military and Algerian colons. It was called the Secret Army Organization (or OAS, after the initials of its name in French: Organisation Armee Secrete), and it launched a series of terrorist attacks in both Algeria and France that terrified both countries. The OAS bombed cafes in Paris and Algiers, killing civilians, and assassinated government officials. In April 1961 opponents of Algerian independence tried to take over the government of France. Their plan was to seize control of Algeria and to remove de Gaulle from office. The plotters were joined by some units of the French Foreign Legion (a French army based in Africa), the OAS, and colon vigilantes. But other parts of the French army and air force remained loyal to the government, and the effort failed after four days. The attempt, however, destroyed whatever sympathy de Gaulle had for the colons, and the next month he began discussions with the FLN about Algerian independence. Almost a year later, the two sides negotiated a cease-fire and terms for Algerian independence.

A referendum was scheduled for three months later, in June 1962. In a desperate effort to overturn the peace agreement, the OAS launched a fierce wave of terrorist attacks. In those three months, terrorists set off an average of 120 bombs per day, aimed at both Algerian targets (including schools and hospitals) and at the French army and police, which were enforcing the cease-fire.

The OAS campaign failed, and in June, 91 percent of the voters approved independence. Although the terms of the cease-fire had included protections for the colons, within one month 350,000 colons had left Algeria for France. Within a year 1.4 million people had left the country (including some pro-French Muslims). Fewer than thirty thousand European colons chose to remain in Algeria.

Eight years after FLN launched its first terrorist attacks as part of its campaign for independence, Algeria became an independent nation. It is hard to argue that terrorism did not play an important role in the victory. How much did terrorism influence the outcome?

OAS Terrorist Attacks

September 9, 1961: Secret Army Organization (OAS) terrorists try to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle with a bomb in Aube, France. The bomb fails to explode.

January 1962: An OAS bomb at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris kills one woman and injures thirteen others.

August 22, 1962: The OAS tries again to assassinate de Gaulle, this time with a machine-gun attack in a suburb of Paris. The French president escapes unharmed. The attackers, former French soldiers, are arrested.

March 1 and March 15, 1963: OAS tries twice more to assassinate de Gaulle.

1964: Five unsuccessful attempts to assassinate de Gaulle.

1965: Three attacks on de Gaulle, none successful.

If the outcome had depended only on military power, the FLN would have lost. The French army outnumbered FLN commandos by about ten to one. But when the French army used its overwhelming military force to respond to terrorist attacks, it cost France the campaign. By using terrorist tactics, such as sending innocent Muslim civilians to jail or concentration camps, the French army lost political support in Algeria and in France. These tactics also embarrassed France in the United Nations, the international peacekeeping body, costing it support from other nations. The anti-independence

colons also used terrorism, but by expanding their terrorist attacks to France, they turned the French population against their cause and made it possible for de Gaulle to begin talks with the FLN that led to independence.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict

The FLN campaign had a much greater effect than simply achieving Algerian independence. It served as a model for an even larger terrorist campaign: the movement to establish a Palestinian state. The FLN demonstrated that terrorism could be an effective tactic, and Palestinians intent on creating an Arab state where Israel had founded a Jewish state in 1948 adopted its techniques, such as bombing civilians in cafes and extending the battle to Europe.

Beginning in the early 1970s the struggle between the nation of Israel and Palestinian Arabs was the single largest cause of terrorist attacks for more than thirty years. A steady stream of incidents, some relatively small and some that attracted worldwide notice, focused attention on the conflict in the Middle East between the nation of Israel and the Arab states that surround it, as well as the Palestinian Arab cause.

Background of the conflict

The basic issue in the Middle East conflict is whether the nation of Israel should exist as a homeland for the world's Jews, as it did in biblical times, or whether this territory should be a homeland for Arabs called Palestine. The roots of the modern conflict date from the mid-1800s, when the area was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The British Empire, the world's superpower at the time, supported the idea of European Jews moving to that part of the Ottoman Empire, then called Palestine, to build up a pro-British population in the area. At the same time, continuing persecution (harassment) of Jews, especially in Russia but in the rest of Europe as well, made the idea of a "Jewish homeland" attractive to many Jews. In the 1880s some Jews started buying farmland from Arabs living in Palestine or moving to cities in the area and opening businesses. Austrian Jew Theodor Herzl (pronounced HURTS-el; 1860–1904), who was a journalist, began writing about an idea he called "Zionism, " the idea that Jews should have a nation of their own.

For centuries Muslim Arabs had lived in Palestine as subjects of

Zionism and World War I

World War I gave Zionism, the movement to establish a homeland for Jews in the Holy Land, a major boost. The Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany and Austria against the British Empire, and Britain supported Zionism as a means of gaining allies in the Middle East. In 1917 British foreign minister Arthur Balfour (1848–1930) wrote a paper called the "Balfour Declaration," in which he stated that the British government viewed "with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate [make possible] the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."

The next year Britain defeated the Ottoman Empire and set up a military administration to govern Palestine. In 1922 the League of Nations (the international organization that came before the United Nations) gave Britain the authority to rule over the territory until it was ready for self-rule. Britain promised to honor the Balfour Declaration, and Jewish immigration into Palestine increased sharply.

the Ottoman Empire (which was also Muslim). The sudden surge of Jewish European immigrants, combined with new Christian rulers (the British were given a mandate to govern Palestine after World War I [1914–18]), was upsetting to the Palestinian Arabs in the region. Starting in the 1920s Arabs occasionally rioted, often targeting Jews for attacks. In response, Jews living in Palestine set up a self-defense force named Haganah, which later became the basis of the Israeli army. In 1936 the Arabs began a revolt against British rule, but Britain crushed the uprising by 1939. Nevertheless, Britain agreed to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine, closing off one escape route for European Jews about to be over-taken by the Holocaust (the mass murder of six million Jews by the German Nazis during World War II). The Arab rebellion also caused Britain to drop a plan under which Palestine would be divided into two parts: a large Arab nation and a smaller Jewish homeland. The stage was set for conflict.

Jewish nationalism and terrorism

Distrust of British intentions and the new limitations on immigration increased the determination of some Jews in Palestine to establish a Jewish state. In particular, two Jewish organizations—the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization; pronounced ear-gun zveye lee-you-mi) and the Lohame Herut Yisra'el (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), also referred to as Lehi or the Stern Gang after its leader, Avraham Stern (1907–1942)—started using terrorist tactics to protect Jews and promote the idea of a Jewish state of Israel in Palestine. These two groups, whose members included two future Israeli prime ministers, used murder, bombing, kidnapping, and sabotage (destroying equipment or weapons) against British authorities, Arabs, and even Jews who disagreed with them. At the same time the Haganah joined the British army during World War II, gaining military training and experience.

After a period of helping Britain fight against Germany, Jewish groups began attacking the British forces in Palestine in an effort to achieve an independent Jewish state. February 1944 saw the first assaults against British offices in Palestine, which the British viewed as terrorism and the Jews saw as a patriotic effort to achieve independence. The most dramatic attack against British rule in Palestine came on July 22, 1946, when Jewish fighters set off a bomb in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which held the military headquarters of the British army. The attack killed ninety-two people and wounded fifty-eight.

After World War II, when the horrific extent of the Holocaust became known, widespread sympathy began for the idea of a Jewish state, especially in the United States. Britain, tired and weakened by the war, gave up trying to govern the territory and handed over the problem to the United Nations (the successor to the League of Nations). The United Nations voted in November 1947 to divide Palestine into an Arab sector and a Jewish sector. In the six months before independence was officially declared in May 1948, some Jewish groups in Palestine began an armed campaign to increase the area of the Jewish state and to drive native Arabs out of the Jewish sector, which was to become Israel. These groups also targeted the British forces still in Palestine. The worst incident took place in a small village in West Jerusalem, named Deir Yassin (see box on page 82).

Deir Yassin

In early 1948, as conflict between Jews and Arabs mounted in anticipation of Israeli statehood, Palestinian forces blocked the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to cut the flow of supplies to Jews living in Jerusalem. Along the highway was an Arab village of 750 people named Deir Yassin. It sat on a hill less than a mile from Jerusalem and provided a good view of the area.

As part of a larger operation to reopen the highway, the Irgun (a Jewish group that often used terrorist tactics) decided to attack and occupy Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948.

The attack on the town provided later generations with legends used both to criticize and to defend the Jews. The Arab version is that Irgun "terrorists" attacked a town occupied by peaceful women and children and murdered about one hundred people. Fifty-three children orphaned by the massacre were dumped outside the walls of Jerusalem.

The Israeli version is that the village was filled with soldiers, including some men dressed as women, who opened fire on advancing Jews.

More information on Deir Yassin can be found on the World Wide Web. The Jewish Virtual Library version is at

Another version, from the Arab viewpoint, is at

On May 14, 1948, the Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973) declared Israel an independent Jewish state. Immediately, the United States and the Soviet Union recognized the new government. Also immediately, the armies of surrounding Arab countries—Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq—attacked Israel, intent on destroying the new country and establishing an Arab-Palestinian state in its place. The combined Arab armies proved no match for the Haganah, now transformed into the Israeli army. The greatest effect of the war was to turn nearly seven hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs into refugees. They moved into refugee camps in the neighboring territories of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Gaza (run by Egypt), as well as the Palestinian territory on the West Bank of the River Jordan (see map on page 79). Fifty years later the number of Palestinian refugees stood at nearly four million. The refugees and their descendants acquired a national identity they did not have before the existence of Israel (there was never a country called Palestine inside the Ottoman Empire), but they had no homeland to call their own.

Military defeats lead to terrorism

Between 1948 and 1967, the conflict in the Middle East was carried out largely by traditional military means. In wars fought in 1956, 1967, and 1973, the Arab states failed to defeat Israel, and in fact experienced major losses. In 1956, while fighting with France and Britain to protect the Suez Canal (a canal in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean and the Red seas), Israel briefly occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the area of Egypt to the east of the canal. In 1967 Israel seized the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

Palestinian resistance to Israel began almost immediately after the country was formed in 1948. Lacking a country and base of operations, the Palestinians turned to guerrilla warfare (or "terrorism," depending on the point of view) in the form of raids launched from refugee camps and other Arab states on Israeli towns and military posts. The level of attacks increased sharply after 1967, when Israel began occupying cities and towns that had been part of Palestinian territory during the previous twenty years.

After Egypt launched an unsuccessful attack on Israel in 1973, intended to take back land Egypt had lost in the 1967 war, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat (1918–1981) signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, for which Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1913–1992). Two years later, on Oct. 6, 1981, Muslim terrorists who opposed the treaty assassinated Sadat. In 1994 Jordan's King Hussein (1935–1999) also signed a peace treaty with Israel.

But for the Palestinian Arabs living on the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip, or in refugee camps in Lebanon, the struggle continued, carried out by a variety of groups using the tactics of terrorism.

Terrorism and Israel, 1970–2002

The defeat of Arab armies in 1967 and again in 1973 left the Palestinians with no effective traditional military forces. As a result, they turned to terrorist tactics, which allowed them to launch a military attack on Israel without an army. A long string of attacks kept the battle between Israelis and Palestinians on the front pages of newspapers around the world, especially as the Palestinians adopted new techniques that came to define terrorism. In particular, the Palestinians introduced three tactics: attacking civilian airliners, suicide bombings, and extending their attacks into Europe. Many of these attacks were aimed at civilians (people shopping or riding a bus, for example, in the case of suicide bombers) without any warning.

What's in a Name: Terrorists vs. Guerrillas

"Terrorist" and "guerrilla" are both used to describe underground armed forces fighting against a regular army. Both terrorists and guerrillas often do not wear uniforms, lack heavy artillery or other weapons associated with armies, and launch surprise attacks against their enemies. Both terrorists and guerrillas frequently blend into the civilian population, working at regular jobs by day and attacking by night, or only occasionally.

What is the difference between the two?

One difference is in perception. Guerrillas have a better reputation than terrorists. During World War II, for example, guerrillas resisted Nazi Germany's occupation of European countries, attacking German troops with tactics that are also used by terrorists, such as blowing up trains or bombing German military installations. Their attacks seemed heroic to those citizens and foreigners who wanted to see the Germans defeated, but the Germans labeled them "terrorists."

For those who support the Palestinian cause to set up an independent country, fighters who shoot at Israeli troops or try to blow up tanks are honorable "guerrillas" fighting for the Palestinian nation.

For those who support Israel's right to exist within peaceful borders, the Palestinian attackers are "terrorists."

Airplane hijacking The Palestinians did not invent the armed takeover of civilian airliners, but they practiced it extensively and in new ways. During the 1970s people who wished to travel from the United States to Cuba occasionally went aboard a plane with a gun and demanded to be flown there. (Commercial flights had been banned between the United States and Cuba, which was allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, by the U.S. government since the 1970s.) These incidents usually ended peacefully: the hijacker got off in Cuba, and the plane turned around and flew back to the United States.

The Palestinian version was different: armed hijackers demanded that a plane fly to a Middle Eastern country and then held the passengers and crew hostage until their demands, typically the freeing of other Palestinians from jails in Israel or Europe, were met. The first Palestinian hijacking was carried out in 1968 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP; one of the leading Palestinian guerrilla organizations); it was the first and only successful hijacking of an Israeli El Al plane. The hijackers forced the plane to land at Algiers, Algeria. Negotiations to free the plane and its passengers lasted more than forty days. The Palestinian hijackers often threatened to blow up the plane, and everyone in it, until their demands were met. Both the hijackers and the hostages were eventually set free.

Suicide bombings Since 1994 some Palestinians have aimed bombing attacks at groups of Israeli civilians in restaurants, bus stations, and outdoor markets. Some have set off bombs by hand, killing themselves in the process. These attacks have resulted in dozens of Palestinian suicides, as well as the deaths of many people who happened to be near the bomber. Suicide bombers usually strap explosives to their bodies under their clothing and set off the bomb when the attacker is in the middle of a group of Israeli civilians. The intention is to create a sense of terror, since anyone on the street or in a restaurant could be carrying a bomb. The wave of suicide attacks began at the same time as radical Islamic groups such as Hamas (see appendix) began joining the Palestinian cause. Supported most notably by the Islamist government in Iran, these attackers are convinced that giving their lives in an Islamic cause will earn them entry into paradise after death.

A partial list of bombing attacks aimed at civilians in Israel since 1993 includes:

  • April 6, 1994: Eight die in a car bomb attack on a bus in Afula, Israel.
  • April 13, 1994: Five people killed on a bus in Hadera.
  • October 19, 1994: A bus attack in Tel Aviv kills twenty-one Israelis and one Dutch citizen.
  • November 11, 1994: A suicide bomber on a bicycle kills three soldiers in the Gaza Strip.
  • January 22, 1995: Two bombs kill nineteen people near Netanya.
  • April 9, 1995: A van carrying explosives kills eight in the Gaza Strip.
  • July 24, 1995: Six people die in a suicide attack on a bus in Ramat Gan.
  • August 21, 1995: An attack on a Jerusalem bus kills four, including one American.
  • February 25, 1996: An attack on a bus in Jerusalem kills twenty-six.
  • March 3, 1996: A suicide bomber kills nineteen in a bus attack in Jerusalem.
  • March 4, 1996: A suicide bomber kills thirteen people in Tel Aviv.
  • March 21, 1997: Three die and forty-eight are hurt in a bomb attack at a Tel Aviv cafe.
  • July 30, 1997: Two bombs kill 16 and hurt 178 in a Jerusalem market.
  • September 4, 1997: Three bombings on a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem kill 5 and injure 181.
  • November 2, 2000: Two are killed and ten are hurt in a car-bomb explosion in Jerusalem.
  • November 22, 2000: Two people are killed and sixty hurt when a car bomb explodes near a bus at rush hour in Hadera.
  • December 22, 2000: Three soldiers are injured in a suicide bomb attack at a roadside cafe at Mehola Junction.
  • March 4, 2001: Three die and sixty are hurt in a suicide bombing in downtown Netanya.
  • March 27, 2001: A suicide bomb injures twenty-eight people aboard a bus in Jerusalem.
  • March 28, 2001: Two teenagers die and four more are hurt in a suicide bombing near an army roadblock east of Kfar Saba.
  • April 22, 2001: A suicide bomber kills one and injures sixty at a bus stop in Kfar Sava.
  • May 18, 2001: A suicide bomber kills five others and hurts one hundred near a shopping center in Netanya.
  • June 1, 2001: A suicide bomber kills 21 and injures 120 outside a disco in Tel Aviv.
  • July 16, 2001: Two people are killed and eleven wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a bus stop in Binyamina.
  • August 9, 2001: A suicide bomber at a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem kills 15 (including 7 children) and injures 130.
  • August 12, 2001: A suicide bomber injures twenty-one at a cafe in Kiryat Motzkin.
  • September 9, 2001: A suicide bomber kills three and injures ninety near a train station in northern Israel.
  • December 1, 2001: Two suicide bombers kill 11 and injure 180 in a Jerusalem pedestrian mall.
  • December 2, 2001: A suicide bomber on a bus in Haifa kills fifteen and injures forty.
  • January 25, 2002: A suicide bomber wounds twenty-five in a cafe in Tel Aviv.
  • January 27, 2002: The first known female Palestinian suicide bomber kills 1 other person and injures 150 in Jerusalem.
  • February 16, 2002: Two teenagers die and thirty people are wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a pizzeria in Samaria.
  • March 2, 2002: A suicide bomber kills ten and injures fifty at a Jerusalem religious school.

Israeli response

Israel almost always responded strongly to each terrorist attack, intent on making the Palestinian people pay a price. The responses varied over time, and from one attack to the next. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested on suspicion of participating in terrorist activities. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which essentially governed the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, sometimes had its powers restricted or its offices wrecked. Israeli soldiers and police arrested leaders of the main terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Police and military raids often brought out young Palestinian protesters, who threw rocks at the Israelis or fired rifles. The Israelis frequently fired back, resulting in scores of Palestinians killed or wounded.

The terrorism also led, indirectly, to political success for the organizations that supported it. Israel's government insisted that all terrorist attacks must stop before it would negotiate a peace treaty with the PLO. The PLO either could not or would not end the attacks. The result was that peace talks, which the terrorists opposed, preferring to continue the struggle to destroy Israel, did not take place.

Israel's response to the terrorism was frowned on by other countries. Scenes on television news of Israeli tanks invading Palestinian towns, against Palestinian defenders armed only with rocks, resulted in (unsuccessful) demands by world leaders that Israel withdraw its armed forces from Palestinian areas.

Attacks in Europe

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict was not limited to the Middle East. Palestinians also took their campaign to Europe. One intention was to make Israelis feel threatened anywhere in the world. Another was to draw the world's attention to the Palestinian cause. Some incidents were so dramatic that they made newspaper headlines for days. The attacks fell into three major categories: hijacking aircraft, assassinating officials, and attacking targets not directly connected to Israel. Following are discussions of some of the most dramatic attacks.

Munich Olympics At 4 a.m. on September 5, 1972, eight Arabs from the Black September terrorist group, disguised as athletes, sneaked into the athletes' village at the Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. The terrorists forced their way into an apartment where Israel's Olympic team was staying and took nine hostages. Two other Israelis were killed while fighting the kidnappers. In the struggle six Israeli athletes managed to escape. In return for their hostages, the Palestinians demanded the release of two hundred prisoners from Israeli jails, as well as the release of Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, leaders of a German terrorist group called the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The terrorists also demanded safe passage out of Germany.

German police allowed the terrorists and their hostages to go to a military airfield near Munich, where a plane waited to fly them to Cairo, Egypt. At the airport, the local police refused offers of help from Israeli intelligence agents and decided to carry out their own rescue operation. As the terrorists were inspecting the plane, a German sharpshooter opened fire and hit two or three of the kidnappers. Instantly a gunfight broke out. One terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters that had brought him and the hostages to the airport. The helicopter exploded, killing five hostages. When the gunfight was over, all nine Israeli athletes were dead (some killed by police fire, according to a later investigation), along with five terrorists and one policeman. Three terrorists were still alive. They were arrested and charged with murder.

The following month, on October 29, 1972, two members of Black September hijacked a West German airliner flying from Beirut, Lebanon, to Ankara, Turkey. The hijackers demanded that the surviving terrorists from the Munich Olympics be set free. The three Munich terrorists were taken to Yugoslavia, where they boarded the hijacked German plane, which then flew to Tripoli, Libya. On October 30 the hijacked plane and passengers were allowed to fly back to Europe, minus the hijackers and the freed Munich terrorists.

This was not the end of the story, however. A few weeks later, on December 8, 1972, a bomb planted in an apartment in Paris killed Mahmoud Hamshari, the head of Black September in France. Hamshari had been accused of helping plan the Olympics operation, and agents of Israel's spy agency, Mossad, took credit for his death.

OPEC hostages On December 21, 1975, oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were meeting at the organization's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, when a group of terrorists burst into the building and took more than seventy people hostage, including the oil ministers. The group was led by a Venezuelan named Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known by his nickname: Carlos the Jackal. As they invaded the building, three people were killed: a policeman, the bodyguard of Iraq's oil minister, and a member of Libya's delegation to the meeting.

The terrorists demanded that their message, which stated their support for the Palestinian cause, be read over the radio in Austria and in the OPEC countries every two hours, and they wanted a plane to fly them out of Austria the next day. Algeria's government agreed to allow a plane with the terrorists and their hostages to land. In Algiers, a few hostages were released, but others were kept aboard as the plane flew to Tripoli, Libya. There, two OPEC countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia, agreed to pay a ransom of $50 million for the oil ministers. Soon the plane flew back to Algiers, where the terrorists released their hostages and turned themselves over to Algerian authorities.

The following day the terrorists flew back to Libya and were personally welcomed by Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar Gadhafi (1942–).

The kidnapping was blamed on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Carlos the Jackal was summoned to PFLP headquarters, where he was harshly criticized for his behavior during the hostage crisis and thrown out of the organization. The fate of the ransom money has remained unclear; some authorities believe that Carlos kept the money for himself.

Bombing U.S. targets in Lebanon, 1983 In 1983 two Palestinian attacks on U.S. targets in Lebanon claimed hundreds of lives. The attacks came at a time when the Arab-Israeli conflict had spread to include Lebanon.

On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a large truck into the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and rammed it into the front door. The truck was too tall to get through the door, but a 400-pound (181-kilogram) bomb on the truck exploded in the doorway, destroying the front of the building. Sixty-three people were killed, including the Middle East director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). An additional 120 people were hurt.

The pro-Iranian group Islamic Jihad (pronounced JEE-hahd; an Arabic word meaning "holy war") claimed responsibility for the attack, which was one of the first to use suicide bombers and the beginning of a series of attacks on American targets.

Six months later, on October 23, 1983, a large yellow Mercedes-Benz truck driven by another suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad delivered a bomb at the headquarters of the U.S. Marines in Lebanon. The explosion tore open a hole 39 feet long, 29 feet wide, and 8 feet deep. It blew out the lower floors of the building and caused the upper floors to collapse, killing 241 American soldiers. Another bomb delivered at the same time to the headquarters of a French peacekeeping force by the Islamic Jihad killed fifty-eight soldiers.

The U.S. Marines had been sent there by President Ronald Reagan (1911–) in an effort to bring stability to Lebanon after a period when it had been occupied by Israel, Syria, and Palestinian guerrillas. In response to the attack on Americans, Reagan ordered the battleship USS New Jersey, stationed off the coast of Lebanon, to shell the hills near Beirut.

One motive behind the terrorist attack was to drive the international peacekeepers out of Lebanon. Iran's attack on the French soldiers was thought to be because France was supplying weapons to Iraq, Iran's enemy in the region.

Achille Lauro Three years after the attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut, four terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front, a small faction in the PLO, hijacked an Italian cruise liner, the Achille Lauro, while it was sailing off the coast of Egypt. Most of the passengers were off the ship, touring historic sites in Egypt, when the terrorists seized it on October 7, 1985. They took about 80 passengers, mostly Americans and Europeans, and 320 Italian crew members hostage.

The terrorists demanded the release of fifty Palestinians from Israeli jails and threatened to kill the passengers if their demands were not met. Navy ships from the United States, Italy, and Egypt drew near the Achille Lauro but took no action, fearing for the hostages' safety. The ship, under the hijackers' control, sailed east in the Mediterranean. It went to the port of Tartus in Syria, but that country refused to allow it to enter.

In one of the most dramatic and widely publicized moments of the hijacking, the terrorists shot and killed a disabled, elderly American, Leon Klinghoffer. They then threw him and his wheelchair overboard.

Two days after the drama began, the Achille Lauro sailed back to Port Said in Egypt, where the hijackers surrendered to officials of the PLO. The following day an Egyptian plane flew the hijackers to Tunisia, where the PLO had its headquarters, but it was intercepted by U.S. fighter jets and forced to land at a base in Italy, where the hijackers were arrested and later convicted.

Pan Am Flight 103 On its way from London, England, to New York on December 21, 1988, Pan American Flight 103 suddenly exploded over the Scottish village of Lockerbie. The crash killed all 259 people aboard and 11 more people on the ground. American and British authorities spent a week investigating before they determined that a bomb had brought the plane down. Investigators at first blamed the government of Iran for the bombing. They suspected it was in revenge for an Iranian civilian plane that an American warship had accidentally shot down earlier that year. But in 1991 American authorities blamed two agents of Libya's intelligence agency for the attack and filed charges against the men.

State Support for Islamism

The governments of other Arab countries have long supported Palestinians in their fight against the Jewish state of Israel. Ever since the war between Israel and neighboring states in 1973, several governments have directly aided Palestinian terrorists. The aid has come in the form of money and a safe place to live between attacks on Israel.

After fundamentalist Islamic clerics (clergymen) took over the government of Iran in 1979, that country has also supported Muslims (followers of Islam, the predominant religion among Arabs) trying to install similar governments in other nations. Iran has backed the leading Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas in particular has been involved in suicide bombings in Israel.

Other nations that have supported Palestinian terrorists in the past include Libya, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. However, both Jordan and Egypt negotiated peace treaties with Israel, and Iraq largely withdrew after it lost the Persian Gulf War (1990–91) it fought with the United States.

For seven years Libya refused to hand over the accused men, despite a worldwide trade boycott designed to put pressure on the country. Finally, in April 1999, Libya agreed to surrender the suspects under certain conditions. They were to be put on trial for killing the passengers and victims on the ground. The trial would be conducted in the Netherlands, on a military base, under Scottish law with Scottish judges. The trial began in May 2000. It lasted nine months, until January 31, 2001. One of the accused agents, Abd al-Baset al-Megrahi, was found guilty and sentenced to life in jail. The other agent, Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty and released. Libya insisted that both men were innocent and appealed al-Megrahi's conviction. (The appeal failed in March 2002, and al-Megrahi began serving his jail term in Glasgow, Scotland.)

Twelve years had passed between the bombing and the trial's conclusion, making it one of the longest and costliest cases in British legal history.

The Irish Republican Army and Northern Ireland

The battle between the English and the Irish over control of Ireland is one of the longest in history, lasting more than eight hundred years. It started in the year 1171 with the invasion of Ireland by Henry II of England (1133–1189; ruled 1154–1189). During the reign of Henry VIII (1491–1547; ruled 1509–1547), the political conflict between the English and the native Celtic people in Ireland took on a religious aspect when England became a Protestant country. Meanwhile, Ireland remained largely Roman Catholic, with the exception of the northern part of the country, which had been heavily settled by English and Scottish Protestants. (Protestantism is a form of Christianity that began in the sixteenth century when a group of reformers rejected many of the Catholic Church's rituals and practices, believing that faith was more important. In 1532 Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and formed a new Protestant Church of England, in part because the Catholic Church had refused to allow him to divorce his wife.)

From the time of Henry VIII's daughter Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603; ruled 1558–1603), there was a steady stream of Irish revolts against English rule. In response, English lords gradually took over Irish lands, especially during the government of the Protestant Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658; ruled 1653–1658). This added an economic element to the long-standing and increasingly bitter conflict. A terrible potato blight (a disease affecting plants) in the late 1840s killed about one million people through starvation and disease and forced many farmers to leave Ireland for the United States. Britain's seeming indifference to the starving Irish caused bitter resentment in Ireland.

The modern era of Irish terrorism has its roots in 1858 with the organization of the Fenian Society (pronounced FEE-nee-uhn; also called the Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood), a group founded in Ireland and in the United States among Irish emigrants. The Fenians wanted complete independence for Ireland. Concerned that the Fenians were plotting revolution, starting in 1865 the English government tried to crush the movement, shutting down its newspaper and arresting its leaders. In 1867 the Fenians in the United States gathered a supply of arms and tried to ship them to Ireland. Many Irish veterans of the American Civil War (1861–65) were eager to use their fighting skills to free Ireland from English rule.

Terrorist assassination in 1882

But the plot to ship arms to Ireland was discovered. With its failure, some Irish began to see terror as an acceptable way to resist English rule. On May 6, 1882, the chief secretary for the British government in Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish (1836–1882), and his undersecretary, Thomas Henry Burke, were stabbed to death in Dublin. The assassinations were blamed on the Invincibles, a terrorist group that had split from the Fenians. The murders were thought to be in protest of the Coercion Act of 1881, which gave the British governor of Ireland the power to arrest anyone on suspicion of treason or "intimidation."

In 1905 another organization called Sinn Féin (pronounced shin fan; an Irish expression meaning "ourselves alone") was founded by a former Fenian, Arthur Griffith (1871–1922), to support Irish independence. Sinn Féin had little strength before World War I, but on Easter Monday, 1916, a small group of Irish nationalists took over a few buildings in Dublin and declared Ireland a free and independent republic. The uprising lasted only a few days and attracted little attention. But the British executed fifteen Irish nationalists for their part in the rebellion. Largely because of the British response, Sinn Féin attracted widespread support. The independence party won 73 out of 105 Irish seats in the British Parliament in the elections of 1918.

The Irish Republican Army

In 1919 some Irish rebels formed an underground (secret) military organization, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), to continue the struggle for independence. The IRA fought a bloody guerrilla campaign against the British that finally ended with the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, which divided Ireland into twenty-six counties in the south and six counties in the north, called Ulster, or the province of Northern Ireland. Two years later, in 1922, the Irish Free State was founded, with limited independence from Britain, to govern the southern counties, which were primarily Catholic. (In 1949 the Irish Free State became the fully independent Republic of Ireland.)

The status of the mainly Protestant counties of Ulster continued to be an issue. The Sinn Féin and the IRA, which became its military wing, insisted that all of Ireland should be united as an independent republic. But most of the Protestants in the northern counties wanted to keep Ulster part of Britain. While the government of the Irish Free State accepted the division, even outlawing the IRA in 1931 and again in 1936, the IRA continued to support joining Ulster with the rest of Ireland.

The IRA campaign continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but on a smaller scale. This changed in 1968, when the minority Catholics in Northern Ireland organized a large demonstration to protest unfair treatment in unemployment, housing, and voting rights. Police used violence to control the protesters, which led to rioting. In the violence, the republican movement arose once more. The IRA again became a factor in everyday life in Northern Ireland.

Modern Ulster conflict

The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw a steady stream of terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland, carried out by both the Irish

Republican Army and a variety of Protestant groups that opposed merging Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic in the south. It was a complex struggle that combined elements of religion (the Protestant majority in Ulster versus the Roman Catholic majority in the Republic), nationalism (Irish rule versus English rule), and politics (the more radical pro-Republican side versus the mostly conservative Protestant side). Britain sent army units to Northern Ireland to help maintain peace and enforce the laws. As a result, the British army became the most frequent target of terrorist attacks in Ireland. Because the attackers blended into the Catholic community of Ulster (or fled to the Irish Republic to the south), antiterrorist efforts by the British army and the mostly Protestant police often turned Catholics in Northern Ireland against them, gaining civilian allies for the terrorists. Both sides launched terrorist attacks, some of which harmed civilians.

On January 30, 1972, British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of unarmed Catholic demonstrators in the city of Derry, killing fourteen people. The event became known as Bloody Sunday and set the pattern for nearly thirty years of terrorist acts. In that year alone 472 people were killed in connection with "the Troubles," as the violence in Ireland had become known. On July 21, 1972 (known as Bloody Friday), 22 bombs exploded in Belfast, Northern Ireland, killing 9 people and wounding about 130 others.

On August 15, 1998, in the town of Omagh (pronounced OH-maw), a car bomb exploded in the town square, killing twenty-nine people. Among the dead were infants, small children, and one woman pregnant with twins. The incident was particularly deadly because a caller had alerted police that a bomb was about to go off. But the caller gave a false location, which caused a crowd of Sunday shoppers to move toward the spot where the bomb was actually planted, resulting in more deaths and injuries. It was the worst single attack in thirty years of terrorist acts related to the status of Northern Ireland. A radical group called the Real IRA, which had broken away from the Irish Republican Army, claimed responsibility. Against the wishes of the terrorists, this attack led to the start of peace talks. The political leader of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams (1948–), condemned the attack and soon began negotiations with the Protestant leader.

In about thirty years of terrorism in Northern Ireland (including related attacks inside Britain), officials estimated, more than three thousand people were killed.

Puerto Rican independence movement

The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico became a part of the United States during the Spanish-American War (1898). Its exact relationship to America has long been debated. Should it become a state? Should it maintain its special status as a "commonwealth"? Or should it become an independent nation? The residents of Puerto Rico have voted on these questions many times, most recently in 1998.

Puerto Rico's commonwealth status means Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections, and they do not have a representative in Congress. Puerto Ricans do not pay U.S. income taxes, but they can be drafted to serve in the U.S. military. In the 1998 vote only about 2.5 percent of Puerto Ricans voted to become an independent country. Nevertheless, the Puerto Rican independence movement was the cause of some of the most dramatic terrorist acts in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century.

The cause of Puerto Rican independence began not long after the United States took control of the island from Spain in the Spanish-American War. But it was not until after World War II that Puerto Rican nationalists began a long string of terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.

A revolt and an assassination attempt

On the afternoon of November 1, 1950, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) was napping in Blair House, across the street from the White House in Washington, D.C. The president was using Blair House as a temporary residence while the White House was being restored. Outside, on Pennsylvania Avenue, two men approached Blair House from opposite directions. Suddenly, one of the men took a Walther P-38 automatic pistol from his pocket and aimed it at a uniformed guard outside Blair House. He squeezed the trigger, but the gun misfired. The guard turned around just as the gunman fired again, hitting him in the leg. The wounded guard backed away from the house, to draw fire away from the building, and began to shoot back. He hit the gunman in the chest. The second man also drew a pistol, a Luger, and began firing at two other guards, killing one, Leslie Coffelt. According to some versions of the story, the president peered out of a window and was told by a policeman, "Get back! Get back!"

When the shooting was over, two men were dead: one guard and one would-be assassin, a man named Griselio Torresola. The other assassin was wounded by Truman's guards and later was convicted of first-degree murder. The attack, intended to kill Truman, was part of a planned revolution staged by the small Nationalist Party, which supported independence for Puerto Rico. On the island other nationalists attacked the governor's mansion in San Juan and the police headquarters in the town of Jayuya. National Guard troops soon rounded up about three thousand revolutionaries. The revolt had failed, but it was not the last time Puerto Rican Independentistas used terrorist tactics.

Open fire on Congress

Less than four years later, on March 1, 1954, an even more dramatic attack took place in Washington, D.C. Four members of the Nationalist Party made their way to the visitors' gallery overlooking the House of Representatives in the Capitol building. In the middle of a debate, the three men and one woman stood up and started firing pistols at the representatives below them. Congressmen ducked beneath tables and behind columns; others rushed out of the room. Five representatives were wounded before Capitol police and spectators could wrestle the shooters to the ground. One shooter escaped but was arrested later at a bus station.

The four were sentenced to fifty years in prison. Investigators later found a note in the woman's purse. Written in pencil, evidently intended to be a suicide note, Lolita Lebron's note said: "My blood claims for the independence of Puerto Rico. My life I give for the freedom of my country. This is a cry for victory in our struggle for independence." Her cause was not shared by most Puerto Ricans. In fact, not long before, the Puerto Rican legislature had voted to turn down President Dwight D. Eisenhower's (1890–1969) offer of independence.

Although Puerto Rican independence never became a popular cause in Puerto Rico, the attacks in the 1950s were not the end of terrorist acts by Puerto Rican nationalists. In the 1970s Puerto Rican terrorists carried out numerous other attacks in the United States. Bombing was the usual method used in these attacks.

In the mid-1970s a new Puerto Rican nationalist organization, the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation (known as FALN for the initials of its name in Spanish, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional Puertorriquena), surfaced in New York City. On October 26, 1974, the FALN claimed responsibility for planting five bombs in the city. Over the next decade the organization carried out seventy-two bombings, several other attempted bombings, and forty arson attacks. These acts caused five deaths and eighty-three injuries. One of the most famous attacks was a bombing at Fraunces Tavern, a New York restaurant dating back to the time of President George Washington (1732–1799). Four people were killed there and more than fifty injured on January 24, 1975. In Puerto Rico another nationalist organization called the Macheteros (ma-schet-AIR-ohs; a reference to the machete, a long knife commonly used on the island) claimed responsibility for the murder of a San Juan policeman in August 1978. Over the next few years the Macheteros took credit for many attacks on policemen and military posts, including the destruction of eleven Puerto Rican Air National Guard planes in January 1981, at a cost of $45 million. Eventually, most of the members of both organizations were arrested and jailed, and the wave of Puerto Rican nationalist terrorism ended. In 1999 President Bill Clinton (1946–) released sixteen jailed Puerto Rican nationalists in exchange for their rejection of violence.


Terrorist attacks in Kashmir, an area between India and Pakistan, are part of a half-century-long clash between those two countries over control of the territory. The long and deadly struggle over Kashmir combines nationalism and religion. It shows how government can become tangled up with terrorism even to the point of threatening nuclear war.

Britain ended its colonial rule on the Indian subcontinent in 1947 with the creation of two independent nations: Pakistan and India. The main religion of India, the larger of the two new countries, was Hinduism, although there were also many Muslims. The government of India was nonsectarian, it did not prefer one religion over the other. Pakistan was mainly a Muslim country and recognized Islam as the country's official religion. Between the two countries lay Kashmir, where the majority of people were Muslims. Both Pakistan and India wanted to claim Kashmir, but many Kashmiris preferred a different solution: independence. Pakistan invaded Kashmir in 1948, which caused the Hindu maharaja (pronounced mawhuh-RAW-juh; a prince) there to throw in his lot with India. Pakistan objected, and the resulting war with India ended with a truce dividing control of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. However, no permanent decision over its fate was made. India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir again in 1965, but they never solved the problem. The border between the two governments remained in question. (India and Pakistan also went to war in 1971 for different reasons.)

While the fighting died down after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, militant Islamists rose to power in nearby

Afghanistan. At first the combative Islamists wanted to over-throw the secular (nonreligious) Afghan government, which was sympathetic to the Soviet Union (today, Russia and its neighboring countries). Later their goal became to set up a strict Islamist government, which came to be known as the Taliban. The struggle in Afghanistan spread to Kashmir as well. In the early 1990s the battle over Kashmir became entangled with the effort by Muslim groups to establish an Islamic state there. India accused the Muslim Pakistani government of providing a safe haven, arms, and money to Islamic terrorists active in Kashmir.

The struggle over Kashmir took on a more disturbing aspect after both India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, India in the mid-1970s and Pakistan about a decade later. One possible outcome may have been to encourage the use of terrorism instead of traditional military conflict because neither country is eager to risk nuclear war. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has been accused of organizing, financing, and supporting Islamic fundamentalist groups operating in Afghanistan and Kashmir, groups that regularly use terrorist tactics.

In October 2001 terrorists attacked the regional parliament of the Indian state of Kashmir, killing thirty-eight people. India blamed the attack on a Pakistan-based terrorist group called Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammad; Muhammad was the founder of Islam). In that attack a suicide bomber exploded a bomb at the entrance to the building, while other attackers opened fire and seized control of the building. All the attackers were killed in a gun battle that lasted several hours.

The most serious terrorist act in the struggle took place on December 13, 2001, when terrorists armed with machine guns attacked the Indian parliament building in New Delhi. The attack left at least twelve people dead, including seven policemen. No politicians died in the assault, although several were in the parliament building at the time. India quickly blamed the attack on Pakistani terrorists, and both countries sent more troops to their shared border in Kashmir. There were fears that the incident could lead to the use of nuclear weapons, potentially the worst consequence of a terrorist attack yet seen. India demanded that Pakistan arrest leaders of two organizations it blamed for the attack, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan publicly spoke out against the attack on the parliament building and arrested leaders of the two organizations, which reduced tensions between the two countries.


In 2002 Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (sometimes written Lashkar-e-Taiba and meaning "Army of the Pure") was the largest Islamic group using terrorist tactics in Kashmir. It is the armed wing of another group called Markaz ad-Dawa Wal Irshad. These organizations, formed in 1989 and based in Pakistan, intend to establish Islamic rule in Kashmir. They are believed to have close ties to the Saudi Arabian terrorist leader Osama bin Laden (c. 1957–) and to receive significant financial support from his Al Qaeda (pronounced al KAY-duh) organization. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is believed to include many members from outside Kashmir, including some from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Since 1998 Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has taken a strong anti-American position. In that year the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's Afghanistan training camps. Eight members of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba were killed.

In 1999 fighters from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba attacked the Indian army's headquarters in Kashmir. Seven soldiers and two terrorists died. It was the first direct assault on army headquarters by Muslim militants. In December 2001 U.S. President George W. Bush (1946–) added Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to a list of organizations labeled as terrorists and froze its financial assets in the United States.


Another Islamic terrorist group fighting to bring Kashmir under Islamic rule is Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM). It was formed by Maulana Masood Azhar (1968–), a fundamentalist Islamic leader who previously organized a group called Harakat ul-Ansar. Harakat ul-Ansar carried out attacks on Indian military targets in Kashmir. He was jailed in India for terrorist activities from 1994 until he was released in 1999 to meet the demands of the hijackers of an Indian civilian airliner. JEM quickly allied with bin Laden and the Taliban.

JEM was held responsible for rocket attacks on Indian officials in Kashmir, as well as attacks on civilians in the province.

Like other Islamist organizations using terror tactics in Kashmir, the Pakistani government put up with, if not actively supported, JEM until the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. Shortly afterward, Pakistan arrested Azhar to reduce tensions with India.

Harakat ul-Mujahideen

Another Kashmiri organization is called Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM). It was first organized in 1985 under the name Harakat ul-Ansar to fight against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. In 1997 the U.S. State Department labeled Harakat ul-Ansar a terrorist organization. At that time it changed its name to Harakat ul-Mujahideen. In 1999 an Indian Airlines jet was hijacked and forced to land in Afghanistan. The hijackers demanded that India release three Kashmiri separatists, including Azhar. The hijacking was successful; India released the three prisoners from jail. Although HUM did not claim responsibility for the hijacking, the group has admitted to organizing suicide squads to conduct raids in India.

Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers

On the island nation of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon until 1972), just off the southern coast of India, terrorism played a large role in a civil war between two ethnic groups for more than twenty years. The conflict pitted the majority Sinhalese against the minority Tamil. The Tamils, who make up about 20 percent of the population, have fought to set up an independent country in the north and eastern part of the island, arguing that discrimination against them by the Sinhalese (who make up about 75 percent of the population) left them no other choice.

Among the victims of terrorist suicide bombings in the conflict were a former prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi (1944–1991), assassinated on May 21, 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who died in a bombing in the capital city of Colombo on May 1, 1993. Both assassinations were carried out by a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), often called the Tamil Tigers.

The seeds of conflict

Although the Sinhalese and Tamils had lived together peacefully for decades, the seeds of future conflict were there from the beginning of Ceylon's independence in 1948. A law passed the same year, the Citizenship Act of 1948, denied citizenship to Tamil workers who had been brought in from southern India by British colonial authorities to work on tea plantations. In 1956 the Sinhalese president of Ceylon pushed through a law making Sinhalese the official language of the

nation. The practical effect was to prevent Tamils from getting government jobs. Gradually, the Tamils became second-class citizens. Tamil politicians began to call for a separate, semi-independent state for Tamils established in the north. The ruling Sinhalese flatly rejected this idea.

In 1972 the LTTE was founded (at first under a different name) to press for an independent Tamil state. It adopted the symbol of a tiger to contrast with the Sinhalese mythology that they are the "people of the lion," descended from an ancestor with lion's blood in his veins. Under its leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE turned to guerrilla warfare in the countryside and terrorism in urban areas.

The battle is joined

In 1983 a guerrilla ambush killed thirteen government soldiers. In the capital of Colombo, Sinhalese rioted and attacked the homes of Tamils. Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene declared on television that "the time has come to accede [give in] to the clamor and the natural respect of the Sinhalese people." This statement led to more rioting, and in the end several hundred Tamils were killed.

In 1987 the Sinhalese government persuaded the government of India, headed by Rajiv Gandhi, to send fifty thousand troops to help defeat the Tamil Tigers. The move proved to be an error, since it raised Sinhalese fears of India taking over their country. A Sinhalese group called Janatha Vinukthi Peramuna, an organization that had conducted a brief guerrilla war in the south in 1971, resumed its terrorist campaign. A new president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, was elected in 1988. He sent the troops from India home, then launched a campaign against the Sinhalese rebels in the south, killing thousands of people. In 1991 Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in India by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber. It was the first and only such attack the LTTE conducted outside Sri Lanka. On May 1, 1993, Premadasa was also assassinated by a suicide bomber in Colombo.

Despite years of efforts by the Sri Lankan government, the Tamil Tigers came to control most of the coastal areas in the north and eastern part of Sri Lanka. They set up their own intelligence (spying) service, a seagoing force (called the Sea Tigers), and women's military and political organizations. The LTTE received significant financial support from Tamils who had fled Sri Lanka to live abroad, especially in India, Canada, and the United States.

The civil war, and the terrorism that goes with it, has had a tremendous cost. After nearly twenty years of conflict, there were about six hundred thousand people displaced from their homes in the northeastern part of the country. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Sri Lanka had a very large number of disabled people, who were wounded in the war, and an enormous number of people had fled the country.

About this article

National Independence Movements

Updated About content Print Article


National Independence Movements