Friday, December 3, 2010

Terror in a decade

War on Terror

One thing I love about my job is that it exposes me to incredible experiences & knowledge that I would otherwise, not bother searching for. I had to compile a list of terrorist events that happened in the past decade (2001-2010) that I thought was interesting so I'll share it with you.

What I realised was that the significance of a terrorist event is not based on how many people died. Thousands of people die in Iraq & Pakistan by suicide bombers almost every other week but the world is not as concerned by say - the car bomb scare in New York middle this year where they closed the entire Times Square. There were no casualties.

Now why do you think that's so? Is it because suicide bombers are so common in those countries that it's 'just another suicide bombing'? Are their lives not as important because they don't have1st world citizenship? It's very sad that most are done in the name of religion, which is supposed to be about peace, love & forgiveness.

Anyway, here's what I've gathered. Hopefully we will learn something from these events so these victims would not have died in vain.

The turn of the 21st century brought one of the most significant campaigns combating terrorism the world has ever seen. It was when the terminology “War on Terror’ was coined by the United States of America, which shaped the way future matters concerning terrorism was handled. We take a look at the horrifying terrorist attacks that shook the world within the last decade.

Twin Tower crumbles

Sept 11, 2001 can be considered one of the most important events of the century which triggered a chain of events that later affected the lives of millions around the world.

When four planes were hijacked in which two crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre, one into Washington’s Pentagon and the other into a field in Pennsylvania, it shattered the lives of Americans who had till then been able to avoid these sort of attacks on civilians that are common in the Middle East.

Nearly 3000 people died that day, including rescue personnel, hijackers and everyone on board the planes. The United States responded with several aggressive military operations to destroy terrorist networks and the states supporting them including the invasion shortly after of Afghanistan to dispose the Taliban and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to destroy ‘weapons of mass destructions’.

The horror of 9/11 was the beginning of a terrible chain of events

Tougher Security

Security became an immediate concern after the Sept 11 attacks resulting in long security checks for travellers all around the world. Banning of sharp items, removal of jackets, blets, shoes, laptops and electronic devices and body frisking became a common practice at airports. A complete ban of all liquids and gel was made after an alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes with flammable fluids was discovered in 2006. The ban was later revised to limiting passengers to liquids and gels not exceeding 100ml per container. These must be placed in a clear plastic bag not exceeding 1 litre in size.

US airports have recently installed full-image body scanners with the aim of having nearly 1,000 scanners nationwide by the end of next year. The use of “swabs,” or Explosive Trace Detection machines, has also been expanded where security agents can detect traces of explosives after a cotton swab is applied to hands or luggage.

Now wouldn't this be interesting
Afghanistan War

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 in search of Osama bin Laden and to oust the Taliban regime. The US Marines set up base in Kandahar after the Taliban retreated in December 2001. The Taliban forces have since regained strength and current US President Barack Obama announced in 2009 that the US military will deploy additional soldiers. The war is still ongoing.

And they are still 'helping'

Detainment without Trial

After the Sept 11 attacks, the Bush administration established a facility in 2002 in Cuba to detain suspected terrorists and prisoners of war from Afghanistan and later Iraq. The facility is known as Guantánamo Bay or Gitmo, a central prison for suspects considered unlawful enemy combatants in the war on terror.

The United States have been heavily critisised for detaining these prisoners without trial, ignoring the Geneva Conventions and not heeding international pressures to close down the facility. The Center for Constitutional Rights of New York published a first report in 2006 alleging physical, psychological, sexual, medical and religious torture and abuse of the prisoners. After taking office, President Obama pledged to close the facility within a year but his efforts have been met by resistence from several parties. Most of the prisoners have been released but the facility still remains standing.

Protestors calling for its closure

Bali in Shock

The first Bali bombings occured on 12 October 2002 when two bombs were detonated in and around popular nightclubs in the tourist district of Kuta. The attack, which left 202 people dead, came as a shock to many, especially Australians, who perceived Bali to be a safe place. Various members of Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah were convicted in relation to the bombings.

After rebuilding their tourist economy, Bali suffered another terrorist attack on 1 October 2005 when suicide bombers detonated a series of bombs at two sites - around the Jimbaran and Kuta area. At least 26 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured in the incident.

What's left of the Kuta nightclub in 2002 

Moscow Theatre Hostage

The Moscow theatre hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of a crowded Moscow theatre on 23 October 2002 by armed Chechens who claimed allegiance to the Islamist militant separatist movement. They took 850 hostages and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and an end to the Second Chechen War.

The Russian Spetsnaz forces pumped an unknown chemical agent into the theatre two-and-a-half days into the siege before raiding it. The attackers and a few hostages were killed in the raid while most of the rest died from the toxic gas. The use of the gas was widely criticised as authorities refused to disclose its chemical contents which hampered life resuscitation efforts.

Hostages lay on the floor after the seige

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The United States and its allies invaded Iraq on 20 March 2003 to eradicate ‘weapons of mass destructions’ which they accused Iraq of possessing. The invasion led to an occupation and the eventual capture of President Saddam Hussein, who was later tried and executed by the new Iraqi goverment.

On 31 August 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama declared the end to the American combat in Iraq, withdrawing all but 50,000 troops who remained to train and work with current Iraqi security forces. US troops are scheduled to withdraw fully by the end of 2011.

Torture Scandals

After the Iraq invasion, US soldiers took control over the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. The prison made international headlines when photographs of American military personel in uniform abusing and torturing Iraqi detainees became public in April 2004. The photographs revealed torture based largely on the sexual humiliation of the detainees. Seven soldiers were subsequently convicted in courts martial on dereliction of duty and assault and battery charges.

The US military formally transferred the prison to Iraqi authorities in September 2006. Iraq reopened Abu Ghraib under the new name of Baghdad Central Prison in 2009 after extensive renovations. The upgraded facilities and amenities include a hospital, rest and visiting rooms, water fountains, a freshly planted garden and a gym. The Iraqi justice ministry is trying to make it a model prison, allowing random inspection by the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations.

Naked Iraqi prisoners in the human pyramid 

Istanbul Bombings

Istanbul was targeted three times within this decade when bombs killed and injured many civilians in 2003, 2008 and 2010. The 15 and 20 November 2003 explosions killed 57 people, most of them Turkish Muslims. Turkey charged 74 people with involvement in the bombings.

On 27 July 2008, two bombs exploded along the busy shopping street in the Güngören district of Istanbul, killing 17 people, five of them children. Nine people were indicted in December 2008 over the bombings. Istanbul suffered another hit recently when a suicide bomber blew himself up beside a police vehicle in Taksim Square on 31 October 2010, wounding 32 people, including 15 policemen. The attack occurred as Istanbul was preparing to hold Republic Day parades to mark the 1923 founding of Turkey.

Istanbul after Nov 2003 bombings

Madrid Train Bombings

Ten explosions, originating from 13 rucksacks detonated by cell phones, occurred on 11 March 2004 on four commuter trains at the height of Madrid’s rush hour, killing 191 civilians and injuring over 1,800. The remaining three explosives were detonated by police in a controlled environment. The attack took place just three days before Spain's general elections.

Spanish courts convicted 14 Islamic militants for their roles in the Madrid bombings, along with four Spaniards, the latter for trafficking in explosives used in the attacks.

The aftermath

Beslan Massacre

On 1 September 2004, the first day of school, a group of armed Chechen Islamic separatist entered Middle School No 1 in Beslan, Russia, and took over 1,100 parents, teachers and students hostage. The hostage takers demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, the release of rebel detainees and the resignation of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Their demands were not met.

Russian security forces stormed the school on the third day of standoff which resulted in a chaotic gunfire battle and the collapse of several school buildings caused by bombs rigged by the separatists. At least 334 hostages were killed that day, most of them children who were shot from the back as they tried to flee the scene. The sole surviving attacker was found guilty of murder in 2006 but was spared the death penalty.

Young children lie dead after the gunbattle

London’s 7/7

Central London was struck with chaos on 7 July 2005 when four al-Qaeda associated suicide bombers detonated their bombs on London public transportation during the morning rush hour.

Three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other at Liverpool Street and Edgware Road stations and the other on a train traveling between King's Cross and Russell Square. The final explosion was around an hour later on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. 52 people died and 700 were injured.

52 died in London's attacks

Delhi Blasts

Three bombs exploded almost simultaneously at the marketplace of Paharganj, the middle-class shopping area of Sarojini Nagar and on a bus in southern Delhi in an attack on 29 October 2005, two days before the important Hindu festival of Diwali, killing 62 people.

The second bombing was on 13 September 2008 when five bombs exploded within a few minutes of each other at markets and localities around the capital on a busy weekend evening. More than 20 people were killed. The Indian Mujahideen Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Two weeks later, another bomb detonated on 27 September 2008 at the flower market in Mehrauli which killed three people, including a young boy.

This could be your mother/daughter/sister

Mumbai Attacks 2008

Ten commercial sites in India’s financial capital Mumbai, including luxury hotels and restaurants, were hit by a wave of terror attacks on 26 November 2008. Gunmen opened fire on civilians at the public spaces and seized a few of the places, holding several hostage. The attacks left 174 dead, most of them civilians, foreigners and international delegates.

Nine of the 10 young attackers from Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based Islamic militant organisation, were killed during the 60-hour siege. The surviving terrorist has been sentenced to death this year.

An old lady being led out of the station after the terrorist attacks


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