Car Bomb - History

History

Car bombs can be seen as the remote descendants of the 16th Century Hellburners, explosive-loaded ships which were used to deadly effect by the besieged Dutch forces in Antwerpen against the besieging Spanish. Though using a less refined technology, the basic principle of the Hellburner is similar to that of the car bomb.

The first car bomb may have been the one used for the assassination attempt on Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1905 in Istanbul by Armenian separatists, in the command of Belgian anarchist Edward Jorris.

The first possible suicide car bombing (and possibly the first suicide bombing) was the Bath School bombings of 1927, where 45, including the bomber, were killed and half of a school was blown up.

In the past, groups that used car bombs have included:

  • 1920: The Wall Street bombing — Italian anarchist Mario Buda (a member of the "Galleanists") parked a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives and shrapnel in the Financial District of New York City. The blast killed 38 and wounded 400.
  • 1927: The Bath School disaster — Andrew Kehoe used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside a school. As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. In total, Kehoe killed 44 people and injured 58 making the Bath School bombing the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history. It is possibly the first suicide car bombing in history.
  • Zionist terrorist group the Stern Gang were the first group to use car bombs in Palestine.
  • The Viet Cong guerrillas used them at the end of the First Indochina War and throughout the Vietnam War;
  • The OAS used them at the end of the French rule in Algeria;
  • The Sicilian Mafia used them to assassinate independent magistrates up to the early 1990s;
  • The IRA used them frequently during its campaign during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and England. The Omagh bombing by the Real IRA, an IRA splinter group caused the most casualties in the Troubles from a single car bomb.
  • Loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland such as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association used car bombs against civilians in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The UVF bombs in Dublin and Monaghan. caused the most casualties in a single day during the Troubles.
  • Freelance terrorist Carlos the Jackal claimed responsibility for three car bomb attacks on French newspapers accused of pro-Israeli bias during the 1970s.
  • Cleveland Irish mobster Danny Greene frequently used car bombs against his enemies, beginning in 1968. Afterwards, they also began to be used against Greene and his associates. The use of car bombs in Cleveland peaked in 1976, when 36 bombs exploded in the city, most of them car bombs, causing it to be nicknamed "Bomb City." Several people, including innocent bystanders, were killed or wounded. Greene himself was finally killed in a car bomb explosion on October 6, 1977.
  • The German Red Army Faction occasionally used car bombs, such as in an unsuccessful attempt to attack a NATO school for officers in 1984.
  • On 23 November 1986 two members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation carried out Melbourne Turkish consulate bombing using a car bomb, which resulted in death of one of the attackers.
  • During the Soviet-Afghan war, at a variety of training camps in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the Pakistani ISI with the aid of the CIA trained mujahadin in the preparation of car bombs. Car bombs became a regular occurrence during the war, the Afghan civil conflicts which followed, and then during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Agents of the Chilean intelligence agency DINA were convicted of using car bombs to assassinate Orlando Letelier and Carlos Prats, who were opponents of the regime of Augusto Pinochet. Letelier was killed in Washington, DC.
  • In the 1980s, the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar used vehicle bombs extensively against government forces and population centers in Colombia and Latin America. The most notable car bombing attack was the DAS Building bombing, which killed 52 and injured about 1,000.
  • Suicide car bombs were a regular feature of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon which lasted from 1982 until Israel's withdrawal in 2000. The bombing campaign was waged by several groups, most prominently Hezbollah.
  • On February 26, 1993, Islamist terrorists led by Ramzi Yousef detonated a Ryder truck filled with explosives in the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. Yousef's plan had been to cause one of the towers to collapse into the other, destroying both. Although this was not achieved, six people were killed, thousands injured and extensive damage was caused.
  • In 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a Ryder box truck filled with an explosive mixture (fuel oil and fertilizer) in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see Oklahoma City bombing)
  • In the late 1990s and early 2000s, vehicular explosives were used by Chechen nationalists against targets in Russia.
  • On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned to use two car bombs as the last act of the Columbine High School massacre, apparently to murder police and first responders. Both car bombs failed to explode, though Klebold's detonated at 11 PM instead 11 AM as planned, but no one was injured.
  • Southeast Asia-based militant Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah had utilize car bombs in their campaigns during the early 2000s, the most prominent being the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.
  • On June 30, 2007, a Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane tanks crashed into the entrance of Glasgow International Airport. The vehicle caught fire, but failed to detonate. As a result, there were no injuries from the attack itself apart from the driver, who died of his injuries several weeks later, and one passenger who was severely burned, although several bystanders were injured in restraining the two. The attackers appear to have been Muslims unaffiliated with any organization who were disgruntled about the war on terror. Thirty-six hours earlier, two bombs had also been found in a vehicle in London, although the police reported that the bombs were incomplete and could not have exploded.
  • The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka frequently made use of car bombs during that country's civil war in a campaign which lasted from 1976 until the group's defeat in 2009.
  • A car bomb which had misfired was discovered in Times Square, New York City on May 1, 2010. The bomb had been planted by Faisal Shahzad. Evidence suggests that the bombing was planned by the Pakistani Taliban.
  • On December 11, 2010, a car bomb exploded in central Stockholm in Sweden, slightly injuring two bystanders. Twelve minutes later, a Swedish man of Iraqi origin accidentally detonated six pipe bombs he was carrying, but only one exploded. The bomber was killed but there were no other casualties. It is believed that the attacks were the work of homegrown terrorists who were protesting Sweden's involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the publication in Sweden of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
  • On July 22, 2011, in the Norway massacre, a car bomb exploded in Oslo within Regjeringskvartalet, the executive government quarter of Norway. The explosion killed 8 people. 69 others were killed in a shooting spree on an island in Utøya. The attacks was set up by Anders Behring Breivik.

Mass-casualty car bombing, and especially suicide car bombing, is currently a predominantly Middle Eastern phenomenon. The tactic was first introduced to the region by the Stern gang, who used it extensively against Palestinian and British military targets; it was subsequently taken up by Palestinian bombers as well. The tactic was widely used in the Lebanese Civil War by the Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah. A notable suicide car bombing was the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, when two simultaneous attacks killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French military personnel. The perpetrator of these attacks has never been positively confirmed. In the Lebanese civil war, an estimated 3,641 car bombs were detonated.

Groups that still use car bombs include:

  • Various Palestinian militant groups, against both military and civilian Israeli targets.
  • Many Lebanese militants continue to use car bombs against domestic opponents, a notable example being the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the country's former Prime Minister, on February 14, 2005.
  • Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah was assassinated by a car bomb in Syria in 2008, allegedly by Mossad.
  • Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Spain. At least 80 massive car bombs have exploded in Spain during the last decade.
  • Although it has never been officially acknowledged, the American CIA has occasionally been accused of being behind car bombings. One such attack was the failed assassination attempt on Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in the Beirut car bombing on March 8, 1985. Although there has been widespread speculation of CIA involvement, this has never been proven conclusively.
  • Dissident Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland used car bombs for decades, the deadliest attack beind the Omagh bombing of 1998.
  • Al-Qaeda in attacks around the world since the 1990s, most notably the 1998 United States embassy bombings.
  • Militants and criminals in India occasionally utilize car bombs in attacks. This includes Muslim, Sikh, Kashmiri and Naxalite militants, as well as rival politicians within the government and organized crime. A notable recent attack was the 25 August 2003 Mumbai bombings, in which two car bombs killed 54 people. The attack was claimed by the Pakistani-backed Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba.
  • Since the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban have often employed vehicular explosives against enemy targets. This has included not just cars and trucks but even bicycle bombs.
  • The Iraqi insurgency - an estimated 578 car bombs were detonated in Iraq between June 2003 and June 2006. Car bombs continue to be commonly used as of presently.
  • The Pakistani Taliban have occasionally used car bombs in their ongoing conflict with the government of Pakistan.
  • The Juárez Cartel's armed wing, La Línea, used a car bomb to attack police officers in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on 15 July 2010.
  • The Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel were blamed for using car bombs in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on 24 April 2011 to "heat up" the turf of Los Zetas.
  • The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), a very active communist guerilla group in Colombia, sometimes use car bombs against military targets in Bogotá, Cali, Cauca and other cities.

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