- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

Puerto Rican nationalists mounted an attack in the halls of the U.S. Congress in 1954, opening fire and wounding five lawmakers. In 1970, a nascent Palestinian militant group hijacked and blew up four jetliners in one week. A Japanese sect poisoned the orderly Tokyo subway system with sarin gas in 1995.
More than guns or explosives, it has been audacity and a willingness to do the unthinkable that have been the most lethal weapons for terrorists. With the Bush administration warning that another attack could come at any time and in any place, some of the boldest terrorist plots of the past may provide clues to the future.
"The experts always try to be one step ahead and to think up the most probable scenarios for terrorists," said Boaz Ganor, head of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel. "They look at past events, motivation and the operational capabilities of groups that could strike."
Terrorists have relied on hijackings, assassinations, poison-gas attacks, kidnappings and suicide bombings over the years. They have attacked from land, sea and air. They have used an array of disguises.
"How do you terrorize a population? You do it by doing the unimaginable. Through history, terrorists have stepped out of the bounds of conventional moral thinking," said Dan Mulvenna, a terrorism specialist who is a professor at the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in suburban Washington. "September 11 was not the only time people have been shocked or astounded by terrorism."

Deadlier and deadlier
A look at attacks in recent decades shows a boundless reservoir of imaginative tactics and an ever-increasing ferocity.
On March 1, 1954, Puerto Rican nationalists entered the visitors' gallery of the House of Representatives in Washington and opened fire, wounding five congressmen. It was the first such attack on Congress in recent U.S. history.
On Sept. 6, 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked three Western jetliners, forced the planes to land in the Jordanian desert and then after setting the passengers and crew free blew up the planes, along with a fourth jet that was diverted to Egypt.
Though there had been hijackings before, the idea of seizing multiple planes at once in a coordinated effort was a turning point, and it opened the door to three decades of plane hijackings and bombings that continue to this day.
Palestinian gunmen from the same movement stunned the world two years later when they took Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games. The militants killed two Israelis in the initial assault, and nine more died in a bungled rescue attempt at a nearby German air base. Never before had such an audacious terrorist attack been targeted on so public a spectacle as the Olympics.
Eran Lerman, who until recently served as the deputy head of research for Israeli military intelligence, said his agents were involved in security planning for the recent Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
"The idea is to think like a terrorist, look at a target, map it out and then show us the holes," Mr. Lerman said. "They went there and had a look at the Games as a terrorist would. It's a game of the mind that runs on pure, imaginative ability."
In 1975, terrorist commandos led by Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as "Carlos the Jackal," broke into a conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. Three persons were killed and three wounded in a chaotic shootout during which oil ministers lay prostrate under the conference table. The terrorists flew to Algeria hostages in tow and were allowed to get away under an agreement with the Austrian government.
On Oct. 23, 1983, a Shi'ite Muslim suicide bomber detonated a truckload of explosives that ripped apart a U.S. Marine barrack in Beirut, killing 241 servicemen. A simultaneous attack on the French military headquarters killed 58 paratroopers.
In October 1985, Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro off Port Said, Egypt, and took the 413 persons aboard hostage. They killed Leon Klinghoffer, 69, a crippled Jewish American, and dumped his body and wheelchair overboard.
After the attack, governments forced the cruise ship industry to adopt better security. Rohan Gunaratna, a research fellow at the Center for Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, said recently that the attack had sweeping ramifications: "Only one American died aboard the Achille Lauro, yet it took years for the industry to recover."
In March 1995, members of an Armageddon movement boarded several rush-hour commuter trains in Tokyo with plastic bags full of concentrated sarin nerve gas. They used umbrellas to poke holes in the bags, releasing the deadly gas. The attack killed 12 persons and sickened several thousand.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. soldier disgruntled with the government, set off a homemade bomb that ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and wounding more than 500. It was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil until September 11.
Al Qaeda attacks have been marked by a reliance on coordination and planning. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 all took remarkable coordination involving operatives in several countries. Several thwarted al Qaeda plots also were planned on a grand scale, including plots to target New York City landmarks in 1993, blow up 12 jetliners over the Pacific and attack during year 2000 celebrations.

Thinking ahead
The September 11 attack involved at least 18 months of planning to orchestrate near simultaneous hijackings at three U.S. airports.
"What characterizes an al Qaeda attack is the planning that goes into it," said Michael Swetnam, a counterterrorism specialist at the Washington-based Potomac Institute for Policy Studies who wrote a book on Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. "I would suspect that the next attack will be marked by a lot of creativity and be directed at our most vulnerable point."
Mr. Mulvenna at the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies said terrorism is marked by ever-increasing acts of audacity.
"If you went back through history and looked at all terrorist events, you can imagine them as a series of plateaus that get progressively higher," he said. "Once it's been done, it becomes old hat and you have to raise the bar."
Other attacks have been less deadly, but chilling in the planning and creativity used to carry them out:
In 1996, members of a relatively small Peruvian rebel group called Tupac Amaru rented a house next door to the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima. On Dec. 16, while hundreds of dignitaries were attending a cocktail party at the embassy, the rebels blew a hole in a garden wall and stormed in. The siege ended 126 days later when Peruvian commandos stormed the building.
In 1987, an armed Arab guerrilla on a suicide mission entered Israel from Lebanon on a hang glider. He killed five Israeli solders after he landed. A second guerrilla with a glider was fatally shot before he could make it across Israel's border.
Palestinian militants have also attacked the Israeli coast in rubber dinghies, and suicide bombers have disguised themselves as Orthodox Jews, soldiers and foreigners in an effort to slip into Israeli society before detonating powerful explosives strapped to their bodies.

When luck runs out
The Irish Republican Army relied on innovation and long-term planning in some of its more notable attacks. In 1984, the IRA planted a bomb in a bathtub at a hotel in Brighton, England five months before a scheduled visit by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The group guessed correctly that Mrs. Thatcher would be provided a room in the middle floor of the hotel, and the bomb went off as planned at 1 a.m. on Oct. 12, when it was thought she would be in bed. She wasn't, but five other persons were killed.
In its statement taking credit for the bombing, the IRA said: "Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once you will have to be lucky always."
Stephen Gale, a University of Pennsylvania professor who writes about the psychology of terrorism, said it is impossible to guard against every plan that could be hatched in a terrorist's mind. But governments can focus on protecting vital areas like water supply, energy distribution and health care that allow the nation to function.


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