September 12, 1986: Bombing at Paris shopping mall

A little know Arab terrorist group engaged in a series of bombings against commercial establishments in Paris in 1985-86 to push for freeing prisoners.

A little know Arab terrorist group engaged in a series of bombings against commercial establishments in Paris in 1985-86 to push for the freeing of prisoners.

PARIS, FRANCE – If you want to be a successful terrorist group and get lots of notice there are a few things you can do:

  • you can carry out a spectacular attack like 9/11;
  • you can tie your violence to a popular cause (like the African National Congress – ANC – did with apartheid in South Africa);
  • you can target a truly hated figure (like Saddam Hussain in Iraq); and/or
  • you can seek to chase invaders out of your country (like Al Qaeda – AQ – did in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, some terrorist groups do not seem to get this. They claim to support weird causes that do not resonate with anyone and hence are rarely taken up by anyone else. This could explain why they do not last very long as a terrorist group (did you know the average lifespan of a terrorist group is…wait for it…three years: furthermore, 90% last less than a year!).

On this day in 1986

Today’s featured attack is a good example of what I am trying to convey here. On this day in 1986 a bomb went off in a Paris shopping mall, injuring at least 41 people. A little-known Arab group calling itself the Partisans of Right and Liberty claimed responsibility for the bombing in a telephone call to a Western news agency in Beirut. It warned of more bombings unless France adopted ”a just and equitable policy.”

The group most likely behind the attack was actually the Committee of Solidarity with Arab and Middle East Political Prisoners (CSPPA). It was behind six other bombings that had killed three people and wounded about 90 since the previous December as well as one four days before the mall bombing at the Paris city hall post office in which one person was killed and 18 wounded.

Terrorist campaigns do not always make sense, as seen in the demands they make of states.

Never heard of the CSSPA? I am not surprised as it did not stick around long enough to make much of a difference. Although it was initially believed to constitute a dog’s breakfast of Palestinians, Armenian nationalists, and Lebanese Marxists, Hizballah (and hence Iran) were ultimately seen to be behind it.

Hizballah? Now THERE’s longevity. CSPPA? Not so much. Just like most terrorist groups. Thank heavens for that!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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