March 18, 2009 | Suicide bombing at UNESCO World Heritage site of Shibam in Yemen

On this day in 2009, four South Korean tourists were killed by a powerful bomb at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shibam in Yemen.

Terrorists will sometimes carry out one attack and follow it up with another targeting those responding to the first one.

SHIBAM, YEMEN — Years ago, in the US, there was the Tylenol scare. In 1982 someone laced bottles of the painkiller with potassium cyanide in the Chicago area and by the time this ended seven people were dead. The perpetrator(s) was never found.

Sadly, two people died while mourning for the loss of their brother/brother-in-law when they reached for the same bottle that had poisoned him. The scene was macabre: grief-stricken relatives took medication to alleviate a headache, unaware that their deceased kin had died from the drug they wanted to use for temporary pain relief. The bottle had a one-degree of separation lethal effect.

Terrorists do something very similar. It is all to frequent to see an act of terrorism, say a suicide bombing, followed very closely by a second one when the first responders arrive to help the wounded. Sometimes the other bomber is in the crowd rubbernecking at the scene, waiting for more targets to arrive.

2009 Suicide bombing in Yemen

Today’s attack is somewhat akin to this except that the time lag between attacks was a matter of days, not hours. On March 15, 2009 four South Korean tourists were killed and another three were wounded by a powerful bomb at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shibam in Yemen. The government blamed Al Qaeda (AQ) for the attack.

Three days later, on March 18, 2009, a convoy of South Korean investigators and relatives of the victims of the previous attack were journeying from their hotel in the capital, Sana’a, to the airport when a young adult man walked between two cars and detonated his explosive vest, killing no one except himself.

The second attack was clearly timed to inflict more damage on the South Koreans. The reasons why are less clear, as South Korea is not normally seen as part and parcel of the jihadi hatred for all things Western. More likely, the terrorists saw tourists as an easy mark.

The lesson in all this? When you think it is all over and done it is usually not. A good thing to bear in mind when we repeatedly claim that this or that terrorist group has been ‘defeated’.

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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