October 3, 1980: Bombing of a synagogue in Paris

A 1980 motorcycle bomb planted by the PFLP outside a synagogue in Paris killed four and wounded more than 40,

Terrorist groups sometimes do fade away, but that does not mean they were not lethal in the past.

PARIS, FRANCE — I have discovered that there is a whole literature out there on how terrorist groups ‘die’. The use of this term is only slightly ironic as these actors are very good at making others die in the furtherance of whatever ’cause’ they are espousing, but you get my point I hope.

It is true that some groups do wither away over time. The reasons for this are multiple, ranging from loss of effective leadership (Sendero Luminoso in Peru may be a good example of this) and achievement of primary goal (African National Congress?) among others.

Nevertheless it is also true that most terrorist organisations are Mark Twain-like in being able to avoid death. They have their ups and downs but some hang in there for the longer term. True, they may eventually be seen as ineffective but that does not take away from their past achievements.

On this day in 1980

A good example would be the group behind today’s featured attack. On this day in 1980 a motorcycle bomb believed to be have left by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), a secular (i.e. not jihadi) Marxist group founded in 1967, killed four people and wounded more than 40 outside a synagogue in Paris on rue Copernic.

There was no sound of an explosion, just the clattering of glass, the screaming of children and the groaning of bloodied adults in states of semi-consciousness. “The glass came down on our heads,. The door flew off its hinges. Then a ball of flame lit the synagogue. That was the petrol tanks of the cars exploding. “

There is a fascinating sideline to this attack in that a man who teaches at the University of Ottawa, where I am currently the director of the Security, Economics and Technology program within the Professional Development Institute, Hassan Diab, has fought a decades-long battle with French authorities who say he was involved in the attack (they say he is the prime suspect).

In any event, we don’t hear much about the PFLP these days. We would be wise, though, to not conclude the group is defunct. Unlike Mark Twain, that is.

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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