December 15, 1981: Truck bombing in Beirut

A suicide bomber linked to an Iranian Shiite terrorist group drove a vehicle into the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, killing dozens including the Lebanese Ambassador to Baghdad.

BEIRUT, LEBANON – Sometimes in the world of terrorism it is a case of you say tomato and I say tomahto.

Is it just me or are religious differences between nearly identical faiths usually silly? Or arcane? Or meaningless? Or all of the above?

Let me share a story from my youth.

When I was growing up in southwestern Ontario in the 1960s I went to a Catholic elementary school. Right next to us, across the hydro easement field was a ‘public’ school (i.e. not Catholic), or PS for short. Except that for us ‘PS’ stood for ‘pagan school’!

Stupid, no? Here was a bunch of kids, none of whom were old enough to shave, getting all high and mighty and thinking that another bunch of kids, none of whom were old enough to shave either, were somehow less worthy than us. And we are talking Catholic vs. Protestant here, not orcs vs. elves!

Something very similar transpires in Islam when it comes to Sunni vs. Shia. The differences on a theological level are so minute – trust me, I’ve been studying this as an intelligence analyst for nigh on 30 years! – that to anyone not immediately caught up in the hatred it all seems rather unimportant. And yet hatred there is.

Sunni Islamist terrorists (think Al Qaeda (AQ), Islamic State (ISIS) and others) REALLY hate the Shia. And Shia Islamist terrorists (think Hizballah) have been playing the underdog card since 680 CE (the Battle of Karbala) and hence seeking out Sunnis to slaughter.

Which brings me to today’s featured attack.

On this day in 1981, a Shia suicide bomber linked to the Iranian terrorist group Al Dawa drove a truck into the grounds of the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, killing 61 and wounding 110: Lebanon’s Ambassador to Iraq was among the dead.

The sound of the two explosions reverberated through the capital at midday, scaring Christmas shoppers off the streets. Ambulances with sirens screaming carried the wounded to various hospitals in West Beirut as local radio stations interrupted their programming to report on the blast at the embassy

Nora Boustany, The Washington Post

What is odd about this incident is that Iraq is 60% Shia, meaning that there is a good chance the terrorist killed many of his fellow worshipers. Now you see why a lot of religious terrorism makes little sense?

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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