February 11, 2014: Grenade attack on cinema in Pakistan

On this day in 2014 a grenade attack on a movie theatre killed 11 people and injured 25 in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN – Sometimes the more ordinary the target the more lucrative it must seem to the terrorists.

At one point in our common cultural history the cinema (movie house, theatre, or whatever you call it) was a centre of life. New films were treated as significant events and those that had a role in them, the actors and actresses (can I even use that term today?), are heroes and almost demigods. This bastion of entertainment may not have quite the same status as it once did in light of the Internet and streaming services, but movies still captivate us.

In good times and bad average citizens flock to these entertainment centres for escape and a few hours of fantasy. Nothing wrong in any of that: we all need to immerse ourselves in a bit of the unreal now and then.

When we go to see a film or watch one on our own ‘big screens’ the last thing we want to think about is the real world: we go there to forget about our troubles and ills. After all, they will be waiting for us when we leave.

So what then if the troubles and ills come to the theatre?

On this day in 2014

A grenade attack on a movie theatre killed 11 people and injured 25 in the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar. Hand grenades were hurled into the theater while more than 100 people were watching a Pashto-language film. It was the second attack on such a venue in Peshawar this month: five people had died in the earlier episode.

It seemed like a hot iron rod pierced through my left arm and leg as I was hit by ball bearings. I ran towards the gate, from where I was taken to hospital.

62-year old victim

The theatre’s managers noted they had received threats from terrorists for spreading “obscenity and vulgarity” and that security had been tightened. The extremists were Islamist in nature: this kind of attack is in keeping with their belief that certain kinds of behaviour are ‘un-Islamic’.

We are seeing all too many such actions by religious fanatics who want to tell us what to say, what to wear and what to watch. When going to see a movie invites a violent response we know we are dealing with those who know only violence in return.

Read More Today in Terrorism

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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