February 3, 1976: School bus hijacking and killing in Djibouti

On February 3, 1976 gunmen of the Front for the Liberation of the Somali Coast hijacked a school bus carrying 30 children: 1 died and 6 were injured

ON THE SOMALIA-DJIBOUTI BORDER – Foreign military deployments are often criticised by locals, some of whom turn to terrorism to protest.

Having foreign soldiers on your soil is rarely a desirable thing. After all, if people who don’t look like you, don’t speak your language and know little of your culture or history arrive and ‘take over’, it can’t end well. Hello Iraq post 2003 US invasion!

Sometimes governments invite outsiders to help maintain order: this is what happened in countries like Somalia (African Union) and Mali (France) when faced with jihadi threats. Sometimes foreign troops help liberate nations occupied by other foreign troops: the Netherlands in 1944-45 is a good example.

Our little token of thanks to Canada for getting rid of the Nazis! (Photo: CC BY 2.0)

In some instances, foreign deployments are tied to former (or even current) overseas colonial outposts. Djibouti is a good example. Once French Somaliland, then the French Territory of the Afars and Issas, it gained independence in 1977. France still wields influence and the country has hosted several military forces, including the US (the former French Camp Lemonnier is now the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa).

Some locals went to extraordinary steps to get rid of the ‘visitors‘.

On this day in 1976

Gunmen of the Front for the Liberation of the Somali Coast hijacked a school bus carrying 30 children and ordered the driver to head for the border with Somalia. French sharpshooters killed the six guerrillas but before one of the gunmen was shot he loosed a burst of automatic fire, killing a French girl and wounding six other hostages. The French counter attack also touched off an exchange of fire with Somali soldiers massed on their side of the border in which one Somali soldier was killed and a French lieutenant was wounded.

Although some of the acting was a bit off, still quite good movie with nice suspense building up and then then offloading in the last 10-15 mins.

Review on IMDB of ’15 minutes of War’, a 2019 film of the hostage rescue

The terrorist group wanted several things, including an immediate, unconditional independence for France’s last African colony. So they kidnaped schoolchildren. Go figure.

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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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