February 4, 2006 | Bombings of Nordic embassies in Damascus

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Terrorists are not great at making fine distinctions: sometimes those not on their target list get hit.

ARE YOU AWARE of the term ‘NIMBY’? This acronym, short for ‘not in my back yard’ refers to a phenomenon, big in North America only as far as I know but perhaps more widespread, in which people reject certain development in their area for a whole host of reasons, despite the acknowledgement that the change is for the good.

For instance, a community may agree that a new half-way house is a great way to ease the re-transition of released prison inmates into society but they don’t want that particular entity to be located where they live. Some cite the impact on real estate value, others ‘public safety, while still others are just discriminatory. Nevertheless, the facility must be built. As Arthur Dent learned when he protested a new bypass that would require the destruction of his house in Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, ‘you gotta build bypasses‘.

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Arthur lying in the mud to prevent a bypass

As it turns out even if you can choose your neighbourhood and seek to protect or insulate it you cannot choose your neighbours. Funny thing: you may buy or rent in what you see as your perfect locale only to have the family from hell move in next door. At that point you really have only two choices: move, or make the best of the situation.

So what if your neighbours put you in mortal danger?

In recent decades diplomatic quarters have become prime terrorist targets. This of course is not surprising as these missions are the main representatives of a nation and nations are often listed by terrorists as deserving of attention for a whole host of reasons.

Countries have used a variety of methods to situate foreign embassies and consulates in their cities. In Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh there is an entire isolated enclave where all the ‘foreigners’ are kept: this was planned to keep the representatives safe from terrorism and to keep the locals immune from ‘bad’ foreign influences (like men and women having normal relationships). It is a pain to get into, believe you me, what with all the security.

On this day in 2006, a mob firebombed the building housing the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus in protest over the Danish ‘cartoon affair’.

In Canada it is more problematic as these institutions are spread far and wide and almost always mix with average Canadians. As there have been attacks on embassies in the past, people out walking their dogs have been put in danger. If asked I am fairly certain that the residents would ask that the foreign legation leave the environs.

And I am pretty sure the Chilean embassy to Syria felt the same way back in 2006.

Bombings of Nordic embassies in Damascus

On this day in February of that year, a mob firebombed the building housing the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus in protest over the Danish ‘cartoon affair (a contest to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad that enraged millions of Muslims). Unfortunately for the Chilean delegation, they too had leased space in that building (as had the Swedes). None too happy were the Chilean diplomats I’d wager.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators who then moved on to the Norwegian embassy and later the French mission. Protesters broke through police barriers and set fire to the building, shouting “Allahu Akbar.” There were no reports of injuries.

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Part of the protest

Embassies are outliers in that a terrorist group sees them as high profile targets that will garner a lot of attention. Bombing Bill’s house doesn’t quite cut it, does it? Still, if you are in the market for a new home you might want to check out if a foreign flag is flying on the place next door: that should ‘flag’ a potential problem.


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February 3, 2018 | Shooting of immigrants in Italy


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