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July Today in Terrorism

July 15, 1984: Terrorists attack train in El Salvador

On July 15, 1984 terrorists from the FMLN bombed a freight train El Salvador and shot 25 treasury police, killing 21.

SAN ANTONIO GRANDE, EL SALVADOR – It is often said that the best plans never survive first contact with the adversary: flexibility and adaptation are always necessary.

At times there is a lot to be said for doing things at the spur of the moment. You know what I mean: no prior thought, no consideration of possible snafus, no ‘Plan B’. Just show up and see what happens.

More often we put the required effort into what we are seeking to achieve. We look at all our options and give a great deal of imagination to potential outcomes. And, if we are smart, we also plan for unexpected outcomes.

Now What? (Photo: United States Department of Defense, Public Domain)

I’d suppose this goes for terrorists too. If you elect to carry out an attack and it turns out the desired target was not as expected it may make it worth your while to think on your feet and adjust.

This may be what happened in today’s featured attack in El Salvador.

On this day in 1984

Terrorists from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) bombed a freight train in San Antonio Grande, north of the capital city, San Salvador. It turned out that the train was empty. The terrorists then elected to ‘rake’ treasury police guarding the train with gunfire, killing 21 of 25.

Whatever the initial plan was, the terrorist group succeeded in killing 21 police officers. It did the terrorist equivalent of making deadly lemonade with lemons.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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