November 17, 1976: Islamist attack on Jordanian hotel

On November 17, 1976 Abu Nidal terrorists burst into the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan and took hostages.

AMMAN, JORDAN – Why is it that terrorists often engage in six degrees of Kevin Bacon when choosing whom to attack?

Some say that everything is connected if you look closely enough. You may be familiar with the ‘butterfly’ effect: a butterfly flaps its wings in Texas and that inexorably leads to a tornado in Brazil. I suppose this suggests that very small events can have disproportionate consequences elsewhere, although I wonder if anyone ever asked the butterfly about this.

A more modern version is known as the ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon‘. In this interpretation, every single actor is linked to the US-born thespian by no more than six levels of relatedness. Whether or not this is true I have no idea as I don’t tend to play those kinds of games (and, frankly, don’t get invited to those kinds of parties!).

Terrorists are somewhat similar, especially jihadis. They are able to concoct bizarre webs of interconnectedness in justifying their acts of violence (nation A was attacked because it helped nation B which helped nation C which in turn helped nation D which we hate and are trying to destroy and so we are ok to kill everyone in nation A).

Only a few steps removed from Usama bin Laden? (Photo: Gage Skidmore on flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today’s attack is perhaps a good example.

On this day in 1976

Terrorists belonging to the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO – remember them?) burst into the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan and took hostages. Once the ensuing firefight between the terrorists and Jordanian security forces was over, three ANO members, two soldiers and two civilians were killed. The surviving terrorists were later executed.

Oh yes, he’s dead. He has been ill with heart trouble, you know. You can quote me. This is the end of Abu Nidal.

Assistant to PLO leader Yassir Arafat in 1984

The ANO was formed to protest the Syrian invasion of Lebanon in May of 1976. What this had to do with Jordan and the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman is beyond me. Maybe the terrorists did not get invited to the Kevin Bacon parties either.

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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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