November 25, 2004: Suicide bombing in Estonia

An act that bore every hallmark of a terrorist attack – i.e. a suicide belt – may have been linked to a love triangle in Estonia in November 2004

An act that bore every hallmark of a terrorist attack – i.e. a suicide belt – may have been linked to a love triangle in Estonia in November 2004.

TALLINN, ESTONIA – In terrorism, as in most things in life, it is best to make sure you have all the information possible before drawing conclusions.

A few years back there was a shooting on a popular part of Toronto known as Greektown in which two young people, aged 10 and 18 died (another 13 were wounded). A 29-year old man named Faisal Hussein was the shooter. I think you know where this is going.

On social media and elsewhere the immediate judgment was that this was an act of terrorism in Canada. Coming on the heels of a series of attacks by Canadian Muslims, this July 2018 spree was seen as yet another act by another Islamist extremist. What else could it have been?

A whole bunch of things, actually. Just because the perpetrator had what sounded like a ‘Muslim name’ (what on earth is a ‘Muslim-sounding name’??) many could not fathom any other possibility.

And yet at the end of the day, no motive was ever discovered. The shooter had entertained ‘violent thoughts’ for a ‘long time’ but despite a lengthy police investigation it was never determined why he took the action he did.

Something quite similar occurred in Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, on this day in 2004. A Russian-speaking man with a history of possessing explosives was arrested in an apartment block by that country’s Internal Security Service. A woman had called to say that a man was trying to get into her place via a window: the man was wearing an explosive vest.

Before the bomb squad and a team of negotiators could arrive the man, named Yevgeni, bolted and entered a police van where he took a female officer hostage. A minute later, as more police surrounded the vehicle, the device he was wearing detonated, killing the police officer and wounding three others.

It can be said that this threat was significant and that it took considerably longer than it was originally planned

Security Service spokesperson

Suicide vest? Check. Man with history of explosives? Check. Russian speaking? Check. It had to be terrorism, right?


Police determined that the man was involved in a ‘love triangle’. His act was probably one of unrequited or frustrated love. Not terrorism.

The lesson here? Make sure you have as many facts as you can before you pronounced judgment. I know that in an era of ‘instant news’ this is a lot to ask. But promise me you will try.

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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