Today in Terrorism: November 23, 1986 – Turkish consulate bombing in Melbourne

Armenian terrorism may strike some as yesteryear’s scourge but the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge the 1915 genocide could spur more action.

A week or so ago I wrote about how my eldest daughter and I left Paris the morning of the 2015 terrorist attacks and how that was perhaps the closest I ever got to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was not entirely accurate.

At the end of the summer of 1982 I had just finished a term as a translator in Ottawa and was driving back to my home town of London (Ontario) to begin my master’s degree. I headed west and was cresting a hill on the 417 highway when I encountered an RCMP roadblock. I was questioned briefly, and allowed to go on my way.

The car and body of the Turkish Military Attache in Ottawa (Photo: CP)

Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia

What was the purpose of the roadblock? A Turkish military attache in Ottawa, Attila Altikat, had been assassinated that morning (August 27) while waiting at a stop light on his way to the embassy. The perpetrators were never caught, although the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility.

Image result for asala

ASALA and other terrorist groups were active in the 1980s, all in an effort to get Turkey to recognise the genocide against Armenian civilians carried out in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire during WWI: Turkey has never apologised. Nearly three years later another group attacked the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa, killing a locally-hired security guard. The Ambassador escaped by jumping out of a window.

1986 Turkish consulate bombing in Melbourne

These organisations have executed operations in countries other than Canada. On November 23, 1986 two members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation attempted to bomb the Turkish Consulate in Melbourne, Australia. The bomb prematurely detonated and one of the terrorists was killed.

Since the 1980s Armenian terrorist groups have been relatively quiet. And yet they have not gained what they demand, i..e an acknowledgement that some 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman regime through ‘extermination’. Canada and other nations have recognised these actions as genocide.

The current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an autocrat who shows no signs of giving in. Quite the contrary: he chastises those who do, such as the Vatican, Germany and the US. Erdogan’s past activities do not augur well for a change of heart.

I have often noted that terrorism usually stems from an unresolved grievance. Terrorists see an injustice, think they know whom to blame, and use violence to ‘resolve’ the issue. I am surprised that there are not more violent extremist acts against Turkey.

I hope my surprise continues.

Phil Gurski

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