One thing we know about terrorism is that it has no boundaries. No single language, ethnicity, religion, ideology or national entity – except maybe Antarctica: I cannot find any terrorist acts there – has an inherent wall around it to prevent terrorism from unfurling its violence on innocent people. Yes, some places suffer disproportionately from its reach but any given locale can find itself one day the victim of an act of ideological violence.
Today’s blog looks at two unrelated – well kinda unrelated – terrorist attacks on this day back in 1997 in two different countries. Here are some details:
- At least two men attacked a tour bus with automatic weapons and gasoline bombs in Cairo, killing 10 people, 9 of them German tourists, and igniting a fierce firefight in iconic Tahrir Square. Egyptian officials tried to dismiss the incident as the work of a deranged musician but it is not as if the country had not already seen its share of Islamist extremism before then (assassination of President Sadat in 1981) and soon after (Luxor attacks in November). Denying that terrorism has occurred is unfortunately all too common with some regimes (anyone remember how the Spanish government tried to initially blame Basque nationalists for the 2004 Madrid bombings?)
- A car bomb exploded in the Bosnian city of Mostar that same day, injuring 29 people and destroying or damaging 120 apartments, as well as 120 vehicles. The attack is thought to have targeted Croat civilians and policemen and was the work of a bunch of guys linked to Al Qaeda. In some ways the Balkans war of the 1990s was the first major post-Soviet occupation of Afghanistan appearance for the soldiers of AQ, inspired by their ‘victory’ over the Red Army and keen to keep protecting Muslims wherever the need was greatest.
The commonality of course is that both were Islamist extremist attacks. I am pretty sure that many would cite 9/11 as the first time they were aware of this brand of terrorism but the few who were studying terrorism before that fateful day knew otherwise. These acts were part and parcel of similar events in the Caucusus, France, North Africa and elsewhere. It would be prudent to remember that.
Lessons? Several. Terrorism has been around for a long time. Many, many places that do not feature ‘above the fold’ have been on the receiving end well before we in the West were. Islamist extremists were powerful then and are powerful now.
This may strike you as ‘new’ only because you have neither the time nor the inclination to follow these things on a daily basis.
Alas, I do.
- September 18, 2001: Anthrax attacks in the US - September 18, 2020
- September 17, 2016: Pipe bomb explodes inside a garbage bin in New York - September 17, 2020
- When terrorism charges are unwarranted - September 16, 2020