US Embassy Bombings Through The Years

on February 01 2013 3:33 PM
  • U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon
    Libreville, Gabon, March 5 and 8, 1964,: After a failed coup d'etat two weeks prior, the U.S. embassy began receiving threatening phone calls. At 8:15 pm on March 5, a small bomb exploded outside the empty embassy, cracking a few windows. On the evening of March 8, another small bomb exploded 50 feet from the embassy, causing no damage, and a drive-by shooting damaged an out wall. No one was hurt. Wikimedia Commons
  • Former US embassy in Tehran
    Tehran, Iran, November 4, 1979: The attack that came to be known as the 'Iran Hostage Crisis' began at 6:30 am the morning of November 4, when a few hundred Iranian students called the "Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line" cut the fence to the U.S. embassy and broke through the gates. They initially intended only to make a symbolic occupation, but after the Ayatollah Khomeini expressed his support, and crowds outside the embassy cheered the students on, the occupation's goals changed. The hostages were held for 444 days, until January 20, 1981. A disastrous attempted rescue operation resulted in the deaths of 8 American servicemen and one Iranian civilian. The 52 hostages were released almost immediately after Ronald Regan was sworn into office. Wikimedia Commons
  • 800px-Aubeirut174
    Beirut, Lebanon, April 18, 1983: A suicide car bomb killed 63 people, including members of the U.S. embassy and CIA. The attack happened just after the Western-led Multinational Force had decided to intervene in the Lebanese Civil War. The Islamic Jihadist Organization took responsibility, saying, "This is part of the Iranian revolution's campaign against imperialist targets throughout the world. We shall keep striking at any imperialist presence in Lebanon, including the international force." Pictured: American University of Beirut. Wikimedia Commons
  • Palace of Justice, Nairobi Kenya
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, August 7, 1998: The bombings of these two embassies brought the name "Osama Bin Laden" to Americans' lips for the first time. The bombings resulted in over 4,000 people injured and 223 dead. The bombings are believed to have been a retaliatory move for the arrest and torture of four members of the Al-Qaeda affiliate, The Egyptian Islamist Jihad. Pictured: The Palace of Justice in Nairobi, Kenya. Wikimedia Commons
  • Downtown Karachi
    On Tuesday, the provincial assembly in Karachi (the capital of Pakistan and the province) unanimously approved the change in the spelling of its southeastern province from “Sind” to “Sindh,” even though local residents and lawmakers had been writing it as “Sindh” anyway for several decades. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Damascus Citadel
    Damascus, Syria, September 12, 2006: Three gunmen were killed after they tossed grenades over the embassy's outer wall and a car bomb exploded outside the embassy. A Syrian security guard and a Chinese diplomat also died. Pictured: The Damascus Citadel Wikimedia Commons
  • Athens downtown
    Athens, Greece, January 12, 2007: A rocket-propelled grenade was fired into the front of the U.S. embassy around 6 am in the morning. No one was killed or hurt. A Greek terrorist group called "Revolutionary Struggle" claimed responsibility. Wikimedia Commons
  • Stevens
    File photo of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, leaving after a meeting in Tripoli Reuters
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As a world superpower, the U.S. is an impressive leader for those who will follow her and a high-value target for those who will not.

The proliferation of what diplomats call “nonstate actors,” and what the rest of us call terrorist or extremist groups, has made the job of governments and ambassadors around the world just that much harder.

The attacks Friday on the U,S, embassy in Ankara in Turkey, a democratic country generally friendly to the U.S., once again have thrust the safety concerns of Americans abroad back onto the front page.

What makes them particularly deadly is how unpredictable they are; not just the “when” or “where,” but the “who.” While experts on Friday were predicting a connection to Hezbollah or al Qaeda, the true perpetrators turned out to be a left-wing Marxist political group called the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, who are banned in Turkey, have been carrying out attacks against mostly Turkish officials since the 1970s and have rarely made an appearance in the American media or consciousness.

Sometimes our attackers are the usual suspects. Sometimes, as in Iran in 1979, what starts as a simple student protest movement turns into a full-scale crisis. Other times, little-known organizations carry out attacks to get themselves on the map, as in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, when Americans first heard the name Osama bin Laden for the first time after the U.S. embassies there were bombed.

From Benghazi to Ankara, throughout the years, U.S. embassies all over the world have been the targets of protests and violence by terrorist groups and discontented citizens trying to make a point or just generally cause chaos and mayhem.

Here is a list of such incidents stretching back almost 50 years.

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