January 29, 1927
March 14, 1989
Near Tucson, Arizona
Writer, environmental activist
"The forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly."
On May 7, 2000, two hundred protesters in Franc-Waret, Belgium, gathered for a picnic and then walked through a field where the Monsanto Corporation was growing an experimental variety of corn. They destroyed several parcels of the corn while a rock band played from a nearby truck. Earlier in the year, a woman in Lancaster, England, had gone on trial for damaging equipment and painting slogans on a U.S. submarine while it was docked in Barrow, England, in 1991.
These were just two out of dozens of events supported by Earth First!, a radical environmental organization devoted to taking direct action against corporations and governments that they believe are harming the environment.
Some members of Earth First! were inspired by the work of Edward...
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October 6, 1948
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Leader of Sinn Féin
"When with the advantage of distance the history is written of Ireland in the years in which I have lived, I know that an Everest amongst the mountains of traumatic events the Irish people have experienced will be the republican hunger strikes of 1980–1981."
Gerry Adams, long accused of being a terrorist and a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is most often credited with guiding one side of Northern Ireland's warring communities of Catholics and Protestants to give up arms in favor of a peaceful political solution to their long-standing differences.
Tall and thin, Adams is usually seen wearing glasses, Irish tweeds, and a bulletproof vest, a constant reminder that violence is never long absent from the bitter political quarrels of Northern Ireland.
Adams's official role is as the leader of Sinn Féin (pronounced shin fain, Gaelic for "We Ourselves"), a political party with close ties to the terrorist IRA. Both organizations have fought a long...
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August 24, 1929
Cairo, Egypt or Palestine
Leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization
"I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
Yasir Arafat has represented the Palestinian people on the world stage since the 1960s, first as a terrorist leader and later as a peace negotiator in an area that has seen almost constant warfare since the end of World War I (1914–18). He has caused controversy every step of the way.
Arafat was born on August 24, 1929, and given the name Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini. As a boy, he was called Yasir (meaning "easygoing"). The controversy surrounding him begins with his birthplace. The Nobel Prize committee and the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs say he was born in Cairo, Egypt. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) says it was Jerusalem, which was then located in what was called the Palestine Mandate, controlled by Britain. Arafat himself declared in a...
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Asahara, Shoko (Chizuo Matsumoto)
March 2, 1955
Leader of Aum Shinrikyo
"From now  until the year 2000, a series of violent phenomena filled with fears that are too difficult to describe will occur. Japan will turn into waste land as a result of a nuclear weapons attack."
On the morning of March 20, 1995, thousands of people riding the subway to work in Tokyo, Japan, suddenly felt terribly ill. Some could not stand up and fell down convulsing on the subway platforms. Others could not speak. Some were blinded. Twelve died.
By the end of the morning more than five thousand people had claimed to have been sickened or injured. All were victims of a poison gas attack planned and executed by a religious cult named Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese name that in English means "Supreme Truth." The organization was headed by a man named Shoko Asahara, who had just had his fortieth birthday three weeks earlier.
Making and selling straw mats in southern Japan in the 1950s did not bring in very much money....
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Baader, Andreas and Gudrun Ensslin
May 6, 1943
October 18, 1977
August 15, 1940
October 18, 1977
Leaders of the Red Army Faction, usually called the Baader-Meinhof Gang
"We have found that words are useless without action!"
"The gun livens up things."
Like the United States and most Western European countries, Germany experienced a wave of terrorism during the 1970s that challenged the political and economic order. Since the end of World War II (1939–45), in which the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union (today, Russia and its neighboring countries) defeated Germany, the country had rebuilt its industries to become an economic powerhouse. But members of the generation born at the end of World War...
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May 30, 1814
July 1, 1876
Philosopher and anarchist
"It is obvious that liberty will never be given to humanity and that the real interests of society, of all groups, local associations, and individuals who make up society will never be satisfied until there are no longer any states."
The world in which Mikhail Bakunin lived was very different from that of the early twenty-first century. When he was active in politics, between about 1840 and 1876, the idea of a sudden uprising by workers seemed real and quite possible, based on actual events that had taken place in 1848 and after. Bakunin thought that his dream—in which poor factory workers and peasants would rise up to seize power and found a communist society in which all people were equal—was a practical possibility. He spent his adult life trying to make such a revolution take place, and in the process he developed the theory of revolutionary terrorism.
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August 16, 1913
March 9, 1992
Tel Aviv, Israel
Leader of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, prime minister of Israel
"The State for which we have striven from our early youth, the State which will give freedom to the people and assure the future of its sons, that State remains as the goal of our generation."
Menachem Begin emulated his father's passion and commitment to the dream of a Jewish state. His journey led him down paths of violence and diplomacy.
The city of Brest-Litovsk, where the Begin family lived and where Menachem, the youngest of three children, was born, was a border town in Eastern Europe. It was continually shifting from the control of one country to another. Russia, Poland, and Germany all claimed and governed the city at various points, but in 1913, when Begin was born, it was Polish. In a way it did not matter which country the city was in. The Jewish population had been settled there since the 1300s. They created their own world in their section of the city, with a synagogue (a Jewish house of worship), Hebrew-language schools, and community leaders who were their link to whatever country was running the city at the moment.
Ze'ev Dov Begin (pronounced...
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bin Laden, Osama
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Leading financial and tactical supporter of Al Qaeda terrorist network
"We—with God's help—call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it."
Shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush (1946–) declared a "war on terrorism." Osama bin Laden was accused of being the chief organizer of the attacks that killed more than three thousand Americans and injured thousands more. Bin Laden became the symbol of terrorism worldwide.
But for bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian-born millionaire and devout Muslim, the attacks of September 11 were just the latest in a long string of assaults aimed at the United States. Just as America launched its war on terrorism and Bush declared that bin Laden was "wanted, dead or alive," bin Laden years earlier had declared war on the United...
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May 19, 1943
New York, New York
Member of the Weather Underground
"I believed at the time that the robbery would help bring greater equality and freedom to African-Americans, and that this would help bring greater equality and justice to our whole society. But I was wrong."
Kathy Boudin was a member of the radical group founded in the 1960s called the Weathermen (later called the Weather Underground) that wanted to start a violent revolution in the United States. The movement had gained influence as part of two political movements of the 1960s: the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement. After many young radicals (people who want rapid changes in a society) of the 1960s moved on to other things, Boudin remained active until 1981, when she was arrested and charged with murder for her part in robbing an armored car. The robbery killed three people, including two policemen.
The incident, which brought a twenty-years-to-life jail sentence, made Boudin a symbol of how student radicals of the 1960s turned into revolutionaries, even though most of her companions eventually gave up their extreme politics.
Boudin was born in 1943 and grew up in New York City's Greenwich Village. Her father, Leonard...
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Born May 9, 1800
Died December 2, 1859
"I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor slaves, I did no wrong, but right."
John Brown was hanged in 1859 for his role in attacking a government arms warehouse in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia). The attack was designed to encourage slaves to run away from their masters and gain their freedom. To many people at the time, Brown was a terrorist, a religious fanatic who would not wait for the law to free slaves. To others, he was a hero, willing to sacrifice his life to right a terrible wrong: the enslavement of one people by another in the United States.
To himself, he was a man who took up arms in the cause of righteousness. Brown's passion in life was opposition to slavery, which was worth attacking with guns.
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Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramirez Sanchez)
October 12, 1949
"Terrorist for hire"
These ordinary people injured in a terrorist bombing have great power. Much influence. It manifests itself in what is called public opinion. They may not care about the Palestinians. They certainly don't care about some members of the Red Army [a Japanese terrorist group]. But throw a grenade among them and they care very much.
In 1949 in Caracas, Venezuela, when it came time for José Altagracia Ramirez Navas to choose a name for his first son, he went through the usual Spanish names and decided against all of them. Navas was determined that his son should bear the name of one of his personal heroes, and so he called him Ilich, after the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov (1870–1924), better known as Lenin. Perhaps baby Ilich's fate was sealed on the day of his naming, for he grew up to bedevil governments and play the part of terrorist for hire. Ironically, the terrorist organization that trained him in adulthood gave him a common Spanish name: Carlos.
Sanchez's father, a...
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October 16, 1890
August 22, 1922
Beal na Blath, Ireland
Leader of the Irish independence movement
"Think, what have I got for Ireland? Something she has wanted this past 700 years. Will anyone be satisfied in the bargain? Will anyone? I tell you this, I have signed my death warrant."
The story of Irish independence from Great Britain covers more than a century of fighting and bloodshed. During and after World War I (1914–18), Michael Collins was a military leader of the pro-independence forces that eventually took control of the island nation. During the final battles, which raged from 1916 to 1922, Collins played a number of key roles: military strategist, finance minister, and treaty negotiator.
But, eventually, Collins agreed to a treaty short of full-fledged independence. His decision enraged some supporters of Irish independence, and in 1922 Collins was assassinated by supporters of the same cause to which he had devoted his life.
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Guzman, Abimael (Comrade Gonzalo)
December 3, 1934
Philosophy professor and leader of the Shining Path
"As for terrorism, they claim we're terrorists. I would like to give the following answer so that everyone can think about it: has it or has it not been Yankee imperialism and particularly [U.S. President Ronald] Reagan who has branded all revolutionary movements as terrorists, yes or no?"
From 1980 to 1992, Abimael Guzman, a philosophy professor, terrorized Peru as head of the Shining Path, one of the world's most violent terrorist organizations. About thirty thousand people died in a long string of bombings and raids staged by the organization, which claimed to follow the philosophy of China's revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong (also spelled Tse-tung; 1893–1976). Guzman was finally arrested in September 1992, after which the level of violence attributed to Shining Path dropped sharply, although Peru's government was not able to put an end to the Shining Path entirely.
Origins of a revolutionary
Guzman was born in...
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August 2, 1926
Lydda, Palestine Mandate
Leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
"For decades world opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. It simply ignored us. At least the world is talking about us now."
Through a half century of Palestinian resistance to the nation of Israel, which was established on Palestinian land in 1948, several different kinds of opposition have arisen. One recent kind is militant Islam, represented by Osama bin Laden (c. 1957–; see entry), in which Palestinian nationalism, the desire to found a new Palestinian nation on the land controlled by Israel, is seen as part of worldwide Muslim resistance to the Jewish state.
George Habash, however, was born a Christian. His opposition to Israel is not based on religious or ethnic grounds. Even as mainstream Palestinian groups moved toward peace with Israel, Habash and his followers in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remain opposed to negotiating a treaty with Israel.
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Kaczynski, TedKaczynski, Ted
May 22, 1942
"The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race… . The continued development of technology will … certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world."
On April 3, 1996, a team of heavily armed federal agents arrested a man outside his one-room cabin in a Montana forest. The arrest ended a seventeen-year hunt for a terrorist known as the Unabomber, who had killed three people with a series of mail bombs. His name was Theodore Kaczynski, a Harvard graduate who had a Ph.D. in mathematics and once taught at the University of California in Berkeley.
A psychiatrist concluded that Kaczynski suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, a severe mental illness that seriously distorted his sense of reality and drove him to a lonely life in the woods—and to a career as America's most wanted terrorist. Kaczynski himself always denied that he was mentally ill.
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August 2, 1954
"I am innocent. I want my innocence recognized as soon as possible."
In the autumn of 1998, Dr. Barnett Slepian had just returned from a prayer service for his dead father and was standing in the kitchen of his home in Amherst, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. A bullet smashed through the window and hit him in the back, killing him.
Within three days, police were looking for a well-known antiabortion protester named James Kopp, who had the nickname "Atomic Dog" among other antiabortion activists. Police said that Kopp's car, a 1987 black Chevrolet Cavalier, had been seen in Dr. Slepian's neighborhood; it was found in a parking lot at the Newark, New Jersey, airport a few days later. Later, investigators found a rifle buried near the murder scene as well as hairs that matched Kopp's.
Despite these police accusations and charges by Canadian officials in connection with the shootings of other abortion providers, others in the antiabortion movement insisted...
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April 23, 1968
Pendleton, New York
June 11, 2001
Terre Haute, Indiana
The Oklahoma City bomber
"It's a very tragic thing."
On the morning of April 19, 1995, a bomb hidden in a rented truck exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children who attended a day-care center on the second floor. At the time it was the deadliest single terrorist attack in American history.
The bomb had been left by a young man named Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh planned the bombing with the help of two friends as an act of revenge for a government raid on a religious group's headquarters in Waco, Texas. Six years later, on June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed for the crime.
McVeigh was born in the small town of Pendleton, New York, near the old manufacturing city of Buffalo, on April 23, 1968. His father worked at a General Motors radiator factory in nearby...
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Mitchell, George J.
August 20, 1933
U.S. Senator from Maine and mediator
"Tonight we can say to the men of violence all across Northern Ireland, those whose tools are bombs and bullets: Your way is not the right way."
George J. Mitchell brought long experience as a negotiator in the U.S. Senate to the thorny problem of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. The same patience and skill that he used to persuade sharply divided politicians to agree on new legislation proved useful in the entirely different environment of terrorism.
The two diplomatic challenges Mitchell took on—the war between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians—had both been in progress for generations. Both had seen the use of terrorism as a leading weapon aimed against civilians in order to achieve political objectives. And both included intertwined ethnic and religious divisions that had defied resolution of the conflicts.
In the case of Northern Ireland, George J. Mitchell made a...
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Nidal, Abu (Sabri al Banna)
Jaffa, Palestine Mandate
August 18, 2002
Founder of the Abu Nidal Organization
"In the entire world there are no solutions by peaceful means. If you read Arabic history you will see that no peaceful method has ever brought about a solution for our problems."
Sabri al Banna, the man better known as Abu Nidal, was considered the most dangerous terrorist in the world during the 1970s, much as Osama bin Laden (c. 1957–; see entry) would be known thirty years later. He turned his guns and bombs against both Israeli and Palestinian targets. He was as concerned with making sure that Palestinian leaders did not sign a peace agreement with Israel as he was with fighting Israel directly.
Abu Nidal became known as a "gun for hire," working for a variety of governments. Eventually he became unwel-come in most Arab countries and faded from public view.
Born into wealth
Al Banna's life is such a mystery that...
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Near Surt, Libya
Leader of Libya
"Palestine cannot be restored by negative means, not by classes, nor by donations. It can only be attained by the march of the Arab masses, free of fetters, restrictions and narrow regionalism."
The leader of the North African nation of Libya since 1970, Muʾammar Qaddafi has long been criticized in the West for supporting terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Europe, as well as for directly ordering terrorist attacks on American targets.
Qaddafi has tried to put into action what he calls the Third Universal Theory, which is a blend of socialist economics, in which the government controls the economy, popular democracy, and Islamic law. He has long opposed the influence of Western nations, including the United States, on less-developed countries.
Born in a tent
Qaddafi was born in 1942—the exact date is not known—in a tent in the desert about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the coastal town of Surt, Libya. His family made a living herding...
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August 26, 1945
Director of the Office of Homeland Security
"This historic proposal would be the most significant transformation of the U.S. government since 1947. The creation of this department would transform the current confusing patchwork of government activities related to homeland security into a single department whose primary mission is to protect our homeland."
Tom Ridge and George W. Bush (1946–) shared several important experiences. Both attended Ivy League schools (Harvard for Ridge and Yale for Bush), and both had been governors of big states (Pennsylvania in Ridge's case, Texas in Bush's). So it was not surprising when Bush, who had become president eight months earlier, named his friend Ridge to be the Director of Homeland Security in September 2001, a job intended to organize the government response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The United States was still in a state of shock on September 21, just ten days after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the...
(The entire section is 2036 words.)
May 6, 1758
July 28, 1794
Leader of the "Reign of Terror" during the French Revolution
"Terror is the only justice that is prompt, severe, and inflexible."
In slightly more than one year, from mid-1793 until mid-1794, about seventeen thousand people died in France in the name of a political ideal. The victims ranged from the king and queen of France to aristocrats (the upper classes of society, which controlled the government) to ordinary people accused of minor crimes. Their trials were often brief and the outcome already decided. It was called the "Reign of Terror."
The Reign of Terror bore little resemblance to the "terrorism" of later centuries. The French Terror was carried out by a small group of men, members of the Committee of Public Safety, which led the government. They claimed they were trying to protect the French Revolution from enemies inside France and in other countries. Later, terrorism would become associated with people trying to gain power...
(The entire section is 2115 words.)
Shelton, Robert M. "Bobby"
Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan
"We don't want violence but we ain't gonna let [them] spit in our face either."
During the growing campaign by African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s to achieve equal rights with white Americans, another campaign began to deny equality to citizens with black skin. This campaign was led by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), an organization that often used violence, or threats of violence, to stop black Americans from exercising their rights under law.
In the 1960s, Robert M. Shelton was the Grand Wizard (the leader) of the largest organization of several that called themselves the "Ku Klux Klan." He was the public head of a shadowy organization officially named the United Klans of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klans, Inc. Its headquarters were in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But given the secret nature of the activities carried out by the Klan and by its imitators, it was often unclear who was behind the cross burnings, beatings, and lynchings that plagued much of the...
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Leader of the Japanese Red Army
"The mission's purpose was to consolidate the international revolutionary alliance against the imperialists of the world."
In November 2000, citizens of Japan were startled to see a handcuffed middle-aged woman emerge from a train arriving in Tokyo. When she spotted the waiting cameras, she raised her hands and gave the thumbs-up sign, shouting at reporters: "I'll fight on!"
Her name was Fusako Shigenobu. For three decades the police had been looking for her as the leader of one of Japan's most mysterious terrorist organizations: the Japanese Red Army (JRA). Surprisingly, she had been captured in the small Japanese town of Takatsuki, near Osaka. For nearly thirty years, she had been based in Lebanon, where her group conducted terrorist raids as allies of Palestinians fighting against Israel.
According to police, Shigenobu was disguised as a man when she checked into a hotel in Takatsuki. Although age and her disguise might have hidden one of Japan's most...
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Al Joura, Palestine Mandate
Religious leader of Hamas
"There is a misconception in the world of the meaning of the word jihad; it comes from juhad and it means effort… . I can be a teacher and be practicing jihad, I can be a builder and be practicing jihad and I can be a fighter…. All people are part of the jihad whether they know it or not."
One of the worst threats to Israel is a man who is paralyzed below the neck and confined to a wheelchair. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is the religious leader of Hamas, the organization that has done as much as any other to change the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a political struggle to a religious war.
Yassin has never been accused of murder or setting off a bomb himself. But his organization, Hamas, has been the main source of suicide bombers, a deadly and terrifying form of warfare against both military and civilian targets.
Yassin was born in 1936 or 1938—accounts vary—in the small village of Al Joura, located in a region...
(The entire section is 2156 words.)
Terrorist who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993
"Yes, I am a terrorist and I am proud of it. And I support terrorism so long as it was against the United States Government and against Israel, because you are more than terrorists; you are the one who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars and hypocrites."
If Ramzi Yousef had had his way, September 11 might never have happened. Almost a decade before the World Trade Center buildings in New York City were destroyed on September 11, 2001, Yousef had tried to destroy the twin towers by setting off a bomb in the underground parking garage of one building in hopes it would topple onto the other. His plot failed, but only because he could not afford a bigger, better bomb, he later said. It did succeed, however, in turning Ramzi Yousef into America's "most wanted" terrorist.
Ramzi Yousef is one of the most mysterious terrorists yet caught. Although he is serving a life sentence in federal prison, with no chance of freedom, authorities are not sure of...
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