Terrorism has cast a long shadow over the world for the last decade and a half. The tragic stories, however, become all the more poignant when you realize how close we’ve come to worse in the past. Here are ten terrorist plots that almost shook the world before being stopped.
10. The Underwear Bomber
Radical Islamic terrorist Umar Abdul Mutallab thought he had the best Christmas present in 2009: a bomb lodged in his underwear. Boarding a flight to Detroit, Umar was ready to go. If he was successful, over 200 American citizens would die, causing the largest aviation disaster in history.
When the plan began to land, Mutallab tried to ignite the explosive. And failed, succeeding only in igniting his undergarments. A flight attendant the flames while Mutallab was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. The plane made an emergency landing and Mutallab’s burning boxers landed him fifty years in jail.
9.The Glasgow International Airport
On June 30th 200, two terrorists attempted to bomb Glasgow International Airport with the simple minded method of driving a Jeep full of propane canisters into the building. The men succeeded in crashing into the building, but security bollards prevented the jeep from entering the terminal.
Like Mutallab, the terrorists in question tried simply igniting their explosive. And like Mutallab’s underpants, the propane tanks simply wouldn’t ignite, but the drivers would. One received burns over 90% of his body before he and his partner were arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
8. Downing Street Mortar Attack
In 1991, the Provisional Irish Army attacked number 10 Downing Street, the residency of the Prime Minister John Major. If the shells hit, a significant portion of British Government would be wiped out. Three mortar shells were launched at the building, but the aim was a bit off.
One of the shells detonated meters away in number 10’s back garden. The remaining two missed by a wider margin, and due to bombproof windows, the government workers resumed business after only ten minutes.
7.Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center Attack
In 1991, Ahmed J. Ahmed and Sa’ad Kahim attempted to destroy the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center on the Philippine island of Manila. Ahmed planted a bomb in the middle of the night, setting a timer to ensure it exploded the next work day.
Ahmed set the time backwards, however, and ended up accidentally killing himself and wounding Kahim when it went off prematurely. The explosion intend to kill dozens of employees and visitors only killed it’s makers.
6.The Bojinka Plot
1995 Islamic radicals Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Mohammed plotted a string of terrorist attacks. The ambitions ranged from plans to assassinate the Pope to planting explosives on eleven separate airplane. The final plan was crashing a plan into CIA headquarters, which would have killed 4000 people alone.
However, before they could make their attempt on the Pope, a chemical fire broke out in their apartment. Emergency services arrived, and found evidence of the extensive plan. Yousef was captured and sentenced to life in prison, but Mohammed wasn’t caught until 2003. Mohammed altered his strategy to a hijacking, and was eventually behind the 9/11 hijackings.
5.Strasbourg Christmas Plot
On Christmas Eve, 2000 four Algerians planned to bomb the busy Christmas market by Strasbourg Cathedral, France. The attack would have resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians.
A week before the attack a raid was conducted on the terrorists’ apartment and a homemade video was discovered, the cathedral the ‘Enemies of God’. Police found explosive chemicals and manuals for bomb construction at the site as well. While all suspects were arrested, they were only sentenced to 12 years in prison.
4. MLK Bomb Attempt
The annual MLK Day Parade in Spokane, Washington almost ended in tragedy in 2011. While preparing for the parade, cleaners found a number of backpacks on the side of the road, containing pipe bombs wrapped shrapnel.
Worse, the shrapnel was coated in rat poison, to prevent the blood from clotting.Dozens of participants could have died, had the bomb not been disabled. White supremacist Kevin Harpham was found guilty of planting the bomb and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
3. 21 July London Bombings
Two weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 and injured 700 people in London, another group of four terrorists attempted to bomb three subway stations. The bombs’ detonator caps were fired but failed to explode, saving hundred of Londoners lives.
The terrorists fled the scene, leading to a large scale manhunt. All four were found and arrested, sentenced to several decades in prison. Sadly, Jean Chalres de Menezes, an innocent bystander, was mistaken for one of the suspects by the police and shot dead.
2. The Millennium Plot
In 1999 a group of radical Muslim terrorists plotted to launch attacks on four sites across Jordan, Los Angels International Airport, and a US Navy ship. Luckily, Jordanian intelligence intercepted a call between terrorists discussing their plans.
Fifteen suspects were arrested, including Ahmed Ressam, who was found across the US border with explosives that could cause blast 40 times stronger then a car bomb. Other members of the group managed to sail a boat full of bombs with the aim of attacking a US vessel. Their boat sank before the bombs could be detonated, however, due to overloading.
1.Natural Gas Explosion
On April 22nd 1997, four KKK members planned to blow up a natural gas refinery near Fort Worth, Texas. While the attack occurred, other members would robe an armored car carrying $2 million.
One of leaders, however, got cold feet and informed the FBI. Had it succeeded, it is estimated 30,000 people, including nearby school children, would have died.