Terrorism—Is Anyone Safe?
BOMBINGS, assassinations, hijackings—they have almost become routine. And many places in the world hardly seem safe. “Terrorism,” says William J. Casey, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, “has become a pitiless war without borders.”
As recently as 1971, fewer than two dozen persons a year died in terrorist attacks. By 1983 the number killed each year leaped to over ten thousand! “Terrorism is proliferating almost as rapidly as AIDS,” wrote a former UN representative, Jeane Kirkpatrick.
And this form of violence has given history a savage twist. “Historians like to give names to various eras,” notes The Wall Street Journal, “the Age of Faith or the Age of Reason.” But it concludes: “Ours can only be called the Age of Terrorism, for we are no longer dealing with the isolated acts of bandits or deranged killers; those we have always had. What we are living through is a revolt against all ordered society, a war on civilization itself.”
Especially when traveling do many feel vulnerable—and with good reason. Last June 23, an on-board explosion sent Air-India Flight 182 plunging into the sea near Ireland. All 329 passengers were killed, including 83 children. Terrorists are thought to have planted a bomb on the plane in Toronto, Canada, where the flight originated.
Just a few days before, TWA Flight 847 was hijacked while en route from Athens, Greece, to Rome, Italy. It was the third hijacking in the region within three days, and the most dramatic. The American hostages appeared on what Time magazine termed “the world’s first televised Terrorist Suspense Spectacular.”
Horrified by the cruel slaying of one of Flight 847’s hostages and the prospect of others being killed, U.S. President Reagan said: “I’m as frustrated as anyone. I’ve pounded a few walls myself, when I’m alone, about this.”
Finally, an agreement was reached, and the hostages were released. But CIA director Casey said: “The TWA hijacking was only the beginning.”
And so it was. Even before the American hostages were released, a bomb exploded in Germany at Frankfurt’s international airport. Three bystanders were killed, and dozens more were injured.
In October 1985, during a pleasure cruise in the Mediterranean, the Italian liner Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists. Four days of frustration and horror followed. Before it was over, the terrorists had murdered an American hostage.
In November, the hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 648 ended in unprecedented disaster. The hijackers cold-bloodedly shot one passenger after another and threatened to continue the executions unless their demands for refueling were met. When Egyptian commandos stormed the plane, most of the passengers were killed. Altogether, 60 died and 27 were injured. Beginning on the next page, you can read the firsthand account of a survivor.
Then, shortly after Christmas, in a vicious attack at airports in Rome and Vienna, terrorists massacred 19 and wounded more than 110 others. And on it goes. When one incident dies down, another one occurs. Almost daily, terrorists strike somewhere.
After reporting a bombing in France, The New York Times of February 6 noted: “It was the third such incident in a crowded area of Paris in as many days, and made it clear that this city had been plunged into a campaign of random terror directed at its best-known and most commonly frequented commercial areas.”
Fear for Safety
The fear that terrorism has generated is illustrated by what happened when the Achille Lauro received a bomb threat on a more recent cruise. The crew, in a panic, threw overboard crates containing one million dollars’ worth of new gambling equipment, fearing that one of them might contain a bomb! The report was a hoax.
Many airports have become virtual armed camps. Luggage is searched piece by piece at places such as Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. When an inspector there suspiciously fingered a tube of toothpaste, a traveler half jokingly said: “If you squeeze it out, you’ll have a hard time getting it back in.” No measures can guarantee 100-percent safety.
“At this point, it doesn’t seem that any airport is really safe,” says Michael Barron, assistant travel manager of a U.S. travel agency. “You pay your money and you take your chances.”
Thousands have changed their travel plans because of fear of terrorism. Some 850,000 Americans reportedly may have canceled overseas trips last summer after a major hijacking. A New York travel agent recently noted: “Even the travel agents here don’t want to go on trips to Europe right now,” adding, “and we can go for free.”
The situation is serious. Briefing a U.S. Senate committee, CIA director Casey said: “We are in the midst of an undeclared war.” But the problem is identifying the enemy. It could be the passenger in the next airplane seat.
Would you like to learn what it’s like to be held by desperate hijackers? Then read the following story of Elias Rousseas, who survived the hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 648.
[Picture on page 4]
The massacre at the Rome airport
AGI photo, Rome, Italy
[Picture Credit Line on page 3]