Worst Terrorist Attacks In World History

The 9/11 memorial in New York. Editorial credit: pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com.

Over the years, terrorists have claimed hundreds of innocent lives. In modern times, terror continues to reign in our streets every day. From the streets and skyscrapers of New York to the war-trenched cities of Iraq, to Nairobi and Angola in Africa, and across Iran and the Persian Gulf, terrorists are everywhere. Here is a selection of some of the world's worst terrorist events. A full list is available at the end of the article. 

10. Air India Flight 182

Air India Flight 182 was an Indian passenger plane flying from Toronto, Canada to Delhi, India via Montreal and London in 1985. The plane, a Boeing 747-237B, was destroyed with a bomb mid-air at an altitude of 31,000 feet and crashed in Irish airspace in the Atlantic Ocean. The incident killed 329 passengers and was the first ever bombing of a 747 jumbo jet. The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens, as well as British and Indian citizens. It was the largest mass murder in Canadian history and the worst terrorist attack on a passenger plane until September 11, 2001

9. 2014 Gamboru Ngala attack

This attack took place from May 5 to 6, 2014, in the two towns of Gamboru and Ngala in the Borno state of Nigeria. During this time, more than 336 people were killed by the Boko Haram militia. The attack took almost 12 hours, and the towns were almost destroyed with survivors fleeing to the neighboring country of Cameroon. On the same night, the attackers abducted eight girls in the northeastern part of Nigeria. The two towns had a security garrison who had left the towns to pursue school girls who had been kidnapped in Chibok. The attackers used AK 47 assault rifles and RPGs used military vehicles that had been stolen several months earlier from the military. They set fire to the town and opened fire on civilians who were trying to escape.

8. 2016 Karrada Bombing

On July 3, 2016, there was a coordinated attack in Baghdad that led to the deaths of 341 people and injured several hundred more. Just before midnight, a suicide truck targeting Shia Muslims in the district of Karrada was detonated. The town was busy with late night shoppers due to the Ramadan festivities. There was another bomb explosion in the suburb of Sha’ab which killed about five people. Later the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and said Abu Maha al-Iraqi was the bomber. There was a fire in the explosion that caused extensive damage to the nearby buildings. The attack was the second worst terrorist attacks in Iraq after the Yazidi communities bombings.

7. Beslan School Hostage Crisis

The Beslan School siege begun on September 1, 2004, and lasted for three days. During this time, more than 1,100 people were held hostage in Beslan, Russia, including 777 children. At the end of the siege, the death toll was at least 385 people. The crisis started when armed Chechen and Ingush Islamic groups captured a school in Beslan. The hostage-takers were demanding the recognition of the independence of Chechnya and the withdrawal of Russia from Chechnya. The Russian forces stormed the building on the third day, and many people were killed including children . Several also went missing.

6. July 2013 Iraq Attacks

The 2013 Iraq attacks took place in the first two weeks of July 2013. They were a series of coordinated attacks across several cities in Iraq resulting in deaths of 389 people and injuries to at least 800 more people. There have been several attacks in Iraq, and while they had been minimal and less widespread, they rose sharply starting in April when the Iraqi army raided a protest camp in Hawija. According to the UN, there were a total of 712 people killed in the month of April 2013, making it the worst month ever in five years in the country. The month of May was even worse when 1,045 people were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded as a result of terrorist attacks.

5. Massacre of Trujillo

The Massacre of Trujillo was a series of murders carried out between 1988 and 1994 in the town of Trujillo, Colombia. They were carried out in the southwest of Colombia by the Cali cartel and the paramilitaries with the complicity of the country’s military and the police. About 400 people were murdered who included the suspects of guerrilla supporters and the unionist. The victims were tortured, killed and dismembered. The murders were intended to serve as a warning to the guerrilla sympathizers.

4. Cinema Rex Fire

On August 19, 1978, the Cinemax Red located in Abadan in central west Iran was set on fire killing at least 422 individuals. This attack took place when hundreds of people were watching the Iranian movie The Deer. The cinema was set ablaze by four men who had already barred the entrance doors. Everyone trapped inside the cinema conflagrated to death. The exact motive behind the attack is also unknown, but even so, the Iranian revolution was ascertained as a key factor contributing to that deadly and probably the worst localized attack in history.

Sides exchanged blames with the Iranian government blaming the militants and the anti-Shia protesters pointed fingers at SAVAK, the nation’s intelligence service. In the beginning, revolutionaries alleged that individuals pursued by the SAVAK ran into the theater using it as an opportunity to hide amidst the large crowd already inside. Later the SAVAK agents or the fugitives who back-tracked the agents locked the entrance/exit doors of the cinemas trapping everyone inside. Later on, the Iranian Government arrested and executed Captain Monir Taheri after the revolutionary tribunal convicted Taheri and consequently sentenced him to execution.

3. May 2013 Iraq attacks

These attacks started on May 15-21, 2013 and in the end led to the death of a total of 500 people. They involved a series of heinous bombings and mass shootings in the central and northern regions of Iraq. There were also a few incidents in towns located in the far west and also the southern parts as well. On May 15, nine car bombs attacked Baghdad killing 23 and injuring 108 others. These attacks targeted Shia civilians. The bombs exploded at a bus station in Sadr City, Kadhimiya and also in New Baghdad. There was a pair of bombs that detonated in Kirkuk city near government offices which killed ten people and wounded 13 more. In Mosul, a roadside blast killed two law enforcement officers while injuring one other. In Tarmiyah, a suicide bomber killed two law enforcement officers and wounded eight others. Attacks continued in that pace and on May 16, 40 people died and other 17 injured in the country. More violence occurred on May 17, as more attacks targeted Sunnis for previous attacks on Shiites resulting in at least 43 deaths and 80 people were injured. On 18-19 May smaller attacks led to the death of more people. On May 20, more than 133 people died while 283 were injured across the country.

2. 2007 Yazidi Communities Bombings

These attacks occurred on August 14, 2007 in Iraq, killing an estimated 2,996 people. They involved four organized suicide bombs attacks in Kahtaniya and Jazeera towns, both in Yazidi, Iraq. One week later, the government estimated that the bombing had killed no less than 500 people and wounded 1,500 others, making it the second worst terrorist attack in history. The coordinated attack comprised of three cars and a fuel tanker. Blasts resulting from two tons of explosives crumbled buildings and trapped many people beneath the wreckages. Excavation materials were scarce, and rescuers had to dig underneath the wrecks by hand to save the remaining survivors. Also, the injured crowded the hospitals as well as pharmacies, depleting medication.

1. September 11 attacks

The September 11th attacks came as a series of four organized terrorist attacks, planned by the Al-Qaeda, targeting the US. The attacks began on Tuesday, September 11 in 2001 and killed approximately 2,996 people, injured more than 6,000, and destroyed property and infrastructure worth more than $10 billion. The economic loss totaled about $3 trillion. This deadly attack involved four passenger airlines flying to California from the northeastern parts of the US. United Airlines Flights 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 were crashed by Al-Qaeda into the South and North towers in that order, in New York’s World Trade Center.

In less than two hours the two 110-story towers had collapsed, resulting in mounds of debris and multiple fires. American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Virginia where the western side of the building collapsed. United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane, crashed in Stonycreek Township although the attacker's aim was Washington, D.C.

Worst Terrorist Attacks In History

RankTerrorist AttackCountryYearCasualties (Estimated)
1September 11 AttacksUnited States20012,996
2Camp Speicher MassacreIraq20141,566
3Christmas MassacreDemocratic Republic of the Congo2008860
4Yazidi Communities BombingsIraq2007795
5Sri Lankan Police Officers MassacreSri Lanka1990774
6Mogadishu BombingsSomalia2016655
7Ankara Suicide BombingsTurkey2015508
8Cinema Rex FireIran1978420
9Massacre of TrujilloColombia 1990400
10Beslan School Hostage CrisisRussia2004385
11Karrada BombingIraq2016342
12Gamboru Ngala AttackNigeria2016336
13Air India Flight 182 BombingCanada1985329
14Sinai Mosque AttackEgypt2016311
15Beirut Barracks BombingLebanon1983307
16Russian Apartment BombingsRussia1999293
17Pan Am Flight 103United Kingdom1988270
18Bombay BombingsIndia1993257
19As-Suwayda AttacksSyria2018255
20Angola Train AttackAngola2001252
21Rais MassacreAlgeria1997238
22Kobani MassacreSyria2015233
23Metrojet Flight 9268Egypt2015224
24United States Embassy BombingsTanzania1998224
25Sadr City BombingsIraq2006215
26Mumbai Train BombingsIndia2006209
27Bali BombingsIndonesia2002202
28Bentalha MassacreAlgeria1997200
29Mumbai AttacksIndia2008174

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