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

Worst Terrorist Attacks In World History

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there has been a heightened awareness of and focus on terrorism around the world. But while 9/11 was certainly one of the worst terrorist attacks in world history, it is far from the only one. Below are some of the other most devastating terrorist attacks around the world. From bombings to hijackings to mass shootings, these attacks have claimed thousands of lives and left families and communities reeling in their aftermath. Keep reading for a closer look at some of the worst terrorist attacks in world history.

New York City - September 11th, 2001

Twin Towers
Twin Towers On September 11th, 2001- Image Credit Michael Foran via Wikipedia

It was the morning of September 11th. The sun was shining, and the birds were singing. All seemed right with the world. But then, in a matter of hours, everything changed.

On that fateful day, 19 terrorists hijacked four planes and carried out coordinated attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., forever changing the course of history.

2,996 people were killed in the attacks, and over 6000 were injured, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in human history. In response to the attacks, the United States launched the “war on terror” that is still ongoing today.

Boko Haram Uprising- July 26th, 2009

Classroom with the map and flag of Nigeria
Classroom with the map and flag of Nigeria- bmszealand via Shutterstock

The group, Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in Hausa, was formed in 2002. However, it wasn't until 2009 that they began to gain traction and carry out attacks.

On July 26, 2009, Boko Haram carried out its first major attack. They began their assault by starting a firefight at the police headquarters in the city of Bauchi. This was followed by a series of attacks on police stations and government buildings. In response, the Nigerian military launched an operation against Boko Haram. However, this only served to anger the group even more. It is estimated that over 1,000 people lost their lives during the Boko Haram uprising.

Between 2009 and 2015, Boko Haram carried out a number of attacks. In that timeframe, they bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, killing at least 21 people and injuring 60. They also carried out an attack in Baga, where a large number of Boko Haram fighters seized the town and invaded the Multinational Joint Task Force headquarters and army base. The death toll is set to be upwards of 700 people.

Yumbi Violence- December 16th, 2018

Yumbi violence
Yumbi After The Attack of 16 December 2018

At least 890 people, mostly Banunus, were killed in Yumbi and three other nearby villages (Bongende, Nkolo, and Camp Nbanzi) in Mai-Ndombe Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), between December 16 and 18, 2018. The violence was sparked by a dispute over the burial of a local chief.

The violence in Bongende fishing village was the worst seen in years. An estimated 465 houses and buildings were burned down or looted. Many people were left homeless and without food or water.

The killings took place amid a long-running rivalry between the Banunu and Batende ethnic groups. Tensions had been simmering for months before the outbreak of violence. The United Nations has condemned the violence and called for an investigation. The DRC government has deployed troops to the area in an effort to restore order.

Yazidi Communities Bombings, Iraq- August 14th, 2007

Yazidi Protest
Yazidi Protest- Bob Korn via Shutterstock

On August 14th, 2007, Yazidi communities in Iraq were bombed by Sunni insurgents. The attacks killed over 796 people and wounded 1500 more. The bombings were some of the deadliest attacks against the Yazidi community in Iraq.

The attacks targeted two villages in northern Iraq: Qahtaniya and Jazeera. Both villages are inhabited by Yazidis, a religious minority group that is persecuted by Sunni Muslims.

Both villages were devastated by the bombings. Many homes and businesses were destroyed, and many people were killed or wounded. The attacks left the Yazidi community in Iraq reeling.

Mogadishu Bombings- 14th October 2017

Mogadishu Bombings
African Union Mission in Somalia

The Mogadishu bombings on October 14th, 2017, were a series of bombings that took place in the capital city of Somalia. The attacks killed over 587 people and injured hundreds more. The majority of the victims were civilians, including many women and children.

The bombings were carried out by a group of suicide bombers who drove trucks loaded with explosives into busy marketplaces and then detonated them. The explosions caused widespread destruction, leveling entire buildings, and leaving large craters on the ground.

The death toll from the bombings was the highest from any terrorist attack in Somalia’s history, and it was also one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Africa.

The Somali government blamed the militant group al-Shabaab for the bombings. It is speculated that the bombings were retaliation for a failed U.S.-led attack in August.

The Mogadishu bombings were a tragic event that left hundreds of people dead and injured. The Somali government and the African Union have vowed to continue fighting terrorism in Somalia and to bring those responsible for the bombings to justice.

Cinema Rex Fire, Iran- 20th August 1978

Cinema Rex Fire
Cinema Rex Fire

The Cinema Rex was one of the most popular movie theaters in Abadan, Iran. On the night of August 19, 1978, while theatergoers’ were watching The Deer, four men locked the doors and doused the theater with airplane fuel, and set it ablaze. The resulting fire killed between 377 and 470 people. Only a couple of hundred people managed to escape.

The attack was a major factor in triggering the Iranian Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy.

Beslan School Siege, Russia- 1st September 2004

Beslan School #1 Building
Beslan School #1 Building- Image Credit Leon via Wikipedia 

The siege began early in the morning on September 1, when a group of armed men burst into School Number One during a ceremony to mark the start of the school year. The militants took more than 1,100 people hostage, including 777 children.

The siege lasted for three days and ended on September 3, when Russian security forces launched a military operation to free the hostages. More than 330 people were killed in the siege, most of them children, as well as 31 attackers. It is believed to be the deadliest school shooting in history.

The Beslan school siege was a tragedy that shook the world. It also brought into sharp focus the problem of terrorism in Russia, and the need for the country to find a way to deal with this growing threat.

Worst Terrorist Attacks In World History

Rank  Terrorist Attack Countries  Casualties 
1 Twin Towers  United States  2,993
2 Boko Haram Uprising Nigeria  1000
3 Yumbi Violence Congo 890
4 Yazidi Communities Bombings Iraq 796
5 Mogadishu Bombings Somalia 587
6 Cinema Rex Fire Iraq 477
7 Beslan School Siege Russia 333
8 Bentalha Massacre Algeria 332
9 Karrada Bombing Iraq 324
10 Sinai Mosque Attack Lebanon 311
11 Gamboru Ngala Massacre Nigeria 310
12 Beirut Barracks Bombings Lebanon 307
13 Sri Lanka Easter Bombings India  277
14 Wilaya of Relizane Massacres Algeria 272
15 Pan Am Flight 103 UK 270
16 Patria Disaster Palestine 267
17 As-Suwayda Attacks Syria 258
18 Bombay Bombing  India  257
19 Camp Shaheen Attack Afghanistan 256
20 Grand Mosque Seizure Saudi Arabia 255
21 Massacre in Lira Uganda 239
22 Rais Massacre Algeria 238
23 U.S. Embassy Bombings Kenya, Tanzania 224
24 Metrojet Flight 9268 Egypt 224
25 Kaduna Attacks  Nigeria 219
26 EgyptAir Flight 990 United States  217
27 Sadr City Bombings Iraq 215
28 Mumbai Train Bombings  India 209
29 Bali Bombings  Indonesia 202

In Summary

The terrorist attacks listed above are just a handful of the many that have occurred over the years. They serve as a sobering reminder of the devastation that can be wrought by those who choose to commit acts of terror. While we cannot prevent every attack, it is important that we work together to identify and stop potential threats before they can cause harm.


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