Chronology of Terror

Although international terrorist acts committed in the United States are not unique to the last few years, concern has increased over the past two decades with increasing terrorist activities in the Middle East, particularly suicide bombings, the deep involvement of the United States in Middle East peace negotiations, and U.S. military involvement in the region. That the United States has become a target for terrorists was tragically demonstrated by the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and again, when commercial planes hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001 destroyed its twin towers. These acts, and the related hijacked plane crash into the Pentagon on the same day as well as other earlier attacks and attempted attacks on targets in this country demonstrate that the United States must take the security of its people more seriously.


1990 — ElSayyid A. Nosair assassinated Jewish activist Meir Kahane in New York. Nosair was a follower of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who later was linked to the World Trade Center bombing and a U.N. bomb plot.

January 1993 — Mir Amal Kansi, a Pakistani, murdered two CIA employees in a random shooting outside the Langley, VA headquarters and fled the country. He entered the United States in 1990 on a visa issued in Karachi, Pakistan. In 1992, he applied for political asylum in the United States and was routinely released with a work permit. Records indicate that he had been involved in anti-U.S. demonstrations in Pakistan. He had purchased an AK-47 assault rifle in Virginia.

February 1993 — Under the influence of Sheik Abdel Rahman, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef organized Mohammed Salameh and three others in plotting and carrying out a bombing at New York's World Trade Center that caused mass destruction, six deaths and more than a thousand wounded. The group was comprised of Egyptians and Palestinians. Yousef, traveling on an Iraqi passport, entered the United States in September 1992 without a visa, but was allowed to enter provisionally after asking for asylum, and was not detained because of lack of detention space. His companion, a Palestinian named Ahmad Ajaj, who arrived on a fake Swedish passport, was found to have bomb making videos and manuals in his luggage and was arrested on a passport fraud charge. Mohammed Salameh entered the United States in 1988 on a Jordanian passport and a visitor's visa issued in Amman, Jordan. He applied for legal residence status [presumably asylee status], was turned down, but continued to be in the country for years on appeal of that decision. Sheik AbdelRahman, the Egyptian religious leader, was charged in Egypt with inciting a 1989 riot, but subsequently obtained a U.S. visa in Khartoum, Sudan, which had no automated lookout system that would have identified him as a security threat. He entered as a tourist, applied for political asylum, and received legal residence. In March, 1993, an immigration judge ordered him deported, but he was still in the country four months later when he was arrested for his role in the terrorist act. The last accomplice, Mahmud Abouhalima, entered on a tourist visa and applied for and gained amnesty under the agricultural worker provision of the 1986 IRCA amnesty despite living in New York and working as a taxi driver. Abouhalima fled to Saudi Arabia. He was extradited back to the United States and was convicted and sentenced to 240 years imprisonment.

June 1993 — Eight militant Muslim fundamentalists were arrested in New York for plotting to blow up the United Nations headquarters, tunnels under the Hudson River and a federal office building. The arrestees were from Sudan, Egypt, the Israeli West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Pakistan.

March 1994 — Rashad Baz, an immigrant from Lebanon, and two others shot up a van full of Hasidic students, wounding four, on the Brooklyn Bridge. Baz entered on a student visa in 1984. He attended courses part time at a community college in 1984-85. He married a U.S. citizen in 1989 and applied for legal residence in 1991. Baz was accompanied by Bassam Mousa Reyati, a Jordanian, who entered as a student in 1989 and received residency in 1992 on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen. Hlal Mohammed, a Jordanian, was the third terrorist.

September 1994 — FBI Dir. Freeh sent Dep. Att. Gen. Gorelick a package of antiterrorism recommendations from the Executive Advisory Board of DoJ's Office of Investigative Policies. The recommendations were:

  1. Develop a uniform database of State Dept. visa refusals;
  2. Rethink the visa waiver pilot program;
  3. Expand INS pre-inspection;
  4. Allow classified information to be used by the court in deportation proceedings;
  5. Tighten the asylum screening provisions and detain and expeditiously deport anyone suspected of terrorist intent;
  6. Tighten controls against NIV overstayers and persons involved in sham marriages;
  7. Share INS alien files with FBI terrorism investigators.

April 1996 — The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) provides for expeditious removal of mala fide asylum applicants, restricts judicial review of deportation, increases penalties and RICO investigation powers for terrorism investigations. The State Dept. was required to develop a list of foreign terrorist organizations. President Clinton signed, but said at the time that he considered some of the changes "ill advised." Subsequently the Administration tried unsuccessfully to strip summary exclusion from the law through the Leahy amendment to the Illegal Immigration Reform Act. In the end, the later act softened some of exclusion process for asylum claimants. Surviving in the INA are AEDPA amendments to Section 219 ("Designation of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.")

September 1996 — The Illegal Immigration Reform and Alien Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRARA) changed summary exclusion to expedited exclusion for mala fide asylum applicants. The new standard allows an appeal to an Immigration Judge. Also included is a provision to make activities that "incite terrorism" or represent a danger to the community or security of the United States as a grounds for exclusion from the United States. The IIRARA also expanded detention facilities and broadened the definition of an aggravated felony for purposes of deportation.

February 1997 — Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian teacher who arrived in the United States in December, 1996 on a tourist visa killed seven tourists with a 14 shot semiautomatic pistol at the Empire State Building before killing himself. He bought the gun in Florida despite federal law prohibiting sales to aliens who do not have at least 90 days of residency. Abu Kamal wrote that he was taking vengeance against enemies of the Palestinian people.

July 1997 — Two Palestinians and a Pakistani were arrested on a tip-off to New York City police and were found to have suicide bombs and a note indicating they intended a terrorist attack in the city's subways. Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian, entered the United States (in Washington state) illegally from Canada three times and was apprehended and returned to Canada. He entered Canada as a student, but requested and received political asylum there. After his last U.S. entry the Canadians would not take him back because he had committed crimes in Canada. He applied for asylum here, and a judge ordered a hearing for 1998 and released him. Abu Mezer said that he had been accused by the Israeli government of belonging to Hamas, a terrorist organization, a claim which his family in Israel denied. On June 23, at a hearing on his asylum application, he withdrew it, and the judge gave him 60 days to depart the country. Lafi Khalil, the second terrorism suspect entered the country on a tourist visa and stayed on illegally.

August 1997 — The State Department acknowledged that it still had not prepared the list of international terrorist organizations required by the Antiterrorism Act in 1996. A Dept. State spokesman said the report was overdue because any group designated as a terrorist organization had the right to challenge that designation in U.S. courts. The designation causes U.S. fundraising activities for the group to be cut off and members of the group to be barred from entering the United States.

August 1998 — U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization, causing massive destruction and loss of life. Four terrorists were convicted in May 2001 of involvement in the conspiracy. They were:

  • Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a Tanzanian, who assisted in creating the truck-bomb that blew up the embassy in Tanzania, was sentenced to life in prison.
  • Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, a Jordanian, was convicted of participating in preparing the explosives used to bomb the embassy in Kenya, faces life in prison.
  • Mohamed Rashed Daoud Alowhali, a Saudi Arabian, who participated in the attack on the embassy in Nairobi by distracting guards with a stun grenade, faces life in prison.
  • Wahid El-Hage, born in Lebanon, a U.S. citizen, who acted as a messenger between Bin Laden and the terrorists in planning the attacks, faces life in prison.

December 1999 — Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian, who was admitted to Canada as an asylum applicant in 1994, despite being expelled from Algeria and France for suspicion of terrorist activities, was arrested in Port Angeles, Wash. attempting to enter the U.S. from Canada with a carload of bomb-making materials destined for Los Angeles airport. He was to be met and assisted by Abdelhakim Tizegha, who entered the United States with another Algerian, Abdelghani Meskini as stowaways on a ship from Algeria. Meskini pleaded guilty and testified against the others. Tizegha applied for U.S. asylum and was released pending a hearing, and then went to Canada and illegally reentered the U.S. at Blaine, Wash. posing as a Mexican. Another Algerian, Bouabide Chamchi was allegedly also involved in a coordinated attack. He was apprehended entering the United States in Vermont using a forged French passport.

September 11, 2001 — In the most destructive terrorist attack in history, four U.S. commercial airlines were skyjacked by armed Al Qaeda terrorists, and two of them were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The third plane was crashed into the Pentagon, and the fourth plane that presumably was headed for another Washington, D.C. target crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently as a result of a heroic effort by passengers to thwart the skyjackers. About 3,000 victims lost their lives in the attacks.

December 22, 2001 — Richard Ried, a British-born son of a British mother and a Jamaican father attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. The attempt failed when the explosives did not ignite. He was convicted of terrorism. A British-born co-conspirator, Saajid Badat, was convicted in England.

July 4, 2002 — Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an immigrant from Egypt, shot and killed Victoria Hen, an El Al ticket agent at Los Angeles international airport and then began shooting passengers standing in line killing one other and wounding four before he was shot dead by a security agent.

March 3, 2006 — Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, an Iranian-born graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, drove an SUV onto a crowded part of campus, injuring nine. He claimed his action was to "avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide" and to "punish" the United States government. He was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

August 10, 2006 — A major anti-terrorist operation by British Police disrupted an alleged bomb plot targeting multiple airplanes bound for the United States flying from London. The plotters were British-born of Pakistani descent who received funding from Pakistani sources.

December 23, 2006 — Federal Agents disrupted Derrick Shareef (aka Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef)'s attack on an Illinois shopping mall planned for December 22nd. His intent was to commit "violent jihad" just before Christmas. Shareef, a convert to Islam, portrayed himself as a martyr for Islam.

May 7, 2007 — A group of six radical Islamist men, allegedly plotting to stage an attack on the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey, were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The plotters included three ethnic Albanian brothers who entered the country illegally as children in 1984, a Palestinian naturalized U.S. citizen, and another ethnic Albanian.

June 3, 2007 — A planned Islamist terrorist attack at JFK International Airport was prevented. The alleged plot was foiled when an undercover law enforcement official was recruited to the homegrown terrorist cell. Russell Defreitas, a United States citizen and native of Guyana, the alleged ringleader, worked for a time at the airport. Others in the plot were Abdul Kadir, a citizen of Guyana and former member of the Guyanaese National Assembly; Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago; and Abdel Nur, a citizen of Guyana.

July 2007 — Nuradin Abdi, an immigrant from Somalia pled guilty and was convicted of plotting in 2002 with two or three others a mass shooting or bombing at a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He was sentence to 10 years imprisonment.

June 1, 2009 — Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American Muslim, opened fire on a U.S. military recruiting office killing one and wounding another.

September 2009 — Najibullah Zazi, Adis Medunjanin, and Zarein Ahmedzav were apprehended and charged with terrorism for an intended suicide bomb plot in the New York subway system on or near the September 11 anniversary of the 2001 attacks. Zazi, an immigrant from Afghanistan, and his two friends were trained by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Zazi pled guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and support of a terrorist organization in February 2010.

September 2009 — Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, an illegal alien from Jordan, who entered on a tourist visa, was apprehended in Dallas after trying to detonate a truck bomb under a 60-story building. He pled guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

November 5, 2009 — Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist born to Palestinian immigrants, opened fire indiscriminately at Fort Hood, New Jersey killing 13 and wounding 30 persons.

December 25, 2009 — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, attempted to blow up a passenger plane as it approached a landing in Detroit. He was traveling to the United States from Amsterdam on a tourist visa, valid for two years that he obtained at the U.S. Embassy in Britain in June 2008. The attempt failed when the chemicals he was carrying under his clothing ignited only partially and other passengers stopped him from further attempts. The incident revealed a security lapse because information had been reported to the US Embassy in Nigeria that he had become radicalized by Moslem terrorists while in England and in Yemen. The Embassy had reported the information, but it was not placed in a database that would have prevented the terrorist from boarding a plane for the United States.

May 1, 2010 — Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani recently naturalized as a U.S. citizen unsuccessfully attempted to explode an explosives laden car in New York Times Square. He was apprehended two days later after boarding a plane to fly to Dubai. The Pakistani Taliban claimed credit for the attempted terrorist act. Shahzad entered the United States on a student (F) visa in 1998. In 2002 he converted his status to a temporary worker on an H-2B visa valid for 6 years. In October 2008 he married a U.S. citizen and converted his status to legal permanent residence.  (Wall Street Journal, May 4 2010)

May 27, 2010 — Adnan Mirza, a Pakistani, was convicted in May 2010 of providing funds to the Taliban, conspiracy to possess and possession of firearms and ammunition. Mirza entered the United States on a student visa to attend a community college in Houston in 2005 and 2006. He trained with others in the Houston area in use of the firearms.

December 2010 — Ahmed Ferhani, an Algerian, pled guilty in a New York state court to plotting to blow up Jewish synagogues in New York City. He was arrested with an American of Moroccan descent in 2011 while attempting to buy weapons. The judge announced a sentence of ten years imprisonment. (Associated Press, December 4, 2012)

February 2011 — Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a Saudi citizen who came to the United States on a student visa was arrested in Texas on terrorism charges. He was convicted of intended use of a weapon of mass destruction as a result of his efforts to assemble bomb-making material and indications that he planned to detonate bombs and various sites. He was sentenced in November 2012 to life in prison.

October, 2012 — Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladeshi who came to the United States on a student visa, was arrested in New York on October 17, 2012 on charges that he was plotting a terrorist attack with explosives against the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. He pled guilty to the terrorism charge in February 2013. (FOXNews February 7, 2013))

April, 2013 — Two explosive devises were set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three persons and injuring more than 130 — many seriously. Brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, created and placed the homemade bombs. They subsequently shot and killed an MIT security officer sitting in his car, carjacked a vehicle and engaged in a shootout with police leading to the death of Tamerlan. Dzhokhar was subsequently apprehended and reportedly confessed to the terrorist crime. The Tsarnaevs were brought to the United States by their parents in 2002 as refugees from the Chechnyan region of Russia — a region that currently has an Al Qaeda influence. Dzhokhar naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2012. Tamerlan, in 2012 spent a protracted visit to the Dagestan region in Russia where his parents had returned to live. "He appeared increasingly drawn to radical Islam." (Washington Post, April 20, 2013)

April 2013 — A Moroccan, Mohammed Mamdouh, was sentenced to five years imprisonment after pleading guilty in February 2012 to conspiracy to a crime of terrorism, criminal possession of a weapon and attempted possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism in New York City. Mamdouh's fellow conspirator, Algerian Ahmed Ferhani, was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in March. (Businessweek, April 26, 2013).

September 2010 — Sami Samir Hassoun, a Lebanese immigrant, attempted to commit a terrorist act near the Chicago Wrigley Field stadium by planting a backpack that he believed contained a bomb in a trash can. He was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment in 2013. (Associated Press, May 31, 2013)


Updated: October 2013