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Suicide Bombings

One of the most spectacular terrorist tactics in the 1980s was a series of suicide vehicle bombings. The first occurred on April 18, 1983, when a pick-up truck driven by a suicide bomber exploded in the driveway of the United States embassy in West Beirut. The explosives detonated with a force equivalent to 2,000 pounds of trinitrotoluene and destroyed the chancery building, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans, and wounding 100, about 40 of whom were Americans. The Islamic Jihad Organization claimed responsibility for the attack. Informed sources believed that the Islamic Jihad Organization was a nom de guerre for Husayn Musawi's Islamic Amal organization, while others believed that it was a cover name for Hizaballah.

On October 23, 1983, Shia terrorists struck the United States Marines compound and the French MNF headquarters in devastating, near-simultaneous suicide bombing attacks. The attack on the United States Marines compound took 241 lives and wounded over 100. The bombing was carried out by a lone terrorist driving a stakebed truck that penetrated the central lobby of the building and exploded. United States Federal Bureau of Investigation experts announced that the blast, with the force of over 12,000 pounds of trinitrotoluene, was the largest non-nuclear explosion ever detonated. The attack on the French contingent claimed fifty-eight dead. On November 4, 1983, the suicide bombing tactic was used once again. Near Tyre in southern Lebanon, an explosives-laden pickup truck crashed through an Israeli guard post and detonated near an IDF headquarters building, killing twenty-eight Israeli soldiers and thirty-two Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. On September 20, 1984, a suicide vehicle bomber attacked the new United States embassy building in East Beirut, killing eight and wounding dozens. On March 10, 1985, Israel was struck again when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into an IDF convoy at the border crossing point, near the Israeli town of Metulla. Twelve Israelis were killed and fourteen wounded. The initial spate of Shia suicide bombings was so successful that it inspired other, secular organizations--particularly the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party- -to adopt the tactic in 1984 and 1985. As the frequency of suicide attacks rose, however, their effectiveness and impact waned. Lebanese groups abandoned the tactic and concentrated on a more effective technique, hostage-taking.

Data as of December 1987