Timeline of Terrorist Strikes on Mass Transit

by Robert Windrem

Rapid transit has increasingly become the favored means of attack for Islamic terrorists.  Over the past six and a half years, terrorists have targeted trains and subways throughout the world, killing nearly 800 people and wounding more than 1,500. While the worst attacks have been carried out principally on rapid transit systems in cities like Moscow, Mumbai, Madrid and London, intercity lines have not been exempt.

The toll:

December 5, 2003

An explosion tears through a morning commuter train just outside Yessentuki station in Russia’s southern fringe. Forty-six people are killed and more than 160 injured.  It is the first of a series of renewed Chechen rebel attacks against civilian targets in southern Russia and Moscow.

Attackers used bulk explosive, which the suicide bomber carried on him/her or in a bag. The weight of the explosive was preliminarily estimated at 5 kilos, or 11 pounds.

Mar 13, 2003

12 killed, 75 wounded by bomb on Bombay commuter train

February 6, 2004

A suicide bomber detonates a bulk explosive at the deepest point in the Moscow metro, killing 40 people.  The attack is believed to be the work of a Saudi militant, Abu Walid, whose financing of Chechen rebels has given him great power within the movement to free the breakaway Russian republic.

The attack occurs near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and is supposedly a revenge attack for Russian troop atrocities against Chechen civilians in the town of Alda four years to the day earlier.

March 11, 2004

In what many intelligence analysts describe as the most significant terrorist attack since September 11, at least 10 bombs detonate on suburban trains and in rail stations at the height of the morning rush hour in southern Madrid. More than 190 die in the attacks, quickly making it the second-largest attack since September 11, passing the Baghdad and Karbala attacks only nine days earlier.

Analysts see the attacks as significant for several reasons:

The attacks were coordinated so that all the bombs went off within a 20-minute period, exhibiting a level of sophistication not previously seen anywhere.

The plans were put together in less than two months – unlike attacks such as September 11, which took years.

The bombs were built from limited materials like cell phone detonators, explosives stolen from a quarry, and sports bags.

The plot was carried out not by al Qaeda or even an affiliate, but instead by radical Muslims who identified with al Qaeda and were led by a charismatic figure.

August 31, 2004

A bombing at the entrance to the Rizhskaya metro station in northeastern Moscow kills 10.  It may have been the work of a female suicide bomber who was the sister of a Chechen woman suspected of having blown up one of two airliners brought down on August 24.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said it was caused by a female suicide bomber who sought to enter the metro station but turned around after seeing two policemen posted at the station’s entrance. The area outside the station was reportedly crowded when the bomb, apparently attached to the woman, went off. The blast killed at least 10 people, including the suspected bomber, and wounded more than 50, while setting several cars on fire and blowing out windows in nearby buildings.

June 15, 2005

Chechen rebels try to derail a train on its way from Grozny to Moscow.  The train derails, but only 15 people are injured.

July 7, 2005

Four suicide bombers set up bombs on London Underground trains and a double-decker bus, killing 52 people in the worst terrorist attack ever in the UK and the greatest civilian loss of life since the Blitz more than 60 years ago.  The bombers are all British nationals and three are British born.  Three are of Pakistani descent, the fourth a Jamaican who converted to Islam.

July 21, 2005

Two weeks after the first Underground bombing, four other would-be suicide bombers attempt an identical attack on three trains and a bus.  The bombs fail to go off and wound one passenger.  Within days, all four men are identified and arrested.  Again, all are British nationals, this time of East African descent.

July 11, 2006

More than 130 die in a series of attacks on the Mumbai (Bombay) transit system.  Pressure cookers with a 2.5 kg mixture of RDX and ammonium nitrate in each were placed on trains plying on the western line of the suburban (“local”) train network, which forms the backbone of the city’s transport network. The first blast reportedly took place at 6:24 p.m. IST and the explosions continued for approximately 11 minutes, until 6:35, during the evening rush hour. All the bombs had been placed in the first-class “general” compartments of seven trains running from Churchgate, the city-center end of the western railway line, to the western suburbs of the city.

August 13, 2007

An explosion along the Moscow-St. Petersburg rail line injures  27 people. Authorities later arrested two suspects and are still  searching for a third — a former military officer.  The bombing takes place just before the Malaya Vishera station.

November 29, 2008

Gunmen enter the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai’s biggest train station, and open fire on commuters.  Using AK-47’s, they kill 58 people and wound 104.  It’s part of a well-planned and executed attack on India’s business center.  In 10 coordinated attacks across the city, members of Lashkar e Taiba kill at least 173 people and wound at least 308.

November 27, 2009

A bomb explodes along the same Moscow-St. Petersburg rail line, killing as many as 35 people.  The bomb was homemade and was equivalent to 15 lbs of TNT.

March 29, 2010

Two female suicide bombers kill at least 35 people at two Moscow metro stations, the third attack on the city’s rapid transit system since 2003 and the fifth attack on Russian transit targets.  City officials reported  that 23 people were killed in the first explosion, at the Lubyanka station, and 12 people were killed 40 minutes later in a blast at the Park Kultury station. Dozens were injured.

Update, May 28, 2010

A possible blast derails an Indian passenger train en route from Calcutta to Mumbai. At least 65 people are killed and 200 injured, according to early reports. Maoist rebels appear to be responsible.

Copyright © 2010 by Robert Windrem

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One Response to Timeline of Terrorist Strikes on Mass Transit

  1. Pingback: Today’s Terrorism News « The CenterLine

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