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Assassination as a method of terrorism can be defined as the killing of an important or famous person as opposed to a random shooting or killing. For the terrorist viable assassination targets fall into 2 broad categories; firstly a target could be someone who would attract a lot of media attention such as a monarch or political leader here the murder is purely to attract media attention and heighten the fear of terrorism and the fear that no one is safe. The second type of target for assassination is of value as an opponent of the terrorist’s aims. This could be a political rival such as a president, or part of the security services hunting the terrorist group such as a police chief. Sometimes a victim can cover both aspects such as the killing of Lord Louis Mountbatten by the IRA in Cork in 1979.

Assassination is one of the oldest and simplest of terrorist methods; the word assassin entered the English language after the crusades due to the Ismaili fedayeen cult of the assassins that was founded by Hasan as Sabah in 1090 in the Lebanese mountains. This Shi’ite sect was known as Hashishi or Hashishians due to its use of the drug of the same name. They were a fundamentalist organisation who used murder and assassination of political and religious rivals. Their dedication to their cause was absolute and in a chilling taste of things to come they were willing to die to reach their target. The Mongols finally destroyed the cult in 1256 after a series of sieges of the assassin’s mountain strongholds.

To the determined assassin who is not concerned over their own safety no target is safe as American history shows with the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln (1865), J.F.Kennedy (1963) and Martin Luther King (1968). Assassination is not only a terrorist weapon but has a mixed tracked record of use by governments, from the failed attempts on Hitler’s life in WW2 to Israeli assassination of terrorists and members of Yasser Arafat’s political faction Fatah. 1987 saw the assassination of Abu Jihad the PLO’s military leader in Tunisia but 1997 saw two Israeli agents arrested in Jordan trying to poison a leading member of Hamas. Use of assassination remains a politically sensitive method of counterterrorism as it is often seen as illegal and lowering you to the terrorists level and if mistakes are made leads to the death of innocent people. As the cheapest and simplest terrorist method it will remain in use by terrorist organisations but with tightened security around important people it is becoming a less attractive option.

Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, occurred as a result of a suicide bombing in Sriperumbudur, Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, India on 21 May 1991. [2] At least 14 others, in addition to Rajiv Gandhi, were killed. [3] It was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam (also known as Kalaivani Rajaratnam or Dhanu), [1] [4] a member of the Sri Lankan separatist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At the time, India had just ended its involvement, through the Indian Peace Keeping Force, in the Sri Lankan Civil War. Subsequent accusations of conspiracy have been addressed by two commissions of inquiry and have brought down at least one national government. [5] [6]

John Wilkes Booth And An Accomplice Hid For 12 Days, But Union Troops Burned The Barn They Were In And Fired At Booth

The Scene: Washington, DC, April 14, 1865

The Assassin: John Wilkes Booth, a well-known stage actor

What Went Down: While President Abraham Lincoln watched a play at Ford's Theater, Booth fired at him point-blank in the back of the head.

The Aftermath: After breaking his leg while trying to escape, Booth fled on horseback with his accomplice, David Herold. The two stopped at Dr. Samuel Mudd's home to splint Booth's broken leg just as federal troops began to track them down.

After getting help from other Confederate sympathizers, the two managed to hide for 12 days until they were hunted down on a tobacco farm. Herold surrendered and came out of the barn, but Booth refused, so Union troops set the barn on fire. When Booth finally ran out of the burning building, Union soldier Boston Corbett fired at his neck, and Booth expired two hours later.

Photo : Wikidona / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

8 Most Famous Assassinations in History

Friday (Nov. 22) marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. That death stunned the world and caused an outpouring of public grief unprecedented in modern United States history.

Some even say that the killing of the 35th president altered the course of history, and that the United States would not have become embroiled in the Vietnam War had he lived.

But JFK isn't the only leader to have died by another's hands. He joins a long list of leaders who were murdered for political reasons. From the stabbing of Julius Caesar to the shooting of Mahatma Gandhi, here are eight of the most famous assassinations in history. [Which U.S. Leaders Have Been Assassinated?]

1. Roman tragedy

Et tu, Brute? Despite having lived more than 2,000 years ago, Julius Caesar remains one of the most famous leaders to have met a brutal end. The "dictator in perpetuity" of the Roman Empire died on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. Senators Brutus and Cassius led a gang of senators called the Liberators and stabbed the leader to death outside the Theater of Pompey. Their motive? They feared Caesar planned to do away with the Senate and create a dictatorship. Of course, once they got Caesar out of the way, they set up a tyrannical government themselves.

2. Honest Abe

Abraham Lincoln, hailed by many historians as America's greatest president, was at a high point in 1865 when he was murdered. He had ended slavery, preserved the Union through the Civil War, and was embarking on the long road to reconstruction. The president was attending a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., when actor John Wilkes Booth slipped into the president's booth and shot him in the head on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. Booth then leapt onto the stage wielding a knife and said, "Sic semper tyrannis," or "thus always to tyrants," a famous line attributed to Brutus at Caesar's assassination. [Busted: 6 Civil War Myths]

3. Nonviolent leader

Mohandas K. or "Mahatma" Gandhi led India's successful bid for independence from Great Britain from the 1920s to the 1940s. Instead of relying on a revolution, Gandhi used nonviolence to accomplish this feat. But on Jan. 30, 1948, Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist who opposed Gandhi's nonviolent approach and perceived favoritism towards Muslims, fired three shots at the leader at the Birla House in New Delhi, killing him. Millions of people came to honor the leader in his funeral procession.

4. Civil rights giant

Martin Luther King Jr. was the superstar of the civil rights movement and, like Gandhi, relied on nonviolence and civil disobedience to push for desegregation, voting rights and other civil rights for African Americans. Despite King's steadfast commitment to nonviolence, his opponents, mostly Southern whites opposed to desegregation and enfranchisement for African-Americans, weren't so restrained. White supremacists orchestrated bombings, beatings and murders to maintain the status quo, and King eventually became one of the victims. He was shot on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Authorities convicted James Earl Ray, a racist petty criminal, for the assassination, but for decades, rumors have swirled that Ray was part of a government plot to kill King.

5. Ill-fated family

The Kennedy family has been dogged by tragedy for many generations. On Nov. 22, 1963, a sniper shot and killed John F. Kennedy as he was traveling with a motorcade in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union but returned to the United States, acted alone and fired the shots from the sixth floor of a nearby book depository. Many believe the official story is wrong, and 50 years later, conspiracy theories continue to circulate. [Why JFK Conspiracy Theories Won't Die]

Five years later, on June 5, 1968, JFK's younger brother Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated while campaigning for the presidency. He had just won the California presidential primary and was leaving the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, when Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian, opened fire and killed the presidential hopeful because of his support for Israel.

6. Music icon

Though most assassinations are political, some killings seem to have little political rationale. John Lennon, one of the world's most famous musicians and a former member of the Beatles, was entering his home at The Dakota in New York City when he was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980. At his trial, Chapman initially planned to plead insanity but later changed his plea to guilty, saying it was the will of God.

7. Young duke

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, wasn't exactly a well-loved personality, and was described by historians as suspicious, hysterical and unpopular. Still, he did accomplish one stunning feat: His death inadvertently launched the First World War. The duke was shot on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Yugoslav independence movement known as Young Bosnia and an assassin for The Black Hand, a secret society formed by members of the Serbian Army. Austria-Hungary believed the Serbian military was involved in the plot and issued an ultimatum, then invaded Serbia when part of the ultimatum was rejected. A tangle of political alliances then swept all the major world powers into the war, leading to millions of deaths.

8. Black power

Malcolm X was one of the most galvanizing political figures of the 1950s and 1960s. He grew up an orphan and spent time in prison, where he became a member of the Nation of Islam. He soon began promoting its ideas. Unlike Dr. King, Malcolm X rejected non-violence as a strategy and advocated for black separatism, saying African-Americans couldn't succeed in a racist society dominated by whites. But when Malcolm X fell out with the Nation of Islam leadership, he became a marked man. Three Nation of Islam members shot and killed the leader on Feb. 21, 1965, while he was giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

William McKinley (March 4, 1897–Sept. 14, 1901)

President William McKinley was greeting visitors at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., on September 6, 1901, when Leon Czolgosz stepped out of the crowd, drew a gun, and shot McKinley twice in the abdomen at point-blank range. The bullets didn't immediately kill McKinley. He lived another eight days, succumbing to gangrene caused by the wound.

Czolgosz, a self-proclaimed anarchist, was attacked by others in the crowd and may have been killed had he not been rescued by police. He was jailed, tried, and found guilty on September 24. He was executed by electric chair on October 29. His last words, according to reporters who witnessed the event, were, "I am not sorry for my crime. I am sorry I could not see my father."

The Most Famous Assassinations In All Of History

Because they are usually carried out against well-known figures in order to highlight religious or political differences, assassinations inevitably create greater fame for the victim and eternal notoriety for the perpetrator in many cases they influence significant cultural happenings. Here is our list of the most famous assassinations in history.

Gerald Ford Assassination Attempts 1974-1976

Between 1974 and 1976, there were many White House “intrusions” that were taken very seriously by the Secret Service although they involved no direct threat to the president’s life. On Thanksgiving night 1975, Gerald B. Gainous Jr. scaled the White House wall, hid undetected for two hours, and got within reach of the president’s daughter, Susan Ford, as she was unloading camera equipment from her car. Ten days later, Gainous again climbed the fence. He said he wanted to ask President Ford to pardon his father, a convicted heroin smuggler.

The following year, White House uniformed police officer Charles Garland fatally shot Chester Plummer, a thirty-year-old intruder whom Garland had told three times to put down a three-foot metal pipe that he was holding in “a threatening manner.” Officers thought it was a bomb. 13 In December 1976, Steven B. Williams rammed the White House Northwest Gate on Pennsylvania Avenue with a pickup truck. He suffered cuts and bruises and was arrested and charged with destruction of government property. Williams shouted at reporters as he was led away, “Trying to wake him up before he kills us all.”

This article on Gerald Ford assassination attempts is from Mel Ayton’s Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts—From FDR to Obama.. Please use this data for any reference citations. To order this book, please visit its online sales page at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Malcolm X, a sometimes controversial religious and civil rights leader, was shot by members from the Nation of Islam.

The Nation of Islam was a religious group he used to be a minister for, before he broke away started his own group, called the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Many expected his impact to wane after death, but the opposite happened. He became an icon for racist persecution. His rise was in part due to the publication of his autobiography a few months after his death. It was named one of Time's most important non-fiction books of the 20th century.

And according to Time, the combination of the book and his death caused his life story to be remembered for his perseverance rather than his focus on racial separatism.

Assassination Attempts

Andrew Jackson - On January 30, 1835, Andrew Jackson was attending a funeral for Congressman Warren Davis. Richard Lawrence attempted to shoot him with two different derringers, each of which misfired. Jackson was incensed and attacked Lawrence with his walking stick. Lawrence was tried for the attempted assassination but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum.

Theodore Roosevelt - An assassination attempt was actually not made on Roosevelt's life while he was in the office of president. Instead, it occurred after he had left office and decided to run for another term against William Howard Taft. While campaigning on October 14, 1912, he was shot in the chest by John Schrank, a mentally disturbed New York saloon keeper. Luckily, Roosevelt had a speech and his spectacle case in his pocket that slowed down the .38 caliber bullet. The bullet was never removed but allowed to heal over. Roosevelt continued with his speech before seeing a doctor.

Franklin Roosevelt - After giving a speech in Miami on February 15, 1933, Giuseppe Zangara shot six shots into the crowd. None hit Roosevelt though the Mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, was shot in the stomach. Zangara blamed wealthy capitalists for his plights and those of other working people. He was convicted of attempted murder and then after Cermak's death due to the shooting he was retried for murder. He was executed by electric chair in March, 1933.

Harry Truman - On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationals attempted to kill President Truman to bring attention to the case for Puerto Rican independence. The President and his family were staying at the Blair House across from the White House and the two attempted assassins, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, tried to shoot their way into the house. Torresola killed one and wounded another policeman while Collazo wounded one policeman. Torresola died in the gunfight. Collazo was arrested and sentenced to death which Truman commuted to life in prison. President Jimmy Carter freed Collazo from prison in 1979.

Gerald Ford - Ford escaped two assassination attempts, both by women. First on September 5, 1975, Lynette Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a gun at him but did not fire. She was convicted of attempting to assassinate the president and sentenced to life in prison. The second attempt on Ford's life occurred on September 22, 1975 when Sara Jane Moore fired one shot that was deflected by a bystander. Moore was trying to prove herself to some radical friends with the assassination of the president. She was convicted of attempted assassination and sentenced to life in prison.

Ronald Reagan - On March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot in the lung by John Hinckley, Jr. Hinckley hoped that by assassinating the president, he would earn enough notoriety to impress Jodie Foster. He also shot Press Secretary James Brady along with an officer and a security agent. He was arrested but found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sentenced to life in a mental institution.

Assassinations in U.S. History

The United States experienced a number of major losses to assassins in the twentieth century. Huey Long, an icon in Louisiana politics, was assassinated on September 8, 1935, in the corridor of the capitol building by Carl Weiss, a medical doctor in Baton Rouge and son-in-law of one of Long's many political enemies. Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon, one of the most politically active rock stars of his generation, on December 8, 1980. Attempts were made on other noteworthy men such as George Wallace (May 15, 1972, in Laurel, Maryland) and civil rights leader James Meredith (June 1966 during a march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi).

The 1960s was an era of unrest in the United States. Civil rights, women's rights, the war in Vietnam, the student movement, and the ecology controversy were major issues. Malcolm X, who advocated black nationalism and armed self-defense as a means of fighting the oppression of African Americans, was murdered on February 21, 1965, by Talmadge Hayer, Norman Butler, and Thomas Johnson, alleged agents of Malcolm's rival Elijah Muhammud of the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray, who later retracted his confession and claimed to be a dupe in an elaborate conspiracy. Robert F. Kennedy, then representing New York State in the U.S. Senate, was shot by a Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, shortly after winning the California presidential primary.

1. Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Heir Apparent to Austro-Hungarian Throne, 1914

So why does this guy make it to number 1 on the list? After all, it’s hard to imagine that the assassination of a fairly obscure nobleman could have huge repercussions, much less be the most important assassination in history. However, the death of the Archduke and his wife as they rode in an open car through the streets of Sarajevo (the capital of modern day Bosnia-Herzogovina but at the time part of greater Serbia) had immediate and profound repercussions. The problem was that the assassin (you guessed it another anarchist) was part of a group that had ties to the Serbian military itself as such, in a world-class case of overreaction, Austro-Hungary held the Serbian government complicit in the murder and set in motion the wheels of war which would, in turn, start a chain of events that would, over the course a just a few weeks, not only bring the two countries to blows, but would drag the entire continent into the fray with it. The result? World War One—arguably one of the bloodiest and most futile conflicts in history. (Final death toll: 15 million.) Certainly far better known and more powerful people have been assassinated over the years, but none had the consequences this single act of mindless brutality and sheer stupidity entailed.