The problem of terror in the United States may be as old as the country itself, founded in a revolutionary war against British rule. Media, the judiciary and politicians all use the term differently. Our list is arbitrary, a question, not an answer.
The slaughter of at least 26 people and wounding of another 20 in a Texas church on November 5 was the latest in a succession of terror attacks in the United States, for which the starting point is almost arbitrary.
The definitions of terror, terrorist and terrorism also seem almost arbitrary, applied with vigour and quickly at times, almost reluctantly at others. Judiciaries, media and politicians all define and use the terms differently.
US President Donald Trump said the Texas shooting was a “mental health problem” and not “a guns’ situation.”
The FBI defines terrorism as a successful or thwarted act of violence “perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with organisations that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”
A good starting point: But what about acts that terrorise, but do not leave clear evidence of motivation? On our list the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas shooting is one such example. It’s possible that motive for the Texas massacre will also remain elusive.
This list below attempts to show the scope of terror in the United States, based on a broadened sense of the FBI definition to account for the problem of motivation when the effect is clear. The starting year, 1993, is arbitrary. It could have been earlier or later.
Apart from the entries for 2017, most of the list was generated from the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the University of Maryland. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, only a pointer to the issue.
February 26, 1993 – World Trade Center bombing
Rami Yousef, an Al Qaeda member, detonated a truck bomb meant to destabilise the foundations of the World Trade Center in New York City. Although it failed to do so, six people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded.
March 10, 1993 – Murder of David Gunn
Gynaecologist David Gunn was killed by Michael F Griffin, a pro-life advocate who wanted to stop the doctor from performing any more abortions. Griffin was a member of the Army of God.
March 1, 1994 – Brooklyn Bridge shooting
In a lone-wolf attack on the Brooklyn Bridge, Rashid Baz shot at a van carrying Jewish students. One person was killed and three injured.
July 29, 1994 – Florida Army of God shooting
Reverend Paul Jennings Hill, pro-life Army of God member, shot and killed a gynaecologist and his bodyguard.
December 30 – 31, 1994 – Massachusetts Planned Parenthood shooting
In a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Massachusetts, anti-abortion activist John C Salvi III killed two employees and injured five. He also attacked a clinic in Virginia the next day before being caught.
April 19, 1995 – Oklahoma City bombing
Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh and US militia movement sympathizer Terry Nichols killed 168 people and injured nearly 700 in a truck bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
July 27, 1996 – Centennial Olympic Park bombing
Eric Robert Rudolph, a member of the Army of God, left three pipe bombs in the Centennial Olympic Park with the intent to force the cancellation of that year’s Olympic games. Although the bombs were discovered, one exploded killing one person and wounding 111 while the park was being cleared. Rudolph was motivated by his outrage over legal abortion.
January – February, 1997 – Army of God bombings
The Centennial Olympic Park bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph, carried out two different bombings in Georgia. In January Rudolph detonated two bombs inside and outside a women’s clinic, injuring six people. In February, motivated by his outrage over homosexuality, Rudolph also detonated bombs inside and outside a gay bar, injuring five people.
February 23, 1997 – Empire State Building shooting
Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian teacher open fire on the deck of the Empire State Building motivated by his anger over US, British and French support for Israel. One person died and six others were injured before the shooter committed suicide.
January 29, 1998 – Alabama women’s clinic bombing
Army of God member Eric Robert Rudolph bombed a women’s clinic in Alabama, killing one person and injuring a second.
June 7, 1998 – James Byrd Jr murder
White supremacists Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John King tied African American James Byrd Jr to a pickup truck and dragged him to death in Texas before leaving his body in front of an African American church.
October 23, 1998 – Barnett Abba Slepian shooting
James Charles Kopp, a member of the Army of God, shot and killed Dr Bernett Abba Siepian who performed abortions.
June 18 and July 1-2, 1999 – Jewish Center arson
Brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams set fire to three Jewish centres in Sacramento, California. No one was injured but the fires caused more than $1 million in damages. The brothers later also killed a gay couple and set fire to a country club housing an abortion clinic.
July 2 – 4, 1999 – World Church of the Creator shooting
Benjamin Nathaniel Smith killed two people and injured nine in a shooting spree across the states of Illinois and Indiana. Smith was a member of the Neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator.
August 10, 1999 – Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting
White supremacist Buford O Furrow Jr went on a shooting spree at a Los Angeles Jewish community centre. Five people were wounded in the centre and one was killed as the shooter was leaving.
December 31, 1999 – Earth Liberation Front arson
The Earth Liberation Front lit a fire in Michigan State University resulting in $1 million in damages.
May 21, 2001 – University of Washington firebombing
The Earth Liberation Front set fire to and burned down the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington. The motivation of the five accused conspirators was suspicion that a professor was experimenting on how to produce genetically-engineered trees.
September 11, 2001 – 9/11
More than 2,500 civilians, 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers, 55 military personnel and 19 perpetrators died in aircraft hijackings and suicide attacks carried out by Al Qaeda targeting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth plane, apparently en route to Washington DC, crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers fought back against the hijackers.
September 15 – October 4, 2001 – 9/11 revenge attacks
Mark Anthony Stroman shot two people he assumed were Arabs to avenge the 9/11 attacks.
May 2002 – Mailbox explosives
Lucas Helder injured six people across five states by placing explosives in private mailboxes. His aim was to bring attention to government control over the lives of citizens.
July 4, 2002 – Beltway sniper attacks
Hesham Mohamed Hadayat killed two people and wounded four others at a ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. The FBI reported that it was an act of terror, without linking it to any particular group.
December 8, 2003 – South Carolina right-of-way standoff
Two officers were killed as a result of a 14-hour shootout between three self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens” and the Abbeville city police department.
March 5, 2006 – UNC SUV attack
Nine people were injured when Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove a sports utility vehicle into people at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to “avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide” and to “punish” the United States government.
July 28, 2006 – Seattle Jewish Federation shooting
Naveed Afzal Haq killed one person and injured five others at the Jewish Federation building in Seattle. Haq told a police dispatcher his motive was his frustration with American policy in the Middle East.
March 3, 2008 – Street Dreams arson fires
Four multi-million dollar luxury wood homes, built as part of an annual luxury showcase offered across the region, were set on fire in Washington state. Slogans spray painted on the houses attributed the arson to the Earth Liberation Front.
July 27, 2008 – Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting
Jim David Adkisson fired a shotgun at members of the congregation at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Two people were killed and seven wounded.
May 31, 2009 – George Tiller murder
Scott Roeder killed Dr George Tiller, a long-time target of pro-life extremists.
June 1, 2009 – Arkansas recruiting office shooting
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad killed one military recruiter and injured another at a Army/Navy Career Center in Arkansas. The shooter said he was motivated by the murder of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Army.
June 1, 2009 – US Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting
White supremacist and neo-Nazi James Wenneker von Brunn shot and killed a police officer at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
November 5, 2009 – Fort Hood shooting
Thirteen people were killed and 29 wounded at Fort Hood, Texas by Nidal Malik Hasan, a US Army major serving as a psychiatrist. The Department of Defense classified the events as workplace violence over Hasan’s opposition to deployment.
December 25, 2009 – Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate an explosive on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The attack was later claimed by Al Qaeda.
February 18, 2010 – Austin suicide attack
Andrew Joseph Stack III flew a light aircraft into the Austin IRS building in Texas, killing one IRS manager and injuring 13 other people. Comparing the IRS with “Big Brother” from George Orwell’s novel 1984, the pilot’s suicide note revealed his displeasure with the government and its bailout of financial institutions.
March 4, 2010 – 2010 Pentagon shooting
Two Pentagon police officers were wounded in Virginia by John Patrick Bedell, who was reported to be a far-right libertarian who believed a group of elites ran the government.
May 20, 2010 – 2010 West Memphis shooting
Jerry Kane Jr and his son Joseph Kane killed two police officers in Arkansas. Later identified and killed by the police, the two were identified as members of the sovereign citizen movement.
September 1, 2010 – Discovery Communications hostage crisis
Lone gunman James J Lee took three hostage in the Discovery Communications headquarters in Maryland. In addition to having posted a manifesto against population growth and immigration, Lee’s motives were also believed to stem from environmental activism.
October 17 – November 2, 2010 – Northern Virginia military shootings
Five military facilities, believed to be empty at the time, were shot at over a period of two weeks. The suspect Yonathan Melaku was caught a year later. He was inspired by the Taliban.
January 17, 2011 – Spokane bombing attempt
A radio-controlled explosive was found on the route of the Martin Luther King Jr memorial march in Spokane, Washington. The suspect, Kevin William Harpham, was arrested two months later and allegedly had ties to the white supremacist National Alliance organisation.
August 5, 2012 – Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting
Wade Michael Page, a White supremacist, suspected neo-Nazi and army veteran, fatally shot six people and wounded four others when he opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
February 3-12, 2013 – Christopher Dorner shootings
Four people were killed and three wounded in a shooting spree by former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner who targeted the LA police department, their families and associates, allegedly in response to police brutality. Dorner claimed he was fired from the department for reporting excessive police force.
April 15, 2013 – Boston Marathon bombings
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed three people and injured several hundred when they detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The two perpetrators, caught five days later, were identified as self-radicalised by Al Qaeda propaganda.
November 1, 2013 – Los Angeles International Airport shooting
Paul Anthony Ciancia opened fire at the LAX airport, killing one person and injuring six. Ciancia was said to believe in the New World Order conspiracy theory of a totalitarian world government.
December 12, 2013 – 2013 Wichita bomb attempt
Self-radicalised avionics technician, Terry Lee Loewen, attempted a suicide attack on Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Loewen claimed he supported Al Qaeda.
April 13, 2014 – Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting
Three people were killed in two shootings that occurred at a Jewish retirement community. The gunman, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr, was a neo-Nazi.
June 8, 2014 – 2014 Las Vegas Shooting
Jerad and Amanda Miller, an anti-government couple, went on a shooting spree killing two police officers and an intervening civilian.
September 12, 2014 – Pennsylvania State Police barracks shooting
Two state shooters were shot during a crew change in a Pennsylvania State Police barracks. One of the victims later died. Described by police as a “self-taught survivalist,” the shooter Eric Matthew Frein was caught a month later and described as having a grudge against law enforcement personnel.
October 23, 2014 – Queens hatchet attack
Inspired by Daesh, Zale Thompson attacked four New York City police officers with a hatchet. Two officers were injured by Thompson who was shot and killed by the police.
December 20, 2014 – 2014 killings of NYPD officers
Two police officers were shot and killed by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley in retaliation for the killings of unarmed black men by police.
May 3, 2015 – Curtis Culwell Center attack
Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi opened fire during an art exhibit hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative in Texas. The attack was later claimed by Daesh.
June 17, 2015 – Charleston church shooting
Nine people were shot and killed and one injured by white supremacist Dylann Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in what Roof said was an attempt to initiate a race war.
July 16, 2015 – Chattanooga shootings
Five people were killed and two wounded by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez who committed a drive-by shooting at a military recruiting centre. He then fired on a US Navy Reserve centre. Abdulazeez was motivated by Al Qaeda propaganda.
November 4, 2015 – University of California, Merced stabbing
In a lone-wolf act allegedly motivated by Daesh, a University of California-Merced student Faisal Mohammad went on a stabbing spree injuring four people before being shot dead by campus police.
November 27, 2015 – Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting
Three people were killed and nine injured when Robert Dear, an anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood activist, opened fire at a clinic in Colorado. The perpetrator was later determined to be delusional and confined to a mental hospital.
December 2, 2015 – San Bernardino attack
In a mass shooting and attempted bombing by Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernadino, California, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured. The perpetrators were a married couple, likely inspired by or connected to Daesh.
June 12, 2016 – Orlando nightclub shooting
Nearly 50 people were killed and 53 others injured in a terrorist attack inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. According to law enforcement officials, Omar Mateen was motivated by frustration at US actions in Syria and Iraq.
July 7, 2016 – 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers
Army Reserve Afghan War veteran Micah Xavier Johnson targeted police officers in Dallas, killing six officers and injuring nine. Two other people were wounded. Johnson was reportedly angry with police officers who killed black men.
July 17, 2016 – Baton Rouge police shooting
Three police officers died and four were wounded by former Marine Gavin Eugene Long in an anti-police attack.
September 17, 2016 – Minnesota mall stabbing
Dahir A Adan attacked civilians in a shopping centre in Minnesota with two steak knives. Ten people were injured and the attacker was shot dead inside the mall in the attack allegedly inspired by Daesh.
September 17-19, 2016 – New York and New Jersey bombings
Twenty-nine people were injured in a series of three bombings in the New York metropolitan area. Ahmad Khan Rahimi was convicted of the attacks, inspired by Al Qaeda and Daesh.
November 28, 2016 – Ohio State University attack
Thirteen people were injured when Ohio State University student Abdul Artan drove a car into the university’s courtyard, hitting pedestrians and then attacked students with a butcher’s knife. Law enforcement reported that Artan was inspired by Daesh propaganda.
February 23, 2017 – Kansas City bar shooting
US Navy veteran Adam Purinton shot and killed one person and wounded two others whom he thought were Middle Eastern.
March 20, 2017 – Manhattan stabbing
James Harris Jackson stabbed an elderly black man, Timothy Caughman, repeatedly with a sword. Caughman later died from his injuries. Jackson confessed that his motive was to kill black men to prevent interracial relationships.
May 26, 2017 – Portland train attack
Two people were fatally stabbed and a third injured by Jeremy Joseph Christian, in an attack allegedly motivated by Islamophobia.
June 14, 2017 – Congressional baseball shooting
Frustrated with President Trump in the 2016 presidential election, left-wing activist James T Hodgkinson opened fire on a baseball field prior to the Congressional Baseball Game during the Republican team’s practice. Four people were injured including one congressman.
August 12, 2017 – Charlottesville attack
During an alt-right neo-Nazi protest, violence broke out between white supremacists and antifa counter-protesters. One person was killed and 19 injured when white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr drove his car into the antifa counter-protesters.
October 1, 2017 – Las Vegas shooting
Gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing fifty-eight people and wounding more than 500. It was the deadliest shooting in modern US history.
October 31, 2017 – New York City truck attack
Eight people were killed and 12 injured after Sayfullo Saipov, 29, drove onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial and struck several people. Saipov was charged with acting on behalf of Daesh.
November 5, 2017 – Sutherland Springs church massacre
Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire on the congregation with an assault rifle. At least 26 people were killed and 20 wounded. Kelley was later found dead, apparently of a gunshot wound, after he fled the scene.