Terrorism seemingly has quite a broad definition. Experts usually differ in their views regarding what actually can be categorised as a terror attack. But terrorism, undeniably, is a form of proxy war that has often been carried out under patronage of the world powers since the Cold War period. It assumed menacing proportions after the world became unipolar following the disintegration of Soviet Union.
From the congested markets of New Delhi to the streets of Madrid, here are eight of the biggest terrorist attacks of the 21st century.
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On 11 September, 2011, Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the twin towers of World Trade Center at New York. Two of the four hijacked commercial airliners crashed into both towers, leading to their complete collapse. The attack left 2,973 people dead. White House swung into action and the War on Terror was launched. The US-led special forces, on 7 October 2001, invaded Afghanistan which was considered a haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists. After a 10-year long campaign, Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was finally killed by a combined team of US Navy Seals and the CIA on 2 May 2011, at Abbottabad, Pakistan.
2. Mumbai 26/11
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Coordinated firing and bomb attacks began on 26 November 2008 and continued till 29 November. Considered one of the biggest terrorist attacks ever, it was carried out by 10 militants of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group. The Taj and Trident hotels were the centre-stage of all action. The casualties numbered 173, including nine attackers. The incident was widely covered by the media and beamed live on TV. The attack earned widespread condemnation and global demands to brand Pakistan as a terrorist state.
3. Beslan school siege
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The Beslan hostage crisis lasted for three days from 1 September 2004, when 32 Chechen separatists captured children and adults at School Number One. The terrorists demanded Russia withdraws its forces from Chechnya. Moscow rejected the demand and 20 adult hostages were killed by the separatists as an act of warning. Two days later, Russian special forces stormed the building. The gunfight left more than 300 people dead.
4. Madrid train bombings
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Bombs exploded simultaneously on four Madrid commuter trains on 11 March 2004. More than 192 people died in the explosions while 2,000 were injured. Investigations revealed that a militant group inspired by Al-Qaeda ideals, was behind the bombings. The Madrid train explosions are considered as one of the biggest terrorist attacks of the 21st century. A total of 13 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used to execute the blasts.
5. New Delhi blasts, 2005
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On 29 October 2005, three explosions happened in two markets of south and central Delhi. The death toll was 62, while about 210 people were injured. The blasts were perfectly executed just two days ahead of Diwali, a major festival in India. LeT is believed to have carried out the blasts.
6. Moscow Dubrovka Theatre hostage crisis
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Some 40-50 armed Chechen rebels invaded and lay siege to a packed Moscow theatre on 23 October 2002. More than 850 people were held hostage inside the theatre. The militants demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. The siege lasted for more than 72 hours. Russian forces entered the theatre and fighting began. More than 170 people were killed by the Chechens and the rest were freed by the forces. The Dubrovka Theatre siege is considered as one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Russia.
7. London bombings
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In one of the biggest terrorist attacks in the first decade of the new millennium, four bombs exploded across London on the morning of 7 July 2005. While three went off in the London Underground, one detonated in a bus at Tavistock Square. After two weeks, four other bombs exploded in various parts of London, paralysing the city’s entire public transportation system. The attacks were carried out at the Oval and Warren Street stations of London Underground and in a bus at Shoreditch. The coordinated fidayeen attack left 52 dead and over 700 injured.
8. Peshawar school attack
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The list of biggest terrorist attacks in the 21st century won’t be complete without a mention of the Peshawar school attack. On 16 December 2014, Taliban militants attacked a military-run school at Peshawar and gunned down 141 students. An overwhelming majority of all those killed were students. Government troops later ended the siege.
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