1985 Beirut car bombings
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|March 1985 Beirut car bombing|
|Part of Lebanese Civil War|
|Date||8 March 1985|
|Target||Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah|
|Car bombing, state terrorism, attempted assassination|
On 8 March 1985, a car bomb exploded between 9 and 45 metres from the house of Islamic cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut, Lebanon, in a failed assassination attempt linked to the Central Intelligence Agency. The bombing killed more than 80 people and injured 200, almost all civilians.
The bombing was followed by three similar incidents which occurred in Beirut also on 22 May, 14 August and 18 August of 1985.
The bomb explosion, estimated to have been equivalent to 200 kg (440 lbs) of dynamite, occurred in the western Beirut suburb of Bir al-Abed, outside an apartment building. It killed worshippers, mostly women and girls, leaving Friday prayer services at an adjacent mosque, and destroyed two 7-story apartment buildings and a cinema.
While several of Fadlallah's bodyguards were killed in the attack, the cleric escaped injury as he was attending Friday prayers at a nearby mosque.
In 1976, Gerald Ford became the first U.S. president to forbid political assassination, in the wake of the Church Commission, issuing Executive Order 11905. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan strengthened the policy with Executive Order 12333, which decreed that "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination." This Executive Order remains in effect today.
The Beirut car bombing occurred "within the continuously evolving framework of an American 'preemption' counterterror program". Following the 1983 United States embassy bombing and the 1984 U.S. embassy annex bombing, the U.S. military considered a range of retaliatory options, but it was unclear that these would have any deterrent value. On 14 November 1983, Then-president Ronald Reagan authorized a retaliatory strike, but Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger did not authorize U.S. aircraft to take off for reasons that have not been disclosed. CIA director William Casey, along with CIA General Counsel Stanley Sporkin, favored the use of preemptive counter-terrorism practices in Lebanon; others, including Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John N. McMahon, did not approve of the strategy, concerned that it would violate Executive Order 12333.
The U.S. National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane, stated that those responsible for the bomb may have had American training, but asserted that they were "rogue operative[s]," and the CIA in no way sanctioned or supported the attack. Woodward's own account of his conversation with Casey suggests that Casey's action was "off the books".
A former CIA operative maintains that the failed 1985 attempt tarnished the CIA's reputation.
A car bomb on 22 May killed 48 people. Another on 14 August killed 15 people. Another on 18 August went off in a Christian suburb of East Beirut and caused the death of fifty people. It was one of the worst explosions to take place in the city's east, which was relatively calm compared to the west.
The car bombing is described in Ken Follet's 2014 historical novel "Edge of Eternity" (Chapter 57).
- Internal Security Forces
- Lebanese Army
- Lebanese Civil War
- Lebanese Forces – Executive Command
- South Lebanon Army
- Mountain War (Lebanon)
- Young Men (Lebanon)
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