Carnage Interrupted: An Analysis of Fifteen Terrorist Plots Against Public Surface Transportation

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Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, planning - terrorism, place - europe


Surface transportation, Security, Terrorist, Terrorism, Plots


This report examines 13 terrorist plots against public surface transportation that were uncovered and foiled by authorities between 1997 and 2010 and two failed attempts to carry out attacks. Certainly, this is not the total universe of foiled or failed terrorist plots in these years, but they were selected on the basis of what is known about them and the accessibility of information. The report focuses on terrorist plots in the West. Seven of the 15 plots took place in the United States, and four occurred in the United Kingdom. These two countries figure prominently as targets of terrorism, and in addition, American and British officials have dealt with terrorist plots through publicized arrests and trials, which provide additional information. Although motive was not a criterion in the selection of the plots, all but one involve individuals or groups inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology of violent global jihad against the West. The exception is the 1997 Flatbush plot, in which two terrorists, both of whom had connections with Hamas, angered by events in Palestine, simply wanted to kill as many Jews as possible to express their opposition to U.S. support for Israel. Other sources suggest that the Flatbush plotters wanted to force the release of jailed Islamist terrorists in the United States, including Ramzi Yousef, who participated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman, who was convicted for his involvement in a plot to carry out additional bombings in New York.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Mineta Transportation Institute, copyright remains with them.