The story of the prototype of “lone wolf” terrorism, decades before the term was coined.
Simon (Lone Wolf Terrorism, 2013, etc.), the president of a security and terrorism research consulting company, delves into a fascinating, all-but-forgotten case. The August 1974 bombing at the Los Angeles International Airport, which occurred just two days before Richard Nixon’s resignation, was “the first time an airport had been bombed anywhere in the world.” It also remains “one of the deadliest incidents of terrorism in Los Angeles history,” leaving three dead and 35 injured. A group called “Aliens of America” took credit for the attack, which generated a host of copycat threats as well as explosions that were misattributed to that group. Since this was also during the period when the Symbionese Liberation Army was wreaking havoc, dominating headlines and law enforcement efforts, there was some confusion over who was doing what and influencing whom. The author makes a strong case that the bombing offered more to fear than the SLA, which was more specific in its targets, and also that the SLA’s media strategy influenced that of Aliens of America. There was, in fact, no such group, just Muharem Kurbegovic, a bright and creative and unbalanced immigrant from Yugoslavia, who had found his ambitions thwarted by an arrest for “lewd conduct.” Though he was acquitted on the charge, it prevented him from receiving a commercial license for a business, kept him unemployed for a year, and put his citizenship application on hold. So he schemed to take spectacular revenge, setting fire to the houses of a judge and then two of the police officials involved in the case and then bombing the airport (the “a” in the alphabet murders he planned to commit). The matter-of-fact account of the clues he left and the difficulties in prosecuting him—was he sane enough to stand trial?—has plenty of ramifications for threats faced today.
A historical account of a unique form of terrorism that offers lessons for today.