1983 U.S. Embassy in Beirut hit by massive car bomb On this day, a suicide bomber drives a truck filled with 2,000 pounds of explosives into a U.S. Marine Corps barracks at the Beirut International Airport. The explosion killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. A few minutes after that bomb went off, a second bomber drove into the basement of the nearby French paratroopers’ barracks, killing 58 more people. Four months after the bombing, American forces left Lebanon without retaliating. The Marines in Beirut were part of a multinational peacekeeping force that was trying to broker a truce between warring Christian and Muslim Lebanese factions. In 1981, American troops had supervised the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Beirut and then had withdrawn themselves. They returned the next year, after Israel’s Lebanese allies slaughtered nearly 1,000 unarmed Palestinian civilian refugees. Eighteen hundred Marine peacekeepers moved into an old Israeli Army barracks near the airport—a fortress with two-foot–thick walls that could, it seemed, withstand anything. Even after a van bomb killed 46 people at the U.S. Embassy in April, the American troops maintained their non-martial stance: their perimeter fence remained relatively unfortified, for instance and their sentries’ weapons were unloaded. At about 6:20 in the morning on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes truck charged through the barbed-wire fence around the American compound and plowed past two guard stations. It drove straight into the barracks and exploded. Eyewitnesses said that the force of the blast caused the entire building to float up above the ground for a moment before it pancaked down in a cloud of pulverized concrete and human remains. FBI investigators said that it was the largest non-nuclear explosion since World War II and certainly the most powerful car bomb ever detonated. After the bombing, President Ronald Reagan expressed outrage at the “despicable act” and vowed that American forces would stay in Beirut until they could forge a lasting peace. In the meantime, he devised a plan to bomb the Hezbollah training camp in Baalbek, Lebanon, where intelligence agents thought the attack had been planned. However, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger aborted the mission, reportedly because he did not want to strain relations with oil-producing Arab nations. The next February, American troops withdrew from Lebanon altogether. The first real car bomb—or, in this case, horse-drawn-wagon bomb—exploded on September 16, 1920 outside the J.P. Morgan Company’s offices in New YorkCity’s financial district. Italian anarchist Mario Buda had planted it there, hoping to kill Morgan himself; as it happened, the robber baron was out of town, but 40 other people died (and about 200 were wounded) in the blast. There were occasional car-bomb attacks after that—most notably in Saigon in 1952, Algiers in 1962, and Palermo in 1963—but vehicle weapons remained relatively uncommon until the 1970s and 80s, when they became the terrifying trademark of groups like the Irish Republican Army and Hezbollah. In 1995, right-wing terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used a bomb hidden in a Ryder truck to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in OklahomaCity. 2002 Hostage crisis in Moscow theater On October 23, 2002, about 50 Chechen rebels storm a Moscow theater, taking up to 700 people hostage during a sold-out performance of a popular musical. The second act of the musical “Nord Ost” was just beginning at the Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant’s Palace of Culture when an armed man walked onstage and fired a machine gun into the air. The terrorists—including a number of women with explosives strapped to their bodies—identified themselves as members of the Chechen Army. They had one demand: that Russian military forces begin an immediate and complete withdrawal from Chechnya, the war-torn region located north of the Caucasus Mountains. Chechnya, with its predominately Muslim population, had long struggled to assert its independence. A disastrous two-year war ended in 1996, but Russian forces returned to the region just three years later after Russian authorities blamed Chechens for a series of bombings in Russia. In 2000, President Vladimir Putin was elected partly because of his hard-line position towards Chechnya and his public vow not to negotiate with terrorists. After a 57-hour-standoff at the Palace of Culture, during which two hostages were killed, Russian special forces surrounded and raided the theater on the morning of October 26. Later it was revealed that they had pumped a powerful narcotic gas into the building, knocking nearly all of the terrorists and hostages unconscious before breaking into the walls and roof and entering through underground sewage tunnels. Most of the guerrillas and 120 hostages were killed during the raid. Security forces were later forced to defend the decision to use the dangerous gas, saying that only a complete surprise attack could have disarmed the terrorists before they had time to detonate their explosives. After the theater crisis, Putin’s government clamped down even harder on Chechnya, drawing accusations of kidnapping, torture and other atrocities. In response, Chechen rebels continued their terrorist attacks on Russian soil, including an alleged suicide bombing in a Moscow subway in February 2004 and another major hostage crisis at a Beslan school that September.