Assassination

Assassination

Overview
To carry out an assassination is "to murder (a usually prominent person) by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."

An assassination may be prompted by religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, ideological
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, or military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 motives; it may be carried out for the prospect of financial gain
Contract killing
Contract killing is a form of murder, in which one party hires another party to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for consideration, monetary, or otherwise. The hiring party may...

, to avenge
Revenge
Revenge is a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived. It is also called payback, retribution, retaliation or vengeance; it may be characterized, justly or unjustly, as a form of justice.-Function in society:Some societies believe that the...

 a grievance, from the desire to acquire fame or notoriety (that is, a psychological need to garner personal public recognition
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

), from the wish to form some kind of "relationship" with a public figure, or from the desire (or at least the willingness) to be killed or commit suicide in the act.


The word assassin is derived from the word Hashshashin
Hashshashin
The Assassins were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265...

(Arabic: حشّاشين, ħashshāshīyīn, also Hashishin, Hashashiyyin, or Assassins), and shares its etymological roots with hashish
Hashish
Hashish is a cannabis preparation composed of compressed stalked resin glands, called trichomes, collected from the unfertilized buds of the cannabis plant. It contains the same active ingredients but in higher concentrations than unsifted buds or leaves...

(icon or ˈ; from Persian
Persian
Persian means of, from, or related to Persia , or the Persian-speaking world. See:* Persian people, the majority ethnic group of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan* Persian language, an Iranian language of the Indo-European family...

: ).
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Timeline

41   Gaius Caesar (Caligula), known for his eccentricity and cruel despotism, is assassinated by his disgruntled Praetorian Guards. Claudius succeeds his nephew.

193   Roman Emperor Pertinax is assassinated by Praetorian Guards, who then sell the throne in an auction to Didius Julianus.

193   Roman Emperor Didius Julianus is assassinated.

1082   Ramon Berenguer II, Count of Barcelona is assassinated.

1127   Assassination of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders.

1192   Assassination of Conrad of Montferrat (Conrad I), King of Jerusalem, in Tyre, two days after his title to the throne is confirmed by election. The killing is carried out by Hashshashin.

1462   Vlad III the Impaler attempts to assassinate Mehmed II (The Night Attack) forcing him to retreat from Wallachia.

1567   An explosion destroys the Kirk o' Field house in Edinburgh, Scotland. The second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, Lord Darnley is found strangled, in what many believe to be an assassination.

1570   The assassination of regent James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray throws Scotland into civil war.

1584   William I of Orange is assassinated in his home in Delft, Holland by Balthasar Gérard.

 
Encyclopedia
To carry out an assassination is "to murder (a usually prominent person) by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."

An assassination may be prompted by religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, ideological
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, or military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 motives; it may be carried out for the prospect of financial gain
Contract killing
Contract killing is a form of murder, in which one party hires another party to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for consideration, monetary, or otherwise. The hiring party may...

, to avenge
Revenge
Revenge is a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived. It is also called payback, retribution, retaliation or vengeance; it may be characterized, justly or unjustly, as a form of justice.-Function in society:Some societies believe that the...

 a grievance, from the desire to acquire fame or notoriety (that is, a psychological need to garner personal public recognition
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

), from the wish to form some kind of "relationship" with a public figure, or from the desire (or at least the willingness) to be killed or commit suicide in the act.

Etymology



The word assassin is derived from the word Hashshashin
Hashshashin
The Assassins were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265...

(Arabic: حشّاشين, ħashshāshīyīn, also Hashishin, Hashashiyyin, or Assassins), and shares its etymological roots with hashish
Hashish
Hashish is a cannabis preparation composed of compressed stalked resin glands, called trichomes, collected from the unfertilized buds of the cannabis plant. It contains the same active ingredients but in higher concentrations than unsifted buds or leaves...

(icon or ˈ; from Persian
Persian
Persian means of, from, or related to Persia , or the Persian-speaking world. See:* Persian people, the majority ethnic group of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan* Persian language, an Iranian language of the Indo-European family...

: ). It referred to the Nizari
Nizari
'The Shī‘a Imami Ismā‘īlī Tariqah also referred to as the Ismā‘īlī or Nizārī , is a path of Shī‘a Islām, emphasizing social justice, pluralism, and human reason within the framework of the mystical tradition of Islam. The Nizari are the second largest branch of Shia Islam and form the majority...

 branch of the Ismā'īlī Shia founded by the. They were active in the fortress of Alamut
Alamut
Alamut was a mountain fortress located in the South Caspian province of Daylam near the Rudbar region in Iran, approximately 100 kilometres from present-day Tehran, Iran...

 in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 from the 8th to the 14th centuries, and also controlled the castle of Masyaf
Masyaf
Masyaf is a city in Syria, in the Hama Governorate, notable for its large medieval castle.It was used by Hashashins as their headquarters after the destruction of Alamut....

 in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. The group killed members of the Muslim Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

, Seljuq
Seljuq dynasty
The Seljuq ; were a Turco-Persian Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries...

, and Christian Crusader
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 élite for political and religious reasons. Although it is commonly believed that assassins were under the influence of hashish
Hashish
Hashish is a cannabis preparation composed of compressed stalked resin glands, called trichomes, collected from the unfertilized buds of the cannabis plant. It contains the same active ingredients but in higher concentrations than unsifted buds or leaves...

 during their killings or during their indoctrination, there is debate whether these claims have merit. The Assassins were eradicated by the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 in 1275.

The earliest known literary use of the word assassination is in Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 (1605).

Ancient to medieval times



Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics
Power politics
Power politics, or Machtpolitik , is a state of international relations in which sovereigns protect their own interests by threatening one another with military, economic, or political aggression...

. It dates back at least as far as recorded history.

Perhaps the earliest-recorded instance is the murder of Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

ite King Eglon
Eglon (king)
Eglon was the king of Moab who suppressed Israel in the time of the Judges.He was the head of the confederacy of Moab, Ammon and Amalek in their assault. One day, Ehud came presenting a customary tribute and tricked Eglon and stabbed him with his sword, but when Ehud attempted to draw the sword...

, by Ehud
Ehud
Ehud ben‑Gera is described in the biblical Book of Judges as a judge who was sent by God to deliver the Israelites from Moabite domination.-Biblical narrative:...

 around 1337 BC, described in the Book of Judges
Book of Judges
The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its title describes its contents: it contains the history of Biblical judges, divinely inspired prophets whose direct knowledge of Yahweh allows them to act as decision-makers for the Israelites, as...

. Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 (336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, and Roman consul Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 (44 BC) are famous victims. Emperors of Rome often met their end in this way, as did many of the Muslim Shia Imams hundreds of years later. The practice was also well known in ancient China, as in Jing Ke
Jing Ke
Jing Ke was a guest residing in the estates of Dan, crown prince of Yan and renowned for his failed assassination attempt of Ying Zheng, King of Qin state, who later became China's first emperor...

's failed assassination of King Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

 (227 BC). In ancient India Chanakya
Chanakya
Chānakya was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta , and the first Indian emperor generally considered to be the architect of his rise to power. Traditionally, Chanakya is also identified by the names Kautilya and VishnuGupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise...

 wrote about assassinations in his political treatise Arthashastra
Arthashastra
The Arthashastra is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy which identifies its author by the names Kautilya and , who are traditionally identified with The Arthashastra (IAST: Arthaśāstra) is an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and...

. In 1192, Conrad of Montferrat
Conrad of Montferrat
Conrad of Montferrat was a northern Italian nobleman, one of the major participants in the Third Crusade. He was the de facto King of Jerusalem, by marriage, from 24 November 1190, but officially elected only in 1192, days before his death...

, the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

King of Jerusalem, was assassinated by hashshashin.


The Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 story of Judith illustrates how a woman frees the Israelites by tricking and assassinating Holofernes
Holofernes
In the deuterocanonical Book of Judith Holofernes was an invading general of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar dispatched Holofernes to take vengeance on the nations of the west that had withheld their assistance to his reign...

, a war-lord of the rival Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns with whom the Israelites were at war.

In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

 was rare in Western Europe, but it was a recurring theme in the Eastern Roman Empire. Blinding and strangling in the bathtub were the most commonly used procedures. With the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, tyrannicide
Tyrannicide
Tyrannicide literally means the killing of a tyrant, or one who has committed the act. Typically, the term is taken to mean the killing or assassination of tyrants for the common good. The term "tyrannicide" does not apply to tyrants killed in battle or killed by an enemy in an armed conflict...

—or assassination for personal or political reasons—became more common again in Western Europe. The reigns of King Przemysł II of Poland (1296), William the Silent
William the Silent
William I, Prince of Orange , also widely known as William the Silent , or simply William of Orange , was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born in the House of...

 of the Netherlands (1584), and the French kings Henry III
Henry III of France
Henry III was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.-Childhood:Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau,...

 (1589) and Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

 (1610) ended with assassination. High medieval sources also mention the assassination of king Demetrius Zvonimir (1089), dying at the hands of his own people who objected to a proposition by the Pope to go on a campaign to aid the Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

s against the Seljuk
Seljuq dynasty
The Seljuq ; were a Turco-Persian Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled parts of Central Asia and the Middle East from the 11th to 14th centuries...

 Turks. This is, however, broadly debated among historians since most do not accept this view of his death; it is most commonly asserted that he died of natural causes. The myth of the "Curse of King Zvonimir" is based on the legend of his assassination.

Modern history


As the world moved into the modern day, the killing of important people began to become more than a tool in power struggles between rulers themselves and was also used for political symbolism, such as in the propaganda of the deed
Propaganda of the deed
Propaganda of the deed is a concept that refers to specific political actions meant to be exemplary to others...

. In Russia alone, four emperors were assassinated within less than 200 years: Ivan VI
Ivan VI of Russia
Ivan VI Antonovich of Russia , was proclaimed Emperor of Russia in 1740, as an infant, although he never actually reigned. Within less than a year, he was overthrown by the Empress Elizabeth of Russia, Peter the Great's daughter...

, Peter III
Peter III of Russia
Peter III was Emperor of Russia for six months in 1762. He was very pro-Prussian, which made him an unpopular leader. He was supposedly assassinated as a result of a conspiracy led by his wife, who succeeded him to the throne as Catherine II.-Early life and character:Peter was born in Kiel, in...

, Paul I
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

, and Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

.
In the United States, within 100 years, four presidents, Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln assassination
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of...

, James Garfield
James A. Garfield assassination
James A. Garfield was shot in Washington, D.C. on July 2, 1881 by Charles J. Guiteau at 9:30 a.m., less than four months after taking office as the twentieth President of the United States. Garfield died eleven weeks later on September 19, 1881, the second of four Presidents to be assassinated,...

, William McKinley
William McKinley assassination
The assassination of William McKinley occurred on September 6, 1901, inside the Temple of Music located on the grounds of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York...

, and John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy assassination
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

, died at the hands of assassins. There have been at least 20 known attempts on U.S. presidents' lives.

In Europe, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

n nationalist insurgents
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 (The Black Hand
Black Hand
Unification or Death , unofficially known as the Black Hand , was a secret military society formed by members of the Serbian army in the Kingdom of Serbia, which was founded on September 6, 1901. It was intent on uniting all of the territories containing significant Serb populations annexed by...

) is blamed for igniting World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 after a succession of minor conflicts, while belligerents on both sides in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 used operatives specifically trained for assassination. Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 was killed after an attack by British trained Czechoslovak soldiers on behalf of the Czechoslovak government in exile in Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the targeted killing of top German SS leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was the chief of the Reich Main Security Office , the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and a chief planner of the Final Solution, the Nazi German programme for the genocide of the...

, and knowledge from decoded transmissions allowed the U.S. to carry out a targeted attack
Death of Isoroku Yamamoto
Operation Vengeance was carried out to assassinate Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto on April 18, 1943, during the Solomon Islands campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was killed on Bougainville Island when...

, killing Japanese Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Isoroku Yamamoto
Isoroku Yamamoto
was a Japanese Naval Marshal General and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II, a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and a student of Harvard University ....

 while he was travelling by plane. The Polish Home Army
Armia Krajowa
The Armia Krajowa , or Home Army, was the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland. It was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej . Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces...

 conducted a regular campaign of assassinations against top Nazi German officials in occupied Poland. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, meanwhile, was almost killed by his own officers
July 20 Plot
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government...

, and survived various attempts by other persons and organizations (such as Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler, made by the British Special Operations Executive . Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan...

, though this plan was never put into practice).

During the 1930s and 1940s Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 carried out numerous assassinations outside of the Soviet Union, such as the killings of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists is a Ukrainian political organization which as a movement originally was created in 1929 in Western Ukraine . The OUN accepted violence as an acceptable tool in the fight against foreign and domestic enemies particularly Poland and Russia...

 leader Yevhen Konovalets
Yevhen Konovalets
Yevhen Konovalets was a military commander of the UNR army and political leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement...

, Ignace Poretsky
Ignace Poretsky
Ignace Reiss, AKA "Ignace Poretsky," "Ignatz Reiss," "Ludwig," "Ludwik", "Hans Eberhardt," "Steff Brandt," and Nathan Poreckij was one of the "Great Illegals" or Soviet spies who worked in third party countries where they weren't nationals in the late 1920s and 1930s...

, Fourth International
Fourth International
The Fourth International is the communist international organisation consisting of followers of Leon Trotsky , with the declared dedicated goal of helping the working class bring about socialism...

 secretary Rudolf Klement, Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM
Poum
Poum is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The town of Poum is located in the far northwest, located on the southern part of Banare Bay, with Mouac Island just offshore....

) leadership in Catalonia
Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...

.

India's "Father of the Nation," Mohandas K. Gandhi, was shot to death in 1948 by Nathuram Godse
Nathuram Godse
Nathuram Vinayak Godse , from the city of Pune, India was a Hindutva activist and journalist, who was the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. Along with his brother Gopal Godse and six other co-conspirators, he executed a plot to assassinate Gandhi.-Early life:Nathuram Godse was born in Baramati, Pune...

.

An American Civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 was assassinated in 1968 by James Earl Ray
James Earl Ray
James Earl Ray was an American criminal convicted of the assassination of civil rights and anti-war activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr....

 in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Tennessee, and the county seat of Shelby County. The city is located on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff, south of the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi rivers....

.

Cold War and beyond



During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, there was a dramatic new increase in the number of political assassinations.

Liaquat Ali Khan
Liaquat Ali Khan
For other people with the same or similar name, see Liaqat Ali Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was a Pakistani statesman who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Defence minister and Commonwealth, Kashmir Affairs...

, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister of Pakistan
The Prime Minister of Pakistan , is the Head of Government of Pakistan who is designated to exercise as the country's Chief Executive. By the Constitution of Pakistan, Pakistan has the parliamentary democratic system of government...

, was assassinated by Saad Akbar
Saad Akbar
Saad Akbar Babrak , an Afghan of Pashtun ethnicity, assassinated the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan. Akbar belonged to the same Zadran tribe as Pacha Khan Zadran....

, a lone assassin, in 1951. Conspiracy theorists believe his conflict with certain members of the Pakistani military (Rawalpindi conspiracy) or suppression of Communists and antagonism towards the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, were potential reasons for his assassination.

In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma
Inejiro Asanuma
Inejiro Asanuma was a Japanese politician, and head of the Japanese Socialist Party. Asanuma was noted for speaking publicly about Socialism and economic and cultural opportunities...

, Chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party, was assassinated in a stabbing by an extreme rightist.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church
Frank Church
Frank Forrester Church III was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Idaho from 1957 to 1981....

 (the Church Committee
Church Committee
The Church Committee is the common term referring to the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church in 1975. A precursor to the U.S...

) reported in 1975 that it had found "concrete evidence of at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro from 1960 to 1965."

Most major powers repudiated Cold War assassination tactics, though many allege that this was merely a smokescreen for political benefit and that covert and illegal training of assassins continues today, with Russia, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, the U.S., Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and other nations accused of still regularly engaging in such operations. In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 (who survived an assassination attempt himself) ordered the Operation El Dorado Canyon
Operation El Dorado Canyon
The 1986 United States bombing of Libya, code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon, comprised the joint United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps air-strikes against Libya on April 15, 1986. The attack was carried out in response to the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing.-Origins:Shortly after his...

 air raid on Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 in which one of the primary targets was the home residence of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

. Gaddafi escaped unharmed; however, his adopted daughter Hanna was claimed to be one of the civilian casualties.

In the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr.
Benigno Aquino, Jr.
Benigno Simeon "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. was a Filipino Senator and a former Governor of Tarlac. Aquino, together with Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga, formed the leadership of the opposition to the Marcos regime in the years leading to the imposition of martial law in the Philippines...

 triggered the eventual downfall of the 20-year autocratic rule of President
President of the Philippines
The President of the Philippines is the head of state and head of government of the Philippines. The president leads the executive branch of the Philippine government and is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines...

 Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. was a Filipino leader and an authoritarian President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He was a lawyer, member of the Philippine House of Representatives and a member of the Philippine Senate...

. Aquino, a former Senator
Senate of the Philippines
The Senate of the Philippines is the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress of the Philippines...

 and a leading figure of the political opposition, was assassinated in 1983 at the Manila
Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

 International Airport
International airport
An international airport is any airport that can accommodate flights from other countries and are typically equipped with customs and immigration facilities to handle these flights to and from other countries...

 (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA , also known as Manila International Airport , is the airport serving the general area of Manila and its surrounding metropolitan area...

) upon returning home from exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

. His death thrust his widow, Corazon Aquino
Corazon Aquino
Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino was the 11th President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold that office in Philippine history. She is best remembered for leading the 1986 People Power Revolution, which toppled Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the Philippines...

, into the limelight and, ultimately, the presidency following the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution
1986 EDSA Revolution
The People Power Revolution was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines that occurred in 1983-86. The methods used amounted to a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud...

.

After the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 of 1979, the new Islamic government of Iran began an international campaign of assassination that lasted into the 1990s. At least 162 killings in 19 countries have been linked to the senior leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This campaign came to an end after the Mykonos restaurant assassinations
Mykonos restaurant assassinations
In the Mykonos restaurant assassinations , Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders Sadegh Sharafkandi, Fattah Abdoli, Homayoun Ardalan and their translator Nouri Dehkordi were assassinated at the Mykonos Greek restaurant in Berlin, Germany on 17 September 1992.In the Mykonos trial, the German court...

, because a German court publicly implicated senior members of the government and issued arrest warrants for Ali Fallahian
Ali Fallahian
Hojatoleslam Ali Fallahian, is an Iranian politician and cleric. He has served as a member of the 3rd Assembly of Experts of the IRI and as the Minister of Intelligence of Islamic Republic of Iran in cabinet of President Hashemi Rafsanjani...

, the head of the Iranian Intelligence. Evidence indicates that Fallahian’s personal involvement and individual responsibility for the murders were far more pervasive than his current indictment record represents.

On August 17, 1988, President of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 Gen. M. Zia ul Haq died along with his staff and the American Ambassador to Pakistan when his C-130 transport plane exploded in mid-air after taking off from Bahawalpur
Bahawalpur
Bahawalpur , located in the province of Punjab, is the twelfth largest city in Pakistan. The city was once the capital of the former princely state of Bahawalpur. The city was home to various Nawabs and counted as part of the Rajputana states...

 because of an on-board bomb.

In post-Saddam Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, the Shiite-dominated government used death squads to perform extrajudicial executions
Extra-judicial killing
An extrajudicial killing is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. Extrajudicial punishments are by their nature unlawful, since they bypass the due process of the legal jurisdiction in which they occur...

 of radical Sunni Iraqis, with some alleging that the death squads were trained by the U.S. Concrete allegations have since surfaced that the Iranian government has actively armed and funded Shia death-squads in post-Saddam Iraq.
In India, Prime Ministers
Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister of India , as addressed to in the Constitution of India — Prime Minister for the Union, is the chief of government, head of the Council of Ministers and the leader of the majority party in parliament...

 Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

 and her son Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India . He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.Rajiv Gandhi was the elder son of Indira...

 (neither of whom were related to Mohandas Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948), were assassinated in 1984 and 1991 respectively. The assassinations were linked to separatist movements in Punjab and northern Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, respectively.

In Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

 was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Yigal Amir
Yigal Amir
Yigal Amir is the Israeli assassin of Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin. The assassination took place on November 4, 1995 at the conclusion of a rally in Tel Aviv. Amir is currently serving a life sentence for murder plus six years for injuring Rabin's bodyguard, Yoram Rubin, under...

 confessed and was convicted of the crime.

Israeli tourist minister Rehavam Ze'evi was assassinated on October 17, 2001, by Hamdi Quran
Hamdi Quran
Hamdi Quran is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He grew to prominence when he assassinated Rehavam Ze'evi, the Tourism Minister of Israel. Quran was imprisoned by the Palestinian National Authority in a Jericho prison guarded by American and European guards. In 2006,...

 and three other members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP stated that the assassination was in retaliation for the August 27, 2001, killing of Abu Ali Mustafa
Abu Ali Mustafa
Abu Ali Mustafa , , the kunya of Mustafa Alhaj a.k.a. Mustafa Ali Zibri, was the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine from July 2000 until he was killed by Israel forces.-Biography:...

, the Secretary General of the PFLP, by the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 under its policy of targeted killings
Israeli targeted killings
In the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israel Defense Forces use the term "focused foiling" against those it considers proven to have intentions of performing a specific act of violence in the very near future or to be linked indirectly with several acts of violence , thus raising...

.

In Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
Rafik Hariri
Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri , was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.He headed five cabinets during his tenure...

 on February 14, 2005, prompted an investigation by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. The suggestion in the resulting Mehlis report
Mehlis report
The Mehlis Report is the result of the United Nations' investigation into the 14 February 2005 assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. The investigation was launched in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1595 and headed by the German judge, Detlev Mehlis...

that there was Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n involvement, prompted the Cedar Revolution
Cedar Revolution
The Cedar Revolution or Independence Intifada was a chain of demonstrations in Lebanon triggered by the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.The primary goals of the original activists were the...

, which drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon.

In Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a democratic socialist who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996....

 was assassinated in 2007, while in the process of running for re-election. Bhutto's assassination drew unanimous condemnation from the international community.

In Guinea Bissau, President João Bernardo Vieira
João Bernardo Vieira
João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira was the President of Guinea-Bissau from 1980 to 1999 and again from 2005 to 2009. After seizing power in 1980, Vieira ruled for 19 years, and he won a multiparty presidential election in 1994. He was ousted at the end of the 1998–1999 civil war and went into exile...

 was assassinated in the early hours of March 2, 2009, in the capital, Bissau
Bissau
Bissau is the capital city of Guinea-Bissau. The city's borders are conterminous with the Bissau Autonomous Sector. In 2007, the city had an estimated population of 407,424 according to the Instituto Nacional de Estatística e Censos...

. Unlike typical assassinations his death was not swift; he first survived an explosion at the Presidential Villa, was then shot and wounded, and finally was butchered with machetes. His assassination was carried out by renegade soldiers who were apparently revenging the killing of General Tagme Na Waie, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Guinea Bissau, who had been killed in a bomb explosion the day before.

As military doctrine


Assassination for military purposes has long been espoused – Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

, writing around 500 BC, argued in favor of using assassination in his book The Art of War
The Art of War
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu , a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period...

. Nearly 2000 years later Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

 also argued assassination could be useful in his book The Prince
The Prince
The Prince is a political treatise by the Italian diplomat, historian and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus . But the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after...

. In medieval times, an army and even a nation might be based upon and around a particularly strong, canny, or charismatic leader
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

, whose loss could paralyze the ability of both to make war. However, in modern warfare a soldier's mindset is generally considered to surround ideals far more than specific leaders, while command structures are more flexible in replacing officer losses.

There is also the risk that the target could be replaced by an even more competent leader or such a killing (or a failed attempt) will "martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

" a leader and support his cause (by showing the moral ruthlessness of the assassins). Faced with particularly brilliant leaders, this possibility has in various instances been risked, such as in the attempts to kill the Athenian Alcibiades
Alcibiades
Alcibiades, son of Clinias, from the deme of Scambonidae , was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother's aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from prominence after the Peloponnesian War...

 during the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

. A number of additional examples from World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 show how assassination was used as a military tool at both tactical and strategic levels:
  • The American interception of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's
    Isoroku Yamamoto
    was a Japanese Naval Marshal General and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II, a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and a student of Harvard University ....

     plane during World War II, after his travel route had been decrypted.

  • The American perception that Skorzeny's
    Otto Skorzeny
    Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

     commando
    Commando
    In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

    s were planning to assassinate Eisenhower
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

     during the Battle of the Bulge
    Battle of the Bulge
    The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

     played havoc with Eisenhower's personal plans for some time, though it did not affect the battle itself. Skorzeny later denied in an interview with The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

    that he had ever intended to assassinate Eisenhower during Operation Greif
    Operation Greif
    Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed...

    , and said that he could prove it.

  • Operation Gaff
    Operation Gaff
    During World War II, Operation Gaff was a six-man patrol of Special Air Service commandos, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied France on 18 July, 1944, with the aim of severely injuring or killing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel....

     was a planned British commando raid to capture or kill the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
    Erwin Rommel
    Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

     (also known as "The Desert Fox").


Use of assassination has continued in more recent conflicts:
  • During the Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

    , partly in response to Viet Cong assassinations of government leaders, the U.S. engaged in the Phoenix Program
    Phoenix Program
    The Phoenix Program |phoenix]]) was a controversial counterinsurgency program designed, coordinated, and executed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency , United States special operations forces, and the Republic of Vietnam's security apparatus during the Vietnam War that operated...

     to assassinate Viet Cong leaders and sympathizers, and killed between 6,000 and 41,000 persons, with official 'targets' of 1,800 per month.

As tool of insurgents


Insurgent groups have often employed assassination as a tool to further their causes. Assassinations provide several functions for such groups, namely the removal of specific enemies and as propaganda tools to focus the attention of media and politics on their cause.

The Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 guerrillas of 1919–21 killed many RIC
Royal Irish Constabulary
The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was Ireland's major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital, and the cities of Derry and Belfast, originally with their own police...

 Police Intelligence officers during the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

. Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

 set up a special unit – the Squad – for this purpose, which had the effect of intimidating many policemen into resigning from the force. The Squad's activities peaked with the killing of 14 British agents in Dublin on Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1920)
Bloody Sunday was a day of violence in Dublin on 21 November 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. In total, 31 people were killed – fourteen British, fourteen Irish civilians and three republican prisoners....

 in 1920.

This tactic was used again by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 (1969–present). Killing of RUC
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...

 officers and assassination of RUC politicians was one of a number of methods used in the Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997
Provisional IRA campaign 1969–1997
From 1969 until 1997, the Provisional Irish Republican Army conducted an armed paramilitary campaign in Northern Ireland and England, aimed at ending British rule in Northern Ireland in order to create a united Ireland....

. The IRA also attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 by bombing the Conservative Party Conference in a Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

 hotel. Loyalist paramilitaries
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 retaliated by killing Catholics at random and assassinating Irish nationalist politicians.

Basque
Basque people
The Basques as an ethnic group, primarily inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country , a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.The Basques are known in the...

 terrorists ETA
ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

 in Spain have assassinated many security and political figures since the late 1960s, notably Luis Carrero Blanco
Luis Carrero Blanco
Don Luis Carrero Blanco, 1st Duke of Carrero Blanco, Grandee of Spain was a Spanish admiral and long-time confidant of dictator Francisco Franco.- Biography :...

, 1st Duke of Carrero-Blanco Grandee of Spain, in 1973. Since the early 1990s, they have also targeted academics, journalists and local politicians who publicly disagreed with them.

The Red Brigades
Red Brigades
The Red Brigades was a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organisation, based in Italy, which was responsible for numerous violent incidents, assassinations, and robberies during the so-called "Years of Lead"...

 in Italy carried out assassinations of political figures, as to a lesser extent, did the Red Army Faction
Red Army Faction
The radicalized were, like many in the New Left, influenced by:* Sociological developments, pressure within the educational system in and outside Europe and the U.S...

 in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 has assassinated Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 and Hezbollah leaders.

In the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Communist insurgents routinely assassinated government officials and individual civilians deemed to offend or rival the revolutionary movement. Such attacks, along with widespread military activity by insurgent bands, almost brought the Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngô Đình Diệm was the first president of South Vietnam . In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, Diệm led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable U.S. support due to his staunch anti-Communism, he achieved victory in a...

 regime to collapse before the U.S. intervention.

Psychology


A major study about assassination attempts in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century came to the conclusion that most prospective assassins spend copious amounts of time planning and preparing for their attempts. Assassinations are thus rarely a case of 'impulsive' action.

However, about 25% of the actual attackers were found to be delusion
Delusion
A delusion is a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence. Unlike hallucinations, delusions are always pathological...

al, a figure that rose to 60% with 'near-lethal approachers' (people apprehended before reaching their target). This shows that while mental instability plays a role in many modern-age assassinations, the more delusional attackers are less likely to succeed in their attempt. The report also found that around two-thirds of attackers had previously been arrested for (not necessarily related) offenses, that 44% had a history of serious depression
Depression (mood)
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless...

, and that 39% had a history of substance abuse.

Ancient methods



It seems likely that the first assassinations would have been direct and simple: stabbing
Stabbing
A stabbing is penetration with a sharp or pointed object at close range. Stab connotes purposeful action, as by an assassin or murderer, but it is also possible to accidentally stab oneself or others.Stabbing differs from slashing or cutting in that the motion of the object used in a stabbing...

, strangling or bludgeoning. The key technique was likely infiltration
Infiltration tactics
In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small, lightly equipped infantry forces attacking enemy rear areas while bypassing enemy front line strongpoints and isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons.-Development during World War I:...

, with the actual assassination by stabbing, smothering or strangulation. Poison
Poison
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism....

s also started to be used in many forms.

Death cap
Death cap
Amanita phalloides , commonly known as the death cap, is a deadly poisonous basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita. Widely distributed across Europe, A. phalloides forms ectomycorrhizas with various broadleaved trees. In some cases, death cap has been introduced to new regions with...

 mushrooms and similar plants became a traditional choice of assassins especially if they could not be perceived as poisonous by taste, and the symptoms of the poisoning did not show until after some time.

In ancient Rome, paid mobs were sometimes used to beat political enemies to death.

Modern methods



With the advent of effective ranged weaponry, and later firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s, the position of an assassination target was more precarious. Bodyguard
Bodyguard
A bodyguard is a type of security operative or government agent who protects a person—usually a famous, wealthy, or politically important figure—from assault, kidnapping, assassination, stalking, loss of confidential information, terrorist attack or other threats.Most important public figures such...

s were no longer enough to hold back determined killers, who no longer needed to directly engage or even subvert the guard to kill the leader in question. Moreover, the engagement of targets at greater distance dramatically increased the chances of an assassin's survival. The first heads of government to be assassinated with a firearm were the Regent Moray of Scotland
James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray
James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray , a member of the House of Stewart as the illegitimate son of King James V, was Regent of Scotland for his nephew, the infant King James VI of Scotland, from 1567 until his assassination in 1570...

 in 1570, and William the Silent
William the Silent
William I, Prince of Orange , also widely known as William the Silent , or simply William of Orange , was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born in the House of...

, the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands in 1584. Gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 and other explosives also allowed the use of bombs or even greater concentrations of explosives for deeds requiring a larger touch.

Explosives, especially the car bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

, become far more common in modern history, with grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

s and remote-triggered land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s also used, especially in the Middle East and Balkans (the initial attempt on Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1889 until his death, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia...

's life was with a grenade). With heavy weapons, the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) has become a useful tool given the popularity of armored cars (discussed below), while Israeli forces have pioneered the use of aircraft-mounted missiles, as well as the innovative use of explosive devices.



A sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 with a precision rifle is often used in fictional assassinations. However, certain difficulties attend long-range shooting, including finding a hidden shooting position with a clear line-of-sight, detailed advance knowledge of the intended victim's travel plans, the ability to identify the target at long range, and the ability to score a first-round lethal hit at long range, usually measured in hundreds of meters. A dedicated sniper rifle
Sniper rifle
In military and law enforcement terminology, a sniper rifle is a precision-rifle used to ensure more accurate placement of bullets at longer ranges than other small arms. A typical sniper rifle is built for optimal levels of accuracy, fitted with a telescopic sight and chambered for a military...

 is also expensive, often costing thousands of dollars because of the high level of precision machining and hand-finishing required to achieve extreme accuracy.

Despite their comparative disadvantages, handgun
Handgun
A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and operated by one hand. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns ....

s are more easily concealable, and consequentially much more commonly used than rifles. Of 74 principal incidents evaluated in a major study about assassination attempts in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century, 51% were undertaken by a handgun, 30% with a rifle or shotgun, 15% used knives, and 8% explosives (usage of multiple weapons/methods was reported in 16% of all cases).

In the case of state-sponsored assassination, poisoning can be more easily denied. Georgi Markov
Georgi Markov
Georgi Ivanov Markov was a Bulgarian dissident writer.Markov originally worked as a novelist and playwright, but in 1969 he defected from Bulgaria, then governed by President Todor Zhivkov...

, a Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

n dissident was assassinated by ricin
Ricin
Ricin , from the castor oil plant Ricinus communis, is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein. A dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult. The LD50 of ricin is around 22 micrograms per kilogram Ricin , from the castor oil plant Ricinus communis, is a highly toxic, naturally...

 poisoning. A tiny pellet containing the poison was injected into his leg through a specially designed umbrella
Bulgarian umbrella
The Bulgarian umbrella is the name of an umbrella with a hidden pneumatic mechanism which shot out a small poisonous pellet containing ricin....

. Widespread allegations involving the Bulgarian government and KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 have not led to any legal results. However, it was learned that after fall of the USSR, the KGB had developed an umbrella that could inject ricin pellets into a victim, and two former KGB agents who defected said the agency assisted in the murder. The CIA has allegedly made several attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

, many of the schemes involving poisoning his cigars. In the late 1950s, KGB assassin Bohdan Stashynsky
Bohdan Stashynsky
Bohdan Stashynsky is the KGB assassin of Ukrainian nationalist leaders Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera who were killed in the late 1950s.-Early biography :...

 killed Ukrainian nationalist leaders Lev Rebet
Lev Rebet
Lev Rebet was a Ukrainian political writer and anti-communist during World War II. He was a key cabinet member in the Ukrainian government which proclaimed independence on June 30, 1941...

 and Stepan Bandera
Stepan Bandera
Stepan Andriyovych Bandera was a Ukrainian politician and one of the leaders of Ukrainian national movement in Western Ukraine , who headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists...

 with a spray gun that fired a jet of poison gas from a crushed cyanide
Cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

 ampule, making their deaths look like heart attacks. A 2006 case in the UK concerned the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko
Alexander Litvinenko poisoning
Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB and KGB, who escaped prosecution in Russia and received political asylum in the United Kingdom...

 who was given a lethal dose of radioactive polonium
Polonium
Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84, discovered in 1898 by Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. A rare and highly radioactive element, polonium is chemically similar to bismuth and tellurium, and it occurs in uranium ores. Polonium has been studied for...

-210, possibly passed to him in aerosol form sprayed directly onto his food. Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, had been granted asylum in the UK in 2000 after citing persecution in Russia. Shortly before his death he issued a statement accusing then-President of Russia Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when...

 of involvement in his assassination. President Putin denies he had any part in Litvinenko's death.

James Bell proposed "Assassination Politics" both as a political idea and as a logical consequence of anonymous cash. Essentially anonymous contributors fund those who can predict the time and manner of a given person's death; the "predictor" is also paid anonymously.

Targeted killing


Targeted killing is the intentional killing–by a government or its agents–of a civilian or "unlawful combatant
Unlawful combatant
An unlawful combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a civilian who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action.The Geneva Conventions apply in wars...

" targeted by the government, who is not in the government's custody. The target is a person taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, who has thereby lost the immunity from being targeted that he would otherwise have under the Third Geneva Convention
Third Geneva Convention
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...

. Note that this is a different term and concept from that of "targeted violence" as used by specialists who study violence
Violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

.

Ibrahim Nafie, writing in Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly
Al-Ahram Weekly
Al-Ahram Weekly is an Egyptian English-language weekly broadsheet printed by the Al-Ahram Publishing House in Cairo, Egypt.It was established in 1991 by the Al-Ahram newspaper, which also runs a French-language weekly version, Al-Ahram Hebdo....

in 2001, criticized the U.S. for agreeing with "the Israeli spin that calls ... its official policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders 'targeted killing.'"

On the other hand, Georgetown Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Georgetown University Law Center is the law school of Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C.. Established in 1870, the Law Center offers J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. degrees in law...

 Professor Gary Solis
Gary D. Solis
Gary D. Solis is an Adjunct Professor of Law who teaches the laws of war at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is an expert on the laws of war....

, in his 2010 book entitled The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War, writes: "Assassinations and targeted killings are very different acts". The use of the term assassination is opposed, as it denotes murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, whereas the terrorists are targeted in self-defense, and thus it is viewed as a killing, but not a crime. Judge Abraham Sofaer, former federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is a federal district court. Appeals from the Southern District of New York are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (in case...

, wrote on the subject:

When people call a targeted killing an "assassination," they are attempting to preclude debate on the merits of the action. Assassination is widely defined as murder, and is for that reason prohibited in the United States.... U.S. officials may not kill people merely because their policies are seen as detrimental to our interests.... But killings in self-defense are no more "assassinations" in international affairs than they are murders when undertaken by our police forces against domestic killers. Targeted killings in self-defense have been authoritatively determined by the federal government to fall outside the assassination prohibition.


In The Impact of 9/11 and the New Legal Landscape: The Day That Changed Everything?, the point is made that "There is a major difference between assassination and targeted killing.... targeted killing [is] not synonymous with assassination. Assassination ... constitutes an illegal killing." Similarly, Amos Guiora, Professor of law at the University of Utah, writes: "Targeted killing is ... not an assassination", Steve David
Steven R. David
Steven R. David is Professor of International Relations and Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in international politics and security issues.-Education and positions:...

, Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

 Associate Dean & Professor of International Relations, writes: "there are strong reasons to believe that the Israeli policy of targeted killing is not the same as assassination", Syracuse Law
Syracuse University College of Law
Syracuse University College of Law , founded in 1895, is a Juris Doctor degree-granting law school of Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. It is one of only four law schools in Upstate New York Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), founded in 1895, is a Juris Doctor degree-granting law...

 Professor William Banks and GW Law Professor Peter Raven-Hansen write: "Targeted killing of terrorists is ... not unlawful and would not constitute assassination", Rory Miller writes: "Targeted killing ... is not 'assassination'", and Associate Professor Eric Patterson and Teresa Casale write: "Perhaps most important is the legal distinction between targeted killing and assassination".

Targeted killing has been used by governments around the world, and become a frequent tactic of the United States and Israel in their fight against terrorism. The tactic can raise complex questions and lead to contentious disputes as to the legal basis for its application, who qualifies as an appropriate "hit list" target, and what circumstances must exist before the tactic may be employed. Opinions range from people considering it a legal form of self-defense that reduces terrorism, to people calling it an extra-judicial killing that lack due process, and which leads to more violence. Methods used have included firing a five-foot-long Hellfire missile from a Predator or Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle , capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Royal...

 drone
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

 (an unmanned, remote-controlled plane), detonating a cell phone bomb, and long-range sniper
Sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 shooting. Countries such as the U.S. (in Pakistan and Yemen) and Israel (in the West Bank and Gaza) have used targeted killing to kill members of groups such as Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 and Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

. In early 2010, with President Obama's approval, Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki
Anwar al-Awlaki was an American and Yemeni imam who was an engineer and educator by training. According to U.S. government officials, he was a senior talent recruiter and motivator who was involved with planning operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda...

 became the first U.S. citizen to be approved for targeted killing by the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA).

Early forms



One of the earliest forms of defense against assassins was employing bodyguard
Bodyguard
A bodyguard is a type of security operative or government agent who protects a person—usually a famous, wealthy, or politically important figure—from assault, kidnapping, assassination, stalking, loss of confidential information, terrorist attack or other threats.Most important public figures such...

s. Bodyguards act as a shield for the potential target, keeping lookout for potential attackers (sometimes in advance, for example on a parade route), and putting themselves in harm's way—both by simple presence, showing that physical force is available to protect the target, and by shielding the target during any attack. To neutralize an attacker, bodyguards are typically armed as much as legal and practical concerns permit.

This bodyguard function was often executed by the leader's most loyal warriors, and was extremely effective throughout most of early human history, leading assassins to attempt stealthy means, such as poison
Poison
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism....

 (which risk was answered by having another person taste the leader's food
Food taster
A food taster is a person that takes food to be served to someone else to confirm that it is safe to eat and does not contain toxins or poisons. The person to whom the food is going to be served is usually an important person, like an emperor or monarch, or anyone that could possibly be under...

 first).

Another notable measure is the use of a body double
Political decoy
A political decoy is a person employed to impersonate a politician, in order to draw attention away from the real person or to take risks on their behalf...

, a person who looks like the leader and who pretends to be the leader to draw attention away from the intended target.

Notable examples of bodyguards include the Roman Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 or the Ottoman Janissaries
Janissary
The Janissaries were infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguards...

—though, in both cases, the protectors sometimes became assassins themselves, exploiting their power to make the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 a virtual hostage or killing the very leaders they were supposed to protect. The fidelity of individual bodyguards is an important question as well, especially for leaders who oversee states with strong ethnic or religious divisions. Failure to realize such divided loyalties led to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister
Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister of India , as addressed to in the Constitution of India — Prime Minister for the Union, is the chief of government, head of the Council of Ministers and the leader of the majority party in parliament...

 Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhara was an Indian politician who served as the third Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms and a fourth term . She was assassinated by Sikh extremists...

, assassinated by two Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 bodyguards in 1984.

Modern strategies



With the advent of gunpowder, ranged assassination (via bombs or firearms) became possible. One of the first reactions was to simply increase the guard, creating what at times might seem a small army
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 trailing every leader; another was to begin clearing large areas whenever a leader was present, to the point where entire sections of a city might be shut down.

As the 20th century dawned, the prevalence and capability of assassins grew quickly, as did measures to protect against them. For the first time, armored cars or limousines
Armored car (VIP)
A civilian armored car is a security vehicle which made by replacing the windows of a standard vehicle with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armor plate into the body panels...

 were put into service for safer transport, with modern versions virtually invulnerable to small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 fire, smaller bombs and mines
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

. Bulletproof vest
Bulletproof vest
A ballistic vest, bulletproof vest or bullet-resistant vest is an item of personal armor that helps absorb the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the torso...

s also began to be used, which were of limited utility, restricting movement and leaving the head unprotected – so they only tended to be worn during high-profile public events, if at all.

Access to famous persons, too, became more and more restricted; potential visitors would be forced through numerous different checks before being granted access to the official in question, and as communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 became better and information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 more prevalent, it has become all but impossible for a would-be killer to get close enough to the personage at work or in private life to effect an attempt on his or her life, especially given the common use of metal
Metal detector
A metal detector is a device which responds to metal that may not be readily apparent.The simplest form of a metal detector consists of an oscillator producing an alternating current that passes through a coil producing an alternating magnetic field...

 and bomb detectors
Bomb disposal
Bomb disposal is the process by which hazardous explosive devices are rendered safe. Bomb disposal is an all encompassing term to describe the separate, but interrelated functions in the following fields:*Military:...

.

Most modern assassinations have been committed either during a public performance or during transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, both because of weaker security and security lapses, such as with U.S. President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 and former Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a democratic socialist who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996....

, or as part of coups d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 where security is either overwhelmed or completely removed, such as with Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Émery Lumumba was a Congolese independence leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo after he helped win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only ten weeks later, Lumumba's government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis...

 and likely Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende
Salvador Allende Gossens was a Chilean physician and politician who is generally considered the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in Latin America....

.


The methods used for protection by famous people have sometimes evoked negative reactions by the public, with some resenting the separation from their officials or major figures. One example might be traveling in a car protected by a bubble of clear bulletproof glass
Bulletproof glass
Bulletproof glass is a type of strong but optically transparent material that is particularly resistant to being penetrated when struck by bullets, but is not completely impenetrable. It is usually made from a combination of two or more types of glass, one hard and one soft...

, such as the Popemobile
Popemobile
Popemobile is an informal name for the specially designed motor vehicles used by the pope during outdoor public appearances without having to employ the antiquated and often impractical sedia gestatoria. The Popemobile was designed to allow the pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds...

 of Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 – built following an attempt at his life. Politicians often resent this need for separation – sometimes sending their bodyguards away from them for personal or publicity reasons; U.S. President William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

 did this at the public reception where he was assassinated.

Other potential targets go into seclusion, and are rarely heard from or seen in public, such as writer Salman Rushdie. A related form of protection is the use of body doubles
Political decoy
A political decoy is a person employed to impersonate a politician, in order to draw attention away from the real person or to take risks on their behalf...

  a person built similar to the person he is expected to impersonate. These persons are then made up, and in some cases altered
Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is a medical specialty concerned with the correction or restoration of form and function. Though cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is the best-known kind of plastic surgery, most plastic surgery is not cosmetic: plastic surgery includes many types of reconstructive surgery, hand...

 to look like the target, with the body double then taking the place of the person in high risk situations. According to Joe R. Reeder, Under Secretary of the Army from 1993–97, Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 has used body doubles.

United States Secret Service
United States Secret Service
The United States Secret Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency that is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The sworn members are divided among the Special Agents and the Uniformed Division. Until March 1, 2003, the Service was part of the United States...

 protective agents receive training in the psychology of assassins.

See also



  • Assassinations in fiction
    Assassinations in fiction
    Assassinations have formed a major plot element in various works of fiction and have also attracted scholarly attention. In Assassinations and Murder in Modern Italy: Transformations in Society and Culture, Stephen Gundle and Lucia Rinaldi analyze modern Italian assassinations in their historical...

  • Contract killing
    Contract killing
    Contract killing is a form of murder, in which one party hires another party to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for consideration, monetary, or otherwise. The hiring party may...

  • Death of Osama bin Laden
    Death of Osama bin Laden
    Osama bin Laden, then head of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1 a.m. local time by a United States special forces military unit....

  • History of assassination
    History of assassination
    Assassination, the murder of an opponent or well-known public figure, is one of the oldest tools of power struggles, as well as the expression of certain psychopathic disorders. It dates back to the earliest governments and tribal structures of the world....

  • List of assassinated people
  • List of assassinations and assassination attempts
  • List of assassins
  • List of United States presidential assassination attempts
  • List of unsuccessful assassinations
  • Special Activities Division
    Special Activities Division
    The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

     of the Central Intelligence Agency
    Central Intelligence Agency
    The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...



Further reading

  • Clarke, James W. (2006). Defining Danger: American Assassins and the New Domestic Terrorists, 2006.
  • Clarke, James W. (2011). "America's History of Crazy Political Assassins Didn't Begin with Loughner", History News Network, Jan. 28, 2011. Review The Daily Telegraph
    The Daily Telegraph
    The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

    , Apr 3, 2010.

External links


  • Assassinology.org a website dedicated to the study of assassination
  • Notorious Assassinations – slideshow by Life magazine
  • CNN
    CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

     A short article on the U.S. policy banning political assassination since 1976 from CNN.com/Law Center, November 4, 2002. See also Ford's
    Gerald Ford
    Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

     1976 executive order. However, Executive Order 12333
    Executive Order 12333
    On December 4, 1981 President Ronald Reagan signedExecutive Order 12333,an Executive Order intended toextend powers and responsibilities of US intelligence agencies and direct the leaders of U.S...

    , which prohibited the CIA from assassinations, was relaxed by the George W. Bush administration
    George W. Bush administration
    The presidency of George W. Bush began on January 20, 2001, when he was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States of America. The oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush, George W...

    .
  • Kretzmer, David (PDF)
  • Is the CIA Assassination Order of a US Citizen Legal? – video by Democracy Now!
    Democracy Now!
    Democracy Now! and its staff have received several journalism awards, including the Gracie Award from American Women in Radio & Television; the George Polk Award for its 1998 radio documentary Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship, on the Chevron Corporation and the deaths of...