An assassination attack is the killing of a person of importance, usually for political reasons. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an assassination as a sudden or secret attack; and to injure or destroy unexpectedly and treacherously. There have been many alarming assassination attacks throughout history. Which ones had the greatest impact on people? There was even an assassination on here that made people so distraught, that several people committed suicide.
Presidential, world leader, activist, and celebrity assassinations have left the world in mourning far too many times. Evidence of assassinations taking place has been imprinted in our history as far back as we can go.
As a result of tragic experiences in the past, most governments now surround their leaders with protection. Even so, nothing really guarantees the safety of a prominent public figure.
In most cases, there is a clear motive as to why the assassin felt the victim needed to be killed. Depending on what kind of public figure the person is, motive can vary from jealousy, to political or religious idealism, contract killing, or revenge.
Assassinations are a disastrous, yet inevitable part of history. Check out the list below to read about the 15 of the most alarming assassination attacks in world history.
15. Abraham Lincoln
One of the most notorious assassinations was the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and held tenure from 1861 until his death in 1865.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th 1865 by a well-known actor and confederate named John Wilkes Booth. Turns out, Booth was a confederate spy who had grown angry and frustrated with the President because of his support for the freedom of African Americans.
The assassination took place at a theater where Lincoln was attending a show. The President’s bodyguard stepped out of the theater during an intermission to have a drink at the saloon next door. Booth waited until the audience was loud with laughter and then fired a bullet into the President’s head. Lincoln was 56 years old at the time of his death.
John Wilkes Booth did escape the day of the assassination. Twelve days later he was found and fatally shot by Police Sergeant Boston Corbett on April 26, 1865.
14. James Abram Garfield
Being the President of the United States automatically makes a man a target for assassins and political terrorists. James Abram Garfield was the 20th President of the United States. Unfortunately, his term only lasted 200 days before he was tragically assassinated by Charles J. Guiteau.
Guiteau was a writer, lawyer and preacher who strongly believed the he was responsible for Garfield’s victory in the Presidential Election.
Guiteau watched the President closely for a number of weeks before he took action. On July 2, 1881 Guiteau followed Garfield while he was walking through the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station and shot him twice in the back.
The President did not actually die at the time of the shooting. Garfield went on to live another two months in the hospital before he died in September of ’81 due to unsanitary surgical conditions that caused an infection.
Guiteau was caught and tried for the assassination of the President of the Untied States and was found guilty on January 25, 1882. He was hanged in the District of Columbia five months later.
13. Robert F. Kennedy
It’s safe to say that the majority of Americans are aware of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. What many people probably did not know was that John F. Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated as well.
Robert F. Kennedy was shot by a Palestinian man named Sirhan Sirhan on June 5, 1968. The assassination occurred following an address to his political supporters after winning the California presidential primary.
Robert took a shortcut through the kitchen on his way out, despite being advised against it by his bodyguards. In the crowded kitchen passageway, Sirhan Sirhan was able to get to and shoot Senator Kennedy three times. Kennedy survived the initial shooting but died a day later in the hospital from his injuries.
Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969 and was sentenced to death in the gas chamber. However, three years later, after many, many appeals to the court were made by Sirhan, his sentence was lessened to life in prison.
12. Faisal bin Musaid
Faisal bin Musaid Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1965 to 1975. In one of the most shocking assassinations ever committed, the King was killed by his own nephew.
On March 25, 1975 the King greeted his nephew, Prince Faisal bin Musaid, who had just returned from a trip to the United States. The King leaned in to kiss is nephew [in accordance with Saudi custom] and the Prince drew a pistol and fired directly at the King.
King Musaid was shot twice in the head. The Prince was captured directly after the attack and was eventually sentenced to death. He was beheaded on June 18, 1975 in Riyadh.
11. William McKinley
Sadly, you have not seen the last of the presidents on this list of shocking assassination attacks. William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States. His term lasted from March of 1897 until September of 1901 when he was fatally shot.
President McKinley was assassinated by a second generation Polish immigrant named Leon Czolgosz. The shooter was inspired by the noted anarchist Emma Goldman. Czolgosz waited in a line to meet the President after he had returned from a visit to Niagara Falls.
When he got to the front of the line, Czolgosz took out a pistol that he had concealed in a handkerchief and shot the President twice in the stomach.
Czolgosz was found guilty of assassinating the President of the United States on September 24, 1901 and sentenced to death. He was executed just a month later on October 29 by electric chair.
10. Harvey Bernard Milk
A lot of people won’t necessarily recognize this name on the list, but the assassination of Harvey Bernard Milk is an important one to date in history. Harvey Bernard Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
Milk won his seat as city supervisor for San Francisco in 1977. He served in the position for just under 11 months before he was killed, along with Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco.
Milk and Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his old job back. After a hostile confrontation, White shot both Milk and Mocscone dead on November 27, 1978.
9. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Many people know Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as just ‘Gandhi.’ Gandhi was the leader of Indian Nationalism in British Controlled India.
Gandhi was a man who believed in following a path of nonviolent civil disobedience. He eventually led India to its independence.
One day on his way to a prayer meeting, Gandhi was accosted by Nathuram Godse who fired three bullets into his chest at point-blank range. Gandhi was immediately taken to Birla House following the attack, but he did not survive.
On November 8, 1949 Godse was sentenced to death and hanged a week later. It is believed that Godse’s motive behind the assassination was driven by his anger over India’s decision to give 420 million rupees to Pakistan. Godse believed that by doing so, India had been weakened when Pakistan gained independence.
Godse considered himself a Brahmin. A Brahmin is a member of the highest caste or varna in Hinduism. The Brahmins are the caste from which Hindu priests are drawn, and are responsible for teaching and maintaining sacred knowledge.
Following the assassination, massive anti-Brahmin riots took place. People were holding the Indian government responsible and harshly criticized them for not protecting Gandhi well enough. Gandhi had experienced multiple assassination attempts prior to being shot by Godse.
8. John F. Kennedy
Notably the most infamous presidential assassination in history is that of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Some consider the assassination to be the most controversial case in modern American history.
Although he had not announced his candidacy formally before his death, it was clear the President Kennedy was going to run and seemed confident about his chances for re-election. The trip to Dallas and the other eight states President JFK visited beforehand was meant to put a spotlight on natural resources and conservation efforts. One of his main goals visiting Dallas was to bring all of the Democrats together.
Crowds of excited citizens lined the streets to get their chance to see and wave to the Kennedys. Just after 12:30 p.m. after passing the Texas School Book Depository, the sound of gunfire reverberated through the plaza.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald as he rode in a convertible through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Since the attack, there have been numerous conspiracy theories suggesting that Oswald was not the only one involved in the assassination. American citizens were stunned and outraged.
7. Lee Harvey Oswald
Wait a sec, isn’t this the man that we just read assassinated JFK? Why yes, it is. In fact, Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated himself just two days after he went through with the assassination attack on John F. Kennedy.
Honestly, he should have seen it coming after he killed one of the most loved U.S. Presidents in American history. On November 24, 1963, Oswald was brought to the basement of the Dallas Police headquarters on his was to a more secure county jail.
A crowd of police and press gathered to watch his departure when a man named Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd and killed Oswald with a single shot from a .38 revolver. Ruby was immediately detained.
Some call him a hero, but he was nonetheless charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Jack Ruby operated strip joints and dance halls throughout Dallas and was thought to have had minor connections to organized crime. Ruby also had close relationships with a number of Dallas policemen.
Ruby features prominently in Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories. Many believe that he killed Oswald to keep him from revealing a larger conspiracy.
6. Georgi Markov
Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian dissent writer who abandoned his country in favor of another in 1969. Markov was working with Radio Free Europe. Many people refer to the death and assassination of Georgi Markov as an ‘umbrella murder.’
Bulgarian secret police had supposedly tried to silence the writer and when their efforts failed, it is thought they sought help from the KGB in 1978.
According to stories, Markov was on his way to the office when he felt a sharp prick on his leg. When he turned around, he saw a man pick up an umbrella right next to him and quickly hopped into a cab and sped away. Markov did not think too much of this. He got to the office and noticed a small, red, pimple-like growth on his leg.
Well, four days later Georgi Markov was dead. How? It is believed that the umbrella tip was modified to inject a ricin pellet. No one has ever been charged for Markov’s death, but all fingers point to the Bulgarian police and the KGB.
5. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was the leader of the Civil Rights movement. He was assassinated in the late 60s by James Earl Ray.
A confirmed racist and small-time criminal, Ray began plotting the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in early 1968. He shot and killed King in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Ray actually confessed to the crime the following March. Ray had claimed that he was a player in a conspiracy, but no proof was ever found to verify that claim. Some of King’s family members believe that the U.S. government had something to do with his death.
Ray shot King, who was standing on a second-floor balcony, with a sniper’s bullet that struck him in the neck. Dr. King was pronounced dead about an hour later. He was 39 years old.
Shock and anger from the assassination sparked rioting in more than 100 cities across the country. People were burning cars, setting fires, and looting. In the months following Dr. King’s death, a wave of national mourning poured over the country.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s death did lead to one positive outcome. President Lyndon B. Johnson urged citizens not to give into the violence that had killed King, whom he called “the apostle of nonviolence.”
Johnson called on Congress to speedily pass the civil rights legislation. On April 11, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act.
4. Alexander Litvinenko
A public inquiry into the killing of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has concluded that President Putin probably approved his assassination. But who was Alexander Litvinenko and why did his death cause such controversy?
Litvineko was a former spy who was killed in November of 2006. He was 46 years old. He had previously been an officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, but he unexpectedly and abruptly fled to Britain. In his final years, he even went as far as to become a British citizen. His death led to a clouding of relations between London and Moscow.
After he was killed by radioactive polonium-210, believed to have been administered in a cup of tea, it emerged the father-of-one was being paid by the British secret service MI6. It is often theorized that Litvineko was investigating Spanish links to the Russian mafia.
His widow has said he blamed the Kremlin as he lay dying in hospital saying Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for “everything that happened to him.” Russia denies any involvement.
For those of you non-Russians, the Kremlin refers to The Moscow Kremlin, usually referred to as the Kremlin, is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is also another word for The President of Russia.
3. Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a revolutionary activist and writer. He was assassinated in 1665 in New York City by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity in Washington Heights.
Malcolm X publicly promoted self-defense and the liberation of African Americans “by any means necessary.” Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.
The three Black Muslim men that were held responsible for Malcolm X’s death were Talmadge Hayer (Thomas Hagan), Norman 3X Butler, Thomas 15X Johnson.
Malcolm X had defected from the Nation of Islam, and his assassins were agents of the Nation of Islam. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed his sadness and motivated other activists and other radicals to continue his legacy.
Malcolm X’s father was also killed for what he believed in. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion.
2. Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. The only woman on this list, Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Bhutto was in office from 1988-1990 and again from 1993 to 1996.
Bhutto was hanging out of the sunroof of her bulletproof vehicle while she rode off from a campaign rally she had just attended. She was shot as bombs exploded around her. She died in the hospital hours later.
There are a few theories going around as to who killed Benazir Bhutto. Al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed responsibility for the attack and referred to her as “the most precious American asset.”
The blame also falls on ex-military director and former President Pervez Musharraf, according to a four-page statement recently released by her friend and American journalist Mark Siegel, the Press Trust of India for not ordering enough protection for her.
Riots broke out in Pakistan after news of Bhutto’s assassination hit. Over 20 people were killed and lots of properties were destroyed. Bhutto’s death also caused the international community to encourage Pakistan to continue to push for democracy.
1. John Lennon
Easily one of the most infamous assassinations of all time, not including government officials, was that of Beatles member and activist, John Lennon.
On the night of December 8, 1980, an initial bulletin came over the Associated Press newswire shortly after 11:25 p.m., Eastern Standard Time: “There’s a report that John Lennon has been shot. It happened in New York. On the Upper West Side.”
John and his wife, Yoko Ono, were returning to their home from a session at the recording studio. When they got out of their limousine, a man named Mark David Chapman shot Lennon dead in the street.
Chapman was caught minutes later by the authorities. They found him reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, “I’m sure the large part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.”
A worldwide outpouring of grief and tribute followed John Lennon’s assassination, culminating in a 10-minute silent vigil on December 14 that saw some 100,000 people gather in New York’s Central Park and tens of thousands of others in cities around the world.
At least two of John Lennon’s fans committed suicide after his assassination. The world was grieving a fallen star that had been taken too soon. There was a 10-minute silent vigil for him in New York City’s Central Park that saw over 100,000 people.
Yoko Ono later made a statement regarding Mark David Chapman, saying “I don’t even want to think about him, and I usually don’t. Because it’s so irrelevant who pulled the trigger. That was not what was relevant. The fact that John’s gone is what we’re living with.”