Many people debate over how appropriate it is to take photographs during sensitive times such as a funeral, a terrorist attack, or any number of massacres that happen daily. Understandably, someone who pulls out their cellphone to snap a photo during a crisis where people’s lives are in danger, will likely get nasty stares. While it is important to maintain a level of respect and understanding amidst difficult situations, an argument can also be made for why photos in times of turmoil are actually necessary. Of course, if you can offer help to whoever is in need during one of these tragedies, your reflex should be to do so rather than taking a photo. With that said, let’s move on with the pros that come with taking pictures during such events…
In order to keep people informed, having photos accompany a news story brings awareness and understanding into the emotional impact that goes hand-in-hand with these heinous events. In fact, two of our photos named The Falling Man and Madonna of Bentalha have earned awards for their emotional and honest portrayal of terrorist attacks.
These photos may not be for the faint of heart but they welcome readers into the very real world of terrorism in order to remind us all that even if we don’t see or experience these events, that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen.
On September 11th, 2001, two planes were steered into the World Trade Centre, killing 2,996 people and wounding 6,000 others. The Islamic terrorist attack was named the worst terrorist attack in world history.
Reporters and photographers spent days bringing coverage to the public. Of the countless photos and videos taken, Associated Press photographer, Richard Drew, captured a photo that earned the most fame for its emotional portrayal of the event. The Falling Man depicts a man who dove from the burning building to his death below. For years he was unidentified until family members came forward to claim that the anonymous man was Jonathan Briley.
14. 2015 Paris Attacks
In 2015, ISIS led an attack on Paris involving several bombings and shootings, which left hundreds of people severely injured, 130 of whom passed away.
Six attacks total took place that day. The first explosion occurred in the Stade de France after a man was denied entry into the stadium during a security check. Armed with a suicide belt, he backed away from security and detonated his belt. He and several civilians were killed in the blast. Later that same day armed gunmen walked into Le Carillion bar and opened fire. Witnesses recall how a man then opened fire on Le Petit Cambodge down the street. 15 were left dead with another 15 injured. The most serious was an attack on the packed concert hall, Boulevard Voltaire which killed 89 and left approximately 99 in the hospital.
13. Beslan School Siege
In 2004, armed Muslim terrorists took 1,200 people hostage on September 1st, a day when the school year typically begins in Russia. They kept them there for days before the school collapsed after explosives were detonated.
Eight people were killed during the school’s intrusion and ten others were murdered after the attackers had already gathered the 1,200 hostages into the school’s gym. The attackers forced children to stand in the windows as human shields, threatened to murder hostages if their demands weren’t met, and rejected offers of cash and safe evacuation out of the area.
On the second day, two explosives went off in the gym, destroying the roof and trapping hostages underneath the rubble. Most of the hostages were released but the death toll reached into the hundreds.
12. Yazidi Communities Bombing
In 2007, four suicide bombings took place throughout the Yazidi towns of Jazeera and Kahtaniya. The attacks left over 700 dead and approximately one thousand others injured.
The bombings took place after five fuel tankers were driven into the Yazidi-populated communities and detonated, levelling buildings and decimated the towns. The tankers were set off around the same time as one another, causing maximum destruction. Hospitals were so flooded with those wounded that they ran out of medicine to treat them. Many of those were wounded or killed were only children. The bombings came in the middle of a conflict between the Yazidis and Sunni Muslims. Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesperson stated that Al-Qaeda was the prime suspect.
11. May 2013 Iraq Attacks
Between May 15 and May 21 in 2013, a total of nine car bombs detonated in Iraq, causing hundreds to be wounded and leaving several hundred people dead.
Explosions went off near bus stops as well as in front of government offices, which led to the deaths of dozens of civilians. An explosion also went off outside of a Sunni mosque as worshippers were heading home after prayers. Of those mainly affected by the targeted attacks were Sunni communities, which was said to be in response to the attacks against the Shi’ite communities.
10. London Bombings
In 2005, three bombings occurred on three individual London trains leaving 700 wounded and over 50 people dead.
The first explosion went off on a train departing King’s Cross and left six dead. The second went off on a train between Liverpool and Aldgate, which left seven dead and the third explosion happened on a train between King’s Cross and Russell Square. The third bombing proved to be the most deadly and left 26 dead in the attack. A fourth and final suicide bomb took place on a double-decker bus and left 13 people dead.
In 2012 internal Al-Qaeda documents revealed that Rashid Rauf, an Al-Qaeda operative planned the bombings, which were said to be carried out by groups under the order of Mohammed Siddique Khan and Muktar Said Ibrahim.
9. Oklahoma City Bombing
Before the September 11 attacks became the worst act of terrorism to date, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 was the deadliest act of terrorism recorded. The explosion killed 169 people, 18 of whom were children. 500 others were left wounded.
Timothy McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols were convicted of the bombing. Both were former soldiers and expressed extreme right-wing views and beliefs. Upon his arrest, McVeigh stated that he conducted the attack as a retaliation for the attack on Waco. After the attacks, while Nichols turned himself in, McVeigh was arrested and sentenced to lethal injection in 2001. In 2004, Nichols received a sentence of 161 consecutive life terms without a chance for parole.
8. Pan Am Flight 103
In 1988, a Pan Am flight exploded only moments after taking off and crashed into Lockerbie. All 243 passengers along with all 16 crew members were killed. An additional 11 were killed on the ground when the plane crashed.
An arrest warrant was put out for two Libyan nationals, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah and in 1999, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi handed them over to the U.S. for sentencing. Mohmed al-Megrahi was charged in 2001 and found guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison and was given the chance for parole after he spent at least 20 years in jail. Another Libyan national, Fhimah was also charged but eventually found not guilty. Gaddafi admitted responsibility for the attack in 2003 and paid compensation to the families.
7. Quebec City Mosque Attack
In a recent act of violence that took place just this past January, a terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque left six people dead.
Two months ago Alexandre Bissonnette walked into a Quebec City mosque and began shooting worshippers as they prayed. The 27-year-old student from Laval University was known for his anti-feminist thinking and right-wing beliefs. He also portrayed himself as an anti-foreigner who supported Donald Trump. He was convicted and charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder using a restricted firearm.
6. Boston Bombing
In 2013, brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had set bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which led to the deaths of three people and injured approximately 200 others. The victims were Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy, Krystle Campbell who was 29, and Lingzi Lu, aged 23.
The Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechen descent and had legally immigrated to the United States. After the terrorist attacks, the brothers stole a car and attempted to evade police. After engaging in gunfire with police and pitching explosives, Tamerlan is wounded and later succumbed to his injuries. Dzhokhar was later caught and pled not guilty to over 30 federal charges. However, as of 2015 he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
5. Bentalha Massacre
In 1997, armed forces marched into Bentalha and murdered hundreds. Initially, an explosion was set off before troops entered the village and began torturing and murdering hundreds of men, women, and children who lived there. The Armed Islamic Group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Out of the attack came perhaps just as notorious a photo as The Falling Man. This photograph was taken by Hocine Zaourar, who was a photographer working from Agence-France Presse at the time. The woman he captured was one mourning the loss of her family members outside of a hospital. The photo was soon splashed all over the pages of multiple newspapers and she was eventually given the name, The Madonna of Bentalha.
4. 2004 Madrid Train Bombings
In March 2004, ten bombs exploded on four trains in Madrid, an attack that became the worst in European history since 1988. The explosions left 191 dead and over 1,800 people wounded.
Explosives were smuggled into the trains via small bags such as backpacks and gym bags. After the attacks, police continued to investigate for months afterward. In April, police attempted to raid the house of suspected attackers and were killed during the invasion after seven suspected terrorists killed themselves and policemen with a suicide bomb. Islamic militants in Spain who took heavy influence from Al-Qaeda admitted to the bombings, evidence of which was found in a letter and video message. Over 60 people were arrested and questioned in connection with the attacks while 29 people were actually indicted.
3. 2014 Peshawar School Massacre
In 2014, a school in Peshawar, Pakistan was attacked by members of the Taliban who entered the school and began firing at students.
Approximately half a dozen Taliban militants walked into the school during the morning hours and began to open fire on students. Pakistani troops were immediately sent to rescue hostages and eliminate the threat, which they did by killing 36 of the suspected gunmen. Soon after the attacks, Taliban spokesperson, Mohammed Khurasani claimed he was responsible for the attack and said that his reason behind it was an act of revenge. After several Taliban members were killed by Pakistani authorities, Khurasani sought revenge by organizing an attack on the school.
2. Federal Government College Attack
A Nigerian boarding school was attacked on February 2014 in an event that left over 200 young students dead at the hands of Boko Haram. The school is attended by young boys from the ages of 11 to 18.
The Boko Haram entered the school and began to slaughter students before burning the entire building to the ground. When interviewed, Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai told CBC that some of the students’ bodies were also burned to ashes.
Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is sinful” and the terrorist group has been known to target schools in the past. Their attack on the Federal Government college was just one of many in a short period of time. In February 2014 alone they murdered over 300 civilians.
1. Baghdad Car Bombs
In July 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for a series of car bombs that went off in the span of one week that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.
Droves of people had gathered in a busy Baghdad square to watch the Euro 2016 Cup and celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast when a car bomb detonated and took the lives of 125 people in addition to injuring 147 others. The attacks were said to be the deadliest one in years.
The series of attacks came soon after the United States had said that ISIS was losing their power in the warfare across Syria and Iraq.