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Roots of Terrorism
teachers guide


Key Events

  • Strategies for Discussion
  • Program Descriptions
  • Credits and Acknowledgments

  • Background
  • Key Events
  • Select Individuals by Program
  • Key Organizations
  • Maps of the Region
  • Country Briefings
  • "Basic Facts About Islam"

  • Classroom Activities
  • Activity 1: Roots of Hatred
  • Activity 2: Defining Terrorism
  • Activity 3: Defining an Ally
  • Activity 4: Views of bin Laden
  • Activity 5: U.N. Simulations
  • Activity 6: Making Connections
  • Activity 7: Media and Perception
  • Activity 8: Debates, Discussion Questions, and Writing Prompts
  • Activity 9: How Are You Being Represented?

  • Resources
    Where to go on the Web for more information

    This chronology traces the major events that are covered in the FRONTLINE films. For additional background, see the chronology of Osama bin Laden's political life on the "Hunting bin Laden" website and the timeline of terrorist attacks against Americans (from 1979-1988) on the website for "Target America."

    Jimmy Carter becomes president of the U.S. He serves until January 1981.

    Shah of Iran is overthrown.

    Soviets invade Afghanistan; U.S. supports the mujahedeen in war against Soviets. (Osama bin Laden leaves Saudi Arabia to join the Afghan resistance.)

    After more than two years of negotiations between Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, and U.S. representatives, Egypt and Israel sign peace treaty.

    Fifty-two Americans are taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran.

    Ronald Reagan becomes president of the U.S. He serves until January 1989.

    American hostages in Iran are released.

    Islamists assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

    Israel invades Lebanon. U.S. sends Marines to Lebanon to oversee the peaceful withdrawal of the PLO from Beirut. After the U.S. troops leave, Israel's Lebanese allies massacre an estimated 800 unarmed Palestinian civilians remaining in refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila. Following this, 1,800 Marines are ordered back into Lebanon.

    U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is bombed. Sixty-three people are killed, including 17 Americans.

    Marine barracks in Lebanon are bombed. U.S. responds by shelling hills above Beirut.

    Marines pull out of Lebanon.

    U.S. Embassy and several other targets in Kuwait are bombed.

    Seventeen people (known as the "Kuwait 17" or "Al Dawa 17") are imprisoned for the Kuwait bombings.

    In Aukar, northeast of Beirut, a truck bomb explodes outside the U.S. Embassy annex killing 24 people, two of whom are U.S. military personnel.

    CIA Station Chief William Buckley is kidnapped. Over the next decade, 30 Westerners are kidnapped; the ransom demand is usually the release of the Al Dawa 17.

    Operatives allegedly trained by the CIA set off a car bomb in an attempt to kill Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the Shiite Muslim cleric who some believe to be the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Over 80 people are killed in the attack near a Beirut mosque. Fadlallah survives. President Reagan and the CIA call off covert operations.

    TWA Flight 847 is hijacked en route from Athens to Rome and forced to land in Beirut, Lebanon, where the hijackers hold the plane for 17 days. They demand the release of the Kuwait 17 as well as the release of 700 fellow Shiite Muslim prisoners being held in Israeli prisons.

    The "arms for hostages" deal, which eventually becomes known as the Iran-Contra affair, begins. In August 1985, the first consignment of arms -- 100 anti-tank missiles provided by Israel -- is sent to Iran. Another 408 are sent the following month.

    Four gunmen hijack the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and demand the release of Palestinian prisoners in Egypt, Italy, and elsewhere.

    Attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

    An American soldier is killed when a bomb is detonated at La Belle, a discotheque in West Berlin popular with off-duty U.S. servicemen. A Turkish woman is killed, and nearly 200 others are wounded. U.S. intelligence sources indicate that Libya is responsible for the attack.

    President Reagan orders retaliatory air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya.

    Palestinian uprising, known as "the intifada," begins.

    Osama bin Laden establishes Al Qaeda, based in Peshawar, Pakistan.

    Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland; U.S. blames Libya.

    George H.W. Bush becomes president of the U.S. He serves until January 1993.

    National Islamic Front takes control of Sudan in a military coup.

    Soviets pull out of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden returns to Saudi Arabia as a hero and opposition leader.

    Iraq invades Kuwait. (For more information, see the website for "The Gulf War," and also the companion teachers guide.)

    U.S. sends troops to Saudi Arabia in advance of the Persian Gulf war.

    Osama bin Laden flees Saudi Arabia for Sudan, where he operates several businesses.

    The Soviet Union collapses.

    Bill Clinton becomes president of the U.S. He serves until January 2001.

    World Trade Center is bombed.

    U.S. troops are killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, as they attempt to capture Mohammed Farah Aidid, a Somali warlord. (For more information, see FRONTLINE's website for "Ambush in Mogadishu," as well as the companion teachers guide.)

    Saudi government revokes Osama bin Laden's citizenship and freezes his Saudi assets because of his support for Muslim fundamentalist movements.

    Unsuccessful assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

    Sudan, under U.S. and Saudi pressure, expels Osama bin Laden, who then moves to Afghanistan.

    In Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a truck bomb explodes outside the Khobar Towers, which are home to nearly half of the 5,000-member military force in Saudi Arabia. Nineteen U.S. servicemen are killed and more than 500 others are injured, 240 of whom are American.

    Al Jazeera, an Arab satellite TV channel, begins broadcasting from Qatar.

    Fifty-eight foreign tourists are killed by Islamists at Luxor, Egypt.

    Osama bin Laden and a coalition of Islamic groups known as the World Islamic Front issue a fatwa stating that Muslims should kill Americans and Jews for oppressing Muslims, placing infidel troops on holy land, and plundering oil reserves.

    U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are simultaneously bombed. The bomb in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 U.S. nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The bomb in Dar es Salaam kills 11 and injures 85. No Americans die in the Tanzania bombing.

    The U.S. retaliates by bombing the Al Shifa chemical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, and suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

    Plots to bomb millennium celebrations are thwarted.

    USS Cole is attacked in Yemeni harbor. Al Qaeda operatives are implicated.

    U.S. gives Taliban more than $240 million to repress drug trade.

    George W. Bush becomes president of the U.S.

    On Sept. 11, hijackers commandeer four commercial airliners. The twin towers at the World Trade Center are destroyed and the Pentagon is badly damaged. The fourth plane crashes in Pennsylvania. Thousands are killed.

    U.S. launches an offensive against Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan.

    Hamid Karzai becomes interim leader of Afghanistan.

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