From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"I am led to believe, that among the Ismailites, those only were termed Hashishin, who were specially educated to commit murder, and who were, by the use of Hashish disposed to an absolute resignation to the will of their chief; this, however, may not have prevented the denomination from being applied to Ismailites collectively, especially among the Occidentals." --Silvestre de Sacy cited in The History of the Assassins: Derived from Oriental Sources (1818) by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall
An assassination may be prompted by religious, ideological, political, or military motives; it is an act that may be done for financial gain, to avenge a grievance, from a desire to acquire fame or notoriety, or because of a military or security services command to carry out the murder.
The word assassin is often believed to derive from the word Hashshashin (Persian: حشّاشين, ħashshāshīyīn, also Hashishin, Hashashiyyin, or Assassins). It referred to a group that was part of the Nizari branch of the Ismā'īlī Shia.
Founded by the Hassan-i Sabbah, the Assassins were active in the fortress of Alamut in Iran from the 8th to the 14th centuries, and also controlled the castle of Masyaf in Syria. The group killed members of the Muslim Abbasid, Seljuq, and Christian Crusader élite for political and religious reasons.
Although it is commonly believed that Assassins were under the influence of hashish during their killings or during their indoctrination, there is debate as to whether these claims have merit, with many Eastern writers and an increasing number of Western academics coming to believe that drug-taking was not the key feature behind the name. The earliest known literary use of the word assassination is in Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605).
Use in history
Ancient to medieval times
Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics. It dates back at least as far as recorded history.
The Old Testament story of Judith illustrates how a woman frees the Israelites by tricking and assassinating Holofernes, a warlord of the rival Assyrians, with whom the Israelites were at war. King Joash of Judah was recorded as being assassinated by his own servants; and King Sennacherib of Assyria was assassinated by his own sons.
Chanakya (c. 350–283 BC) wrote about assassinations in detail in his political treatise Arthashastra. His student Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire, later made use of assassinations against some of his enemies, including two of Alexander the Great's generals, Nicanor and Philip. Other famous victims are Philip II of Macedon (336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, and Roman consul Julius Caesar (44 BC). 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's failed assassination of King Qin Shi Huang (227 BC).
In the Middle Ages, regicide 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, tyrannicide—or assassination for personal or political reasons—became more common again in Western Europe. High medieval sources 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 Byzantines against the Seljuk Turks. This account is, however, contentious among historians, it being 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. In 1192, Conrad of Montferrat, the de facto King of Jerusalem, was killed by an assassin.
In the modern world, 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. In Russia alone, two emperors, Paul I and Alexander II, were assassinated within 80 years.
In the United States, within 100 years, four presidents—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy—died at the hands of assassins. There have been at least 20 known attempts on U.S. presidents' lives. In Austria, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalist insurgents (The Black Hand) is blamed for igniting World War I after a succession of minor conflicts, while belligerents on both sides in World War II used operatives specifically trained for assassination. Reinhard Heydrich was killed after an attack by British trained Czechoslovak soldiers on behalf of the Czechoslovak government in exile in Operation Anthropoid, and knowledge from decoded transmissions allowed the U.S. to carry out a targeted attack, killing Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto while he was travelling by plane. The Polish Home Army conducted a regular campaign of assassinations against top Nazi German officials in occupied Poland. Adolf Hitler, meanwhile, was almost killed by his own officers, and survived various attempts by other persons and organizations (such as Operation Foxley, though this plan was never put into practice).
During the 1930s and 1940s Joseph Stalin's NKVD carried out numerous assassinations outside of the Soviet Union, such as the killings of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists leader Yevhen Konovalets, Ignace Poretsky, Fourth International secretary Rudolf Klement, Leon Trotsky, and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) leadership in Catalonia.
The American Civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. African-American Activist Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party was assassinated on December 4, 1969.
Cold War and beyond
Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated by Saad Akbar, 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, were potential reasons for his assassination. [[File:JFK limousine.png|thumb|220px|President Kennedy minutes before his assassination, November 22, 1963.]] In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, 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 (the Church Committee) 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, the U.S., Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, and other nations accused of still regularly engaging in such operations. In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan (who survived an assassination attempt himself) ordered the Operation El Dorado Canyon air raid on Libya in which one of the primary targets was the home residence of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi escaped unharmed; however, his adopted daughter Hanna was claimed to be one of the civilian casualties.
In the Philippines, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. triggered the eventual downfall of the 20-year autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino, a former Senator and a leading figure of the political opposition, was assassinated in 1983 at the Manila International Airport (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport) upon returning home from exile. His death thrust his widow, Corazon Aquino, into the limelight and, ultimately, the presidency following the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.
After the Iranian Revolution 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, because a German court publicly implicated senior members of the government and issued arrest warrants for Ali Fallahian, 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 Gen. M. Zia ul Haq died alongside 31 others including the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Armed Forces, the US Ambassador to Pakistan and the chief of the US Military Mission to Pakistan when his C-130 transport plane mysteriously crashed. The crash is widely considered – inside of Pakistan – to be an act of political assassination.
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 Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi (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, respectively.
Israeli tourist minister Rehavam Ze'evi was assassinated on October 17, 2001, by Hamdi Quran 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, the Secretary General of the PFLP, by the Israeli Air Force under its policy of targeted killings.
In Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, prompted an investigation by the United Nations. The suggestion in the resulting Mehlis report that there was Syrian involvement, prompted the Cedar Revolution, which drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon.
In Pakistan, former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto 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 was assassinated in the early hours of March 2, 2009, in the capital, Bissau. 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.
- Assassinations in fiction
- Contract killing
- List of assassins
- List of assassinated people
- List of unsuccessful assassinations
- List of assassinations and assassination attempts
- List of United States presidential assassination attempts
- Special Activities Division