Special Report

The Most Famous Failed Assassinations

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26. Elizabeth II, queen of the United Kingdom
> Date: Oct. 14, 1981
> Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
> Method of attack: Gun
> Attacker: Christopher John Lewis

There were assassination attempts on three world leaders in 1981, with the attack on Queen Elizabeth II the third of three after assassination attempts on President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The monarch was shot at by a teenager while she was visiting New Zealand. The assailant was Christopher John Lewis, a troubled 17-year-old, who fired a single round from a .22 caliber rifle at the queen that missed. Lewis was charged with treason at first but that charge was reduced and Lewis was prosecuted for other firearms violations. Lewis eventually committed suicide in 1997 while he was being held for the murder of a woman.

27. Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein
> Date: March 14, 1984
> Location: Belfast, United Kingdom
> Method of attack: Gun
> Attacker: Ulster Freedom Fighters

With sectarian violence raging in Northern Ireland, members of the banned Loyalist group Ulster Freedom Fighters shot Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, which advocates for the unification of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Adams and several others were wounded in the ambush in central Belfast. Adams survived the attack and would play a role in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that reduced the violence between paramilitary groups and led to more power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Source: William Lovelace / Getty Images

28. Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom
> Date: Oct. 12, 1984
> Location: Brighton, United Kingdom
> Method of attack: Bomb
> Attacker: Irish Republican Army

The Irish Republican Army targeted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in an attack in October 1984 at Brighton on the southern English coast. The PM was holding a Conservative Party conference at the Brighton Grand Hotel when the IRA set off a bomb that killed five people and injured 30 others. Thatcher and her husband Dennis barely escaped injury. A year after the attack, Thatcher helped craft the Anglo Irish Agreement that gave the Republic of Ireland more of a voice regarding issues in Northern Ireland. That paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement years later that would reduce sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

29. Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses”
> Date: Aug. 3, 1989
> Location: London
> Method of attack: Book bomb
> Attacker: Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh

Author Salman Rushdie had to go into hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran, issued a fatwa on the writer claiming his book, “The Satanic Verses,” which was published in 1988, blasphemed the prophet Muhammad. In August the following year, a book bomb detonated prematurely in a London hotel that killed would-be assassin Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh. Iran built a shrine for him in a cemetery in Tehran. Iran said in 2006 that the fatwa would remain in place since the edict can only be rescinded by the person who issued it, and Khomeini died in 1989.

Source: SBoyd / Wikimedia Commons

30. George H.W. Bush, president of the United States
> Date: April 14-16, 1993
> Location: Kuwait City, Kuwait
> Method of attack: Bomb
> Attacker: Iraqi intelligence service

Iraq leader Saddam Hussein sent assassins to Kuwait to blow up former President George H.W. Bush, who was there to celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of the nation on the Arabian peninsula that was invaded by Iraq in 1990. Kuwaiti security broke up the plot, which included an Iraqi intelligence officer who had brought about 550 pounds of explosives from Iraq.

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