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Costliest terrorist attacks worldwide

March 18, 2014

Here’s a sombre look at the losses sustained in some of the most expensive terrorist attacks and ask ourselves – what kind of a world have we become?


By Caitlyn Ng

Terrorist attacks are devastating, not just for those who’ve lost loved ones and money in the attack but even for those witnessing these horrific events. Whilst we cannot put a price on the loss of human life and the senselessness of it; we can look at the monetary values lost when buildings are destroyed and stocks damaged causing businesses massive losses.

The following events have occurred in recent history and the amount can be roughly measured by insured property losses, repair costs and other estimated costs as comprised by Swiss Re and the Insurance Information Institute (III). Here’s a sombre look at the losses sustained in some of the most expensive terrorist attacks and ask ourselves – what kind of a world have we become?

5) World Trade Centre, New York, USA – $810 million (~ RM2.7 billion)
We start things rolling with the first attack on the World Trade Centre (WTC) building that once stood tall and proud in the midst of bustling New York City. In February 1993, a urea nitrate-hydrogen gas enhanced bomb weighing 606kg was planted inside a truck and used to detonate the lower part of the North Tower. The device was intended to topple the North Tower into the South Tower and end countless lives; even though it failed to do so, it killed at least six people and injuring almost a thousand others. The horrible act of violence was planned and coordinated by a group of terrorists, which the FBI has termed “a deadly dress rehearsal for 9/11”.

The effects from the bomb could be felt from the Wall Street area to Ellis and Liberty islands in New York Harbour. Afterwards, the total cost of the damages to insured properties as well as the extensive repairs needed came up to $810 million (approximately RM2.7 billion).

4) Baltic Exchange Building, London, England – $870 million (~ RM2.9 billion)
Even in the 20th century, Great Britain came under multiple attacks from the IRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) who were fighting to remove Northern Ireland in order to bring independence to a republic they dreamt about, which included all of Ireland (the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland). The bombing which took place at the Baltic Exchange building in April 1992 was one of the many attacks, but it was considered one of the costliest as it not only partially demolished the façade of the building, but also extensively damaged many of the nearby buildings. A one tonne bomb, hidden inside a large white truck, consisted of a fertilizer device wrapped with a detonation cord made from 45 kg of Semtex (a brand of plastic explosive).

It detonated at 9:20 pm, killing three people (one of whom was Baltic Exchange employee) as well as injuring 91 others. The damage to the main building and the surrounding others was extensive and repairs cost the government as much as $870 million (approximately RM2.9 billion)!

3) Arndale Shopping Centre, Manchester, England – $966 million (~ RM3.2 billion)
An inconspicuous red and white cargo truck was the main player in this June 1996 bombing: it concealed a 3,300-pound (1,500 kg) mixture of semtex, a military-grade plastic explosive, and ammonium nitrate fertiliser, a cheap and easily obtainable explosive used on a large-scale by the IRA. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an organisation that was formed in 1969 and were infamous for adopting a strategy of violence to achieve its aim of a united Ireland. The police were given a coded warning that there was a bomb and it would detonate in an hour’s time; scrambling to evacuate the area on time, the police also attempted to defused the bomb but at 11:17 am, the bomb exploded, destroying a shopping mall and injuring around 200 people with flying glass and debris. No fatalities were recorded.

$966 million (approximately RM3.2 billion) was the total cost of damage to insured property, and the area had to be completely revamped. But that was not the end of the attacks, as within the next ten weeks, the IRA had managed to plant five other bombs throughout London.

2) Bishopgate, London, England – $1.2 billion (~ RM3.9 billion)
In April 1993, the republican paramilitary organisation Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a one tonne bomb that was hidden inside a truck; the bomb was ANFO, which stands for ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, a widely used bulk industrial explosive mixture. The explosion was near the former National Westminster (NatWest) Tower in Bishopgate, a major thoroughfare in London’s financial district, killing a news photographer and injuring 44 others. Prior to the blast, the police had received coded warnings, which were similar to the modus operandi of other IRA attacks, and were already evacuating the area when the bomb went off.

The NatWest tower was one of the badly damaged buildings, including a medieval church (St Ethelburga) that collapsed, even though it was located seven metres away. The Baltic Exchange, which was newly reopened after repairs were done due to a bomb going off outside it just a year earlier, was also damaged. The ensuing repairs and additional damage to insured property brought the total losses to $1.2 billion (approximately RM3.9 billion)

1) World Trade Centre, New York, USA – $24.4 billion (~ RM80 billion)
Also known as one of the deadliest terrorist attacks and which caused many nations all over the world to rethink their national safety policies, the coordinated attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre (WTC) buildings in September 2001 (more commonly referred to as 9/11) still leaves its mark on not only Americans but also the world over. On September 11, two aircraft (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175) were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists to crash into the 110-storey North and South WTC towers respectively. Within two hours, both towers had collapsed completely, engulfing the city in a cloud of dust and fear.

The fires that resulted from the aftermath also caused a partial or complete collapse of the other buildings in the WTC complex, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. The physical damage done to the insured properties as well as the restoration costs came to over $24.4 billion (approximately RM80 billion).

These events have cost us dearly, in terms of money and the senseless loss of human lives. What are we fighting for?

Caitlyn Ng is an Investigative Journalist of SaveMoney.my, an online consumer advice portal which aims to help Malaysians save money through smart (and most of the time painless) savings in their daily banking, technology, and lifestyle spending habits.


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