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10 Hilarious Tales Of Terrorist Incompetence

by Morris M.
fact checked by Jamie Frater

We already told you about the Russian terrorist whose phone-activated suicide bomb accidentally detonated when she received a “Happy New Year” spam text. Little did we know that this wasn’t a hilariously isolated incident. Think Al-Qaeda and company are run by a network of criminal masterminds? Think again.

10 Terror Group Accidentally Beheads Their Commander

Early last month, an Al-Qaeda offshoot operating in Syria thought they’d struck gold when they captured a rival terrorist working for the Assad government. Hoping to both spread their scary message and let the world know what total badasses they were, they quickly beheaded the poor guy and uploaded a video of themselves waving the head around and chanting terror slogans. The clip was shared across whatever the terrorist version of Twitter is, at which point things took a turn for the bizarre.

Other Al-Qaeda fighters watching the video recognized the head—and it wasn’t the head of an infidel. It was one of their own commanders. The happy choppers up there had seriously messed up—the guy they’d decapitated was none other than Mohammed Fares Maroush, staunch jihadist and leader of an allied group. His killers were forced to swiftly retract their video statements that Maroush was an infidel and homosexual, delivering what was likely the most awkward apology in history to their fellow terrorists.

9 The Brooklyn Bridge Plot

Iyman Faris was a regular guy with a regular dream—to train with Al-Qaeda and kill as many of his fellow Americans as possible. To this end, he traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he met with several terrorist groups who helped him concoct a plan almost cartoon-like in its logic. Using a blowtorch, Faris was to cut through each and every suspension cable on the Brooklyn Bridge, sending commuters plummeting to their watery death.

The plan never came to pass, because it turns out that one of America’s most iconic bridges is pretty well-built and crawling with cops. He returned to the States, traveled to Brooklyn, took one look at the bridge, and decided his plan was as dumb as it seemed. He packed it in and began helping Al-Qaeda in other ways—like looking up stuff on the internet for them and giving them printouts. By the time he turned himself in to the authorities, his biggest triumph as a “terrorist” had been ordering 2,000 sleeping bags for his fellow jihadists to keep warm in at night. Faris’s career in terrorism probably struck less fear into the heart of America than that of your average Scoutmaster.

8 Lebanon’s Most-Wanted Blows Himself Up

The lonely death of Abdel Ghani Jawhar in Syria last year would almost be sad if we didn’t know exactly how much of a jerk he was. As Lebanon’s most-wanted terrorist, the bearded militant had masterminded bomb attacks on United Nations troops and provided explosives to dozens of killers. So when he decided to set up a roadside bomb to super-kill some Syrian government troops, it probably just seemed like another day at the office. Only this time, justice stepped in.

For reasons that are still unknown, the bomb Jawhar was preparing detonated prematurely, blowing him into tiny little terrorist pieces. This would have been sufficient punishment, but apparently Allah really hates wannabee martyrs, because the fighting around Jawhar’s body immediately became so fierce that his fellow jihadists were forced to dump his remains in an empty yard instead of taking them back to Lebanon. Again, it would almost be sad if it didn’t happen to such a deserving guy.

7 FARC Accidentally Free Their Key Hostage

For those of you who’ve grown up with vaguely racist portrayals of terrorists in movies and TV shows, it might come as a surprise to learn there are incredibly powerful terror groups out there that don’t give a crap about Allah. Colombia’s FARC are one such group. Originally a band of leftist rebels who decided to swap politics for hostage-taking and cocaine production, they’ve killed thousands during their 50-year battle with Colombia’s government. Their operatives are ruthless, brutal—and, just occasionally, hilariously incompetent.

In 2008, FARC leaders struck a deal with the Colombian government that was to see them hand over three hostages—Consuelo Gonzalez, former vice presidential candidate Clara Rojas, and Rojas’s son. The child, who had been born a hostage, was now three years old and the government’s chief concern. The whole exchange was choreographed by the FARC leadership to give them maximum coverage and put the government on the back foot. It was meant to be a PR triumph for the terrorists—and it probably would have been, had they not accidentally freed their key hostage two years earlier.

As zero-hour approached, it became humiliatingly clear that FARC no longer held Rojas’s son captive. He’d been given up for adoption not long after being born by one of their fighters and somehow the leadership had failed to notice the total lack of screaming baby in their camp. Suddenly, the massive PR coup seemed nothing of the sort, as FARC were forced to release their other two hostages to mocking laughter instead of cheers of solidarity.

6 The Premature Anarchist

In the closing years of the 19th century, Europe was hit by a wave of bomb attacks carried out by disgruntled anarchists. They succeeded in killing police officers, presidents, the tsar of Russia, and countless civilians. In short, they were an old-fashioned version Al-Qaeda—equally prone to violence, psychopathy, and humiliating incompetence.

On February 15, 1894, a 26-year-old French anarchist caught a bus toward the Greenwich Observatory in London. In his hand, he carried a package filled with explosives. At roughly 4:40 PM, he entered the park below the observatory and proceeded to cement his place as one of the biggest morons in history.

Just as he reached a point equally far from both the observatory and the small crowds of people, the anarchist somehow slipped. The bomb exploded, obliterating the anarchist, some grass, and nothing more. Perhaps stupidest of all, the police later calculated that the explosion wouldn’t have been powerful enough to damage the observatory anyway.

5 The Anti-Abortion Idiot

In 2006, David Robert McMenemy decided that enough was enough. He hopped in his 2004 Saturn compact and headed off into the empty Midwest with one goal only—to attack an abortion clinic and die in the resulting inferno. For the beter part of a month, he drove around at random looking for a target before he finally stumbled across the Edgerton Women’s Health Center in Davenport.

In the early hours of the morning of September 11, McMenemy drove his compact at high speed into the center. His plan was for the car to explode on impact, killing him and taking out the clinic, but things didn’t quite work out. For one thing, the car didn’t explode, leaving a very confused McMenemy unexpectedly parked in the reception room. For another, it turned out that the Edgerton Women’s Health Center didn’t perform abortions at all. McMenemy had just smashed his car into a perfectly innocent health clinic.

Rather than waste an opportunity, he decided to manually set his car alight and burn the place to the ground, only for the sprinkler system to kick in and halt even this modest ambition. At the time of his arrest, McMenemy had caused $20,000 of damage to a random building and slightly scorched his car, a fitting end to the short-lived career of America’s dumbest homegrown terrorist.

4 The Terrorists Who Turned Up Late

The English Defense League are a far-right group operating in Britain with a track record of rioting, attacking people with the wrong color of skin, and generally acting like a band of fascist thugs. When six wannabee terrorists decided to bomb one of their rallies, they came close to sparking a race war that could have engulfed all of Britain. At least, if they bothered to turn up on time.

The six filled their car with guns and explosives and took off for the rally, only to arrive after it had finished and everyone had already gone home. Rather than just kill whoever was around at the time, they decided to drive back and save the bombs for another day—only to be stopped by police for driving without insurance. Thanks to their catastrophic time-keeping and lackadaisical attitude toward insurance renewals, the six were apprehended and chucked in jail without ever doing anything more than making themselves look like total idiots.

3 The IRA Fails At Kidnapping

On February 8, 1983, the Irish terrorist group known as the IRA pulled off one of the most sensational kidnappings in history. Their target was a racehorse known as Shergar, a legendary racer thought to be insured for over $3 million. Desperate for funds and knowing his owners would pay, the IRA snatched the horse from his stables and vanished into the early morning mists with their bounty. The plan was to release him once the ransom had been paid, but they hadn’t counted on Shergar’s owner, Aga Khan.

Although the horse was technically owned by a syndicate, it was Khan who dealt with the kidnapping—and Khan flat-out refused to negotiate with terrorists. Suddenly, the predicted $3 million vanished into thin air and the kidnappers were stuck hiding a giant racehorse in a tiny Irish county crawling with cops. That’s because the kidnapping sparked off a wave of police raids on IRA safe houses, resulting in mass arrests, the seizure of weapons, and a continued disruption to the group’s terror activities. With one miscalculated swoop, they had lost thousands of dollars of goods, alerted the police to dozens of their members’ activities, and acquired a completely useless racehorse they now had to feed. (Which, sadly, eventually led to the horse’s death.)

2 The Wannabe London Bombers

The July 7 attacks in London are rightfully remembered as one of the worst terrorist atrocities to occur in the wake of September 11. In a series of bombings on buses and the London Tube, 50 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Less well-known is the failed sequel. On July 21, 2005, just weeks after the original bombings, five terrorists entered the London Underground armed with explosives and attempted another attack. In the resulting carnage, they managed to kill a grand total of no one.

In their rush to carry out the attack, the would-be terrorists had apparently mixed the chemicals wrong in their homemade bombs and armed themselves with total duds. When they hit the detonators, their backpacks fizzed a bit, gave off some smoke, and resolutely refused to explode. The only reported injury came when a commuter suffered an asthma attack, while some passengers reportedly left their shoes behind in the mad dash to escape. All five were arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison, their only achievement having been the loss of some British footwear.

1 The Underpants Bomber

The story of the Underpants Bomber is one of those tales that makes you realize God is both watching over us and has a fantastic sense of humor. On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a plane to Detroit with his underpants full of the explosives he’d reportedly been wearing for three weeks straight. As the plane came in for landing, he attempted to detonate, with the intention of killing everyone on board. Instead of exploding, however, his bomb simply burst in flames, turning Umar’s groin area into a burning mess of divine justice. Umar was swiftly subdued and taken into custody, at which point things got even funnier.

It turned out that Umar had been repeatedly turned down by Al-Qaeda, who apparently know a total moron when they see one. Rather than being some terrorist mastermind, Umar was basically that weedy kid at school who always got left out the other kids’ games, except his sole attempt at joining in had resulted in his accidental castration by flaming hellfire.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Morris M.

Morris M. is Listverse's official news human, trawling the depths of the media so you don't have to. He avoids Facebook and Twitter like the plague.