Long before Osama bin Laden’s lieutenants flew a hijacked commercial airliner into the Pentagon on 9/11, Muslim terrorists carried out an attack in the heart of Washington, D.C.
This week in 1977 armed Islamic militants invaded three Washington, D.C. buildings and took almost 150 people hostage, radio station WTOP reminds us. During the three-day siege that took place on March 9, 10, and 11, a few weeks after Jimmy Carter was sworn in as the nation’s new president, Hanafi Muslims killed two men and nonfatally wounded another. (More information on Hanafi Islam is available here.)
WHUR reporter Maurice Williams and security guard Mack Cantrell were killed. A stray shotgun pellet wounded then-D.C. Council Member Marion Barry (D) who recovered. Barry was subsequently elected mayor, sent to prison on drug charges, reelected as mayor, then reelected as a Council Member, a position he held until he died Nov. 23, 2014 at the age of 78.
Then-WTOP broadcaster Jim Bohannon was on the air when he learned that terrorists had seized D.C. city hall, now called the Wilson Building, along with B’nai B’rith headquarters and the Islamic Center of Washington.
“It quickly became apparent that these were three interconnected incidents, three hostage-takings, by a group known as Hanafi Muslims,” Bohannon recounted to WTOP.
The group was headed by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who founded the Hanafi Movement after splitting from the Nation of Islam. Years before the attack, seven members of his family had been slain at his D.C. home. During the hostage-taking he demanded that the convicted murderers be delivered to him. His group also wanted those who murdered Malcolm X to be handed over and for the premiere of a movie titled, Mohammad, Messenger of God, to be called off because they deemed it blasphemous.
Bohannon, who later became a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, said Khaalis was listening to his broadcast during the siege.
“I made reference to them as ‘apparently a black Muslim group,’ not realizing that the term ‘black Muslims’ referred to the main body of black Muslims who were in literal war with the Hanafi Muslim sect.”
To save lives, Bohannon issued an apology to the group on television.
“I anchored that first day the longest stint of my life continuously on air, from 10 a.m. the day it started until 7 a.m. the following morning — 21 consecutive hours,” he said. “We should remember it because it was one of the first acts of serious domestic terrorism.”
The District of Columbia government is displaying close to 40 photos from the incident at the Wilson Building blocks from the White House for the next two weeks or so.