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10 Curious Assassinations That Remain Shrouded in Mystery

Updated on February 9, 2014

Assassination – an ominous word used to describe premeditated murder of a famous personality – needs no introduction. History abounds in cases where prominent personalities were eliminated at the mere snap of a trigger, the thick security blanket and their inaccessibility to the common man notwithstanding. Irrespective of their time and place, assassinations are followed by an identical pattern of investigations, trials and conspiracy theories.

The conspiracy theories take away a sense of closure from these ill-fated killings, making them a constant pricking thorn in the human conscience. Here is look at some assassinations that took the world stage by a storm.

Abraham Lincoln

The 16th President of the US, Abraham Lincoln held office from 1861 till 1865, when a certain John Wilkes Booth decided to cut his life short. Lincoln’s time in office was marked with complexities, as the United States reeled under the pressures of a civil war. Booth is believed to have been enraged over the President’s support to the cause of liberation of African-Americans, and decided to address his anguish by eliminating the President. An apposite opportunity came his way when Lincoln went to a theatre on April 14, 1865, with virtually no security cover. The assassination was the first of its kind, as Lincoln became the first President to be assassinated while still in office. A lot remains unsaid about the ease with which a man single-handedly managed to gun down the most powerful man in the United States.

John F Kennedy

That the 35th President of the United States was killed in presence of thousands of supporters after being hit by three bullets fired from a powerful weapon as his open limo was passing along a Dallas road is common knowledge. However, despite Lee Harvey Oswald being charged and tried for the President’s murder, his assassination remains shrouded in mystery. JFK’s two-year tenure in office was marked by historic events such as the Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis, space initiative and American Civil Rights Movement, besides his own personal escapades like the much-rumored affair with Marilyn Monroe. Given the hectic activity surrounding his presidential term, the real reason and hatchers of conspiracy have never been established. To this day, conspiracy theories hinting at the role of USSR, CIA, Cuba and the FBI keep surfacing from time to time.

Franz Ferdinand

This Austrian Archduke’s assassination is widely believed to have served as a trigger for the commencement of World War I. The first attempt at his life was made on June 28, 1914 when the Archduke was travelling in a top-open car with his wife Duchess Sophie. However, the duo managed to eject before the bomb went off. Though Ferdinand escaped unscathed, the bomb claimed lives of several innocent civilians.

The couple decided to visit the wounded in the hospital, and it was on their return that the assassin was served with a second opportunity. Making no mistake this time, he shot the couple dead. Franz’s assassination is widely viewed as a Serbian plot to make public its resentment over annexation of Serbian states by Austria and Hungary.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Known for his historic ‘I have a dream’ speech, the man who became the face of the American Civil Rights movement naturally had more foes than friends. King, who had risen to fame after standing up for the black rights, was targeted on April 4, 1968, while he was standing in the balcony of his hotel room after delivering a high-powered speech in Memphis. James Earl Ray, a strong detractor of the civil rights movement was held for killing King. However, whether he acted in isolation or was part of a bigger conspiracy has never been established.

Rajiv Gandhi

The former Indian Prime Minister was eliminated at a rally venue on May 21, 1991, at Sriperumpudur in the state of Tamil Nadu where he was to deliver a speech. The assassination was unique as it was for the first time in the world history that a human bomb was deployed to eliminate an individual. The Sri Lanka based LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elan) was widely accused of having carried out the assassination owing to India’s involvement in civil unrest in the island country. However, two inquiry commissions and a long trial later, conspiracy theories revolving around the assassination refuse to die down. Aspersions have been cast on LTTE being solely responsible for carrying out the killing.

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was the last member of the politically affluent Bhutto family of Pakistan to have been eliminated in a well-coordinated bomb attack. Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and brothers Murtaza and Shahnawaz had met similar fates in the past. After living in self-imposed exile, Benazir returned to home turf to contest elections in a nation embroiled in crisis. The first woman prime minister of a Muslim state had several narrow escapes before her assailants caught up with her at a rally held in Karachi on December 27, 2007. The killing was instantly blamed on Islamic terror groups; however, many within Pakistan believe that it was a politically-motivated assassination.

John Lenon

John Lenon, one of the most iconic figures of our times and a founding member of the band The Beatles that took the music world by frenzy, was killed by one of his fans on December 8, 1980 in New York. After parting ways with the band, Lenon was promoting what was touted to be his last album ‘Double Fantasy’ in New York. A self-proclaimed diehard Lenon fan Mark David Chapman called out for him, and lodged four bullets as Lenon turned around. The man has been tried and accused of the assassination, but his motive behind cutting the life of an icon short remains unexplained.

Dimebag Darell

Another icon from the world of music, Dimebag Darell met the same fate as John Lenon. The celebrated guitarist was hit by rouge assassin Nathan Gale during a stage performance at Columbus, Ohio. The December 8, 2004 shooting that claimed Darell’s life, left three others dead and seven wounded. The killer was gunned down by the cops, and the motive behind the killing remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

Alexander Litvinenko

A former member of the Russian agency KGB, who is believed to have switched sides by joining hands with the MI6, was taken ill after eating at a London restaurant on November 1, 2006. His condition continued to deteriorate, leading to his death three weeks later. Contact with radioactive polonium 210 was established as the cause of death. Litvinenko is believed to have been poisoned in his London hotel room. The killers and the motive behinds the elimination have not been identified to this day.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X, better known as the face that radicalized the African American Civil Rights Movement in the decades of 1960-70, was assassinated while addressing a rally on February 21, 1956. A total of three gun men lodged 16 bullets into the Muslim minister’s body, killing him instantly. The Nation of Islam – of which Malcolm was a member before he embraced the Sunni sect of Islam – is believed to have orchestrated the assassination bid.


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