Top 10 Assassinations Ordered by the Government

Script written by Nick Roffey.

Some of the most shocking recent assassinations of political figures have been government-ordered murders. Whether it’s a Russian spy-turned-whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko, the assassination of North Korea’s Kim Jong-nam or drone strikes in Pakistan, these are some of the most famous successful political assassinations. WatchMojo counts down ten of the most alarming government-endorsed assassinations.

Special thanks to our users Muppet_Face and EmJay for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%20Ten%20Assassinations%20Ordered%20by%20the%20Government


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Script written by Nick Roffey.

Top 10 Assassinations Ordered by the Government

These men and women made powerful enemies. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 assassinations ordered by the government.

For this list, we’re looking at murders allegedly committed at the behest of national governments around the world. We’re taking into consideration the target’s significance, the consequences and the plan itself.

#10: Alexander Litvinenko

A Russian spy turned whistleblower, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive polonium-210 slipped into a cup of tea. Once an officer in the Russian secret service, Litvinenko fled to London after accusing his superiors of a plot to murder Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. He also claimed the secret service had staged bombings that left almost 300 dead in order to justify the Second Chechen War and bring Vladimir Putin to power. A British inquiry concluded that Putin had probably approved the killing, but Russia refused to extradite the probable poisoners, Andrey Lugovoy, now a politician in Russian parliament, and Dmitri Kovtun.

#9: Chain Murders of Iran

From 1988 on, intellectuals critical of the Iranian government began to die one after the other. At least 80 writers, translators, and others supporting democratic reform were axed, strangled, suffocated, stabbed or otherwise killed. In one incident, the driver of a bus transporting 21 writers tried to steer the vehicle over a cliff. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei blamed foreign “enemies,” but the government later claimed that deputy minister of intelligence Saeed Emami had orchestrated the killings. Conveniently, Emami had allegedly already killed himself in prison. A year later, the newspaper editor who helped uncover the murders, Saeed Hajjarian, was shot in the face and left permanently paralyzed.

#8: Georgi Markov

After speaking out against the Bulgarian government, writer Georgi Markov was killed by a mysterious assassin wielding an umbrella gun. Markov, a successful author in his home country, had relocated to London, where he worked as a journalist for BBC World Service. His vitriolic criticism of the communist regime in Bulgaria made him the target of several assassination attempts. In 1978, he was shot in the streets with a pellet containing ricin fired from an umbrella gun, and died a few days afterward. It was later revealed that the assassination was arranged by the Bulgarian Secret Service, with assistance from the KGB.

#7: Operation Wrath of God

After the Munich massacre, Israel wanted to send a message. In 1972, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September had killed eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. In response, Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad, launched an operation to kill anyone suspected of involvement. Over 20 years, the assassins worked through their kill list. Some victims were gunned down, others were murdered using bombs in cars or hotels; one man was pushed under a bus. Before each target was killed, his family received flowers with a card. It read: “A reminder we do not forget we do not forgive.”

#6: Operation Anthropoid

Reinhard Heydrich was a figure so ruthless even Hitler called him “the man with the iron heart.” He helped plan the Holocaust and headed the intelligence agency tasked with rooting out resistance to Nazi rule. Together, British forces and the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile decided to take him out. They sent two soldiers, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, to ambush his car in Prague. When Gabčík’s machinegun jammed, Kubiš reacted quickly, throwing an anti-tank grenade at Heydrich’s car and causing Heydrich fatal injuries. While Gabčík dashed to safety, Kubiš made a hasty getaway by bicycle. Operation Anthropoid was the only successful assassination of a Nazi official during the war.

#5: Kim Jong-nam

Once the heir apparent of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-nam was the dictator’s eldest son. But after supporting the idea of reform and being caught using a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland, his popularity reportedly waned. He survived several assassination attempts, and even wrote to his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, begging for his life. In 2017 he was killed by two women who smothered his face with a VX nerve agent. The women claim they believed it was all part of a reality television show. Although North Korea denies it, many believe the killing was ordered by the government.

#4: Operation Condor

A massive, widespread campaign of state terror against left-leaning intellectuals and dissidents, Operation Condor involved at least six South American countries, including Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, where military juntas had seized power. In the late 1970s, thousands of people disappeared, to be tortured, executed, and buried in mass graves. The US, which had supported some of the coups d’etat that brought the juntas to power, provided assistance throughout the terms of multiple American Presidents. The victims are estimated to number a staggering 60 to 80 thousand.

#3: Drone Strikes in Pakistan

In some towns in northwest Pakistan, there are children who have grown up with the buzzing of drones overhead their whole lives. Starting in 2004, the U.S. has used unmanned aerial vehicles there to perform thousands of “targeted killings,” a euphemism for extrajudicial assassinations. The program is controversial due to the number of civilian casualties - 116 according to the U.S., but many more according to non-governmental organizations. Unfortunately, drone strikes have proved a useful recruiting tool for terrorist enemies of the U.S.

#2: Leon Trotsky

One of the masterminds of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Trotsky played a key role in founding the Soviet Union, but his opposition to fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin led to his demise. Expelled from the Communist Party in 1927, Trotsky sought refuge first in Turkey, then France and Norway, before continuing his exile in Mexico, where he continued to criticize Stalin’s regime. His voice was silenced forever when an assassin and Soviet secret police agent hit him over the head with an ice axe. He survived to help subdue his killer, but died the following day.

#1: Operation Neptune Spear

The hunt for bin Laden actually began before 9-11. He was wanted by the FBI for the 1998 United States embassy bombings, and survived several assassination attempts. After theTwin Towers fell, the US intensified their efforts, invading Afghanistan, where bin Laden was holed up. He later crossed the border over into Pakistan. In 2011, US Navy Seals raided bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad and shot bin Laden in the head and chest. After a manhunt of over a decade, the leader of terrorist organisation Al Qaeda was dead.

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