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September 21, 1976, Bomb Kills Chilean Resistance Leader In Washington D.C - Today In Crime History

On this day, September 21, in the year 1976, a car bomb in Washington, D.C., set by agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, exploded, killing political figure Orlando Letelier and his assistant.

Letelier had moved to D.C. after spending 12 months incarcerated as a political prisoner following Pinochet’s coup.  He was a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, taught at American University and became a leading voice of the Chilean resistance.  Letelier was described as a respected and effective spokesman in the international campaign to condemn and isolate Pinochet's dictatorship.  

On September 21, Letelier, his assistant Ronni Moffitt, and her husband, Michael, were in a vehicle on their way to work.  Letelier was driving the vehicle, Ronnie Moffit was in the front passenger seat and Michael was seated behind his wife.  As they rounded Sheridan Circle in Embassy Row, at 9:35 a.m., the bomb exploded underneath the car, lifting it off the ground.  Letelier was immediately killed and Ronni Moffitt died shortly thereafter at an area hospital.  Investigators determined that the blast was caused by plastic explosives, molded to concentrate the force of its impact into the driver seat. The bomb was attached by wires or magnets to the car's underside and blew a "circular hole, 2 to 2½ feet in diameter" in the driver's seat.

Several people were convicted for there participation in the murder of Letelier and Moffitt, including Michael Townley, a Chilean covert police agent and U.S. expatriate who had once been employed by the CIA.  Today, a memorial to Letelier and Moffitt sits across from Sheridan Circle.


Letelier-Moffitt Memorial, Massachusetts Avenue, near 23rd St, Washington DC


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