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- January 29 - Muammar Gaddafi invades Chad in an attempt to annex the Aouzou Strip.
- March 6 - Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, attempts to kill Larry Flynt, founder and publisher of pornographic magazine Hustler. Flynt survived the attack, but was left paralyzed from the waist down.
- March 11 - The Coastal Road massacre takes place in Tel Aviv, Israel when Fatah militants hijack a bus and kill 38 occupants in a failed attempt at a prisoner exchange with the Israeli government.
- March 15 - The Derg emerges victorious in the Ogadan War. The Soviet Union ceases its support of Somalia.
- March 16- The Red Brigades kidnap the leader of the Italian Christian Democracy Aldo Moro, and because the congress did not want to negotiate for his release, Aldo Moro was assassinated by the organization on May 9.
- April 18 - The Khmer Rouge invades Vietnam.
- April 27 to 28 - The Saur Revolution: the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, lead by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by the Soviet Union, takes power in Afghanistan, declaring the formation of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
- May 25 - The first attack attributed to the Unabomber takes place when a mail bomb is sent to Buckley Crist, a professor of materials engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Crist is injured but survives the attack.
- June 15 - William Luther Pierce publishes The Turner Diaries.
- July 18 - Ali Abdullah Saleh is named President of North Yemen.
- July 21 - Hugo Banzer is deposed as President of Bolivia in a military coup lead by several of his own officers.
- September 17 - The Camp David Accords are signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, establishing peace between Israel and Egypt.
- October 9 - Idi Amin Dada invades Tanzania.
- October 9 - P. W. Botha is elected Prime Minister of South Africa.
- November 18 - Jim Jones and his People's Temple cult commit mass suicide in their private settlement of Jonestown in Guyana by drinking poison-laced Flavor Aid. A total of 918 people die.
- November 27 - The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is founded.
- November 27 - San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk are both assassinated by Dan White.
- December - Deng Xiaoping emerges as the Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China.
- December 2 - NAMbLA is founded.
- December 11 - The Lufthansa heist, masterminded by Jimmy Burke, is pulled off when Henry Hill and Tommy DeSimone, along with five other cohorts, steal $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewelry from JFK International Airport in New York City, making it the largest cash robbery committed on American soil at the time.
- December 25 - Beginning of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War.
- January 5 - Sabrina Harman
- January 7 - Israel Keyes
- January 21 - Diane Zamora
- March 8 - Mohammed Bouyeri
- May 9 - Marwan al-Shehhi
- May 11 - Richard Spencer
- July 27 - Lauren Debenedetta
- August 12 - Pazuzu Algarad
- October 15 - DeWayne Craddock
- December 11 - Éric Borel
- December 20 - Waleed al-Shehri
- January 31 - Amy Ayers
- February 17 - Jacob Wetterling
- April 2 - Nick Berg
- May 18 - Kelly Anne Bates
- June 6 - Judith Barsi
- July 12 - Victor Daniel Barbosa (9/11 Victim)
- November 6 - Prince Nirajan of Nepal
- December 30 - Jun Lin
- February 9 - Herbert Kappler
- July 1 - Kurt Student
- September 11 - Robert Garrow
- November 18 - Jim Jones
- May 9 - Aldo Moro
- June 29 - Bob Crane
- November 18 - Leo Ryan
- November 27 - George Moscone & Harvey Milk