Van hits crowd in Muenster: A timeline of vehicle attacks across the world
In yet another 'vehicle terrorism', a van ran through a crowd outside a popular bar in Muenster city in western Germany on Saturday, April 7, killing three persons and injuring 20 before the driver of the vehicle shot himself.
The police while informing this, however, could not confirm to The Associated Press the reports that the vehicle driver was a middle-aged German national with reported psychological problems. The police also did not reveal much about the motive of such an act saying it was too early to comment.
Whatever might be the Muenster vehicle driver's motive, killing by vehicles has gone up in Europe over the last few years and nothing much has been done yet to counter this growing menace.
Vehicle attacks are not always linked to terrorism but terror groups like Islamic States and al-Qaeda have advised their followers to use heavy vehicles like trucks as weapons to "mow down the enemies of Allah".
An al-Qaeda webzine article titled "The Ultimate Mowing Machine" published in 2010 called for using pickup trucks as "a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah". It also advised that to achieve the maximum damage, it is important to accelerate the vehicle and kill as many people as possible.
The terror groups have prescribed that their supporters should use whatever they have at their disposals, even if it is just a car, as means to kill. This has gradually led to what is known as "lone wolf attacks using improvised weaponry", something IS spokesperson Abu Mohammad al-Adnani had emphasised on in late 2014.
Here is a timeline of attacks carried out by a person using a vehicle across the globe:
October 31, 2017 - A 29-year-old man drove a rented pickup truck down a busy bicycle way near the World Trade Center in New York, killing eight people and injuring almost a dozen. The suspect who was arrested was identified as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov and authorities also found evidence that the attack was carried out in the name of IS.
September 30-Oct 1, 2017: A man hits a police officer with a white Chevrolet Malibu in Edmonton, Canada, on September 30 before jumping out of the car. He then stabbed the officer sever times before running away. The car has a flag of the IS inside it.
Again around midnight the same day, another policeman stopped a U-Haul truck at a checkpoint and noticed that the name of its driver was similar to that of the previous car's registered owner. At this moment, the truck fled and hurts at least three pedestrians. A 30-year-old Somali refugee, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, was later charged with five counts of attempted murder and other offences.
August 16-18, 2017: In one of the worst vehicle attacks in Spain, 13 people were killed while nearly 100 injured after a van ran through a crowd in a tourist destination in Barcelona on April 17. Two were arrested but the driver escaped, the police said. The IS's media wing Amaq later issued a statement claiming responsibility for the dastardly act. The very next day, five people drove an Audi A3 to hit many pedestrians in Cambrils, a coastal city located around 100 kilometres from Barcelona, killing one. The perpetrators were killed in encounter with the police.
June 19, 2017: Like in Muenster, a van ran through people who had gone to attend the late night prayers at London's Finsbury Park Mosque. One person was killed while 11 were injured in the incident. The driver was arrested and identified as Darren Osborne, a resident of Cardiff. He was handed a life imprisonment.
June 3, 2017: Eight people were killed after a group of men ran a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then got off it to go to a popular nightlife spot where they randomly targeted people with knives. Three suspects were shot dead by the police while nearly 50 people were left injured.
April 7, 2017: A truck went berserk on a busy street in central Stockholm in Sweden before ramming into a departmental store. At least four persons were killed in the incident. The driver, Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old Uzbek national, conceded that he was upto carrying out a "terrorist crime", his counsel revealed.
March 22, 2017: A man ran an SUV into a crowd on the sidewalk along London's Westminster Bridge, killing at least four persons. The car then hit a barrier outside the parliament house and its driver got off and stabbed a policeman to death. The attacker - 52-year-old Khaled Masud - was killed by the police. The man from West Midlands reportedly had a criminal record and was suspected to having links with extremism, British PM Theresa May later said.
December 19, 2016: A Tunisian national drove a tractor trailer into a busy Christmas market in Berlin, crushing 12 people to death. Authorities then searched for 24-year-old Anis Amri who was gunned down in Italy four days after the Berlin attack. The IS later released a video showing the slain suspect pledging it an allegiance.
July 14, 2016: After the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France, a man drove a giant truck into people enjoying the moments, killing 86. The perpetrator was 31-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove for nearly a mile on the city's beachfront before getting shot dead by the police. French authorities later said that Bouhlel seemed to become radicalised by IS propaganda and also reportedly had a mental ailment.
October 22, 2014: A three-month-old girl, along with a tourist from Ecuador, was killed after a driver of a vehicle careened into a crowd at a light-rail station in Jerusalem. The driver named Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi was by the police. Israeli media said the man published extremist writing on Facebook and supported Hamas, a terror outfit.
March 3, 2006: Iranian-American Mohammed Taheri-azar ran an SUV into a students' crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, US. Nine people suffered minor injuries in the attack, which according to Teheri-azar was a revenge against the killing of Muslims overseas. He was convicted of attempted murder in 2008 and given a jail term of 33 years.