Vehicles as weapons of terror: Unconventional is now conventional
It was unconventional at first, but now it has become a conventional weapon for terrorists. The Manhattan attack in which 8 people were mowed down by a truck only adds to the long list of vehicle attacks.
When vehicles were used as weapons of terror in cities, it was considered to be unconventional weapon. However with the list of such incidents growing, it appears that it has become the most natural choice of weapon for terror groups.
While vehicle attacks were used by the Hamas in Palestine, the first incident of such an attack in the mainland was reported in 2006 Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, an Iranian-American, intentionally hit people with a sport utility vehicle on the campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill to "avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide." No one died in the attack.
Since then it has become a routine to use vehicles as weapons and one witnessed similar incidents in Glasgow, Barcelona, France, London and now America.
Unconventional now conventional:
Vehicle-ramming is not something new and has been used extensively by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.
What these incidents tell us is that terrorists are moving away from the conventional weapons of terror such as the gun or the bomb. A vehicle is a simple but a deadly choice of weapon. It is never on the radar and any person can create havoc by mowing down people in large numbers. It does give that element of surprise which has been a nightmare for security agencies to deal with.
In this context we need to revisit a few calls that had been given by the Islamic State as well al-Qaeda. While the Islamic State had spoken about cars as a choice of weapon, al-Qaeda had very specifically mentioned trucks while terming it as the ultimate mowing machine.
In 2015, al-Qaeda called on jihadists to attack with trucks. In a lengthy article that was written in its propaganda magazine, Inspire, it termed the truck as the 'ultimate mowing machine'. The article said "Pick up the truck not to mow grass, but mow down the enemies".
The other call was made by the Islamic State. In a statement released by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a leader of the group, said, "If you are unable to find an IED or a bullet, run your enemy over with a car".
In a more recent message, it once again called for the use of cars. The message read, "There are cars available and targets ready to kill. Kill them, spit on their faces and run them over with your cars."
These messages clearly suggest that terrorist groups are going beyond the conventional weapon. The weapons is no longer important. It is more important that the so called infidel is killed.
Adnani not only speaks about cars in his message. He even says poison, rocks and knives can be weapons of choice. Further he also says that it is fine if you push your enemy down from a high place.
The message from Adnani reads, "If you are unable to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him."
The basic idea is to ensure that the terror spree continues. Terrorist groups are going to use the more unconventional method to strike in the days to come. The intent is just one and that is to create panic and fear and for them the manner in which it is done is no longer important.
The Islamic State does realise with more attacks, security officials will enhance surveillance and vigil. It may become difficult to sneak in guns and bombs. In such a scenario unconventional weapons come in handy. Vehicles, poison, knives or rocks do not come under the nose of the security agencies.