Vehicles as weapons of terror: How ISIS continues with the deadly trend
The Islamic State has struck once again and this time at Barcelona and once again the vehicle was the weapon. When an attack took place at Nice, France in which the truck was the weapon of choice, it was termed as odd. However today with attacks being carried out with vehicles as weapons it has become a common phenomenon.
Since 2006 there have been 9 such attacks while the year 2017 alone has seen 3 strikes in which the vehicle was the weapon of choice.
Chapel hill attack 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.
Glasgow attack 2007:
Kafeel Ahmed, an engineer of Bengaluru origin drove his vehicle into the Glasgow airport. However he was intercepted before he could hit the target. He died of burn injuries.
Apeldoorn attack 2009:
Dutch residents watched on TV live as Karst Roeland Tates, 38, drove his car into a parade that included Queen Beatrix. Eight people were killed and 11 others injured, while the carnage ends when Tates crashed into a monument at the side of the road. He died the next day from his injuries.
Dijion attack 2014:
Two men crashed cars into groups of pedestrians on successive days. On December 21, eleven people were injured in Dijon, France. The following day, one person was killed and nine others injured in Nantes.
Nice attack 2016:
A man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people, while they were celebrating Bastille Day. The ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Berlin attack 2016:
A truck was deliberately driven into a Berlin Christmas market next at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured.
London attack 2017:
Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam known to British security services, drove a car at high speed into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge. Five persons were killed in the attack.
Stockholm attack 2017:
Four people were killed after a terrorist drove a hijacked truck into a crowded shopping street in Stockholm.
London attack 2017:
A van was driven into crowds on London Bridge, after which the attackers left their vehicle and stabbed several people in the area. Seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured.
Vehicle ramming not new:
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.