Truck attack marks deadly twist
France’s deadly truck attack marks a frightening new reality in Europe: assailants turning to an ever-expanding arsenal to carry out violence that is becoming harder to predict or prevent.
“Using vehicles in attacks is a fairly well-established tactic with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group,” said Matthew Henman, managing editor at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.
“The deliberate use of a heavy truck targeting a crowd illustrates the demonstrability of the attack and could be the precursor for other attacks.”
Supporters of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group praised the attack yesterday, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The militant group has called on supporters to use any means possible to strike at its targets. Attacks inspired by terror groups in recent years have involved planes, bulldozers, tractors, guns, knives, machetes, bombs, explosives and vehicles.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula released propaganda in 2010 depicting a truck as “the ultimate mowing machine,” and the Islamic State called on its French supporters to “run them over with your cars,” just days after the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
In France, there were two other recent attacks using vehicles, but it was disputed whether the assailants had links to terrorist cells. On Dec. 22, 2014, a man ran over pedestrians at a Christmas market in Nantes, killing one and injuring nine. That attack came a day after a similar incident in Dijon when a motorist injured 13 pedestrians. Both suspects, who survived, have histories of mental illness.
In Montreal, a vehicle was used to kill a soldier in October 2014; a year earlier, attackers in a car ran over an off-duty soldier in London before stabbing him to death.
Terrorist attacks involving vehicles have been more common outside of Europe.
The deadliest recent attack occurred July 3 when a suicide bomber from the Islamic State group killed at least 292 people and wounded another 200 by exploding a minibus in a crowded commercial area of Baghdad. The blast came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when streets were teaming with people — much like Thursday’s festivities that drew crowds across France.
In Afghanistan, Taliban militants using a minivan killed 64 people and wounded more than 340 in an attack this year aimed at a government convoy.
Similarly, a dump truck in Pakistan was loaded with explosives and devastated the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008, killing 50.