A New Norm In Terrorism? Why Vehicle Attacks Put Everyone On Edge

REUTERS/Jean-Pierre Amet

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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When a vehicle crashes into a crowd of people, killing innocent civilians, it raises alarms, as vehicle attacks have increasingly become a popular method of attack for extremists.

A white rental van mounted the curb and slammed into a cluster of pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, Monday afternoon, killing nine and injuring over a dozen others. The suspect, who was reportedly armed, attempted to flee the scene but was ultimately apprehended by authorities. While the incident has not been declared a terrorist attack, it has some of the familiar characteristics.

A man with suicidal thoughts smashed a van into a group of people on April 3 outside a restaurant Münster, Germany, ending several lives. Before details of the driver’s condition emerged, there were serious concerns the incident might have been a terrorist attack.

Terrorists have been using vehicles as weapons for over a decade now, but such attacks are much more frequent than they were in the past. Both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have strongly encouraged its followers to use vehicles to inflict heavy casualties on civilians.

The first major vehicle attack in the West occurred in Nice, France, on July 14, 2016. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a native of Tunisia, used a 20-ton truck to kill civilians gathered to watch the Bastille Day fireworks. The attacker killed a total of 84 people and injured around 200 others.

On December 19, 2016, Anis Amri slammed a tractor-trailer into a crowd of people at a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, ending the lives of 12 and injuring nearly 50 others.

Terrorists carried out half a dozen vehicle attacks in 2017, leaving dozens of bodies in their wakes.

Suspected ISIS sympathizer Fadi Qunbar smashed a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on January 8, 2017, killing four and injuring 10.

London, England, experienced two vehicle attacks in March and June of 2017. An attack on Westminster Bridge left behind four dead and many more wounded, and the later attack on London Bridge killed eight and injured around 40 other people.

When suspected ISIS sympathizer Rakhmat Akilov, a native of Uzbekistan, plowed a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people on a shopping street in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 7, 2017, he killed a total of five people and injured roughly 12 others.

In August 2017, extremists labeled “soldiers of the Islamic State” killed 14 people and injured more than 100 others with a van in Barcelona, Spain. On October 31, 2017, the driver of a rental truck jumped the curb and ran down pedestrians on a bicycle path in Manhattan, New York. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an ISIS-inspired extremist, killed eight and wounded 12 others.

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