(CNSNews.com) – The tactic of vehicle ramming in terrorist attacks, used to such deadly effect in Nice on Thursday night, has become more prevalent with Islamic jihadists in recent years, actively encouraged in terrorist groups’ online propaganda as a simple yet effective way to kill people.
Until the attack in the southern French city, in which at least 80 people were killed when a truck plowed into crowds watching a Bastille Day fireworks display, previous such attacks have taken a far smaller toll, although some have proven fatal, especially in Israel.
In recent years the world’s two most notorious Sunni terrorist groups, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have both drawn attention to the tactic in their respective propaganda magazines.
In a December 2014 edition of its publication, Dabiq, ISIS praised, among others, Martin Couture-Rouleau, a jihadist who ran down and killed a Canadian soldier in Quebec two months earlier.
“At this point of the crusade against the Islamic State, it is very important that attacks take place in every country that has entered into the alliance against the Islamic State, especially the U.S., U.K., France, Australia, and Germany,” it said.
More pointedly, AQAP’s Inspire magazine in a fall 2010 edition dedicated an entire article to the use of vehicles to kill.
“It is a simple idea and there is not much involved in its preparation,” the article said. “All what is needed is the willingness to give one’s life for Allah.”
Under the headline “The ultimate mowing machine” and a picture of a pickup truck the writer, identified as Yahya Ibrahim, explained in graphic terms how jihadists should pick their targets and rig their vehicles “to achieve maximum carnage.”
“Pick your location and timing carefully. Go for the most crowed locations. Narrower spots are also better because it gives less chance for the people to run away. Avoid locations where other vehicles may intercept you,” he advised.
“To achieve maximum carnage, you need to pick up as much speed as you can while still retaining good control of your vehicle in order to maximize your inertia and be able to strike as many people as possible in your first run.”
Ibrahim also suggested attackers weld steel blades onto the front of an SUV.
“They do not need to be extra sharp because with the speed of the truck at the time of impact, even a blunter edge would slice through bone very easily. You may raise the level of the blades as high as the headlights. That would make the blades strike your targets at the torso level or higher.”
Ibrahim said the attacker should expect martyrdom.
“You start out your day in this world, and by the end of it, you are with Allah. This idea could be implemented in countries like Israel, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland …”
“If Allah guides your heart to such a great operation please leave behind a note,” he concluded. “Tell the world why you did it.”
Shortly after that edition of Inspire was posted, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a release warning of vehicle ramming attacks and ways to spot an imminent attack.
“Vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a Homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience,” it said.
The release said ramming attacks can occur with little or no warning, but listed possible indicators, including:
--Unusual modifications to vehicles such as frontal reinforcement
--The purchase or rental of large or heavy-duty vehicles, if accompanied by behavior such as nervousness during the transaction, paying in cash, or lack of familiarity with the vehicle’s operations
--Commercial motor vehicles or heavy equipment being operated in unusual locations, particularly heavy pedestrian areas, and attempts to approach areas closed to traffic, such as street festivals or farmers’ markets
--A vehicle operator’s apparent unfamiliarity with operating a commercial vehicle, such as an inability to back up and trouble with gear shifting.
Car-ramming attacks have become relatively commonplace in Israel during a wave of Palestinian violence that began last fall, which has also included knife and gun attacks and a bombing.
Since September, Palestinians have carried out 46 such attacks, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.
Two of them were fatal – a rabbi was killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem last October, and a soldier died of wounds sustained in a November attack near Hebron.
In other car-ramming attacks that have cost lives in recent years include, one person was killed when an attacker in Nantes, France, drove into ten pedestrians in a market shortly before Christmas Day 2014. A day earlier, a similar attack in Dijon seriously injured two people.
A Hamas supporter drove a van into pedestrians in Jerusalem in November 2014, leaving three people dead and wounding others; a month earlier a woman and three-month-old baby were killed in a similar attack in the Israeli capital.
A Palestinian terrorist in a tractor ran down and killed a pedestrian in Jerusalem in August 2014, before driving into a bus, overturning it and ramming it repeatedly.
In May 2013, two Muslim radicals ran down then stabbed to death a British soldier in southeast London in what they said was a revenge attack for the deaths of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Five people were killed when a man drove his car into a crowd watching a Dutch royal parade in April 2009. Investigators ruled out terrorism as a motive.
In Jerusalem in July 2008, a terrorist used a front-end loader in his attack, killing three people and wounding dozens more.
An August 2006 SUV ramming attack in San Francisco against 18 pedestrians, one of whom was killed, was viewed by some as a terror attack. The driver, an Afghan national, was later found to be insane.