From Nice in 2016 to Wisconsin in 2021: How ramming vehicles into crowds has become a deadly terror tactic

The use of a vehicle as a weapon in a terrorist attack is not new. Recent incidents carried out with intention of mass murder -- whether mot...

The use of a vehicle as a weapon in a terrorist attack is not new. Recent incidents carried out with intention of mass murder -- whether motivated by any agenda or not -- demonstrate that the use of vehicles as a weapon continues to be of interest.

This is primarily because attacks of this nature require minimal capability, but can have a devastating impact in crowded places with low levels of visible security. Because it is so basic that a lone ranger attack can also deal maximum damage, it allows perpetrators to go under the radar of security agencies, who usually keep vigilance on online chatter about criminal ideations and on purchase and sale of weapons and explosives.

There are also recorded instances of terrorist groups encouraging their recruits to use vehicle ramming attacks to cause maximum damage with minimum investment.

Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch encouraged its Western recruits to use trucks as weapons. A 2010 webzine article, "The Ultimate Mowing Machine," called for deploying a pickup truck as a "mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah, as per CNN. 

In September 2014, Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani called for lone wolf attacks using improvised weaponry, "If you are not able 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."

What happened in Wisconsin, Waukesha was a horrid reminder that this primal and old, yet effective technique still attracts individuals driven to mass murder. Here is a look back at the past when vehicle  ramming attacks caused destruction and damage.

2021 Wisconsin Christmas Parade: 5 dead 40 injured

A joyous scene of marching bands and children dancing in Santa hats and waving pompoms turned deadly in an instant, as an SUV sped through barricades and into a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing at least five people and injuring more than 40 others.

One video showed a woman screaming, “Oh my God!” repeatedly as a group of young dancers was struck Sunday. A father talked of going “from one crumpled body to the other” in search of his daughter. Members of a “Dancing Grannies” club were among those hit.

A “person of interest” was in custody, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said, but he gave no details about the person or any possible motive. The investigation was ongoing, with assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The horror was recorded by the city’s livestream and onlookers' cellphones.

2017 UK, London and Westminster attacks:

On 3 June 2017, a terrorist vehicle-ramming and stabbing took place in London, England. A van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on London Bridge, and then crashed on the south bank of the River Thames. Its three occupants then ran to the nearby Borough Market area and began stabbing people in and around restaurants and pubs.[8] They were shot dead by City of London Police officers, and were found to be wearing fake explosive vests.

Eight people were killed and 48 were injured, including members of the public and four unarmed police officers who attempted to stop the assailants. British authorities described the perpetrators as "radical Islamic terrorists".

Earlier in March, a  man drove an SUV into a crowd on the sidewalk along the Westminster Bridge in London, killing at least four. After ramming the car into a barrier outside the House of Parliament, the driver exited the vehicle and stabbed a police officer to death. The attacker was eventually gunned down by a police officer. The assailant, Khalid Masood, 52, of West Midlands, reportedly had a criminal record and was radicalised by Islamic State recruiters.

2017 Manhattan New York: 8 dead, 11 hurt

In October 2017, an Islamic State-inspired individual used a commercial-grade rental truck to attack pedestrians on a busy bicycle path near lower Manhattan, New York City, killing 8 and injuring more than 11 others. A pellet gun and a paintball gun were recovered from the scene.

The 29-yr-old man driving in a Home Depot rental truck, hopped a curb at West Houston Street and drove south on the bike path on the west side of West Side Highway in lower Manhattan for several blocks, officials said. After crashing the truck into a school bus, the suspect left the vehicle while displaying imitation firearms and was shot in the abdomen by a police officer, according to the NYPD.

The perpetrator was a Uzbeik national inspired by Islamic State.

2017 Sweden, Stockholm: Five dead, dozens injured

Eyewitnesses said a beer truck was hijacked as it made a delivery nearby and then barrelled at a high speed into a crowd along Drottninggatan, one of the city's major pedestrian thoroughfares, before crashing into a department store on 8 April 2017.

The suspect, a 39-year-old from the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, has admitted to carrying out a "terrorist crime," his lawyer said.

This is how an eye-witness described it to CNN: "It was like he was driving through paper. It's like it was nothing. I can't even believe how a person could do such a thing. And then he just kept on going. I was in shock."

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister, wrote on Twitter: "Steal a lorry or a car and then drive it into a crowd. That seems to be the latest terrorist method. Berlin. London. Now Stockholm."

2017 Spain, Barcelona & Cambrils twin attacks: 14 killed over 100 injured

At least 14 people are killed and about 100 were injured on 17 August after a van plowed through a crowd of people in a popular tourist district in Barcelona, Spain. IS media wing, Amaq, issues a statement claiming responsibility, saying that the attackers are "soldiers of the Islamic State." On August 18, in Cambrils, a coastal city around 100 kilometers from Barcelona, five attackers drive an Audi A3 into several pedestrians, killing one. The attackers are shot and killed by police. A house explosion on 16 August, in Alcanar, south of Barcelona, is also believed to be connected to the attacks.

2016 Germany, Berlin: 12 dead, many injured

A Tunisian man drove a tractor-trailer into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. In the wake of the attack, authorities conduct a manhunt for Anis Amri, 24, throughout Europe. He is shot and killed by police in Milan, Italy, four days after the attack. Hours after Amri's death, IS released a video of him pledging allegiance to the terrorist group.

The 24-year-old Tunisian national, a small-scale drug vendor and rejected asylum-seeker was known to police and had been monitored by authorities.

2016 France, Nice: 86 dead, hundreds injured

In one of the deadliest attacks of these kinds, on the evening of 14 July 2016, a 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in France.[5][6] The attack ended following an exchange of gunfire, during which Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot and killed by police.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Lahouaiej-Bouhlel answered its "calls to target citizens of coalition nations that fight the Islamic State". His father, however, claimed he was suffering from a mental illness.

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