Truck Terror in New York

‘NOT IN THE USA’ tweets President Trump in the aftermath of the Islamist truck attack in New York where Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant, is accused of killing eight and injuring 11 yesterday. As an aspiration, Trump’s tweet is laudable: if intended to be prophecy or prediction, then it looks less convincing. More striking, though, is that such attacks have not appeared more prominently or more frequently in the United States before now. In the land that invented the drive-by shooting (in Chicago race riots in 1919), the turn to using automobiles themselves as weapons has been perhaps a surprisingly long time coming.

By contrast, ever since 86 people were killed in Nice on 14 July 2016, such ramming attacks have been a major preoccupation of European security agencies. It has long been clear that such attacks could easily spread across the Atlantic: on 12 August 2017, a white nationalist killed one woman and injured 19 by ramming a crowd of demonstrators at Charlottesville, Virginia; on 18 May previously the apparently mentally deranged Richard Rojas also killed one and injured 20 in New York’s Times Square. But until now Islamists have not turned to the vehicle ramming attack in the USA.

Ominous as this development is, it bears all the hallmarks of amateur improvisation: the contrast with the eye-watering casualty figures emerging from al-Shabaab’s bombing of Mogadishu on 16 October last (that left over 300 dead) could hardly be starker. In American society with its ferociously, well-armed citizenry (at least in parts), Saipov could apparently only source himself a paintball and pellet gun as his own private arsenal. After the Las Vegas shootings a month ago that killed 58, that reflection affords some very minimal consolation.

Still, for those directly bereaved or maimed, such reflections will be only cold comfort. And for security officials, this latest atrocity will prompt much reflection. With very primitive means, an attacker has caused significant carnage in the heart of New York and – however fleetingly – grabbed world headlines. Such attacks are hardly any existential threat to Western civilisation; but they do look like they are becoming a recurrent, if sporadic, feature of urban life in the early 21st century.

Dr Tim Wilson
1 Nov 2017

Tim Wilson - Paris Attack, 20 April 2017

Like the equally tragic death of PC Keith Palmer at Westminster on 22 March, the fatal shooting of a police officer on the Champs Elysees last night is an atrocity that changes everything for friends and family directly affected– but which also leaves national security capacity entirely unaffected. After all, this victim was one (extremely unlucky) officer amongst 50,000 on the streets of Paris. And by the standards of the 13 November 2015 roving carnage in which 130 members of the public died, this pin-prick attack by an ISIS-wannabe is rather unimpressive in its ambition.


Tim Wilson: Reflections on the Westminster Attack

As the dust settles on the recent attack at Westminster, CSTPV Director Tim Wilson reflects upon the atrocity in a longer-term context:


The Islamic State Wants the West to Over-React and Hasten Apocalypse

The Islamic State’s brutality has shifted targets – from expanding territorial control for a so-called caliphate in the Middle East to inspiring random attacks on soft targets in the West. The terrorist group emerged during Syria’s civil war, initially targeting Shia and other Muslims who resisted the primitive beliefs. By 2015, air attacks by the United States, Jordan and other nations combined with an offensive by Kurdish ground troops slowed the territorial expansion, pushing the jihadists from key cities like Kobani. Recruitment of foreigners fell, and many jihadists have tried to flee. The Islamic State yearns for a war between the West and Islam. Relying on social media, the extremists incite supporters to launch attacks anywhere in the world, as indicated by mass killings in Paris and San Bernardino, California. The Islamic State hopes to goad the United States and other countries to crack down on Muslims, prompting anger, fear and new waves of recruits for an apocalyptic battle anticipated by fundamentalists. Terrorism expert David Rapoport warns that over-reaction to terrorism, while common, could be disastrous. – YaleGlobal Read More...

Gilbert Ramsay - An 'Even Newer' Terrorism?

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who seems to have been the person responsible for shooting dead Corporal Nathan Cirillo and opening fire in the Canadian parliament seems to be more of a (would be) mass shooter than a serious terrorist. Amidst all the high-level discussions, ramping up of security and rhetoric about Canada refusing to be intimidated, it is important to remember that. When Major Nidal Malik Hassan opened fire in Fort Hood Army base in Texas and killed thirteen people, the action was presented as a manifestation of a frightening Al Qaeda strategy of leaderless jihad, and leading Al Qaeda figures were happy to claim it as such. But Hassan’s also bears striking similarities to incidents such as the Kanadahar massacre in 2012, when a US soldier killed sixteen Afghans in a gun rampage, or indeed a more recent spree shooting in Fort Hood itself.