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
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.Read More...
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.Read More...