Yesterday’s truck attack in Nice, France, that claimed at least 84 lives serves as a grim reminder that, in the wrong hands, a truck can be used as a weapon of terror.
Truck Used As A Ramming Weapon Against Pedestrians
During last night’s attack, a large white truck drove through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day with fireworks, running down pedestrians. The driver, 31 year old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was eventually shot to death by police. At this time, police have not been able to uncover any terrorist ties to Bouhel. He was described as a loner, a delivery driver who was recently arrested for causing a crash after falling asleep at the wheel.
There has long been cause for concern about the use of trucks by terrorists not as bombs but as ramming vehicles in the west. Isis and Al Queda have both encouraged followers to use trucks as ramming devices to kill pedestrians. The Department of Homeland Security has also noted that “vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a Homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience.”
According to terrorism expert Matthew Henman of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, “the use of a large truck in the attack, alongside the high death toll and deliberate targeting of a large crowd at an ideologically symbolic event represents an evolution in the use of the tactic and potentially indicates a higher level of operational planning.”
In other words, the high death toll of this DIY brand of terrorism could make it more popular in the future.
Alert Truckers Could Provide Valuable Line Of Defense Against Similar Attacks
The vigilance of the American truck driver is likely the nation’s best chance of defending against this type of attack. A briefing released in 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security outlines signals that could indicate a truck-based terror threat:
- Unusual modifications to a truck — especially attempts to reinforce the front of the truck with metal plates.
- A truck driver’s extreme lack of familiarity with basic vehicle functions (unable to back up, trouble shifting, unfamiliarity with Jake brake or fifth wheel operations, etc.)
- Trucks operated at unusual times in crowded pedestrian areas.
If you do see something suspicious, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that you call local law enforcement or 911. Learn more about reporting suspicious activity by clicking here.
Driver in France terror attack ID’d as Mohamad Lahouaiej Bouhel, a French-Tunisian. https://t.co/xfsTGOXnQF
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) July 15, 2016