- REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
It’s not clear yet who is responsible for the attack that killed four people in London. But terrorist groups have long been calling for supporters to attack “infidels” with cars.
At least four people were killed in London when lone assailant mowed down dozens of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in a 4X4 car before killing a police officer with a knife in the grounds of Parliament
London police are treating the incident as a terrorist attack, and an investigation is underway.
The attack mirrors those terrorist groups ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for recently, encouraging supporters to use vehicles as weapons. New York Times terrorism correspondent Rukmini Callimachi noted on Twitter that “stabbing and car-ramming” are “ISIS signatures.”
An ISIS video released last year showed a French ISIS member demonstrating how to kill people using knives. The ISIS member also called for attacks in the West.
And in the past year, English-language ISIS propaganda magazines have called for vehicle and knife attacks.
In a recent issue of Rumiyah, a magazine from the terror group aimed at English-language speakers, included an article titled “Just Terror Tactics” that outlined ideal vehicles to use in terror attacks as well as ideal targets.
“Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner,” the article said.
The article also cited the attack in Nice, France, in July, in which a supposed ISIS supporter killed 86 people by plowing into a crowd with a truck on Bastille Day.
“Vehicles are like knives, as they are extremely easy to acquire,” the article said.
The previous issue of Rumiyah included another “Just Terror Tactics” article that provided tips for knife attacks.
Knives “are widely available in every land and thus readily accessible,” the article said. “They are extremely easy to conceal and highly lethal, especially in the hands of someone who knows how to use them effectively.”
The article also described how to choose a knife and target.
ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, now dead, had also called for these attacks. He said in 2014: “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.”
Adnani issued a similar directive again in 2015.
Europe in particular has been a focus for ISIS. A 2014 ISIS video encouraged supporters to attack people in France with cars and other easily accessible weapons.
“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place – pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member says in the video. “Operate within France.”
The man then goes on to mention cars specifically: “There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. … Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.”
- Thomson Reuters
Al Qaeda has also put out global calls to attack Westerners with cars.
In the second issue of its English-language magazine Inspire, the terrorist group referred to pickup trucks as “the ultimate mowing machine.”
“The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” the magazine article states.
Pro-ISIS accounts on the messaging app Telegram, which the terrorist group uses as a platform to disseminate its message, have been celebrating the London attack. But the group has yet to make any claim of responsibility.
ISIS, in particular, has increasingly been relying on external attacks as it has been losing territory in the Middle East, where its self-declared “caliphate” lies.
When the terrorist group first rampaged across Iraq and Syria claiming territory, it encouraged supporters to travel to the Islamic State, but recently ISIS rhetoric has shifted to focus on encouraging people to mount attacks in their home countries.
Sometimes these attacks are directed by ISIS leadership, but sometimes they are carried out by lone actors who don’t have any significant contact with ISIS members.