On Tuesday, a suspected jihadi immigrant from Uzbekistan targeted dozens of New York City pedestrians and bikers with his truck, killing eight and injuring countless more just blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks.
This is the third such documented incident of vehicular jihad in the U.S. In 2006, an Iranian-American drove his SUV into a lunchtime crowd of diners at UNC-Chapel Hill, in retaliation of U.S. foreign policy actions worldwide. Last year, a Somali refugee committed the same attack method at Ohio State University, injuring 13 people before he was shot and killed by police.
Though relatively rare in the U.S., vehicular jihad has become an increasingly popular attack method for global jihadi groups for the psychological component of terror that’s also involved.
The tactic has its roots in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It all started on February 14, 2001, when Khalil Mohammed Abu Ulbah, a 35-year-old bus driver from Gaza, drove his bus into a group of Israeli soldiers and civilians just outside of Tel Aviv, killing eight and wounding 26 more.
The attack took place during the height of the Second Intifada — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s “uprising” (holy war) against Israel’s Jews. Given Israel’s bolstering of security at the time, however, terrorists had a hard time moving guns across Palestinian areas. So they were forced to innovate new methods to kill and maim innocents. Some turned to vehicular jihad.
Israelis have been dealing with the issue for almost two decades, and it continues to be an epidemic in Jerusalem. Since September 2015, Palestinian terrorists have targeted Israelis with over 50 vehicular attacks, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sadly, the international media have ignored or underplayed the vast majority of such attacks, often blaming the innocent victims for somehow inciting the indiscriminate killings. Organizations like Honest Reporting and CAMERA have exhaustive documentation exposing the media’s failure to properly and objectively cover the epidemic.
However, now that vehicular jihad has gone global, some are finally starting to recognize its severe consequences.
Inspired by the success of the Palestinian operations against Israelis, supporters of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terror groups now use the tactic with great frequency.
In 2014, ISIS leader Abu Mohammad al-Adnani told supporters:
“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.”
Similarly, al-Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine calls on followers to do the same.
“The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” a segment from the jihadi quarterly reads.
The most deadly incident occurred in July 2016 in Nice, France, when an ISIS-inspired terrorist drove his 19-ton truck through the crowded Bastille Day streets, killing 86 and injuring 458 others. Months later, an ISIS-inspired truck driver slammed his vehicle into a Berlin Christmas market, leaving 12 dead and over 50 more injured.
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