This article comes from a paper I wrote as part of my studies at Henley-Putnam University. Because of today's attack in Toronto, Canada, I am publishing parts of the paper here in hopes law enforcement and others will make use of it.
1. Islamic Speeches that can be deemed contributory towards an attack
MEMRI.org posted a video and transcript 6473 of a February 2, 2018 sermon given by Imam Mohamed Moussa gave a sermon at the North Hudson Islamic Center in New Jersey that called on Islamic teachers to be mindful of what they say in sermons and schools that could be deemed incitement to violence. According to his biography on the Graduate Theological Foundation Mohamad Moussa is the President of the Tri-State Imams Council, and is the Secretary General of Manara Institute. The importance of this call by Dr. Mohamad Moussa, is that it is a public recognition that a problem exists in mosques across the United States of Imams using rhetoric that can be deemed as inciting to violence. Dr. Mohamad Moussa is not alone in his recognition of this. MEMRI published a video and transcript in 2015 of Imam Tareq Yousef Al-Masri who addressed the most recent terror attack in Paris as he spoke in the Brooklyn Oulel-Albab Mosque on January 9th of 2015. In this sermon Yousef states:
Let us admit, without lying to ourselves, that we, the Muslims, are time bombs. When I say “we, the Muslims,” I do not mean every single Muslim, but Muslims of the religious sector are time bombs. When a sinner repents, the first thing he does is make a bomb. He blows it up and kills people. We must admit this. We cannot become immune if we do not admit this.
While Yousef was not inciting violence he was recognizing that it does exist in mosques around the world including in the USA. Further on in the sermon, Yousef recognized who he believed were the scholars behind the violent rhetoric being spouted in mosques. This was an attempt to place a finger of blame against certain Islamic scholars while recognizing that a problem exists that needs to be addressed.
2. Terrorist Propaganda of Vehicle Attacks
Dr. Ahmet S. Yayla (2017) wrote of the Islamic State’s “Lone Wolf’s Handbook” and its possibility for cultivating terrorist actions within the USA. Dr. Yayla shared that the fourth chapter of this handbook was entitled “The Ultimate Human Lawn Mower.” Yayla then reminded the reader that ISIS had released a music video on the use of vehicles to kill in January of 2016. Yayla noted that this chapter advised the following:
a. To get a large 4X4 truck and to weld knife-like metal blades on bumpers and around headlights to increase the causalities.
b. Choose the most crowded places and drive over people as fast as possible to exact the most damage.
c. Drivers are not to stop after the first hit and to keep driving over as many victims as possible.
d. Choose the routes appropriately to ensure that there would be many other victims after the initial hit.
e. These kinds of attacks should be considered as suicide missions.
f. Driver assassins are advised to have weapons if possible and fight back until the very end.
g. Leave a note crediting ISIS for the attack.
Of special note here is the recommendation to acquire a larger vehicle to inflict maximum damage. Notable here is that this would likely require actors to rent vehicles. In Western society, a truck with knives protruding would likely be a target of law enforcement before any damage could be inflicted, this may account for a lack of reports of such vehicles in terror attacks.
a. Historical Usage of Vehicle Attacks
When I originally was working on this article as a paper for Henley-Putnam University, an attack occurred in Germany. O'Donoghue (2018, April 07) wrote in the Daily Star that in Münster a vehicle attack was carried out resulting in the immediate death of three persons and the injuries of at least 30 others. O’Donoghue notes with as little information that she has at present, that the attack seemed to have similarities with an attack in Berlin in December of 2016 in which 12 people were killed and 48 others were injured. Traynor and Hickson (2016) described this as the attack on the Berlin Christmas Market. This attack utilized a stolen lorry. A lorry being a commercial type truck used to transport goods.
Helsel (2016, August 4) wrote of a vehicle attack in France on Bastille Day, July 14. The attack claimed the lives of 85 people. The terrorist was killed. In this incident investigations revealed what that the terrorist selected his route than did what was called test runs in preparation.
Prokupecz, Levenson, and Gingras, B. (2017, November 06) wrote of a truck attack in New York City on October 31, 2017, which claimed the lives of 6 people with 11 being injured before the terrorist was shot but not killed. The truck was rented and a note was found near the truck giving ISIS credit for the attack.
Counter-Extremism Project (2018, March 16) recognized that there has been a series of vehicular terrorist related attacks documenting 36 cases since 2006, “collectively resulting in the deaths of at least 196 people and the injury of at least 1,050 others”. Add in the statistics for this week and the number dead exceeds 200 while the number injured rises close to 1,100.
Counter-Extremism Project (CEP), documents individual terror acts. Noting the country of origin of the actors which never appears to be from within the country where the attack takes place. CEP notes that in some cases such as the attack at the Glasgow Airport on June 30, 2007 that vehicular mass was not enough and actors placed propane canisters for an intended maximum effect. This action has been seen multiple times, some of them in failed attempts, some of them seen in accidental explosions such as are described by Birnbaum, Booth, and Branigin (2017, August 17) after the Barcelona truck attack in June 2017.
The FBI saw truck attacks becoming a serious concern by 2010 and published “Use of Vehicle Ramming Tactics” (2010, December 13). Of special note are the indicators of a possible terror actor provided in this release. The FBI indicators are tempered with the very real possibility that “a ramming attack can be conducted with little to no warning”. However, they indicators of a possible actor are only present when one or multiple indicators are given. Among the indicators shown are:
· “Unusual modifications to commercial motor vehicles, heavy equipment, passenger cars, and sports utility vehicles (SUVs), such as homemade attempts to reinforce the front of the vehicle with metal plates.
· The purchase, rental, or theft of large or heavy-duty vehicles or equipment, such as SUVs, trucks, or commercial motor vehicles, if accompanied by typical indicators such as nervousness during the purchase, paying in cash, or lack of familiarity with the vehicle’s operations.
· Commercial motor vehicles or heavy equipment being operated erratically, at unusual times, or in unusual locations, particularly in heavy pedestrian areas.
· Attempts to infiltrate closed areas where traffic usually moves, but where crowds are gathered, such as for street festivals or farmers’ markets.
· A vehicle operator’s apparent unfamiliarity with commercial motor vehicle or heavy equipment operation (unable to back up; trouble with shifting; poor lane tracking; unfamiliarity with basic vehicle mechanics such as air brake operations, slack adjusters, fifth wheel operations, Jake brakes, engine type, or location of fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment)”.
Of interest is the fourth indicator which speaks of observations of a vehicle in operation at unusual locations particularly heavy pedestrian zones. This behavior has been discovered after reviewing truck terror attacks that were committed. Celona, Fenton and Fears (2017, November 01) revealed that in the case of the New York City truck attack on October 31, 2017, security camera coverage revealed what could have been a test run and may have been multiple test runs.
3. Why are Vehicle Attacks happening more often?
Vehicle attacks are more likely to occur because:
· No affiliation with a terror group is required.
· No specialized training is needed.
· Planning can be brief.
· Trucks and Vans are easy to rent or steal.
· Little to no financial investment required.
· Propaganda from the Islamic State and Al Qaeda encourage such acts.
· No collaboration or consulting is required to achieve the terror attack.
· Almost impossible for law enforcement to detect and prevent.
· Death while committing the act requires no jail time.
While it is stated that it is almost impossible to detect, humans are communicative by nature. They write notes to themselves, talk to others and share what is on their mind. It is still possible that somehow, something could be known about a possible vehicle attack. Counterterrorism experts have a near impossible task to prevent all such acts.
 MEMRI. (2018, February 2). NJ Imam Mohamed Moussa: We Have Started a Workshop Training U.S. Imams How to Avoid Incitement and Hate Speech. Retrieved April 07, 2018, from https://www.memri.org/tv/nj-imam-mohamed-moussa-workshop-training-american-imams-to-avoid-incitement/transcript.
 MEMRI. (2015). Brooklyn Imam Tareq Yousef Al-Masri on Paris Terror Attacks: We Muslims Must Admit That We Are Time Bombs and We Hate Christians. Retrieved April 07, 2018, from https://www.memri.org/tv/brooklyn-imam-tareq-yousef-al-masri-paris-terror-attacks-we-muslims-must-admit-we-are-time-bombs.
 Yayla, A. S. (2017, July 29). ISIS Tries to Activate Amateur Attackers in the West. Retrieved April 07, 2018, from https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2017/07/29/isis-tries-to-activate-amateur-attackers-in-the-west/..
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