Truck Attacks as Terror Tactic: Denying the Awful Reality

There is no sanctuary from terrorist attacks using trucks to ram innocents.

On April 7, 2018, in the German city of Münster, near the Dutch border, a man drove a van into people seated outside restaurants in a pedestrian area, killing two people, injuring about 20 others, then shot himself. 

Vehicle-ramming attacks are becoming a terrorist favorite lately. According to the FBI, “vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience.” 

The Americans still remember their 2017 New York City truck attack, where on October 31, an Islamic terrorist, a native of Uzbekistan, drove a rented pickup truck into cyclists and runners for about one mile in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 11 others.

The Spaniards still remember their 2017 Barcelona attack, where on August 17, a Moroccan drove a van into pedestrians, killing 15 people and injuring other 131.

The Swedes still remember their 2017 Stockholm attack, where on April 7, exactly one year ago, another native of Uzbekistan, and a rejected asylum seeker, hijacked a lorry and deliberately drove it into crowds, killing five people and seriously injuring 14 others.

The Germans still remember their 2016 Berlin attack, where on December 19, a Tunisian native, also a failed asylum seeker and an ISIS follower, deliberately drove a truck into the Christmas Market, killing 12 people and injuring another 56.

The French still remember their 2016 Nice attack, where on July 14, their national day, another Tunisian native, and also an ISIS follower, deliberately drove his 19 ton cargo truck into crowds of people, killing 86 people and injuring another 458.

The Münster vehicle ramming has been classified as a non-terrorist incident for now. Officials were quick in ruling out “any Islamist connection” to the act, despite the early stage of the investigation. According to Herbert Reul, the Interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Münster, the attacker was a German aged around 48 “with psychological problems,” who had recently attempted suicide and had a past of petty crime and drug dealing.

A witness, who said he had studied in Münster, told Der Spiegel he had driven there to go shopping and was now unable to return to his car. “Unbelievable that something like this could happen in Münster. It is one of the most peaceful cities I know,” he said. 

The new rule of thumb from now on: there is no “peaceful city’ immune to terrorist attacks.

Arguing semantics again

There are, however, some points that remain to be clarified.

Motivation. There is so far no clear indication of the attacker’s motive. Police will determine whether the driver wanted to commit a “murder-suicide.” The German press reported that in the van was a pistol connected to a wire leading underneath the floor carpeting (Die Welt) and has not ruled out a “political background,” possible a pro-Kurdish “motive.” (Bild)

The populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party deputy leader, Beatrix von Storch, was outraged in a tweet: "WE CREATED THAT" (translated) drawing the parallels to the refugee crises.

Accomplices. Police said witnesses had seen two potential accomplices exiting the van immediately after the attack, which is a possible lead to explore.

Der Spiegel reported that police were investigating a similar incident that occurred a day before, on Friday evening, April 6, in the eastern city of Cottbus, where a man drove his car into a group of people, injuring two, before fleeing.

In January and February 2018, Cottbus, a stronghold of AfD, witnessed massive anti-migrant demonstrations following several knife attacks against local residents, presumably committed by Syrian refugees. (German police flex muscles to calm Cottbus refugee tensions.)  As a result, the local authorities decided to stop sending any more asylum seekers to the town. 

Attacker’s ethnicity. The German authorities reported only that the assailant was a “German” named Jens R., born on May 1, 1969, who resided in Münster. No other details were given related to his ethnicity or last name.

Similarly, after the 2016 Munich shooting, the police chief talked about a case of “classic shooting rampage” and not terrorism, which was committed by a “German” named D. Sonboly, born and raised in Munich.

Later on, his full name turned out to be Ali David Sonboly, a Shiite Muslim of Iranian descent, with no love for Sunnis (some victims were Turks and Kosovars), who had an Afghan friend also detained by the police. 

We still remember how the German authorities handled mass sexual assaults committed by Muslim immigrants in Cologne.

We still remember how the French authorities suppressed evidence that ISIS terrorists tortured, even disemboweled their victims in the Bataclan attack in Paris.

As it turns out, when dealing with “Islamic elements,” authorities become timid and not very forthcoming. And they argue semantics again. And all is done in the interest of the public good, of course.

Photo credit: Gh9449 

Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC, and can be followed on MEDIUM.

There is no sanctuary from terrorist attacks using trucks to ram innocents.

On April 7, 2018, in the German city of Münster, near the Dutch border, a man drove a van into people seated outside restaurants in a pedestrian area, killing two people, injuring about 20 others, then shot himself. 

Vehicle-ramming attacks are becoming a terrorist favorite lately. According to the FBI, “vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience.” 

The Americans still remember their 2017 New York City truck attack, where on October 31, an Islamic terrorist, a native of Uzbekistan, drove a rented pickup truck into cyclists and runners for about one mile in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 11 others.

The Spaniards still remember their 2017 Barcelona attack, where on August 17, a Moroccan drove a van into pedestrians, killing 15 people and injuring other 131.

The Swedes still remember their 2017 Stockholm attack, where on April 7, exactly one year ago, another native of Uzbekistan, and a rejected asylum seeker, hijacked a lorry and deliberately drove it into crowds, killing five people and seriously injuring 14 others.

The Germans still remember their 2016 Berlin attack, where on December 19, a Tunisian native, also a failed asylum seeker and an ISIS follower, deliberately drove a truck into the Christmas Market, killing 12 people and injuring another 56.

The French still remember their 2016 Nice attack, where on July 14, their national day, another Tunisian native, and also an ISIS follower, deliberately drove his 19 ton cargo truck into crowds of people, killing 86 people and injuring another 458.

The Münster vehicle ramming has been classified as a non-terrorist incident for now. Officials were quick in ruling out “any Islamist connection” to the act, despite the early stage of the investigation. According to Herbert Reul, the Interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Münster, the attacker was a German aged around 48 “with psychological problems,” who had recently attempted suicide and had a past of petty crime and drug dealing.

A witness, who said he had studied in Münster, told Der Spiegel he had driven there to go shopping and was now unable to return to his car. “Unbelievable that something like this could happen in Münster. It is one of the most peaceful cities I know,” he said. 

The new rule of thumb from now on: there is no “peaceful city’ immune to terrorist attacks.

Arguing semantics again

There are, however, some points that remain to be clarified.

Motivation. There is so far no clear indication of the attacker’s motive. Police will determine whether the driver wanted to commit a “murder-suicide.” The German press reported that in the van was a pistol connected to a wire leading underneath the floor carpeting (Die Welt) and has not ruled out a “political background,” possible a pro-Kurdish “motive.” (Bild)

The populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party deputy leader, Beatrix von Storch, was outraged in a tweet: "WE CREATED THAT" (translated) drawing the parallels to the refugee crises.

Accomplices. Police said witnesses had seen two potential accomplices exiting the van immediately after the attack, which is a possible lead to explore.

Der Spiegel reported that police were investigating a similar incident that occurred a day before, on Friday evening, April 6, in the eastern city of Cottbus, where a man drove his car into a group of people, injuring two, before fleeing.

In January and February 2018, Cottbus, a stronghold of AfD, witnessed massive anti-migrant demonstrations following several knife attacks against local residents, presumably committed by Syrian refugees. (German police flex muscles to calm Cottbus refugee tensions.)  As a result, the local authorities decided to stop sending any more asylum seekers to the town. 

Attacker’s ethnicity. The German authorities reported only that the assailant was a “German” named Jens R., born on May 1, 1969, who resided in Münster. No other details were given related to his ethnicity or last name.

Similarly, after the 2016 Munich shooting, the police chief talked about a case of “classic shooting rampage” and not terrorism, which was committed by a “German” named D. Sonboly, born and raised in Munich.

Later on, his full name turned out to be Ali David Sonboly, a Shiite Muslim of Iranian descent, with no love for Sunnis (some victims were Turks and Kosovars), who had an Afghan friend also detained by the police. 

We still remember how the German authorities handled mass sexual assaults committed by Muslim immigrants in Cologne.

We still remember how the French authorities suppressed evidence that ISIS terrorists tortured, even disemboweled their victims in the Bataclan attack in Paris.

As it turns out, when dealing with “Islamic elements,” authorities become timid and not very forthcoming. And they argue semantics again. And all is done in the interest of the public good, of course.

Photo credit: Gh9449 

Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC, and can be followed on MEDIUM.