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Jun 20, 2017 04:51 PM IST | Source:

Wheels are the new weapons of terror; here's why such attacks are difficult to prevent

On Monday, a van rammed into a crowd of worshippers near a mosque in Finsbury Park in London. It was the third time since March that terror in this form had struck the UK.


For decades, guns and bombs were the weapons of choice for terrorists. But with heavy security and a global crackdown on terror making it increasingly difficult to get and store weapons, terrorists have now devised a new strategy.

Over the past year, there have been a spate of terror attacks across Europe, several of which involved a vehicle ploughing through a crowded street and wreaking havoc.

On Monday, terror in this form struck the UK for the third time since March when a van rammed into a crowd of worshippers near a mosque in Finsbury Park in London. A man died and eight people were injured, of which two were in serious condition.

After a similar incident earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged this new pattern of attacks.

The spontaneous nature of these attacks, the large presence of civilian vehicles and low communication with any terror groups makes it extremely difficult to prevent such attacks and anti-terror forces across the world are still searching for solutions.

“Terrorist groups now push out this methodology that you should use whatever the hell you have to hand to kill whoever the hell you can find,” says Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank, told Vox. “That makes it very difficult for security services to stay ahead of that."

Many terrorism experts believe that such attacks are easily executable as they negate the need of obtaining any explosives or weapons and can be carried out by a "lone-wolf" attacker.

"This kind of attack doesn't need special preparation, it is very low-cost, within anybody's reach," said Sebastien Pietrasanta, a French Socialist lawmaker and terrorism expert told Reuters.

Also, it reduces the headache of smuggling weapons and clearing security checks. Even though such attacks  are low-tech, they still make a major impact.

“They are low tech and uncomplicated but attract as much attention as more sophisticated attacks — a win-win for terrorists. There's just no way to stop them if a person is not part of a known group,” Will McCants, an expert on terrorism at the Brookings Institution told Vox.

No strategies are devised to prevent such attacks, yet. Experts say that such attacks will prevail in the coming years.

“[Counter-terrorism] professionals have wondered for over a decade why we haven't seen more terror attacks like this. But now that they've arrived, they're not going away any time soon,” McCants explained.

Here's a recap of similar attacks that have taken place in recent months:

June 3: London (UK)                                                                                                 Eight people were killed and 48 injured after a van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge and its passengers got out and stabbed people nearby.

April 7: Stockholm (Sweden)
Four people were killed and 15 injured when a man used a stolen car to ram through a departmental store in the Swedish capital Stockholm.

March 22: London (UK)

A car rammed into pedestrians on the southern side of Westminster Bridge in London, killing four and injuring around 46 others.

December 19, 2016: Berlin (Germany)

A truck deliberately drove through the Christian market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 56 others.

July 14, 2016: Nice (France)

In the worst attack of its kind, a cargo truck drove through Promenade des Anglais in Nice where people were celebrating France's National Day. The carnage that followed resulted in 86 deaths and left 434 others injured.
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