Attack in Nice: When vehicles become weapons

The Paris prosecutor's office launches a 'terrorism investigation' into an attack on the coastal city of Nice that killed scores of people watching a Bastille Day fireworks display.
The attack on a crowd of people in Nice, France was premeditated, regional president Christian Estrosi said
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14.
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Transforming a vehicle into a simple but deadly weapon of terror - as happened to such bloody effect in Nice on Thursday (July 14) - is a tactic well known to intelligence agencies.

A truck smashed into revellers celebrating France's Bastille Day, killing at least 84 and injuring scores as its ploughed 2km through the crowd.

Western authorities have had to deal with three similar attacks in recent years: two in Britain and another in Canada.

In May 2013, two militants smashed their car into British soldier Lee Rigby before attempting to behead him on a London street in broad daylight.

 
 
 
 
 

The pair, who were of Nigerian heritage, said they attacked the 25-year-old fusilier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.

Just 18 months later, a man claiming to be acting in the name of radical jihad ran over and killed Canadian soldier Patrice Vincent, also injuring a second man.

Shortly after, the 25-year-old Muslim convert, Martin Couture-Rouleau, called the police emergency line to dedicate his attack to the cause of jihad.

And in June 2007, two men in a burning jeep smashed into the main terminal building at Scotland's Glasgow Airport. One of the men was jailed for life, with the judge describing him as a "religious extremist".

For several years, extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda have exhorted followers via videos or messages to carry out such attacks using whatever comes to hand.

In September 2014, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, an ISIS spokesman who Western intelligence agencies have dubbed the group's "attacks minister", issued chilling instructions that some have since apparently followed.

"If you cannot (detonate) a bomb or (fire) a bullet, arrange to meet alone with a French or an American infidel and bash his skull in with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with your car, throw him off a cliff, strangle him, or inject him with poison," he said.

Al-Adnani said there was no need to "consult anyone" as all unbelievers are fair game: "It is immaterial if the infidel is a combatant or a civilian... They are both enemies. The blood of both is permitted."