Authorities investigate a truck after it plowed through Bastille Day revelers in the French resort city of Nice, France, on Thursday. (Sasha Goldsmith via AP)

Authorities investigate a truck after it plowed through Bastille Day revelers in the French resort city of Nice, France, on Thursday. (Sasha Goldsmith via AP)

France’s truck attack marks deadly twist in European terror

By PAISLEY DODDS

Associated Press

LONDON — France’s deadly truck attack marks a frightening new reality in European terrorism: assailants turning to an ever-expanding arsenal in bloodshed that is becoming harder to predict or prevent.

Europe is no stranger to such violence, but Thursday’s death toll of at least 84 people represented one of the deadliest vehicle attacks in recent years.

Although the motivation behind the attack is not yet clear, the Tunisian driver plowed the vehicle into a crowd of revelers who had been watching fireworks for Bastille Day festivities. Unlike attacks that have involved explosives-laden vehicles, the sheer weight and speed of the truck on the busy promenade appeared to have caused the high number of deaths.

“Using vehicles in attacks is a fairly well-established tactic with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group,” said Matthew Henman, managing editor at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. “The deliberate use of a heavy truck targeting a crowd illustrates the demonstrability of the attack and could be the precursor for other attacks.”

Supporters of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group praised the attack Friday, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The militant group has called on supporters to use any means possible to strike at its targets. Attacks inspired by terror groups in recent years have involved planes, bulldozers, tractors, guns, knives, machetes, bombs, explosives and vehicles.

In France, there were two other recent attacks using vehicles, but it was disputed whether the assailants had links to terrorist cells. On Dec. 22, 2014, a man ran over a group of pedestrians at a Christmas market in Nantes, killing one and injuring nine others. That attack came a day after a similar one in Dijon when a motorist also struck pedestrians, injuring 13. Both suspects, who survived, have histories of mental illness.

In Montreal, a vehicle was used to kill a soldier in October 2014; a year earlier, attackers used a car to run over an off-duty soldier in London before stabbing him to death.

Terrorist attacks involving vehicles have been more common outside of Europe.

The deadliest recent attack occurred July 3 when a suicide bomber from the Islamic State group killed at least 292 people and wounded another 200 by exploding a minibus in a crowded commercial area of Baghdad. The blast came near the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when streets were teaming with people — much like Thursday’s festivities that drew crowds across France.

In Afghanistan, Taliban militants using a minivan killed 64 people and wounded more than 340 in an attack this year aimed at a government convoy. Last year, a truck bomb was also used to kill more than 10 people in Kabul. Similarly, a dump truck in Pakistan was loaded with explosives and devastated the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008, killing 50.

Israel, too, has seen a recent series of attacks using vehicles, many of which have been used against Israeli soldiers or civilians. Other attacks have involved bulldozers and tractors. Some bus and trolley stations have since been fortified with concrete barriers to prevent cars from driving into crowds.

The deadliest vehicle attack was in Beirut in 1983. Two trucks packed with explosives plowed into barracks housing U.S. and French military members, killing more than 300 people. In the United States, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in 1995 by driving a truck laden with explosives into a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator who headed a commission investigating jihadi recruitment networks, said such attacks are difficult to prevent but questioned whether France could be doing more. The worst occurred in November, when Islamic State-linked extremists attacked the Bataclan concert hall and other sites across Paris, killing 130 people.

“We can’t put a police officer behind every person,” Goulet said. “But, then again, if there really was a state of emergency, we should not have had a gathering like the fireworks show. … This is a vicious cycle that is not ending.”

France has been under a state of emergency since November. The measure allows for any gathering — such as the Bastille Day festivities — to be banned. It also allows for people’s homes to be searched without a warrant and for suspects to be held under house arrest without formal charges.

Security officials say an increase in “lone wolf” attackers also makes prevention more difficult. Two such cases in the United States involved last year’s attack in California when a married couple killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Investigators determined that the couple were inspired but not directed by foreign terrorist groups. Last month, a 29-year-old security guard killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando. He said he was inspired by the Islamic State group and other rival militant groups, although his motivation remains unclear.

Sebastien Pietrasanta, a French lawmaker who was on the commission investigating the November attacks in Paris, said the truck driver in Nice had not been flagged as having ties to radicals.

“This was an individual who apparently was not known as radicalized,” he said. “It’s obviously very difficult to prevent. This is the same idea as Orlando.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Wade Brickman works through a call with trainer Lars Coleman Friday afternoon at SNO911 in Everett, Washington on May 20, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Difference between life and death’: New 911 tech saves vital seconds

Snohomish County is the first in the nation to get the new technology, which reduces delays on emergency calls.

Top row (L-R): Rep. Suzan Del Bene, Sen. Keith Wagoner, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, Rep. Rick Larsen. Center (L-R): Tamborine Borrelli, Bob Hagglund. Bottom (L-R): Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, Rep. Kim Schrier, Mark Miloscia, Sen. Patty Murray.
As filing ends, campaigning shifts into a higher gear

The ballot will feature intraparty battles, election deniers and 16 challengers to a longtime U.S. senator.

HIdden River Middle School (Monroe School District)
Monroe school employee on leave for ‘racially insensitive language’

The incident took place at Hidden River Middle School. Also, police were investigating racist vandalism found at another school.

LOCAL - MOUNTAIN LOOP HIGHWAY
HERALD STAFF PHOTO BY JENNIFER BUCHANAN
PHOTO SHOT 062208
A car makes its way through a winding unpaved section of the Mountain Loop Highway 15 miles outside of Darrington.
14-mile scenic stretch of Mountain Loop Highway opens early

The highway between Granite Falls and Darrington reopened to traffic on Friday due to good weather.

Britney Barber, owner of Everett Improv. Barber performs a shows based on cuttings from The Everett Herald. Photographed in Everett, Washington on May 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Cut this paper up and have a laugh at Everett Improv

The troupe’s new recurring “Boozie Newzie” show is based off clippings from The Daily Herald. Meta, dude.

A Port Angeles police officer cordons off an empty lot in Sequim on Thursday as law enforcement officials investigate an incident in the area. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Man arrested in Sequim, connected to homicide, has Snohomish County ties

A dead woman was found in Bret Allen Kenney’s home, police say. He previously attacked Snohomish County Jail guards.

Cars wait to turn onto Highway 9 from Bickford Avenue on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Roundabout coming to dangerous Bickford-Highway 9 intersection

WSDOT is building a roundabout at Bickford Avenue and Highway 9, where drivers are expected to enter at 15 mph.

Destiny Conner, 13, takes tags off of clothing at the new Volunteers for America storefront on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Sultan’s only thrift store, teens learn teamwork, job skills

Teens with the Sky Valley Youth Coalition “stepped up and created the store” on Main Street.

Most Read