No group has claimed responsibility for the truck attack in Nice that killed 84 people but experts were looking at the possibility it was carried out by a lone wolf inspired by the Islamic State, which has called for such attacks twice.
The attacker who deliberately drove his lorry through people celebrating Bastille Day has been identified by French media as a 31-year-old French Tunisian. The driver fired with a handgun before he was shot dead.
Tunisia is the country which accounts for the highest number of foreign fighters – 6,000 – in Iraq and Syria, according to the Soufan Group, which closely tracks jihadi organisations. About another 6,000 fighters have gone to the war-torn countries from Europe, a majority of them from France.
Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani has twice called on Muslims around the world to carry out attacks on Americans and Europeans, including Frenchmen, with vehicles – the first time in September 2014 and again in January 2015.
In the first message, he had said: “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
In the January 2015, which also included an announcement about the creation of the IS chapter for Khorasan (an area comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India), al-Adnani had said: “Likewise, we renew our call to the muwahhidīn in Europe and the disbelieving West and everywhere else, to target the crusaders in their own lands and wherever they are found. We will argue, before Allah, against any Muslim who has the ability to shed a single drop of crusader blood but does not do so, whether with an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock, or even a boot or a ﬁst.”
The second message had also contained a reference to a terror attack on the Canadian parliament carried out.
It was also in the September 2014 message that al-Adnani had suggested individual attackers could carry out strikes on behalf of the IS. “Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military,” he said.
Animesh Roul, executive director of Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, a New Delhi-based think tank, said investigators would be looking closely at the IS even though there was no claim of responsibility for the Nice attack.
“Al-Adnani’s statements may not be seen as a directive for ground operatives but they could be instructions for lone wolf attackers. These could be seen as general instructions for individual attacks with limited means,” Roul told Hindustan Times.
Here is a list of terror attacks that involved vehicles:
1. June 2007: Two men in a burning jeep loaded with propane canisters smashed into the main terminal building at Scotland’s Glasgow Airport. One of the attackers, who was born in India, died and the other was jailed for life, with the judge describing him as a “religious extremist”.
2. October 2013: Three attackers and two tourists were killed when a group of men drove a SUV into a crowd at Tiananmen Square, described as the first major suicide attack in Beijing. The attack was claimed by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
3. May 2013: Two Islamic militants of Nigerian descent rammed their car into British soldier Lee Rigby before trying to behead him on a London street. They said they carried out the attack to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.
4. October 2014: Muslim convert Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, used his car to run down two Canadian soldiers in Quebec. One soldier died and the attacker was shot dead after a chase. Couture-Rouleau called a police emergency line to dedicate his attack to the cause of jihad.
5. July 2016: A truck smashed into revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 84 and injuring scores more.