The only thing you need now for a terror attack is a mad man with a death wish and a murderous rage. No gun, no bomb, not even a knife. Just the simple expedient of ramming a vehicle through a crowd will satiate the blood lust.
What happened in Nice on Thursday night is scary. While thousands of people were celebrating the Bastille Day parade, a truck passed through the barricades, zigzagged through the festive crowd on the promenade and mowed down hundreds, killing at least 84 and injuring 18 others.
It is often said of Islamic State, the main suspect of the attack, that it wants to drag the world back into the middle ages through its rigid implementation of Islamic laws conceived for the 7th century. Its latest attack on the French beach city shows at least in terms of terror technology it is going back to medieval practises.
Think about this: For hundreds of years, countries have spent millions on defence equipment, guns, technology to deal with armed attacks and invasions. But the attack on Nice shows terror has circumvented all these developments not by taking a huge leap forward but by going back into time.
What next? A group of mad men sent to a public gathering — a school, god forbid — to strangulate victims? Terrorists sent out with poison vials for drinking water sources in cities? Madmen roaming in streets with rocks they wish to smash into our heads? Where will this madness end? More importantly, how will it be contained?
Just before Thursday's attack, terror groups including Islamic State and al-Qaeda had asked their followers to kill people with cars, in fact, with any means they can.
In a 2014 video, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani asked supporters: "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," Adnani said.
In short, kill. Become a pre-historic beast. All in the name of ideology.
In another video, al-Qaeda, which is competing with Isis to regain its numero uno position in the terror space, advised followers to use cars as the ultimate killing machines. France, in particular, has been on the hitlist. In a 2014 video, Islamic State asked its French recruits to "If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place - pledge allegiance in France. Operate within France."
Three worrying trends are emerging from the spate of terror attacks this year. One, every attack is becoming more lethal. Two, terrorists are being able to out-think security agencies, coming up with new methods of destruction. And three, Islamic State is franchising terror, giving recruits the option of pledging Baya'a (allegiance) to Islamic State without travelling to the self-proclaimed Caliphate in Iraq-Syria or getting trained in person for carrying out attacks.
This means, future terrorists would become more and more difficult to identify as they get radicalised in the safe confines of their homes and do not venture out in search of arms and weapons. Any mad man can carry out a lethal strike. Thursday's attack on France came just a few hours after FBI director James Comey warned of an exodus of jihadis as the Islamic State empire collapses in Syria and Iraq.
"We all know, there will be a terrorist diaspora out of the caliphate as military force crushes the caliphate," Comey said.
"Those thousands of fighters are going to go someplace. Our job is to spot them and stop them before they come to the United States to harm innocent people," he said.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post had predicted the imminent fall of the Caliphate. It warned that Islamic State will intensify global attacks "as the group evolves from a quasi-state with territorial holdings to a shadowy and diffuse network with branches and cells on at least three continents."
On Thursday, French security forces failed their people when they allowed a truck laden with explosives jump barricades and ram through a festive crowd. It was a security lapse of huge magnitude.
As terrorists go back to medieval methods of madness, countries across the world will have to get their act together. They will have to deploy huge resources to screen and ward off possible attacks, upgrade security at public places and simultaneously keep track of defeated jihadists returning from al-Raqqa.
The challenge would be to track every mad man before he gets behind the wheels or lays his hands on a rock.
Here is a recap of major attacks and foiled attempts since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015.
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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2016 14:12:26 IST