The global trend of Vehicle Borne Terrorism (VBT) is mainly fuelled by religious affiliations and revenge motivations. Ever since the resurgence of the global Vehicle Borne Attacks (VBA), terrorism has become easier, cheaper and cost effective. Terrorists carry out simple attacks by cutting down passengers, while driving onto them. In the last two decades, VBT had emerged as a new face of terrorism. Terrorists have changed significantly their modus operandi, from the past strategy of targeting financial centres towards the latest strategy, the cutting down of pedestrians.


  1. History

For several years, terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Daesh had frequently urged their followers via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets, to carry out simple attacks by using cars and trucks as weapon. It was 2010, when Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni Branch repeatedly encouraged its affiliates around the world to use ‘truck’ as weapon.

Likewise, in 2014 ISIS called for lone wolf attacks, by using spontaneous weaponry to kill westerners, whom they call infidels. ‘If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving…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,’ said ISIS Spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

  1. Strategy

Vehicle Borne Attack (VBA) is the simple way to carry out attacks, by using ‘car’ or ‘truck’ as weapon. It does not require any special skill, technique, finances and communications.

  1. Cause

From 2006 to 2017, out of 12 VBAs, 07 were the outcome of religious motivations, 04 to take revenge, and the reasons behind the remaining attacks are not yet public.

  1. Timeline

Ser Attack Type Place of Attack Date of Attack Causalities Injured Who did? Reason Behind the Attack?
1 Vehicle Borne North Carolina United States 3rd March 2006 Nil 09 Mohammad Taheri-azar For the revenge of the killings of Muslims overseas
2 Vehicle Borne Glasgow, Scotland June 2007 Nil 02 Bilal Abdullah, Kafeel Ahmed For the revenge of his fellow Muslims killed in Iraq war
3 Vehicle Borne Jerusalem 22nd October 2014 Nil 01 Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi For the revenge of his fellow Palestinians killed by Israeli forces
4 Vehicle Borne Nice 14th July 2016 86 303 Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel Religious Motivations
5 Vehicle Borne Berlin, Germany 19th December 2016 12 49 Anis Amri ISIS motivated
6 Vehicle Borne London 22nd March 2017 04 Nil Khalid Masood Religious Motivation
7 Vehicle Borne Religious Motivation 7th April 2017 05 04 Muslim Man from Uzbekistan Muslim Man from Uzbekistan
8 Vehicle Borne London Bridge 3rd June 2017 08 48 Khurram Butt, Rachid Redouane, Youssef Zaghba Religious Motivations
9 Vehicle Borne Finsbury Park, London 19th June 2017 01 Nil Darren Osborne Revenge for London Bridge Attack
10 Vehicle Borne Levallois-Perret, Parris 09th August 2017 Nil 06 Hamou B Religious Motivations
11 Vehicle Borne Barcelona, Spain 17th August 2017 13 100 Moussa Okabir and five others Religious Motivations
12 Vehicle Borne Melbourne, Australia December 2017 Nil 19 Afghan Decent, Australian Unknown


Figure 1.1 Motivations

  1. Religious Motivations

Terrorists portray ‘violence first’ as the divine act, executed in response to some theological imperative. It is noted that out of 12 VBAs, 07 were religiously motivated. The counter narrative strategy, which includes the use of images, texts, and videos to highlight the similarities and differences between different religions, cultures, ethnic groups, living within the country or across is vital to discredit the terrorists’ theological and divine rhetoric. Likewise, the use of religious textbooks, discourse of religious leaders and former Jihadists, to refute and dismantle violent religious and ideological claims is vital.

  1. Addressing Revenge

Sometimes it takes more than religious fanaticism. Revenge as a response to injustice has a long history. Right or wrong? Tit for tat has always been the basic principle of human scale. Whether it is Caesar crucifying pirates or the US invading Iraq, the emotional spectrum of revenge has been the same. Hard counter-terrorism appears as frightening. The psychological impacts of hard pursuits are many times proven as worse. The essay finds that 04 out of 12 attackers were motivated to take revenge for the bloodshed of their fellows who were killed in Iraq, Palestine, UK or elsewhere. The hard pursuits always produce grievances, provokes frustration and aggression, which leads to violence. So, states should ensure viable measures such as: speedy justice for all, banning hate speeches and mocking of a particular group or community. States should remain careful to the use of brute force, which can provoke revenge motivated terrorism.

  1. Speed, Type And Size

Measure the vehicle, size, mass, speed, type and the driving behaviour by installing essentially designed sensors and cameras, in secret places at highways and roads, to get pre-emptive alerts, to prevent attack.

  1. Bad Guy, Bad Vehicle, Bad Time

The record keeping of when, how and what type of vehicles frequently or otherwise visit the specific public places as: parks, beaches, clubs, cinemas, and other entertainment outlets can help security officials to assess the bad guy, bad vehicle and bad time, before he can conduct an attack.

  1. Restrict Car Parking

Ban the entry of vehicles up to 100 meters or lesser from the public places as: beaches, cinemas, parks, clubs, and entertainment houses.

  1. The Barricades Strategy

Use of portable barriers, which does not require digging, trenching, or any other underground worries is vital to be placed outside government, semi-government and private institutions that are particularly vulnerable to attack.

  1. Active/De-Active Control

Install vehicle control devices to ensure the deactivation of bad vehicle to prevent the attack and also, to minimize damage or death toll during attack.


The VBT is difficult but not impossible to prevent. The essay finds that the maximum number of attacks being carried out, were either the outcome of religious affiliations or were a result of the motivation to take revenge. Therefore, it is vital to avoid the use of hard pursuits, which otherwise can provoke frustration and violence. Also, the use of counter narrative strategy is indispensable to refute extremist narratives.

Syed Sadam Hussain Shah

graduated in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad.

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