London Vehicle/Knife Assault Shows Difficulty of Preventing Unsophisticated Attacks
Last week’s terrorist attack in London, conducted with a vehicle and a knife, highlights the difficulty of detecting and preventing attacks by unsophisticated extremists using common items that are readily available. These attacks require little preparation, training, or planning, reducing the indicators that could lead to detection. Given the ease with which they can be conducted and the ISIS propaganda encouraging them, these types of attacks are likely to continue.
On March 22, Khalid Masood slammed an SUV into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then drove the vehicle into the security fence at the Parliament (see photo), emerged with a knife, and fatally stabbed a police officer before being shot and killed by police. The relatively simple attack, which resulted in four people killed and about 40 wounded, succeeded in gaining worldwide news media attention, putting Parliament in lockdown, and disrupting central London. The scenario is similar to the one used on the campus of Ohio State University in November, when Abdul Artan drove a car into a crowd, then emerged from the vehicle and began stabbing people. Other recent vehicle attacks in Western countries include those at a Christmas market in Berlin in December and at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, last July.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the London attack, calling Masood a “soldier” of the group—a term that often indicates an attacker who was inspired but not necessarily directed by the group. British investigators believe Masood acted alone and said there is no information indicating that additional attacks are planned.
Interfaith Issues: Jewish Groups Strengthen Security After Bomb Threats, Despite Arrest of Israeli Suspect
Although relieved by the arrest of a 19-year-old Israeli suspect last week for numerous telephoned bomb threats, Jewish leaders say they will continue with plans to strengthen security measures at Jewish community centers and other institutions, according to news media reports. (Photo shows police response at a Jewish community center in Louisville in March.) Although the Israeli defendant is believed to be responsible for most of the hoax calls, a Jewish community center in Dallas was evacuated after a threat on March 24—a day after the arrest of the Israeli—indicating that the bomb threats have not ended.
The Israeli defendant, who has not been publicly named, is a dual US-Israeli citizen who is Jewish. He was arrested by the cyberattack unit of Israel’s fraud squad, based partly on information received from the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. He used “advanced camouflage technologies” when contacting other countries and making the threats, according to an Israeli police spokesman. The defendant initially came under suspicion when police in New Zealand identified an IP address in a threat there as originating in Israel, according to Israeli news media reports.
Aviation: DHS Cites “Evaluated Intelligence” in Electronic Devices Ban
Last week, the Transportation Security Administration imposed a ban on personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smartphone in carry-on baggage on nonstop flights to the United States from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fact sheet on the new measures stated, “Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.” As examples of the continuing threat to aviation, the fact sheet cites the downing of an airliner in Egypt in 2015, an attempted airliner downing in Somalia in 2016, and armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul in 2016.