July 2016 has been an utterly horrific month as far as atrocities are concerned, following on from the terrible attacks in Orlando and Istanbul in June, and it is only half way through the month: Dhaka, Baghdad, Medina (as well as Jeddah and Qatif), and now Nice.
In the latest outrage in Nice, a lorry was weaponized. For some reason, I find that weaponize and weaponization are ugly and grating words both visually and aurally, but they describe the situation very well. Different modes of transport have been weaponized by terrorists: civilian aeroplanes were turned into missiles in the 9/11 attacks, and a lot of vehicles have been used as bombs. Terrorist groups have deployed cars, vans, and lorries as a means to deliver explosives, i.e. as bombs, but in this instance, a driver ploughed into a large group of people who had gathered to watch the fireworks. This kind of killing is not unprecedented, in that cars have been used to target people deliberately in hit-and-run attacks, but the scale is something new. It is chillingly and horrifyingly simple and effective in mudering so many people. The degree of preparation and the required skills are not particularly high or specialized: anyone who can drive a lorry can commit this kind of heinous crime.
Authorities will have to look into possible ways to prevent people from carrying out these attacks with better intelligence, and formulate strategies to reduce the risks of casualties such as using barriers and roadblocks. It would however be impossible to eliminate totally the risk of something similar happening again, because vehicles are a necessary part of daily life and pedestrians congregate at many locations for many different reasons, be it part of the daily commute or at events. Societies and their individual members – we – will have to stand firm in view of these attacks, even if it feels difficult given the series of recent events.