Attacks like the one in Nice are what 'authorities fear the most' because they're easy to commit

Nice, France.
(Image credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Early local reports out of Nice claim that the terrorist truck driver who mowed through the Bastille Day crowd, killing 84, was a petty criminal familiar to the police, but not known to be radicalized. Due to the apparently spontaneous nature of his crime, some experts are saying that such attacks are nearly impossible to predict, and extremely difficult to prevent.

Yet the terrorist tactic that has long been used in Afghanistan and Iraq could be on the rise in the West, NBC News reports. In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security warned that "vehicle ramming offers terrorists with limited access to explosives or weapons an opportunity to conduct a Homeland attack with minimal prior training or experience." Homeland Security further warned people to be aware of "attempts to infiltrate closed areas where traffic usually moves but where crowds are gathered, such as for street festivals or farmers' markets."

Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, told NBC that attacks like the one in Nice are "what authorities fear the most." "Anyone can prepare and carry out this kind of attack, you don't need to take the risk of becoming part of a terror cell or traveling to Syria or anything like that," he said. "There is no plot to be intercepted or plan to be thwarted."

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Other experts agreed. "The high-impact/low-capability nature of the attack raises the risk of the repeated use of the tactic in France and allied countries in the coming months, as well as copycat attacks in the following days," the head of HIS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Research Center, Matthew Henman, said.

The attack in Nice is actually the fourth vehicular assault in France since 2014; ISIS even has instructions on how to kill Westerners with a car. You can read more about the history of such attacks, and what is being attempted to thwart them, at NBC.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.