When vehicles become weapons

Police stand near a truck with its windscreen riddled with bullets in the French Riviera town of Nice

Transforming a vehicle into a simple but deadly weapon of terror -- as happened to such bloody effect in Nice -- is a tactic well known to intelligence agencies. A truck smashed into revellers celebrating France's Bastille Day, killing at least 84 and injuring scores as its ploughed two kilometres through the crowd. In Israel and the Palestinian territories, car-ramming attacks have featured heavily in a wave of violence that has killed at least 215 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese since October last year. Western authorities have had to deal with three similar attacks in recent years: two in Britain and another in Canada. In May 2013, two Islamists smashed their car into British soldier Lee Rigby before attempting to behead him on a London street in broad daylight. The pair, who were of Nigerian heritage, said they attacked the 25-year-old fusilier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops. Just 18 months later, a man claiming to be acting in the name of radical jihad ran over and killed Canadian soldier Patrice Vincent, also injuring a second man. Shortly after, the 25-year-old Muslim convert, Martin Couture-Rouleau, called the police emergency line to dedicate his attack to the cause of jihad. And in June 2007, two men in a burning jeep smashed into the main terminal building at Scotland's Glasgow Airport. One of the men was jailed for life, with the judge describing him as a "religious extremist". For several years, extremist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have exhorted followers via videos or messages to carry out such attacks using whatever comes to hand. In September 2014, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, an IS spokesman who Western intelligence agencies have dubbed the group's "attacks minister", issued chilling instructions that some have since apparently followed. "If you cannot (detonate) a bomb or (fire) a bullet, arrange to meet alone with a French or an American infidel and bash his skull in with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with your car, throw him off a cliff, strangle him, or inject him with poison," he said. Al-Adnani said there was no need to "consult anyone" as all unbelievers are fair game: "It is immaterial if the infidel is a combatant or a civilian... They are both enemies. The blood of both is permitted."