Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Europe
15 July 2016

How al-Qaeda inspired the Nice terror attack

The terror group recommended that jihadis use “a pickup truck as a mowing machine” in crowded locations.

By Shiraz Maher

The most notable aspect of the terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice at 10.10 pm on Thursday night, which left 84 people dead and 18 seriously injured, was its simplicity. Terrorists have long used cars and lorries as mechanisms to deliver explosives into crowded areas, but this is a notable shift towards the vehicle being the weapon itself.

Using a vehicle to run down individuals – the Nice attacker, a French-Tunisian named locally as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a refrigerated truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day – has been a common tactic for years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it was al-Qaeda that first promoted it as a method of attack to supporters of the global jihad movement through its online magazine Inspire, in 2010.

The magazine recommended using “a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass, but mow down the enemies of Allah.” It also recommends choosing “the most crowded locations. Narrower spots are also better because it gives less chance for people to run away.”

A similar message was echoed by Islamic State’s spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani just a few weeks ago, when he called on those “behind enemy lines” to carry out attacks at home. That is particularly significant because it represents a shift in emphasis for IS, which has previously called on all Muslims to migrate to their territory in Syria and Iraq. In that respect, telling supporters in the West not to travel could be a sign of increasing desperation within the group after it has suffered territorial losses in recent months.

It is too soon to know whether this attack was carried out on behalf of any particular group, but chat forums associated with both al-Qaeda and IS have been celebrating it. For them, it is another blow to France which has suffered 10 major terrorist incidents since January 2015 – about one every two months – while continuing to warn of more. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
<strong>What you need to know about private markets </strong>
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action