Vehicles a weapon of choice for extremists: A timeline of recent attacks

An incident involving a rented Home Depot track is the latest in a series of vehicle ramming attacks, which have killed dozens around the world this year. Experts say they are becoming the weapon of choice for attacks because they are cheap, easy to organize and hard to prevent.

Attacks effective because they're low cost, can be carried out without co-ordination of others

Police tape rests on a damaged Home Depot truck after a motorist drove onto a bike path in Manhattan, striking and killing several people on Oct. 31, 2017, in New York City. (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Vehicle ramming attacks are becoming more common, in part because they are cheap, easy to organize and hard to prevent, experts say.  

The tactic of mowing people down with a vehicle can eliminate the need for explosives or weapons, although some recent perpetrators were also found to have been travelling with weapons on board. These attacks can also be carried out by a "lone wolf" without a network of fellow militants — all lessening the risk of alerting security agencies beforehand.

"This kind of attack doesn't need special preparation. It is very low cost, within anybody's reach," said Sebastien Pietrasanta, a French Socialist lawmaker and terrorism expert.

"It is often a case of individual action," he told Reuters. "They can be quite spontaneous."

Here's a look at some of the recent attacks where vehicles were used.  

Oct. 31, 2017: The driver of a truck reportedly rented from a Home Depot outlet in New Jersey barrels down the west side of lower Manhattan in mid-afternoon, hitting pedestrians and people on a bike path. At least eight people are killed, including several tourists from Argentina, and 11 are wounded.

Authorities consider the events consistent with the recent trend of vehicle acts of terror. It's the deadliest attack in New York City since over 2,750 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

A 29-year-old man who moved to the U.S. legally from Uzbekistan in 2010 was arrested in the latest attack, after being shot by a police officer.

Police investigate crushed bicycles on a bicycle lane early Nov. 1, 2017, the day after a pickup truck attack on the West Side Highway in Manhattan. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Aug. 17, 2017: A white van was driven into pedestrians on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas strip, an area in central Barcelona popular with tourists and locals and filled with cafés, bars, shops and restaurants early evening Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring dozens. Police have arrested two people in connection with the attack and have said they are investigating it as an act of terrorism. Maghrebi Driss Oukabir has been identified as the person who rented the van that was used in the attack. It is not known if he is one of the suspects in police custody. 

Police officers stand next to the van involved in an attack on the Las Ramblas strip in Barcelona in August 2017. The van jumped up onto a sidewalk and sped down the pedestrian part of the street, swerving from side to side as it plowed into tourists and residents. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

Aug. 12, 2017: A Charlottesville, Va., resident among hundreds of protesters who had gathered in that city to decry a large gathering of white nationalists when the driver of a Dodge Challenger barrelled toward them on a downtown street. Video from the scene showed the car reversing and hitting more people. One woman, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed. A 20-year-old Ohio man has been charged.

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed. (The Daily Progress via AP)

June 19, 2017: A man on the radar of French authorities for extremism was killed after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle on Paris's famed Champs-Elysée boulevard. No police officers or passersby were hurt.

A masked French policeman secures the area on the Champs Elysees avenue after an incident in Paris, France, June 19, 2017 . (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

June 3, 2017: Seven people were killed and dozens more injured in a rampage that began when a van barrelled into pedestrians on London Bridge. Three men fled the van with large knives and attacked people at bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market. Police declared the attacks "terrorist incidents" and said they had killed three attackers. 

Five people were killed and 40 injured in an attack in London on March 22, 2017, that started when a man plowed a vehicle into crowds outside Parliament.

April 7, 2017: A hijacked beer truck plowed into pedestrians at a central Stockholm department store, killing four people and wounding 15 others in what Sweden's prime minister called a terrorist attack.

The rear of a truck, left, protrudes from a department store in central Stockholm, Sweden, on April 7, after plowing down the street killing four people and injuring 15. (Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency via AP)

March 22, 2017: A man went on a deadly rampage in London, plowing a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, as well as the assailant, Khalid Masood, and 40 others were injured.

Attack on Westminster

7 years ago
Duration 3:42
Featured VideoA knife-wielding man plowed a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament.

Jan. 8, 2017: Four soldiers aged 20 to 22, three female and one male, were killed and several other injured after the driver of a semi-trailer truck targeted Israel Defence Forces at an esplanade in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian driver, identified as 28-year-old Fadi al-Qunbar was shot dead.

This frame grab from video, shows Israeli emergency services personnel covering bodies with plastic sheets at scene of a truck-ramming attack in East Jerusalem that killed four on Jan. 8. (Associated Press)

Dec. 19, 2016: A young Tunisian rammed a truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring dozens in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. It was the first mass casualty attack by Islamic extremists carried out on German soil. Attacker Anis Amri, who had been denied asylum in Germany, was killed by police in Italy after an international manhunt.

A truck crashed through a Christmas Market in Berlin in December 2016, leaving 12 people dead.

July 14, 2016: A Tunisian residing in France plowed a refrigerator truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the Mediterranean beachfront in Nice, killing 86. Attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was killed by police. Cities around the world beefed up measures to prevent vehicle attacks in response. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, but to date, a recent GQ investigation noted, no pledge of allegiance from Bouhlel to the group has been discovered.

Dec. 21, 2014: A motorist injured 13 pedestrians in the French city of Dijon; a day later, a man ran over pedestrians at a Christmas market in Nantes in western France, killing one and injuring nine. Both suspects, who survived, had histories of mental illness.

Bullet holes are seen in the truck used to drive through crowds in Nice, France, in July 2016. The attack killed 86 people.

Oct. 20, 2014: A 25-year-old man drove his car into Canadian Air Force members near Montreal, killing one of them and injuring another. Authorities said the driver was a convert to Islam and had been flagged for jihadist ambitions. He was later shot dead by police.


  • An original version stated that the Nice attack killer pledged allegiance to ISIS. In fact, while ISIS claimed responsibility, in contrast to other notable attacks, no statement or video of allegiance from Bouhlel has been produced to date.
    Mar 22, 2017 11:32 PM ET

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press