We have also seen a trend in the use of knives of late. Attacks that have been executed with sharp instruments have been seen in Turku (Finland), London (UK) and, if we want to go back a few years, in Woolich (UK) – a combined vehicle/machete killing. There has been quite a bit of commentary on why knives have been so prevalent and these tend to reduce to availability. After all, who does not have a drawerful of sharp implements at home? Why make things complicated (i.e. bomb construction) when you don’t have to? While it is probably true that this kind of operation results in fewer casualties (dead and wounded) it is still terrifying.
This was not just an ordinary knife attack: the terrorist tried to kill and maim with a four-foot SWORD.
I think there is more to this development than is obvious at first blush. In the wake of an attack outside Buckingham Palace, I’d like to draw your attention to an important underlying theme. For the incident at the home of the UK monarch was not just an ordinary knife attack: the terrorist tried to kill and maim with a four-foot SWORD.
Now sometimes a sword is just a sword and is used because it is there. For instance last week in Taiwan a man attacked a guard at the Presidential Palace with a samurai sword he had just stolen from a museum ‘to express his political views’ (surely there are other ways to do this). This may be symbolic but it is well beyond my expertise to make a comment about the imagery of the samurai.
This evocation of a long dormant past probably also explains why the Saudi government, the self-appointed guardian of ‘authentic Islam’, uses swords in Riyadh’s ‘Chop-chop Square’ for public executions. There is also still a call for wannabe mujahedin to train in the techniques of classic Islamic warfare: horseback riding, swimming and the ability to use a sword.
For a terrorist to wield a sword in an attack may strike some as anachronistic but you have to admit seeing someone yell ‘Allahu Akbar‘ while slashing people with a metre-long blade would be a pretty harrowing experience. Not to mention the horrific injuries a sword does to its victims. I am no armament expert but I have read enough accounts of medieval battles to know that being stabbed and hewn with a long blade is not a pleasant experience.
As they say, ‘‘never bring a sword to a gun fight’’!
President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. Phil worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. firstname.lastname@example.org