Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Colin P. Clarke is a political scientist at the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation. He is also an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) – The Hague.

Until Tuesday, the United States had escaped the grisly scenes of carnage visited upon several cities in Europe over the past year from a rash of vehicle attacks. But on a sunny Halloween afternoon, Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant who obtained the status of legal permanent resident in the U.S. after arriving in 2010, plowed a Home Depot rental truck into a crowded bike path full of pedestrians in downtown Manhattan.

Eight people are dead and more than a dozen are reported injured. The suspect exited the vehicle then brandished a pellet gun and a paintball gun before being shot in the stomach and detained by police.

Story continues below advertisement

The attack hit home for me personally, as a native New Yorker and someone who spent his first five years after college working and attending graduate school in New York. The attack took place mere blocks from where I first began studying terrorism in a master's program at New York University.

Read more: 'They will not break us': Toughened by history, New York faces fresh attack

The truth is, the New York Police Department, commonly referred to as the NYPD, is one of the most professional and well-resourced police departments in the world. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD began deploying officers overseas in countries such as Israel and India where they studied the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by terrorist groups around the globe.

But vehicle attacks are notoriously difficult to defend against, as I wrote in The Globe and Mail following the mid-August attacks on the crowded tourist destination of Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain. New York has already taken measures against this tactic in parts of the city, including Midtown Manhattan, where a sea of pedestrians pass through each day.

Tuesday's attack was the deadliest terror attack on New York since 9/11. But it was far from the first attempt since then. For many reasons, New York remains an attractive target. In 2009, an Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi was arrested for plotting suicide bombings on the New York subway system. A year later, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American citizen, was arrested for attempting to detonate a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Times Square. Last year, Ahmad Khan Rahami was found responsible for several serial bombings in New York and New Jersey.

Now a vehicle attack has finally been deployed in a city of eight million people. It is nearly impossible to guard against such an attack. Handwritten notes indicating allegiance to Islamic State were found near the vehicle. And police on Wednesday said the accused "did this in the name of ISIS."

Now that the Islamic State has been ejected from its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, effectively ending the group's goal of sustaining a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East, it is possible that the group's supporters around the globe will attempt to conduct attacks in its name, in a deranged attempt to demonstrate the continuing potency and relevance of IS.

Story continues below advertisement

Indeed, for many of its surviving fighters, which number between 6,000 and 10,000, the fight is not over. Many of these militants will almost certainly move on to new battlefields to continue waging jihad. As New Yorker columnist and Middle East expert Robin Wright recently commented, "hundreds of jihadis are believed to be searching for new battlefields or refuge in Muslim countries."

But in the United States, the greater threat emanates from people who are already in the country, sometimes referred to as homegrown violent extremists. Tuesday's attack in New York underscores this point.

In the 16-plus years between 9/11 and Tuesday's attack, 95 Americans had perished in jihadist-related attacks in the homeland; 63 of those deaths occurred during just two attacks – in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. According to a recent report on radicalization and jihadist attacks in the West, of the 17 successful attacks linked to jihadist terrorists in the United States between June, 2014, and June, 2017, none were perpetrated by foreign fighters.

The FBI is conducting investigations on approximately 1,000 potential homegrown violent extremists across all 50 states. As ISIS continues to lose territory, it will likely seek to emphasize high-profile attacks in an attempt to remain relevant and demonstrate capability in the face of severe adversity. This could result in an uptick in lone-wolf attacks in the West, including in the United States.

Preventing each and every attack is unrealistic – there are too many individuals wishing to inflict harm upon their fellow citizens and too many targets to protect. But with increased vigilance, co-operation with law enforcement and intelligence sharing, citizens can work with authorities to help mitigate the threat of terrorism, while recognizing that, because of its symbolic and cultural significance, New York will always remain in the terrorists' cross-hairs.

Unfortunately, the people of New York already know that all too well.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies