Unfortunately, terrorism is a staple in today’s national and world news. We’ve all read stories about terrorists who wear explosive-laden vests, spray bullets at innocent people, and set IEDs on roads in war-torn nations. And images of 9/11 will always be burned into our memories.
But terrorists employ other methods to spread fear and pain as well – and some of them involve cars. (Auto insurance companies, take note!) Here are four such instances of “auto terrorism.”
Many Americans might remember the first day of May in 2010, when a suspicious vehicle was found abandoned in New York City’s Times Square. The Nissan Pathfinder, which was parked with its engine running and hazard lights flashing, was later determined to contain two 5-gallon gasoline containers, three propane tanks, a pair of clocks with batteries, electrical wires, and fireworks. The SUV had been sitting near a Broadway theatre that was hosting a production of The Lion King. But the Viacom building was also close by, leading some to suspect that the act was in retaliation for a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit on the animated TV series South Park (which is owned by Viacom). A Pakistani-American man was arrested a few days later in connection with the incident.
In June of 2007, witnesses reported seeing a Jeep Cherokee with flames billowing from its underside crash into a terminal at Glasgow International Airport in Scotland. Officials later found gasoline, gas canisters, and nails in the car; but no civilians were seriously injured. Two men tried to exit the vehicle right after the crash, but were tackled to the ground by bystanders. One of them, Dr. Khafeel Ahmed, later died at a hospital from severe burns. The other man was Dr. Bilal Abdullah, who was later sentenced to 32 years in prison.
On the weekend of New Year’s Eve in 2011, firefighters were forced to put out a rash of fires that burned over four dozen cars in Hollywood, West Hollywood, and adjacent areas. No one was hurt, although the fires did cause over $3 million in damage. On January 2, police arrested Harry Burkhart, a German national living in the U.S., and charged him with 37 counts of arson. Authorities believe that Burkhart was angry over attempts to deport his mother back to Germany to face fraud charges. German officials believe Burkhart was also responsible for some car arsons in that country as well.
This is a story of auto terrorism that doesn’t involve flames or explosives. In September of 2011, a 25-year old man and his 1-year old son were traveling in a car on a highway in the West Bank when the vehicle ran off the road and overturned near the town of Kiryat Arba. Police later discovered that the wreck was likely caused by people who threw rocks at the car as it passed by. A large bloodstained stone was found in the car, and there was a large hole in the vehicle’s windshield. That entire region has been home to terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians who are angry at Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Israeli citizen Asher Palmer and his young son Yehonaton died in the incident. No arrests have been made as of yet.