Terror truck attacks
What will they think of next? What weapons of terrorism will they use next to kill and maim innocents, paralyze communities with fear, and keep people in a heightened state of anxiety?
These thoughts were uppermost in my mind while the yearly procession of the image of the Black Nazarene was in progress on Jan. 9. Drawing millions of devotees that fill the main streets of Manila, the procession keeps getting bigger every year.
I experienced this up close decades ago when the procession was just confined to the Quiapo and Sta. Cruz areas and the Black Nazarene was not brought to the Rizal Park where, as the practice is now, the procession or traslacion would begin. Some photojournalist friends and I situated ourselves on the high concrete island near Quiapo Church, there to wait for the surging crowd. It was awesome then; it is phantasmagoric now, an almost terrifying, orgiastic feast of faith, indeed.
Last Tuesday’s traslacion of about five kilometers lasted 22 hours. It left the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park at 5 a.m. on Tuesday and reached the minor basilica of St. John the Baptist, the home of the Black Nazarene, at 3:20 a.m. on Wednesday. I was awake to see on TV the poon, with cross and all, stagger into the church entrance. There was no hint of weariness in the devotees’ shouts of “Viva!”
The day before the feast, the Inquirer headline was “Faith swells amid terror alert.”
I had this recent devotional phenomenon in mind because of the series of terror attacks late last year. These came in the form of the ubiquitous trucks one sees everywhere, only they did not ferry goods and could have gone through checkpoints unimpeded. They were not loaded with cargo meant to explode upon reaching their objects of destruction.
The drivers simply drove into crowds of people. They did not dissolve in fiery balls like in explosive suicide attacks. The trucks just went “wayward” and plowed into people, killing many of them. The drivers then simply jumped out, disappearing in the melee, leaving the scene of the carnage undetected, their evil intent accomplished.
Is this the new form of terrorist attacks? To borrow the title of an ancient TV Western, have truck will terrorize.
The recent truck attacks happened in France and Germany last year and in Israel last weekend.
In the seaside city of Nice in France in July, a truck plowed into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations, killing 84 people and injuring dozens, many of them severely. The driver was shot dead by the police. French President Francois Hollande called it a terrorist attack.
Last Dec. 19, a truck drove into a Christmas market in Berlin. A news report said 12 people died in the attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video where Anis Amri, the Tunisian driver, was shown pledging allegiance to the IS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Amri, 24, was later killed in a shootout with police in Milan.
On Jan. 9, a Reuters news report said at least four persons were killed in a truck attack in Jerusalem:
“A Palestinian who may be linked to IS rammed his speeding truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem Sunday, killing four people and wounding 15 others before being shot dead in one of the deadliest attacks in a year-long campaign of violence, Israeli police said.
“Five people were arrested Sunday—including the assailant’s father and brother-in-law—in connection with the attack.”
Speaking at the scene of the slaughter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there “definitely could be a connection” between Sunday’s horrific attack and similar IS truck attacks in France and Germany in recent months.
Hereabouts, we’ve had previews of this but not of the terrorist kind. How many cases of trucks hitting homes by the roadside have we had?
Some months ago a wayward truck plowed into an RTW tiangge in Taytay, Rizal. The tiangge is the town’s showcase. I had been there a couple of times to shop and see the local RTW industry come alive. The tiangge by the highway was a perfect hit for a truck with faulty brakes.
We can’t be sitting ducks.
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