‘Low-Tech Terror’: Researcher Says Attack with a Car and Butcher Knife at Ohio State Shows Evolving Forms of Terrorism

Baylor scholar Philip Jenkins, Ph.D.
Dec. 1, 2016

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 1, 2016) — The attack at Ohio State University on Nov. 28, when a student rammed his car into a group of pedestrians and began stabbing them with a butcher knife — wounding 11 — illustrates a crucial fact about mass violence, says a Baylor University researcher on terrorism.

“If every gun was swept off the planet tomorrow, very ordinary and low-skilled extremists could still perpetrate horrendous violence through low-tech terror,” said Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., author and Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

Authorities are looking into whether the incident was terrorism. The attacker, who was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer after the rampage, had written on Facebook that he was “sick and tired” of seeing fellow Muslims killed and tortured.

Terrorists can kill innocent people in large numbers without guns and automatic assault weapons, Jenkins said, citing two 2006 attacks in particular: one by an Afghan immigrant who used his SUV to attack civilians in San Francisco Bay, killing one and injuring 19; and another by an Iranian who used his SUV to attack passersby at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, injuring nine.

“The Islamic State especially recommends that followers around the world should use whatever means available to attack and kill unbelievers, and if guns and explosives are not easily found, then knives are quite acceptable,” Jenkins wrote in a July column in The American Conservative. That article appeared a week before a lone extremist used a truck to kill some 90 people in Nice, France.

“The decision by ISIL to use these tactics reflects the fact that so many networks have been broken up by intelligence and surveillance that terrorists need a method where don’t leave a trail, and they’re relying on individuals,” Jenkins said. The attack in Columbus, Ohio, follows exactly the models recommended by ISIL and publicized on their websites, he said.

He noted that mass knife attacks also occur quite frequently in China.

Jenkins is the author of “Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent Verses” and "The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.”

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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