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Terror attacks instill fear in the community, effective for terrorists, experts say

Court documents show that Sayfullo Saipov has been charged with federal terrorism offenses in connection with Tuesday’s attack in Manhattan in which eight people were killed.

It’s human instinct to ask why a person would drive a truck onto a bicycle path aiming to injure or kill several people, said Paul Wallace, a terrorism specialist at the University of Missouri.

Wallace said someone commits a terrorist attack to draw attention to their group or cause and reduce a state or government’s legitimacy, while also trying to create legitimacy for their own terrorist organization.

By legitimacy, Wallace means official recognition. A legitimate state has a population it governs, and is recognized by its population and by other states.

Wallace said a way to take away a state’s legitimacy is by visibly showing a state cannot provide its people security or safety.

A terrorist organization does not have the normal means, such as power or money, a state would have to effectively get attention, Wallace said.

He said that’s why the terrorists resort to violence.

Wallace said ultimately, a terrorist is a political activist; they have a goal or an agenda.

“Terrorism deals with a terrorist who wants to engage in political violence, and the politics is really important,” Wallace said.

Wallace said one way to deal with terrorism, called counterterrorism, is by listening to the political agenda the terrorist organization has and helping them deal with their issues, to a certain extent.

“In the interim, you have to protect your people and eliminate [the terrorist organization’s] political violence to the extent that you can, but above all, you have to go with root-cause identification and solving of their problems,” Wallace said.

Vehicular terrorist attacks have just recently become popular, according to a study from the University of Maryland.

The study shows that vehicular terrorist attacks have started increasing since 2013.

Wallace said the increase is partially caused by media coverage. He said terrorists use media coverage to their advantage, but if the media doesn’t cover an attack enough, they change their style of attacks.

Wallace recalled the media coverage of an insurrection in north India, where one of the two groups would stop buses, kill the people on the bus with the opposite religion and set the others free.

“That was enormous headlines. After a while, the newspapers got sort of tired of that, so instead of front page, it became the third page, five pages, because [they’re] only killing a few people. So they killed more people and got headlines,” Wallace said.

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