Sayfullo Saipov’s Oct. 31 attack in lower Manhattan that killed eight and injured nearly a dozen more along a bike path revealed another marker in an ever-evolving picture of international terrorism. Reports of the attacker yelling “Allahu Akbar,” the subsequent terror charge, and alleged connection to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria create a familiar narrative—particularly with New York as its centerpiece—that for many are stark reminders of 9/11.
The incarnation in recent years of terrorists employing vehicles as their weapon of choice has added a particularly troubling context to such attacks. For some, it’s an evolution that runs longer than the nearly two decades since 9/11.
Attorney Andrew McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and contributing editor to National Review. As U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, he was the lead prosecutor of “the blind sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 co-conspirators convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He also participated in the prosecution of terrorists in the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. McCarthy spoke to Homeland411 in the wake of the Oct. 31 Manhattan attack and offered his perspectives on the evolution of such attacks and the country’s terrorism posture.
A decade before 9/11, McCarthy said they began to notice the existence of a cell in the New York area, and the terrorists’ goal at the time was for “big, spectacular attacks” in order to draw the most attention to it. So the 1993 World Trade Center attack was just that—a Friday, noontime bombing of what represented the financial sector—indicating terrorists could strike at any time.
“What we privately among us prosecutor and investigator types used to remark on was, what are we ever going to do if these guys figure out that it would be just as scary for them to do the low-hanging fruit?” McCarthy said, referring to possibly smaller but violent possibilities such as a subway shooting or street-level attack.
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