London attack brings nerves, sadness, and warnings for the future

March 22, 2017 11:40 PM

Wednesday’s deadly attack in London proved a frightening, and saddening blow for Rochester area student Jake Allen.

"It was very nerve-racking because I am an American student. The first thing we think of is terrorism,” explained Jake Allen, a student at St John Fisher College studying in London. "It gives you goosebumps. It's very disturbing.”

At least five people were reported dead, including the apparent attacker, and about 20 injured after a man sped towards Britain’s Parliament in a 4x4, plowing over pedestrians, then killed a police officer with a knife before he himself was shot by police.

Allen told News10NBC he changed trains at the Westminster train station directly under the scene of the attack only about 10 minutes before it happened. "I saw some students crying, that were on the phones talking to their parents, reassuring them that they were safe,” he recalled.

"I saw something horrifying that was not surprising," said terrorism analyst Sam Westrop of the Middle East Forum who also worked with the British interfaith counterterrorism group Stand for Peace. "Al Qaeda and Islamic State are both using weapons that everyone owns and that you can do very little against."

Speaking to News10NBC from Boston, Westrop warned that attacks using knives and cars or trucks are an increasingly popular modus operandi for attackers seeking to inflict mass casualties because weapons such as bombs or guns leave more footprints and raise more alarms.

“They require people,” he said. "They require resources. And that exposes Islamist groups to exposure to security services, to police."

“Their 'inspire' magazine urged Muslims in the west to use pickup trucks to kill as many as possible,” Westrop went on. “They called them ‘ultimate mowing machines.’ to mow down as many enemies of Allah as possible."

Westrop pointed to the truck rampage in Nice, France which killed 86 people in July 2016 and warned a similar attack is highly likely in the United States in the future. He cited attacks like the San Bernardino or Fort Hood shooting rampage as examples of radicals acting out an almost impossible to predict, or prevent, “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.” “If that same ‘Sudden Jihad Syndrome’ is applied to the hundreds, if not thousands of radicalized Islamists in this country, some American citizens, some immigrants, then we are in for a very dangerous time."

As an American overseas, Allen said he was accustomed to thinking of terrorism, and keeping a low profile, but said he was still shaken by the attack, as well as saddened.

“It's very heartbreaking to think that a city that so beloved like London,” he said. “To think that someone was successful in that attempt to make a stab at this country and what they stand for is very disheartening."

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Charles Molineaux

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