On the 20th December a lorry driver drove his vehicle into a crowded market in Berlin, Germany. As the group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, this article will refer to what happened as a terrorist attack. What the incident showed even more was the evolution that has taken place over the years in terms of terrorist attacks.

Background to the attack

Firstly let us explore what exactly happened. On Monday evening as Euro News stated, a little after 8pm a lorry "ploughed into the crowd" at a Christmas market in Berlin. The BBC reported that twelve people had died with another 48 injured.

After the attack the terrorist group the Islamic State (IS) stated, as CNN reported, that they "inspired the attack". ISIS stated themselves that the attack was carried out by "a soldier of the Islamic State".

Evolution of terrorist attacks

What is interesting about this attack in particular was the evolution of terrorist attacks that has taken place over the years. In an attempt to promote their political beliefs and to demonstrate their dissatisfaction, terrorism was carefully calculated and was carried out on a grand scale. Air plane hijackings illustrates this. The attacks on American soil on September 11th, 2001 (9/11) is a perfect example. Carefully planned by Al-Qaeda, nineteen terrorists were used in taking over the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 767 aircraft which hit the World Trade Center and killed 2,977 people.

What is interesting about the 9/11 attacks was that it had been planned since 1996 when the idea was first mooted by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Osama Bin Laden.

In addition to plane hijackings were suicide attacks that have taken place over the years. The first large "suicide bombing campaign" after World War II occurred in the 1980s according to the AOAV website during the occupation of Lebanon.

Over the past few decades suicide attacks have been carried out by different terrorist groups, whether that be Al-Qaeda or more recently the Islamic State. However, what is interesting about the hijackings and suicide bombings is that in recent times there are much less frequent. It is increasingly difficult to carry out such attacks; intelligence agencies around the world are aware of what is going on, what potential suspects are up to and what is happening within their country.

There are exceptions; the Brussels bombing in 2016 demonstrates this. But overall, such attacks are much less frequent.

Modern terrorism

What this has led to is a new form of terrorist attack. A more quick thinking type of attack. What I mean by this is an individual, with little preparation, trying to cause as quick and effective damage without raising suspicion. An example will be a stabbing, or a car ramming. Now, whilst this has been a prominent and effective form or terrorist attack in the West Bank, it is relatively new in Europe. What we saw on Monday demonstrates this. It is so difficult to predict an attack when all that is needed is a working vehicle. It is even more difficult if the one carrying out the attack has no real ties to any terrorist groups.

Whilst the results may not be as grand as a 9/11 form of attack, the effects are still the same; uncertainty, panic and fear.

How do we stop such attacks?

In many ways, the fact that it has come to this is testament to the work of the intelligence community. The prevention of more conventional forms of terrorism has forced groups such as the Islamic State to look for other ways of attack. But how do we stop this in the future? It is difficult, but keeping tabs on potential suspects and major police presence at large events or tourist locations is all that can be expected in the short term. It is a new form of terrorism, and as has been the case so far, one way or another, we will find a way of defeating such attacks.