Rail bound traffic—a prime target for contemporary terrorist attacks?

Abstract

The threat of terrorism is a worldwide concern, often discussed in the context of our constantly changing world with new complex threats, risks and crises. This article focuses on terrorist attacks targeting rail bound traffic because of its extreme vulnerability for terrorist attacks. The article provides an empirical overview of the frequency and characteristics of attacks on rail bound traffic. At least in recent years, attacks have been a growing phenomenon. The results are interpreted through the lens of a contemporary terrorism paradigm which revolves around in which way which terrorist organizations organize their activity and if there is an increased religiously motivated terrorism and a presumed shift towards more indiscriminate killing through the use of new tactics and weapons. This article identifies the 20 biggest large-scale attacks on rail bound traffic, and they do resemble contemporary terrorism.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The original data for 1993 has been lost, so the dataset does not include data for that year.

  2. 2.

    GTD identifies three criteria that must be fulfilled for an event to be included in the database: 1) The act must be aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal. 2) There must be evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience than the immediate victims. 3) The action must be outside the context of legitimate warfare activities. More detailed information can be found in the GTD codebook, accessible at http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/downloads/Codebook.pdf.

  3. 3.

    It should be noted that several attacks could be seen as aimed at multiple targets. For example, bombs are often placed on tracks with the aim of damaging a passing train. Each incident has been categorized based on its primary target. An explosion on the tracks while a train was passing is classified as a passenger train target. In addition, in cases in which the specific target is uncertain, data has been coded as targeting “train,” thereby increases the percentage of incidents in that category.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support for this work was received from the Section of Disaster Medicine, The National Board of Health and Welfare, Stockholm and the Department of Political Science, Umeå University, Umeå.

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Correspondence to Veronica Strandberg.

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Strandberg, V. Rail bound traffic—a prime target for contemporary terrorist attacks?. J Transp Secur 6, 271–286 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12198-013-0116-0

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Keywords

  • Rail bound traffic
  • Terrorism
  • Mass-casualty attacks
  • Security