What we can learn from the OSU terrorist attack

On November 28, an Islamic terrorist attacked students at the Ohio State University using both his vehicle and a butcher knife. Eleven students were injured. Fortunately none were killed.

If you haven't heard about the attack, check out this article for a brief summary. The terrorist drove his car over the curb and struck six students who were outside a classroom after evacuating from a fire alarm. When his car was disabled, he got out of the car and cut five more students with a butcher knife. An OSU police officer happened to be very close by and responded immediately to the incident, shooting the terrorist and killing him. You can read an eyewitness account here.

This attack has a personal connection for me. I graduated from OSU (twice) and currently work for a community that borders the campus. That morning, OSU police called neighboring agencies for mutual aid. Four officers from my department responded. I was called into work early in the event additional officers were needed. They didn't end up needing more people, so I spent the morning listening to the events unfold on the police radios in my cruiser.

In the last couple weeks since the incident, I have spoken with our officers on the scene as well as members of OSU's police department and some Columbus police officers who were on the scene. The information I share comes from officers involved in the incident, but is not classified in any way.

First of all, there are some who doubt this was a terrorist attack, instead thinking that it was a mentally ill kid who did the killing. That is categorically untrue. ISIS formally claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Clarion Project looked at the terrorist's Facebook page immediately before the attack and noted the following:

"In a Facebook post shortly before launching Monday's stabbing attack, Artan denounced American foreign policy and called on Washington "to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah."

"By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday," he added, according to CNN.

He also praised American born Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whose online propaganda sermons have been linked to the radicalization of a number of terrorists worldwide."

This was clearly a terrorist attack and not the work of a lone mentally ill student.

Why it happened and why we can expect more attacks in the future.

What many people don't understand is that Western Civilization is under a coordinated attack by Islamic Terrorists. The terrorists' ultimate goal is to establish a world where Sharia law is enforced everywhere. The terrorists tell us what they want and how they are going to accomplish their goal. Very few people actually listen.

According to the terrorist publication Dabiq, the attacks are explicitly designed to create discord between Muslims and members of other religions. The Intercept describes this tactic as follows:

"The attack had "further [brought] division to the world," the group said, boasting that it had polarized society and "eliminated the grayzone," representing coexistence between religious groups. As a result, it said, Muslims living in the West would soon no longer be welcome in their own societies. Treated with increasing suspicion, distrust and hostility by their fellow citizens as a result of the deadly shooting, Western Muslims would soon be forced to "either apostatize … or they [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens," the group stated, while threatening of more attacks to come."

"Through murderous provocation, the Islamic State seeks to trigger a civilizational war between Muslims and the West, violently dragging both parties into such a battle if need be."

This is the PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED STRATEGY of Islamic terrorism, yet people refuse to accept we are in a war with Islamic radicals.

Don't believe it? Read the Atlantic's article What ISIS Really Wants. It's a long article, but will give you a tremendous amount of background information about Islamic terrorism and what the terrorists see as plans for the future. Some highlights:

"Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim "apostates" are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute."

"In Haykel's estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. "Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition," Haykel said. Islamic State fighters "are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day."

"Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women," Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. "If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market."

"Choudary took pains to present the laws of war under which the Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality. He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict."

These attacks will not end. We will see more and more of them as the ISIS propagandists inspire and radicalize more of these "lone wolf" terrorists.

Why Vehicles and Knives?

Besides the obvious reasons regarding ease of access, these weapons are a terrorist favorite because they are what ISIS leaders tell them to use! Did you know that ISIS has several online magazines and websites providing instruction to terrorists wanting to attack the West?

One of the terrorist propaganda outlets is the online magazine called Rumiyah. According to this article, the most recent edition of Rumiyah directs terrorists to use vehicles as weapons:

"The latest issue of Rumiyah, a new magazine from the terror group aimed at English-language speakers, included an article titled 'Just Terror Tactics' that outlined ideal vehicles to use in terror attacks as well as ideal targets.

"'Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner,' the article said.

"The article also cited the attack in Nice, France, in July, in which a supposed ISIS supporter killed 86 people by plowing into a crowd with a truck on Bastille Day.

"'Vehicles are like knives, as they are extremely easy to acquire,' the article said."

The same issue of Rumiyah also advises terrorists about using blades as weapons. This article describes the advice:

"In the latest PDF edition, which has been distributed widely on social media, supporters were urged to arm themselves with readily-available weapons and launch a ‘campaign of knife attacks' in which the attacker ‘could dispose of his weapon after each use, finding no difficulty in acquiring another one.'

"In a call to arms, an article in the magazine says: ‘One need not be a military expert or a martial arts master, or even own a gun or rifle in order to carry out a massacre or to kill and injure several disbelievers and terrorize an entire nation.'

"Urging followers to carry out brutal acts of violence, the article continues: ‘Many people are often squeamish of the thought of plunging a sharp object into another person's flesh.'

"It is a discomfort caused by the untamed, inherent dislike for pain and death, especially after ‘modernization' distanced males from partaking in the slaughtering of livestock for food and the striking of the enemy in war.

"‘However, any such squirms and discomforts are never an excuse for abandoning jihad.'

"The shocking article even goes on to advise would-be terrorists on which weapons to use.

"‘It is explicitly advised not to use kitchen knives, as their basic structure is not designed to handle the kind of vigorous application used for assassinations and slaughter,' it reads, adding: ‘to avoid troublesome knives, those that can cause harm to the user because of poor manufacturing.'"

Is it any wonder that the OSU terror suspect used his vehicle and a knife? That's what the ISIS leadership told him to use! Think about the recent truck attack in Nice, France and the recent shopping mall knife attack in Minnesota. These terrorists were inspired and instructed by the same sources.

Both Dabiq and Rumiyah are open source magazines and easily found online. I will not link to them here (instead linking to other articles describing the texts) because I don't want to give them more web traffic. I also urge my readers to exercise caution when visiting sites like these because they are undoubtedly being monitored by our intelligence agencies. You probably don't want to end up on that list.

It is important, however, to be aware of what the terrorist leadership is advocating. The terrorists are publishing their playbook. They are telling us exactly what they are planning, yet few Americans can be bothered to study terrorist tactics. We need to be smarter than that. Do your homework and study your enemy if you want to prevail in this inevitable battle.

Issues specific to the OSU attack

1) Be careful when the fire alarm is triggered. Recognize that numerous terrorists and active killers have exploited victims' actions after fire alarms are activated. When the alarm goes off, large groups of people congregate in very predictable locations, making them easy victims of a terrorist attack.

According to sources at OSU, it seems that this terrorist did not pull the fire alarm himself. It appears to be a crime of opportunity. The terrorist saw a large group of people close to the road and decided to attack.

When the fire alarm is pulled in a public building, be ready for anything. It might be an active killer attack. Don't go to predictable evacuation locations. Don't evacuate to a parking lot. Stay away from any location where large groups of people are physically close to a roadway open to vehicular traffic. Be alert as you evacuate.

2) Callers reporting the terrorist act overwhelmed the police/medical dispatch system. This isn't the fault of OSU. All terrorist attacks everywhere overwhelm dispatching resources. More than 1000 phone calls were fielded by four police dispatchers in the one-hour time period following the attack. Many of those callers provided bad information that misdirected responding officers.

Several people reported there was a second attacker (a male armed with a rifle) who fled the scene. No such person actually existed. Five SWAT teams were mobilized based on these reports. The teams spent nearly two hours searching buildings and parking garages where the mystery man with the rifle was supposedly located. It was a colossal waste of time and manpower.

It seems self evident, but you shouldn't call police in a crisis situation if you don't have importantly information to share. Get GOOD descriptions of offenders. Concentrate on the person's sex, age, hair color, clothing color, direction of travel, and vehicle description. If you don't have this kind of information. don't call 911! Let the dispatchers focus on people who have the most useful information to share.

You should also avoid sharing second or third hand information with police on the scene. If you didn't see it, don't report it. Like the "telephone game" repeated information quickly becomes inaccurate and wastes valuable resources.

3) Prepare for non-typical terrorist attacks. Not every terrorist attack is going to be conducted with bombs and guns. You must be ready to deal with vehicles, knives, fire, or anything else the terrorists can come up with on the battlefield. Expect the unexpected.

The terrorists are deliberately targeting areas where there are lots of defenseless victims. If no one can fight back, the killer gets a much higher body count. If you visit or work in "gun free" zones (and obey the law) you won't be armed with your pistol to stop the attack. How good are your empty hand skills? Can you evade or disarm a knife-wielding attacker? Do you know how to use your own knife to incapacitate a terrorist?

If you are truly concerned about your survival, you should probably invest in a few empty hand or knife classes instead of taking another "run and gun" carbine class.

4) Medical skills are important to have. Officers at the scene stated that there were 11 injured people at the attack site along with a whole bunch of student onlookers. No one provided any type of medical care to the injured people until the cops and medics showed up. Eleven serious injuries and none of the bystanders even considered doing something to save the injured people's lives?

Fortunately, the lack of first aid at the scene didn't cost anyone his life. This occurred in a big city with a very fast police and fire response time. If the medics were fewer in number or had to travel a large distance to get to the scene, some of those victims could have bled to death.

You must get some quality medical training. I teach quite a few battlefield medicine classes every year. You can check out my schedule here. If you can't train with me, take a class from either Dark Angel Medical or Lone Star Medics. I'm friends with the guys who own both companies and have taken training classes from both. They are top notch medics and instructors. Having the skills they are teaching may mean the difference between life and death if you get caught up in a terrorist attack like this one. If you can't make it to a good medical class, at least read my article Field Medicine for Terrorist Attacks to familiarize yourself with the concepts involved in treating a knife, gunshot, or blast injury.

Folks, these attacks are not going to stop anytime soon. Recognize that and take the steps necessary to ensure your own safety.

Greg Ellifritz is the full time firearms and defensive tactics training officer for a central Ohio police department. He holds instructor or master instructor certifications in more than 75 different weapon systems, defensive tactics programs and police specialty areas. Greg has a master's degree in Public Policy and Management and is an instructor for both the Ohio Peace Officer's Training Academy and the Tactical Defense Institute.

For more information or to contact Greg, visit his training site at Active Response Training.

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