Before setting off to cause mayhem, 17-year-old Riaz Khan Ahmadzai made a quick video in an oddly empty room in which he talked about why Westerners must die and his devotion to the Islamic State.
While he talks, he plays with a small knife, a knife with which he pledges to behead his enemies.
Ahmadzai would later attack five people on a train near Wurzburg, wounding four, before he would be shot to death while lunging at police. [more snippage]
It's instructive to look at the knife. It's a common kitchen knife, with a cheap plastic handle and a blade that's not quite as long as Ahmadzai's fist is wide. It's the sort of knife that can be found in millions of kitchens worldwide, and a cheap version, at that.
The Islamic State has claimed credit for some of Europe's most spectacular attacks in the last year. But Ahmadzai's attack stands out for its simplicity, especially compared with the Islamic State's Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which involved multiple attackers, hard-to-obtain weapons, numerous rental cars, cellphones and safe houses, or the March 22 mayhem in Brussels, which featured three coordinated bombers attacking nearly simultaneously at the airport and a subway station.
Ahmadzai's attack involved no expensive weapons, no explosives, no training and not likely much contact with or advice from the Islamic State.
"Many of the attackers seem to have some form of mental illness, and once an idea becomes 'cool' it will attract others who have delusions of grandeur/revenge," Daniel Byman, an expert on international security at Georgetown University, said in an email.
While this leads perhaps to smaller attacks, it has a downside, he added.
"I don't think IS is really giving major logistical or operational support to the recent attacks – Paris, in contrast, was quite different," he wrote, referring to the Islamic State. "I think this sort of low-tech terrorism is exceptionally hard to stop. It also has a momentum all its own.