An Exploration of Transportation Terrorist Stabbing Attacks

You are here

An Exploration of Transportation Terrorist Stabbing Attacks


In his August 22, 2018 message to supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and [greater] Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi implored ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq as well as those on various jihadist fronts in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia not to be dismayed by military setbacks suffered by the Islamic State, but to continue fighting, confident that Allah would ultimately reward those who remained steadfast with victory. In the same message, he exhorted homegrown jihadists abroad— “the fierce lions in the lands of the Cross—Canada, Europe, and elsewhere” to carry out simple attacks within their limited capabilities that would nonetheless have great psychological impact because they would strike in the enemy’s homeland.

Previous reports by the Mineta Transportation Institute have addressed bombings (see "Suicide Bombings Against Trains and Buses Are Lethal but Few in Number" and "Explosives and Incendiaries Used in Terrorist Attacks on Public Surface Transportation: A Preliminary Empirical Analysis"). Car ramming attacks or what are sometimes called vehicular rammings have been the subject of more recent reporting. This report looks first at terrorist stabbing attacks against the public as a general phenomenon, and then examines stabbing attacks in public surface transportation venues.



As a leading authority on terrorism and sophisticated crime, Brian Michael Jenkins works with government agencies, international organizations and multinational corporations. He has directed MTI’s continuing research on protecting surface transportation against terrorist attacks. He is also a senior advisor to the president of RAND. From 1989-1998, Mr. Jenkins was deputy chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND’s Political Science Department where he also directed RAND’s research on political violence.

Mr. Jenkins has a BA in fine arts and a Masters Degree in history, both from UCLA. He studied at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala where he was a Fulbright Fellow and received a fellowship from the Organization of American States.

Commissioned in the infantry, Mr. Jenkins became a paratrooper and a captain in the Green Berets. He is a decorated combat veteran having served in the Seventh Special Forces Group in the Dominican Republic and with the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam. He returned to Vietnam as a member of the Long Range Planning Task Group, receiving the Department of the Army's highest award for his service.

Since then, he has served on numerous U.S. and international task forces investigating terrorist attacks. In1996, President Clinton appointed Mr. Jenkins to be a member of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. He served as an advisor to the National Commission on Terrorism and has served on the U.S. Comptroller General's Advisory Board.

Mr. Jenkins is the author of several articles, reports and books, including International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict and Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?


Bruce Butterworth has been a Senior Research Associate with the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) since 2005. He has taken a leading role in creating MTI’s unique database of attacks on Public Surface Transportation, and briefing TSA’s front-line bomb appraisal officers, which has been awarded by DHS. He has authored or co-authored a number of publications. Along with Brian Michael Jenkins, he co-authored nine MTI reports and eleven security perspectives, as well as two opinion pieces, one of them for the Washington Post.  He also co-authored a May 2007 study on air cargo security for the Center for American Progress.   

Mr. Butterworth had a distinguished government career working at operational, senior policy and congressional levels. For five years he was professional staff member on transportation for the House Government Operations Committee. He then spent 8 years in the Office of the Secretary of transportation, managing international negotiations on air and maritime services, chairing US delegations to UN Committees, and dealing with transportation border inspections and maritime security.

For nearly a decade, Mr. Butterworth was an executive for FAA in aviation security. For 5 years he was Director of Aviation Security Policy, establishing strategic and contingency plans, and federal rules.  Then as Director of Aviation Security Operations, he was responsible for foreign airport assessments, federal air marshals, hijacking response, and 900 field agents. He worked hard to improve security and the performance of security measures by US airports here and by US airlines everywhere. He ran the FAA’s aviation command center, successfully managing the resolution of hijackings and security emergencies. He launched a successful program of dangerous goods regulation and cargo security after the 1995 ValuJet crash, oversaw the conversion of the air marshal program to a full-time program with high standards, was a key player in the response to the ValuJet and TWA 800 accidents, and was a frequent media spokesperson. He worked closely with the Congress, the National Security Council staff, the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies, and authorities of other nations.

Following his FAA tenure, Mr. Butterworth was an Associate Director at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum responsible for security and building operations, and then a Deputy Director of Engineering at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, handling workforce and budgetary planning for complex robotics space missions and improving workplace safety.

Following his retirement after over 30 years of government service, Mr. Butterworth became a consultant and assisted DHS on information sharing, provided essential aviation expertise to the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and was an adjunct professional staff member for the RAND Corporation.

Mr. Butterworth was awarded a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics in 1974 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Pacific in 1972 (Magna cum Laude).  He was a California State Scholar and a Rotary Foundation Fellow. 


Jean-Francois Clair is a former Inspector General of Police. He served 35 years in France’s Security Service, the Directorate of Territorial Security (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) (DST), the country’s internal intelligence system with responsibilities similar to those of the FBI in the United States and MI-5 in the United Kingdom. From 1983 to 1997, he was the head of DST’s Anti-Terrorist Branch. In 1998, he was promoted to deputy director of DST, a position he held until his retirement in 2007.

Dr. Clair received a PhD in Public Law from the University of Paris in 1969 and graduated from the Institute for Higher Studies for National Defense (Institut des haute études de défense nationale) (IHEDN) in 1993.

Dr. Clair currently teaches in the Graduate School of International Affairs at the institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences-Po) and at the Institute for International and Strategic Research (IRIS). He is a frequent lecturer at the George Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany, and he has participated in international symposia on terrorism and security issues (Singapore, 2007 and 2008; Berlin, 2008; and Oslo, 2009). He is also in charge of research for the French Administration.


Joseph E. Trella III has over 25 years of public policy experience, specializing in international affairs, in both the public and private sector. Currently, Joseph develops contingency plans, policies, procedures, and training for the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense immediate offices. Prior to his work in the Secretary of Defense Office, Joseph developed international policy and program management for the Department of Defense’ State Partnership Program and other National Guard security cooperation programs. He has previously advised senior leaders at the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, foreign military and law enforcement officials, and at the State level of government. Joseph has a Master of Science degree in Negotiations and Conflict Management from the University of Baltimore with a concentration in International Affairs from the School of Advanced International Studies; a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Economics from Loyola University of Maryland; a mediation certificate from the Maryland Conflict Resolution Office; and a facilitation certificate from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Joseph was awarded the Department of Defense's International Affairs Certification Program (IACP) in 2015 acknowledging senior level expertise in the Department of Defense’s spectrum of international affairs functional areas, to include: international policy; security cooperation; security assistance; international program management; international security, foreign disclosure, and technology transfer control; international cooperative research, development, and acquisition; and international information and personnel exchanges.  

March 2019



Contact Us

SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: