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London’s Oxford Street was the scene of a false alarm on Friday that saw residents fleeing a supposed terrorist attack. The incident was quickly resolved, yet the panic that erupted is a reminder of terrorism’s lasting psychological impact.
Officers responded on Friday evening to reports of shots being fired in the area on one of the busiest evenings of the year as shoppers took advantage of Black Friday sales. After nearly an hour police declared there to be no evidence of gunfire, but in that short period of time hundreds of people panicked, barricaded themselves inside shops and bars, and took to social media to express alarm. The incident apparently stemmed from an altercation between two men.
An apparent shift in tactics has recently seen terrorists focusing on small-scale attacks and more rudimentary methods. Whereas preparations for 9/11 saw terrorists spending months to train as pilots, the Westminster and London Bridge attacks earlier this year were committed by perpetrators using knives and rented cars. The very simplicity of these attacks increases the public’s awareness of just how easily they can be planned, says Dr Julia Rushchenko, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.
“People are increasingly aware of how easy it is to rent a car and use it for these purposes,” she says. “Owing to these recent attacks, the public are more aware of this then they were a few years ago.”
Read more on France 24