Published On: Wed, Nov 18th, 2015

2015 Global Terrorism Index

Terrorism continues to rise, with over 32,000 people killed in terrorist attacks in 2014, the highest number recorded. Despite being highly concentrated in five countries, terrorism is spreading, with more countries recording attacks and deaths.

Now in its third year, the Global Terrorism Index provides a detailed analysis of the changing trends in terrorism across 162 countries, over the last 15 years. It investigates the patterns of terrorism by geographic activity, methods of attack, organisations involved and the national economic and political context.

2015 Global Terrorism Index

KEY FACTS

  • Deaths from terrorism increased 80% last year to the highest level ever, with 32,658 people killed, compared to 18,111 in 2013.
  • Boko Haram and ISIL were jointly responsible for 51% of all claimed global fatalities in 2014.
  • 78% of all deaths and 57% of all attacks occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.
  • Iraq continues to be the country most impacted by terrorism with 9,929 terrorist fatalities the highest ever recorded in a single country.
  • Nigeria experienced the largest increase in terrorist activity with 7,512 deaths in 2014, an increase of over 300% since 2013.
  • The global economic cost of terrorism reached an all-time peak at US$52.9 billion.
  • Since 2000 there have been over 61,000 terrorist attacks, killing more than 140,000 people.
  • Thirteen times as many people are killed globally by homicides than die in terrorist attacks.

TERRORISM CONTINUES TO RISE

There has been a dramatic rise in terrorism over the last 15 years. There are nine times more people killed in terrorist attacks today than there were in 2000. In 2014, 32,658 lives were lost to terrorism, the highest number recorded, and an 80% increase from 2013. 

Just two terrorist groups, ISIL and Boko Haram, are now jointly responsible for 51% of all deaths from claimed terrorist attacks world-wide. Both groups predominately target private citizens.

TERRORISM IS SPREADING

Terrorism spread significantly in the past year, with attacks and fatalities in more countries than ever. While many countries experience no terrorist activity, the number of countries to experience at least one or more deaths from terrorist activity has increased from 59 in 2013 to 67 in 2014. This includes OECD countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada and France.
Despite this, just five countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria– account for 78% of all deaths in 2014. Importantly, over 60% of the countries ranked by the Index experienced no deaths from terrorism, and 13 times as many people are killed globally by homicides than die in terrorist attacks.

THE UNDERLYING DRIVERS OF TERRORISM

The two factors most closely associated with terrorism are the levels of political violence and conflict. Ninety-two per cent of all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries where political violence by the government was widespread, while 88% of all terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2014 occurred in countries that were experiencing or involved in violent conflicts.

However, drivers of terrorism differ: in OECD countries, socio-economic factors such as lack of opportunity and low social cohesion correlate significantly, while in non-OECD countries, internal conflicts, political terror, and corruption are strongly correlated.

“Since we can see a number of clearly identifiable socio-political factors that foster terrorism, it is important to implement policies that aim to address these associated causes. This includes reducing state-sponsored violence, diffusing group grievances, and improving respect for human rights and religious freedoms, while considering cultural nuances,” said Steve Killelea, Institute for Economics and Peace Founder and Executive Chairman.

TERRORISM IN THE WEST: LONE WOLF ATTACKS

The majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the West. Excluding the September 11 attack, only 0.5% of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West since 2000. Including September 11, the percentage reaches 2.6.

Of the attacks that do occur, lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators, causing 70% of all deaths in the West over the past 10 years. It is important to note that political extremism, not Islamic fundamentalism is the main driver of terrorism in Western countries.

FOREIGN FIGHTERS

The rise of ISIL has brought with it several challenging dynamics for counterterrorism. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria since 2011 is the largest influx in modern times. Current estimates now range from 25,000 to 30,000 fighters, from roughly 100 countries. Half of the foreign fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria are from neighbouring MENA countries and a quarter from Europe and Turkey. The flow of foreign fighters does not appear to be diminishing with over 7,000 arriving in the first six months of 2015.

For the full statistics on Foreign Fighters see the Global Terrorism Index page 45. For an analysis on why individuals become foreign fighters for violent extremists groups see page 73.

THE ROOT CAUSES OF FORCED MIGRATION

Terrorist activity is a significant driver of forced migration. Ten of the 11 countries most affected by terrorism also have the highest rates of refugees and internal displacement. This highlights the strong connection between the current refugee crisis, terrorism and conflict.

METHODOLOGY

Developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace, and based on the Global Terrorism database aggregated by START at the University of Maryland, the Global Terrorism Index provides a comprehensive summary of the impact of terrorism in 162 countries, (99% of the world’s population).The indicators include the number of terrorist incidents, fatalities, injuries and property damage.

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