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A Decline in Terrorism-Related Deaths in 2017


A Decline in Terrorism-Related Deaths in 2017

By Sudhir Selvaraj

In early December, the Institute for Economics and Peace, published the sixth edition of the Global Terrorism Index. The report aims to describe general trends and patterns of terrorist activities across the past two decades. The data analyzed for the report is maintained at the University of Maryland’s well-respected START Consortium which has a record of 170,000 terrorist incidents over a span of 30 years.

The report shows that this is the third straight year where annual global deaths from terrorism have declined, a decline in 27% from 2016-2017. The number of people killed from terrorism in 2016 was 25,774 and in 2017, it was 18,814. The deaths from terrorist activities were highly concentrated with just ten countries accounting for 84 per cent of the deaths in 2017. These were Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and India. Somalia and Egypt recorded the highest increase in the number of deaths in 2017. Interestingly, more than 99 per cent of all deaths occurred in countries which have a violent conflict or high levels of political terror.

In 2017, 20 per cent of attacks were unsuccessful, up from 14 per cent in 2014. This is accompanied by a decrease in fatality and frequency of attacks demonstrating a weakening of global terrorism. Despite this decline, terrorism is still widespread with 67 countries experiencing at least one terrorism-related death, 19 countries experiencing more than 100 deaths and five countries experiencing over 1000 deaths.

The global economic impact of terrorism was $52 billion in 2017. This was 42 per cent lower than the previous year and at its lowest point since 2014. Deaths make up 72 per cent of this economic loss, followed by the GDP with 25 per cent, damage to property at 2 per cent and injuries at 1 per cent.

In terms of global distribution, the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region experienced the highest number of attacks and deaths, followed by South Asia, and then sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia Pacific.

Four terrorist groups were responsible for 56.5 per cent of total deaths in 2017. These were The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Taliban, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. In total, these four groups caused the death of 10,632 people. All four groups except for Al-Shabaab have witnessed an overall decline in the last 4 years. The organization was also responsible for the deadliest attack when a truck was exploded by a suicide bomber outside the Safari hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia killing 588 people. Despite its decline ISIL (the Islamic State) remains the organization responsible for the greatest number of deaths in 2017. However, deaths attributed to the group declined by 52%.

There is still much debate about trends in terrorism. For example, the report itself acknowledges the absence of a universal definition of terrorism to use. This leads to much debate over specific aspects of data analyzed in this report. More significantly, this report could vary from experiences on the ground. Despite these deficiencies, what this report does do effectively is present a snapshot of the global state of terrorism. While there have been significant declines, terrorism remains a scourge which impacts many countries and leads to a loss of billions of dollars each year.

Image Credit: CC by Terrorism/ Pxhere

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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