IEP#s 2017 Global Terrorism Index: Terrorism Deaths Down 22% Compared to 2014 Peak as Radical Islamist Extremism is on the Retreat

General Press Releases Wednesday November 15, 2017 12:00
LONDON--15 Nov--PRNewswire/InfoQuest
  • For the second consecutive year, the total number of deaths is down with a 13% YOY reduction compared to 2015.
  • Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, four of the five countries most affected by terrorism, recorded 33% fewer deaths.
  • The largest decrease occurred in Nigeria where terrorism deaths attributed to Boko Haram fell by 80% in 2016.
  • ISIL defies the positive trend with 50% more people killed by the group than in 2015, resulting in their deadliest year with over 9,000 deaths, primarily in Iraq.
  • In 2016, OECD countries experienced the highest number of deaths since 2001, but so far 2017 marks a significant reduction compared to 2016 coinciding with ISIL's diminishing capacity at its core.
  • Terrorist attacks are becoming less sophisticated and more likely to be directed against civilian targets in the OECD, such as attacks using vehicles; but improvements in counterterrorism strategies foiled more plots in 2016 than 2015 and 2014.

For the second consecutive year, deaths from terrorism have decreased according to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index (GTI). There was a 22% decrease to 25,673 deaths compared to the peak of terror activity in 2014 when over 32,500 people were killed.

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The downward trend highlights a turning point in the fight against radical Islamist extremism with four of the five countries most affected by terrorism, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, recording an improvement. The largest reduction occurred in Nigeria where deaths attributed to Boko Haram decreased by 80% in 2016, as the terror group faced mounting pressure from the Multinational Joint Task Force.

Iraq was the only country of the five most affected by terrorism to record an increase in deaths, primarily driven by ISIL as it increased suicide attacks and assaults on civilians to compensate for territorial losses. Total deaths attributed to ISIL increased by 50% in 2016, marking the group's deadliest year ever. The majority of the deaths occurred in Iraq, which accounted for 40% of the increase.

The yearly report, developed by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) based on the Global Terrorism Database by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) as well as other sources, provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorist trends.

The report finds that while the global numbers of deaths and attacks recorded a decrease in 2016, there are still worrying trends as more countries than at any other time in the past 17 years experienced at least one death from terrorism. In total 77 countries experienced at least one terrorism death, up from 65 in 2016 - resulting in the overall global GTI score, registering the impact of terrorism, deteriorating by 4% from 2015.

Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of IEP, said, "This year's report marks a landmark moment in the fight against radical Islamist extremism. Four of the five most severely affected countries, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, registered significant reductions in the number of deaths. Together, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al Qa'ida killed 6,000 fewer people in 2016 than in 2015. The decline of Boko Haram in Nigeria is having a positive ripple effect with Cameroon, Chad and Niger collectively recording 75% fewer deaths."

"Although these gains are encouraging, there are still serious areas of concern. The future stability of Syria and Iraq will play a critical role in determining the impact of terrorism in the years ahead. In Iraq, the government will face challenges in maintaining a lasting peace through an inclusive society that avoids fuelling sectarian violence. The evolving threat of ISIL also remains. While it has suffered significant setbacks to its territory, military strength and funding, the potential for hardened fighters to leave and join new permutations in other conflict areas around the world is very real. OECD countries face this challenge as foreign fighters return from Syria and Iraq with ISIL directed attacks increasing from 11 countries in 2015 to 15 in 2016."

European countries and other developed nations continued to record a negative trend with ISIL's activity the primary driver. Excluding the September 11 attacks, 2016 was the deadliest year for terrorism in OECD countries[1] since 1988. However, the military response to ISIL and its diminishing capacity has coincided with a significant reduction in deaths, from 265 to 82, in the first half of 2017 when compared to the full year in 2016. This indicates a potentially positive future trend.

Improvements in counterterrorism strategies have foiled more attacks than in previous years. This, in part, reflects a greater resource allocation for counterterrorism as well as more effective strategies. Two in 10 attacks were prevented in 2014 and 2015 while three in 10 attacks were foiled in 2016. The type of attack affects the likelihood of success in preventing it. Nearly half of all attacks using bombings and explosions were foiled, but low cost, low-tech attacks, such as using vehicles are harder to prevent. Since the July 2016 Nice truck attack, at least 13 other attacks using vehicles have been carried out in OECD countries including the 31 October 2017 attack in Manhattan. Eleven of these attacks have explicitly targeted civilians with at least six targeting crowds.

A key finding of the research is that 99% of all terrorism deaths in the past 17 years have occurred in countries that either are in conflict or have high levels of political terror. Political terror signifies the presence of extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment without trial. This finding demonstrates the risks associated with counterterrorism strategies that can exacerbate existing grievances that fuel extremism and terrorism. Turkey and Egypt recorded some of the biggest increases in deaths following major government crackdowns.

Terrorist attacks and deaths are still highly concentrated with 94% of all terrorist deaths taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Central America and the Caribbean is the least affected region with only 12 deaths, or less than 0.4% of the total.

The global economic impact of terrorism in 2016 was US$84 billion, a reduction of nearly US$6 billion compared to 2015. Despite the high absolute figure, the economic impact of terrorism is small compared to other major forms of violence. The economic impact of terrorism amounts to just 1% of the total global economic impact of violence, which reached $14.3 trillion in 2016.

1. OECD analysis excludes Turkey and Israel as the terrorist threat in these countries has deep-rooted historical origins.
The full GTI 2017 report and interactive map are available at:
Follow: @GlobPeaceIndex #TerrorismIndex
Source: Institute for Economics and Peace

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