Overall terrorism declines but far-right terror surges in the West

In the United States, the increase in far-right terrorism was reflected in an increase in hate crimes.
Friday 22/11/2019
A threat that is far from over. Police officers detain a man ahead of a far-right demonstration in Brussels, September 15. (Reuters)
A threat that is far from over. Police officers detain a man ahead of a far-right demonstration in Brussels, September 15. (Reuters)

LONDON - The number of people killed in terrorist acts halved in the past four years but the number of countries affected grew, statistics from the 2019 Global Terrorism Index indicate.

At least 71 countries recorded one death or more from terrorism in 2018, the second-highest number since 2002, the index stated.

Overall terror deaths dropped half since 2014, when a record 33,555 people were killed while the Islamic State (ISIS) was at its peak. There were 15,952 terror deaths in 2018, said the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) in Australia.

The largest declines in 2018 were recorded in Iraq, which proclaimed a military victory over ISIS the previous year, and Somalia, where US forces have conducted air strikes against al-Shabab extremists since 2017.

For the first time since 2003, Iraq was not the country hit worst by terrorism, said the index, which defines terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain political, economic, religious or social goals through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Afghanistan, where the Taliban replaced ISIS as the world’s deadliest terror group, was the most affected, with 1,443 attacks in which a total of 7,379 people died. Iraq reported 1,131 attacks that left 1,054 dead. Nigeria, which had 562 attacks, had 2,040 people killed.

Syria, which tracked 131 terror attacks that claimed 662 lives, ranked fourth.

In Europe, where no major terror attack was recorded in 2018, the number of deaths fell from more than 200 in 2017 to 62. Britain was the EU country most affected by terrorism and among the 30 most affected in the world, the index said.

“The collapse of ISIL (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq was one of the factors allowing Western Europe to record its lowest number of incidents since 2012, with no deaths attributed to the group in 2018,” IEP Executive Chairman Steve Killelea wrote in a statement accompanying the report.

“However, the situation still remains volatile, with large parts of Syria being contested and many smaller groups sympathetic to ISIS philosophies being active, leaving the possibility of further Islamist attacks in Europe.”

The report noted that, while “the intensity of terrorism has declined… terrorism is still widespread and increasing.”

The report said some ISIS affiliates recorded increased levels of activity. The Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State was the fourth-deadliest terror group in 2018 with more than 1,000 recorded deaths, the majority of which occurred in Afghanistan. There were 13 groups or movements that were said to be responsible for killing more than 100 people in 2018.

The index noted a marked increase in terror attacks by women. While accounting for a small number of overall terror attacks, attacks by women increased 450% from 2013-18. Male attackers dropped 47% in the period. The trend can likely be attributed to the activity of Boko Haram, whose attacks accounted for nearly 80% of female suicide attacks in the past five years.

The index noted a large increase in deaths caused by far-right terrorism in Western Europe, North America and Oceania. It cited the March attacks on two mosques in New Zealand, which killed 51 people, as an example of far-right ideology spreading to a country with “almost no prior history of terrorist activity.”

In the United States, the increase in far-right terrorism was reflected in an increase in hate crimes, the report stated.

However, the overwhelming majority of terror attacks took place in countries mired in violent conflict.

The fewer number of terror attacks was accompanied by a reduction in the global economic effect of terrorism, which decreased 38% to $33 billion in 2018.

Compared with other forms of violence, such as homicide, armed conflict and military expenditure, terrorism accounts for a small percentage of the cost of global violence, which amounted to $14.1 trillion in 2018, the report stated.

The true economic effect of terrorism is likely to be much higher because the figures do not account for the indirect effects on business, investment and the costs associated with security agencies in countering terrorism.

(With news agencies)