Deaths from terrorism halved in the last four years

The global number of deaths from terrorism is down, but the Global Terrorism Index shows the number of countries affected by terrorism is growing.

Deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year after peaking in 2014, according to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The number of deaths has now decreased by 52 per cent since 2014, falling from 33,555 to 15,952. The total number of deaths fell by over 15 per cent in 2018, with the largest falls occurring in Iraq and Somalia on the back of the defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, and US-led airstrikes on Al-Shabaab. The fall in deaths was also reflected in country scores, with 98 countries improving compared to 40 that deteriorated. This is the highest number of countries to record a year-on-year improvement since 2004.

While the GTI finds that the intensity of terrorism has declined, it also shows that terrorism is still widespread and increasing, with 71 countries suffering from at least one death. This is the second highest number since the beginning of the century.

The fall in terrorism has also been accompanied by a reduction in the global economic impact of terrorism, decreasing by 38 per cent to US$33 billion in 2018.

Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), explains the findings: “IEP’s research finds that conflict and state sponsored terror are the key causes of terrorism. In 2018, over 95 per cent of deaths from terrorism were occurring in countries that were already in conflict. When combined with countries with high levels of political terror the number jumps to over 99 per cent. Of the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism*, all were involved in at least one violent conflict last year.”

For North America, Western Europe, and Oceania, the threat of far-right political terrorism has been rising over the past five years, with 19 countries affected by attacks in this period. In these regions far-right attacks increased by 320 per cent between 2014 and 2018. This trend has continued into 2019, with 77 deaths attributed to far-right terrorism from the start of the year until the end of September. Unlike Islamist terrorism, none of the perpetuators in 2018 claimed to be a member of an organised terrorist group, making it difficult for security organisations to prevent such attacks.

The rise in terrorist activity in Afghanistan, coupled with the winding down of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, resulted in the Taliban overtaking ISIL as the world’s deadliest terrorist group in 2018. The number of deaths attributed to the Taliban rose by just under 71 per cent, to 6,103, and accounting for 38 per cent of all deaths globally. In contrast, deaths attributed to ISIL fell globally by just under 70 per cent, falling from 4,350 in 2017, to 1,328 in 2018.

However, some ISIL affiliate groups have recorded increased levels of terrorist activity. The Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State was the fourth deadliest terrorist group in 2018, with over a thousand recorded deaths, with the majority of these deaths occurring in Afghanistan. In total, there were thirteen groups or movements who each killed more than hundred people in 2018.

In Europe, the number of deaths from terrorism fell for the second successive year, from over two hundred in 2017 to 62 in 2018. Only two attacks killed five or more people.

The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its seventh year, is developed by IEP and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorist trends.

Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.

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