Why the Rise in Jihadi Violence in 2014?

Opinion

Why the Rise in Jihadi Violence in 2014?

Murray Ackman

04 Dec 2015

ISIS and Boko Haram accounted for 39 per cent of terror-related deaths last year. Murray Ackman takes a deeper look at what the figures say about global terrorism as a whole.

In 2014, terrorism increased to the highest levels ever recorded. Some 32,658 people were killed last year, up 80 per cent from 2013. These are the findings from the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015, published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, which examines the impact of terrorism around the world.

What was the main cause of this jump? And what do these figures tell us about the face of global terrorism as a whole?

The continual growth of jihadi groups, in particular Boko Haram and ISIS, was the main driver behind this steep rise. Both groups drastically increased the brutality and scale of their attacks last year. In Nigeria, Boko Haram killed 6,644 in 2014. Meanwhile, ISIS in Iraq and Syria was responsible for 6,073 terrorist-related deaths. Both groups killed over four times as many people from terrorism in 2014 than in 2013.

ISIS and Boko Haram accounted for 39 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in 2014.

ISIS and Boko Haram accounted for 39 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in 2014, although it is likely both are responsible for even more unclaimed deaths. Last year, a quarter of terror-related deaths were not claimed by any group; these occurred mostly in Nigeria, Iraq and Syria. Research shows that both Boko Haram and ISIS mostly target private citizens, are in control of territory, aim to establish an Islamic state, allegedly receive external funding, and profit from stolen oil.

The two groups were also responsible for deaths from conflict which is not counted as terror-related. ISIS was the deadliest militant group of the year, with conflict in Syria resulting in more than 20,000 deaths at their hands. In contrast, Boko Haram caused more terror-related deaths; they were responsible for around 500 deaths from conflict with a vigilante group called the Civilian Joint Task Force. This group, also known as Yan Gora, has tried to track down Boko Haram militants and report them to the state.

Meanwhile, as ISIS and Boko Haram grew deadlier last year, so did other groups. Nine of the world's ten most destructive terrorist groups had their deadliest year so far in 2014. All ten were responsible for nearly two thirds of the total deaths from terrorism last year.

Although all the most violent terrorist groups adhere to jihadist ideology, they are not united. In the case of al-Qaeda and ISIS, for instance, they are actively attacking each other. This is despite sharing a similar ideology and goals, as outlined in the report Inside the Jihadi Mind.

In fact, ISIS started as a branch of al-Qaeda, but the two split due to differences in views about the brutality of attacks and long-term strategy. Al-Qaeda severed ties with ISIS in February last year. Since then conflict between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, has resulted in 736 battle-related deaths.

The conflict between al-Qaeda and ISIS extends elsewhere, too. For example, ISIS actively taunted al-Qaeda when Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), was killed.

ISIS has also declared war on the Taliban, al-Qaeda's allies in Afghanistan. This does not appear to have made a significant impact on the Taliban's deadliness. In 2014 the group was responsible for more deaths than ever before - nearly 3,500. It was also the worst year in its conflict with the government of Afghanistan, with nearly 16,000 battle-related deaths.

The conflict between al-Qaeda and ISIS has played a role in the decrease of terror-related deaths in Pakistan, however. The rate there fell by a quarter in 2014, with almost 600 fewer deaths than in 2013. This is because the country's largest terrorist group, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has continued to fracture since the 2013 death of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud. The group is also divided over whether to maintain ties with al-Qaeda or align with ISIS.

The GTI shows more countries experienced high levels of terrorism in 2014.

Jihadi groups may be dominant, but the uptick in terror-related deaths is not only the result of the spread of their ideology. The Global Terrorism Index shows that more countries than ever have experienced high levels of terrorism. Last year, the number of countries that suffered at least 500 deaths more than doubled, jumping from five in 2013, to 11 in 2014. The new additions were Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon. In Ukraine, Central African Republic and South Sudan local non-jihadi terrorist groups drove the increase.

These stark findings demonstrate the importance, year-on-year, of collecting and analysing detailed data to monitor and track global terrorism. This is especially crucial at a time when the rise of jihadi groups, as the numbers indicate, are driving a serious increase in the number of lives claimed by terrorism.

More information about ISIS and Boko Haram, the increasing spread of terrorism, and the drivers of terrorism can be found in the Global Terrorism Index. Produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace using data from the Global Terrorism Database, the report examines the impact of terrorism around the world.

 

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