Global Terrorism in 2013 Dominated by Four Groups


Global Terrorism in 2013 Dominated by Four Groups

18 Nov 2014

In the second edition of their Index on the impact of terrorism worldwide, the Institute for Economics and Peace finds an increase in terrorist attacks in 2013, dominated by ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. 

The 2014 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) was published by the Institute for Economics and Peace on 18 November 2014. The Index ranks countries according to the impact of terrorist activities as well as analysing the economic and social dimensions associated with terrorism. 

The Index analysed key factors amongst religious, civil-political and socio-economic issues, including weak state capacity, extremist ideologies, historical violence and conflict, discrimination based on ethnic or religious origin and social injustice.

ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban responsible for 66 per cent of all attacks.

The prominence of four extremist groups is striking:  ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban were responsible in 2013 for 66 per cent of all deaths from claimed terrorism incidents. These four groups are the most deadly terrorist groups in the last fifteen years, and have killed at least 25,000 people in a decade.

A key section of the report looking at the activity of the groups over recent years says that the deadliest terrorist group is the Taliban and  Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) in Pakistan, which has killed over 12,000 people. This was closely followed by al-Qaeda and its major affiliates which have killed at least 8,585 people. The other two largest terrorist groups (both of which have a shorter history) are ISIS and Boko Haram. Based on data up to the end of 2013, these two groups were responsible for 3,000 deaths in four years, half of which were in 2013 alone.

The report finds that religious ideology as the motivation for terrorism is only partly a global phenomenon. While it is predominant in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, in the rest of the world terrorism is more likely to be driven by political or nationalistic and separatist movements. These forms of terrorism have remained fairly constant over the last 14 years and are still substantial.

In 2000, National Separatist movements were the most prominent ideologies for terrorism, but the report finds that since 2000 religion as driving ideology has dramatically increased. Political and National Separatist movements are still significant in 2013 but have seen little change in activity over the period.

Since 2000 there has been over a five-fold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism.

Overall the report finds that since 2000 there has been over a five-fold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, rising from 3,361 in 2000 to 17,958 in 2013. However for four years, starting in 2007, there had been modest decreases in terrorist deaths and also a slight decrease in the number of countries experiencing greater than 50 deaths from terrorism per year. The latest jump in terrorist activity coincided with the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Interestingly, the report suggests that while drivers of terrorist activity are often complex and multi-dimensional, there are several generalised and significant socio-economic correlates of terrorism. Countries with higher levels of terrorism were found to have three statistically significant factors: 

  • Greater social hostilities between different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups, lack of intergroup cohesion and high levels of group grievances.
  • Presence of state sponsored violence such as extra-judicial killings, political terror and gross human rights abuses.
  • Higher levels of other forms of violence including deaths from organised conflict, likelihood of violent demonstrations, levels of violent crime and perceptions of criminality.


Key Findings
  • Almost 8,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013; 61 per cent more than the previous year;
  • 82 per cent of all deaths from terrorist attack occurred in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria;
  • These 5 countries experienced a dramatic increase in terrorism over the last year which resulted in 14,722 fatalities collectively;
  • In 2013 terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban (including TTP), Boko Haram, ISIS, and al-Qaeda; accounting for 66% of all fatalities;
  • More than 90 per cent of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations;
  • 40 times more people are killed by homicides than terrorist attacks worldwide;
  • In 2013, 24 countries experienced terrorist attacks that killed more than 50 people. There were 75 countries that did not experience a terrorist attack;
  • The primary targets of terrorist attacks are citizens and private property;
  • The three main factors associated with terrorism are state sponsored violence such as extra-judicial killings, group grievances and high levels of criminality;
  • Poverty rates, levels of schools attendance and most economic factors have no association with terrorism;
  • Most terrorist attacks use explosives; since 2000 only 5 per cent were suicide attacks;
  • Although terrorism is on the increase and a major concern compared to other forms of violence, it is relatively small when compared to the 437,000 people killed by homicide in 2013. In the US an individual is 64 times more likely to be victim of a homicide than terrorism;
  • Iraq: The vast majority of people killed by terrorist attacks were in Iraq, the country that has suffered the most deaths from terrorism over the last 10 years. Last year alone there were 2,492 terrorist attacks which killed 6,362 people in Iraq. The overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks in Iraq last year were not "claimed" by any terrorist organisations; of those that were claimed, 77 per cent were by ISIS;
  • Pakistan: Pakistan has around 23 different terrorist groups, however 11 groups account for the majority of claimed attacks. Last year alone there were 1,933 terrorist attacks, which killed 2,345 people. Over 60 per cent of the fatalities were due to terrorist bombings and explosions;
  • Nigeria: The dramatic increase in terrorism in Nigeria can be attributed to the rise of Boko Haram. Last year alone the organisation killed at least 1,587 people and claimed responsibility for 90% of all terrorist attacks in Nigeria. 12 per cent of all terrorist attacks are kidnappings or hostage takings;
  • Syria: The Syrian civil war has resulted in a drastic increase in terrorism. It is estimated that the civil war has led to between 180,000-260,000 deaths and the displacement of over 35% of the population. The majority of these deaths are classified as a result of conventional warfare rather than terrorist attacks; however terrorism has been deployed as a tactic by some rebel groups.

The top 10 countries for 2013 which suffered the greatest impact of terrorism were:

1. Iraq, 2. Afghanistan, 3. Pakistan, 4. Nigeria, 5. Syria, 6. India, 7. Somalia, 8. Yemen, 9. Philippines, 10. Thailand

About the Global Terrorism Index

The first Global Terrorism Index was published in 2012, measuring terrorism in 2011. The 2014 GTI measures terrorism and related incidents for the year 2013. The index scores 162 countries, covering 99.6% of the world's population, and examines trends from 2000 to 2013. The indicators used include the number of terrorist incidents, fatalities, injuries and property damage. The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), based at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.

The definition of terrorism used by the Global Terrorism Index is: "the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation"

The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics features the data from the 2014 Global Terrorism Index in our interactive data section.

The 2014 Global Terrorism Index can be read in full  here.

This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. 

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Institute for Economics and Peace