Jihadi Groups Dominate Global Terrorism
19 Nov 2015
The Global Terrorism Index 2015 shows that terrorist activity increased by 80 per cent in 2014, with Boko Haram and ISIS responsible for half the deaths from terrorism worldwide.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015 was published by the Institute for Economics & Peace on 17 November 2015. It looks at global trends and patterns in terrorism over the past 15 years, including key developments in 2014. It covers 162 countries and 99.6 per cent of the world's population.
Its findings are essential reading for governments, policy makers and organsiations looking at ways to effectively tackle violent and non-violent extremism.
The report looks at the ideological aims of terrorist group, the differing socio-economic conditions under which terrorism occurs and the geopolitical drivers associated with terrorism. It also focuses on the the types of strategies deployed, tactical terrorist targets, and how these evolve over time.
For the first time, this year's report has a specific focus on terrorism in western countries. It analyses the impact of terrorism in the areas international jihadist groups have labeled as 'the West' – namely Europe, North America, and Australia.
Five countries account for 78% of all terrorist related deaths.
A number of key findings are presented on the religious elements of terrorism and how groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS spread their ideologies to other countries. Boko Haram was responsible for 6, 644 deaths in 2014, which made it the deadliest group in the world, while ISIS was responsible for 6,073 terrorist related deaths.
The report also highlights that terrorist activity is highly concentrated in just five countries, where 78 per cent of all terrorist related deaths occurred – Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria.
Terrorism in western countries the picture is far different, with 37 recorded deaths from terrorism in 2014. 18 people were killed in the United States and 19 people across eight other countries, including Belgium, where an attack at a Jewish museum in Brussels was claimed by ISIS.
The recent terrorist attacks in France show how fluid these measures are, as not only would the attacks there on 13 November 2015 take France to the top of this list in the West, with 129 confirmed dead, but the authors of the report also suggest that France would move up from 36th in the GTI to around 18th or 19th. This would put France on a par with Kenya the Democratic Republic of Congo, and above countries such as Lebanon, Mali, Turkey and the United Kingdom, which this year is positioned 28th. In the GTI ranking, the higher up the scale (closer to one) a country is, the greater the impact of terrorism.
The findings from the report also show that there was a shift in the distribution of the targets in 2014, with an 11 per cent decrease in deaths of religious figures and worshipers, however this is offset by the increase in deaths of private citizens, which increased by 172 per cent in 2014.
The flow of foreign fighters is tracked across the world in the report. Since 2011 between 25,000 and 30,000 fighters from 100 different countries have travelled to Iraq and Syria. This demonstrates that the attraction of these groups remains strong. Tunisia has the greatest number of foreign fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria, estimated to be around 5,000, with around 500 thought to have returned home.
In Europe, France contributes the second highest number of European foreign fighters, behind Russia. An estimated 180 individuals had returned to France as of April 2014. Of these, 76 have been arrested. Behind France, the next highest numbers came from Germany and the United Kingdom (around 700 – 750) and then Belgium with around 350 – 400.
Politically motivated terrorism accounted for most deaths in the West in 2014.
In terms of trends, the GTI 2015 found that politically motivated terrorist acts accounted for the most number of deaths in the West between 2006 and 2014, with so called 'lone wolf attacks' motivated by Islamic fundamentalism accounting for 19 pert cent of total deaths in the West. Excluding the 11 September 2001 attacks, only 0.5 per cent of terrorist attacks have occurred in the West since 2000, and if the recent Paris attacked were included in this measure, this would increase to 0.6 per cent.
The report analyses the reasons why individuals become foreign fighters for violent extremist groups, noting that there is limited data to inform evidence-based research into this. What is agreed is that there is no single 'terrorist profile' that can be used to identify at risk individuals. And as the report states, the ideological aims of terrorist groups are vital when looking at counter-terrorism issues.
The Inside the Jihadi Mind report, published by the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics in October 2015 assessed jihadi propaganda material published between April 2013 and the summer of 2015, the period covered by the GTI 2015, with the perspective that the ideology of global extremism can only be countered if it is first understood. The research looked at propaganda from ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and found that there is a distinct difference between the ideology of Salafi-jihadism and the Islam practiced by the majority of the world's Muslims. It also found that the three groups have fundamentally similar ideologies.
With this is mind, and the findings from GTI 2015 showing how ISIS and Boko Haram (which has sworn allegiance to ISIS), dominate the terrorist attacks across the world, we can use this data to inform the debate about the reach and motivations of these groups, through their shared ideologies and where these attacks are occurring across the world, including those being recruited.
- Terrorist activity increased by 80 per cent in 2014 to its highlight recorded level.
- Boko Haram overtook ISIS to become the most deadly terrorist group in the world in 2014.
- Terrorist activity is highly concentrated in five countries (Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria) which accounted for 78 per cent of deaths in 2014.
- Almost 60 per cent of the countries covered in the GTI experienced no terrorist deaths in 2014, however a majority of countries did experience a terrorist incident of some kind.
- More countries than ever have high levels of terrorism.
- Thirteen times as many people are killed globally by homicide than die in terrorist attacks.
- Private citizens are increasingly the targets of terrorist attacks.
- Terrorist attacks on religious targets resulted in 11 per cent fewer deaths in 2014 as compared to 2013.
- Two groups are responsible for half the deaths from terrorism — Boko Haram and ISIS.
- Nigeria experienced the largest increase in deaths from terrorism in 2014.
- ISIS inflicted more deaths on the battlefield than through terrorism.
- The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria continued in 2014 and 2015.
- Excluding Turkey, Europe accounted for 21 per cent of all foreign fighters in 2014.
- The majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the West.
- Lone wolf attackers are the main perpetrators of terrorist activity in the West.
- Islamic fundamentalism was not the main cause of terrorism in the West over the last nine years.
- Terrorist activity is a significant driver of refugee activity and internal displacement.
To note: The GTI defines terrorism as '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.'
You can read the full Global Terrorism Index 2015 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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