The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), has released new data from its Global Terrorism Database. Based at the University of Maryland, the consortium has compiled data on over 100,000 terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2011, and has just released new data on terrorist attacks across the globe in 2011.
The data compiled by START has brought into focus several trends for 2011, including the most active terrorist groups, and countries and regions that have been most affected by terrorism. The full data can be accessed above, but here we summarise some key trends from 2011.
Of the five deadliest incidents of the year, four were perpetuated by al-Qaeda (or ‘AQ’) linked groups, or affiliates. On May 13th, two Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers self-detonated, killing eighty and injuring 140 in an attack on the Frontier Constabulary in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province. October 4th saw al-Shabaab, the Somali al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, detonated a vehicle-borne IED that killed seventy and injured over forty. Al Qaeda’s branch in the Arabic Peninsula killed 110 and injured forty-five in a March 20th attack on a weapons facility. And finally, al-Qaeda in Iraq killed sixty-five people in an attack on a council building on March 29th that injured nearly 100.
While START’s data indicates a possible ‘resurgence’ of AQ affiliates and sympathizers, it is of interest that al-Qaeda Central only launched one attack in 2011. Anders Breivik’s attack on a Labour Party youth camp -which killed seventy-seven and injured at least seventy-five- is also among the top five most deadly terrorist incidents of 2011.
In terms of individual groups in 2011 the top twenty most active terrorist groups were:
- The Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-M)
- Taliban* (* indicates an AQ-linked group)
- Boko Haram*
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
- Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)*
- al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)*
- New People’s Army (NPA)
- Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
- Baloch Republican Army (BRA)
- al-Qaida in Iraq*
- Garo National Liberation Army
- al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM)*
- Lashkar-e-Islam (Pakistan)
- Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)*
- Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)*
- People’s Liberation Front of India
- Haqqani Network*
- Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
START’s information seems to correlate with two of the pre-dominant concerns of the international security community. The first concerns the role and relevance of al-Qaeda Central in the post-bin Laden era, which continues to be contested. Whereas some argue that al-Qaeda Central remains as deadly as ever, others highlight the regional devolution of the group as the main concern. From a statistical standpoint, the data indicates that al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates pose a far greater threat globally. In contrast, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda Central only registers once in START’s data for 2011.
Second, the threat and unpredictability of so-called ‘lone-wolf’ style attacks is illuminated by the data. While Breivik’s attack at a Norwegian Labour Party youth-camp is not an aberration in terms of regional trends, the fact that one motivated person, without the support of any terrorist group, can commit the fourth deadliest terrorist attack globally is alarming.
From a regional standpoint, South Asia stands out amongst the data. Over 40% of terrorist incidents worldwide took place in South Asia, and of the twenty most active terrorist groups in 2011, eight were based in this region. In contrast, the United States and Western Europe have remained relatively safe from terrorist attacks. Overall, there are five countries that account for 70% of the terrorist attacks that we saw in 2011: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Russia. Iraq’s 25.8% share of terrorist attacks is the highest percentage of any country in 2011. More broadly, the extremely high count of terrorist activity that immediately followed the exit of the United States and United Kingdom from Iraq is cause for concern ahead of the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of NATO for Afghanistan.