Global Deaths From Terrorism Drop in 2016, Spread in the West

  • Rise in lone-wolf attacks makes tackling terrorism difficult
  • Institute for Economics and Peace publishes latest index

A man stands at a destroyed flat following air strikes that killed at least four civilians in Douma, Syria on Nov. 2.

Photographer: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP via Getty Images

The number of terrorism-related deaths fell for a second year in 2016, though more countries in the West were affected as tactics shifted to so-called lone-wolf attacks, according to a global study.

Fatalities from terrorism fell 13 percent to 25,673 last year, 22 percent lower than the 2014 peak, according to the fifth annual Global Terrorism Index developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace think tank. The biggest drop was in Nigeria, which saw the number of deaths fall by 80 percent as large parts of the north were retaken from Boko Harem. Other countries with significant declines included Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

The report 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.”

Of the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 27 suffered a terrorist attack last year -- up from 22 in 2015. The total death toll rose to about 265, up from about 240, or just over 1 percent of the global total. Israel and Turkey were excluded from the OECD count, “as the nature of the terrorist threat in these countries has specific historical origins and intensity,” the institute said.

“The overall message is that the total number of deaths is lower,” said Daniel Hyslop, Sydney-based director of research at the institute. “The qualifier is that the number of deaths in OECD countries is climbing and spreading.”

Islamic State

Recent attacks in Europe cost less than $10,000 to carry out on average, according to the report.

About three-quarters of the deaths in OECD nations were related to Islamic State, though they’ve mostly been done by attackers with only tenuous links to the group, Hyslop said. There’s no guarantee that the group’s recent battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq would reduce the number of attacks, Hyslop said.

About 28,000 fighters from 50 countries have joined Islamic State since 2012 -- lower than estimates from other studies. Of those, between 3,900 and 4,300 came from Europe, the institute said.

Though eight of 10 counties with the biggest drop in fatalities had major anti-terrorism military offenses, Hyslop said gains could be short-lived if they exacerbate grievances. He warned against political settlements that marginalize groups, referencing Nigeria, Iraq and Syria specifically.

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