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Deaths from terrorism at an all time high: Global Report

The total number of deaths from terrorism in 2014 reached an all time high with over 32,000 deaths, an 80 per cent increase from the previous year. This is the highest level ever recorded, according to a newly released Global Terrorism Index Report.

The index is compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank based in Sydney, New York, and Mexico.

The Global Terrorism Index, now in its third year, ranks 162 countries in terms of how greatly terrorism affects them both directly and indirectly. It 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".

The report shows that the significant majority of deaths due to terrorism, over 78 per cent, occurred in just five countries; Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

Two countries, Iraq and Nigeria, account for 53 per cent of all deaths in 2014.

Iraq ranks as the most affected country, accounting for 30 per cent of deaths from terrorism with over 9,900 deaths in 2014; that’s three times as many terrorist deaths in Iraq in 2014 than in the entire world in the year 2000.

"This is the highest number of terrorism incidents and fatalities ever recorded by a single country," the Institute's press release reads.

The recent terror attacks in France sparked fierce debate over the special attention media outlets give to terrorism attacks in Western countries.

Deaths from terrorism in the West constitute 2.6 per cent of all deaths in the 15 years up to 2014. Most of these deaths occurred in the September 11 attack which killed 2,996 people.

However, although these numbers are low compared to countries greatly affected in the Middle East, the report states it is nonetheless important to study how and by who such attacks were committed.

According to the report, there were eight attacks in the US undertaken by individuals with an affiliation to Sovereign Citizens, which is a network of far right-wing extremists with anti-government views. Two attacks were motivated by anti-government views and two attacks by anti-semitism.

The report states, “Four out of the 19 attacks in the US had a jihadist element. These attacks were three shootings by Ali Muhammad Brown who cited opposition to US foreign policy as the motivation for his attacks, and the hatchet attack of police officers in New York by Zale Thompson.” 

The Martin Place siege in Sydney saw Australia rank number three in the top five Western countries with the most deadly attacks in 2014, with three deaths, including the gunman, and four serious injuries.

Overall, Australia jumped 36 places in this year's Index, propelled by the Martin Place siege. Australia ranked 59th in the 2015 index (which reports on 2014) compared with 95th in the previous year's report .

The report acknowledged that although terrorism is a major global concern, other forms of violence resulted in more deaths than those caused by terrorism.

The report states, “The global homicide rate is 13 times the global terrorism rate, with 437,000 people dying from homicides compared to 32,685 from terrorism.”

The Rise of Lone Wolf Attacks

The majority of terrorist attacks in the West are not carried out by well-organised international groups, instead, the terrorist threat in the West largely comes from ‘lone wolf’ attacks.

The report defines lone wolf attacks as, “Individuals or a small number of individuals who commit an attack in support of a group, movement, or ideology without material assistance or orders from such groups.”

According to the report, lone wolf attacks account for 70 per cent of all deaths in the West from 2006 to 2014, a total of 164 deaths. 

Eighty per cent of lone-wolf deaths were caused by "right-wing extremists, nationalists and anti-government elements, other types of political extremism and supremacism", the Institute found.

The biggest political lone wolf attack took place in Norway in 2011 when far-right terrorist Anders Breivik conducted two attacks in one day.

Politically motivated terrorists acts account for the most number of deaths in the West.

The report showed that lone wolf attacks motivated by what it calls “Islamic fundamentalism” accounted for 19 per cent of total deaths.

The Phenomenon of Foreign Fighters

One of the most challenging issues, particularly in Western countries, is understanding why individuals become violent extremists.

The Global Terrorism Index analysed the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) qualitative study of over 2,000 individuals who chose to leave their home countries to fight for al-Qa’ida, primarily against the United States and its allies.

The USIP study found that individuals who chose to travel to fight for al-Qa’ida were not ‘crazy’ or psychopathic — they had made a measured choice to fight for al-Qa’ida.

The Global Terrorism Index states, “The appeal of groups like al-Qa’ida is that they only recruit the most devout and reliable people. People with anti-social behaviour tend to be unreliable in practice.” 

The results found that many were not from one economic profile — some were unemployed for the long-term while others were from privileged backgrounds.

Meanwhile many of the participants in the study had an inadequate understanding of Islam — many were raised in households where faith was routinely practised but was not a dominating force.

Furthermore, they were not approached by al-Qa’ida but rather sought out membership.

The USIP study developed four broad motivations to assess individuals that joined al-Qa’ida, they include: identity seeking’, ‘revenge seeking/anger’, ‘status seeking’ and ‘thrill seeking’.

According to the Global Terrorism Index and the USIP study, the most common motivation was ‘identity seeking’. Anger and status seeking followed with 30 and 25 per cent respectively. The thrill seeker accounted for the least at five per cent.

The report points out that, similar motivations can be found in right-wing extremism where alienation, culture and identity have been found to be contributing factors to membership.

The report summarised that over the last 15 years, more than 61,000 incidents of terrorism claiming over 140,000 lives have been recorded.


The Point

The total number of deaths from terrorism in 2014 reached an all time high with over 32,000 deaths, which is an 80 per cent increase from the previous year. This is the highest level ever recorded, according to a newly released Terrorism Global Index Report.


Statistics and graphs courtesy of Global Terrorism Index Report 2015


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