Je suis…qui? Mapping global terrorism

White supremacy. Islamic extremism. Christian fundamentalism. Racial hatred. These are some of the terms that come to mind in light of the high-profile terrorist attacks unfolding across the globe. Recent attacks in France and Germany suggest that violence is on the rise and media coverage is littered with new terror attacks every week.

There are often difficulties in trying to contextualise global terror attacks and their fatalities. On top of this, media bias is cited as a central roadblock to understanding the proportionality between the number of attacks taking place and the locations of victims. So two central questions are in need of addressing: has there been a spike in global terror attacks in 2016? And if so, where are most of the victims located?

There is no question that Europe is now facing a higher threat of Terrorism than in recent memory. In 2015, 175 people died as a result of terror attacks compared to less than ten fatalities in 2014. The attacks in Nice and Munich mean that 2016 is already set to be one of the most violent since 2004. It is entirely possible that terrorism related deaths in Europe this year might eclipse the number racked up in 1988 – Europe’s bloodiest year on record.

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Figure 1. Research carried out by the Institute for Economics & Peace finds that terrorist attacks in the last decade have been primarily politically motivated. The full report is available here.

In response to this the media has drawn parallels between the number of attacks in Europe and increased migration from the Middle East. Europe plays host to 10% of the world’s total refugees, which is the same percentage hosted in Pakistan alone. Lebanon – which is the size of U.K.’s Devon and Cornwall – shelters 1.5 million refugees in comparison to the 150,000 in Britain. Less than half a million of all refugees in Europe are Syrian and only 2,659 Syrians remain in the U.K.

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Figure 2. The BBC illustrates how the Syrian displacement looks across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. View the original article here.

At global level, The Economist reports that deaths from terror attacks have more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2014. The sharpest increases were in Iraq and Nigeria; the two countries now account for roughly half of all terror related deaths. This death toll coincides with the outbreak of civil war in Syria as well as the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Muslims are the religious group most affected by terror attacks.

Supporting these statistics, research from the U.S. State Department illustrates that the ten countries to suffer the most terror attacks in 2015 were located in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Iraq led the way again with 2,418 deaths followed by Afghanistan with 1,708 killings. U.S. forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014 after an 11 year war in the country.

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Figure 3. Total global terror attacks by country. The U.S state department discusses these statistics in a wide-ranging security report available here.

Naturally, threats of terrorism vary from state to state. Risk maps generated by private companies are often used in attempts to forecast the probability of attacks. But statistical analyses of global terror attacks tend to be problematic due to diverging figures on the topic. For example, according to one account there have been 1002 attacks across five major continents so far in 2016, killing a total of 8,469 people.

So if anything is clear it is that there has indeed been a substantial rise of terrorist attacks in the last few years. And whilst Europe is seeing renewed levels of violence, the most affected countries are still Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria.

For more information about global Terrorism visit the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium – http://www.trackingterrorism.org/targets