Where Terrorism Happens


The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism released new data on Thursday showing that the majority of the terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2012 happened in just three countries: Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan:

The next five most frequently targeted countries were India, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and Thailand. “While terrorist attacks have in large part moved away from Western Europe and North America to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, worldwide terrorism is reaching new levels of destructiveness,” said Gary LaFree, START director and professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland. In addition to illustrating a continued shift in location of attacks, the new data — with more than 8,400 terrorist attacks killing more than 15,400 people in 2012 — also show an increase in attacks and fatalities over the past decade. The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities, the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,500 deaths.

These record numbers are partly due to a change in START’s data collection methodology, however, so the report cautions against a direct year-to-year comparison. Zach Rausnitz looks at who committed the deadliest attacks, and where:

Three of the five deadliest attacks from the year took place in Yemen. One perpetrated by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed 210 people. Al Qaeda central did not itself carry out any attacks in 2012, but the six groups responsible for the most deaths worldwide had some affiliation with al Qaeda, START says. They include the Taliban, Boko Haram and AQAP. Along with Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Iraq each suffered individual attacks that killed more than 50 people. The only fatal attack listed in the database that took place in the United States in 2012 was the killing of six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., by a member of a white supremacist organization.

Benjamin H. Freidman points out that in the longer term, terrorism is really on the decline:

We should … be skeptical that the recent increase in terrorism means more danger for Americans. The cause of terrorism’s recent increase is civil wars and political unrest in Africa, the Middle-East and South Asia, where the vast majority of recent terrorist attacks have occurred. Meanwhile, terrorists killed fifteenseventeen, and ten private U.S. citizens (that is, non-military) in 2010, 2011, 2012, respectively. That means the danger to Americans either did not grow or that they mostly avoided it. The real problem then is not al Qaeda, but the fractured political order in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria and the like.