Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terrorism deaths in 2017, reveals new report

Published By ITCT News Desk On : December 5, 2018
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According to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) deaths from terrorism fell for the third consecutive year, after peaking in 2014. The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its sixth year, is developed by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorist trends.

The total number of deaths fell by 27 per cent in 2017, with the largest falls occurring in Iraq and Syria. The fall in deaths was also reflected in country scores with 94 countries improving, compared to 46 that deteriorated. This is the highest number of countries to record a year on year improvement since 2004.

However, whilst the GTI finds that the global impact from terrorism is on the decline, it also shows that terrorism is still widespread, and even getting worse in some regions:

  • Five countries (AfghanistanIraqNigeriaSomalia and Syria) recorded more than 1,000 deaths, while 19 countries recorded more than 100 deaths.
  • Somalia and Egypt recorded the largest increases in the number of deaths from terrorism in 2017 – one attack in Somalia killed 587 people and another in Egypt killed 311 people.
  • Deaths from terrorism increased by 93 per cent in Somalia from 2016 to 2017.
  • 67 countries recorded more than one death while 98 countries recorded at least one attack.
  • Angola and Spain had the largest deteriorations in score in the GTI as a result of a single attack in Angola and multiple attacks in Spain.
  • Myanmar and The Philippines recorded a record numbers of terrorism deaths in 2017 with 166 deaths and 50 deaths respectively.
  • Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terrorism deaths in 2017, replacing Iraq.
  • Deaths from terrorism have decreased by 27 per cent in 2017 to 18,814 globally. This is the third consecutive year of improvement.
  • The fall in global terrorism is reflected in the index: 94 countries improved this year, with 46 deteriorating – the highest number of countries to improve year on year since 2004.
  • The global economic impact of terrorism was US$52 billion in 2017; a decrease of 42 per cent from the previous year.
  • Deaths in Europe fell by 75 per cent. FranceBelgium and Germany had significant improvements. However,Spain deteriorated significantly.
  • Terrorism is still a global phenomenon with 67 countries recording at least one death in 2017.
  • There has been an increase in far-right terrorism in North America and Western Europe, which in 2017, accounted for 59 attacks and 17 deaths.
  • ISIL’s decline contributed to a 56 per cent reduction in deaths in Iraq between 2016 and 2017. However, ISIL remains the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of IEP, explains the findings: IEPs research finds that conflict and state terror are the principal causes of terrorism – of the 10 countries most impacted by terrorism*, all were involved in at least one violent conflict and eight were involved in a major war with at least 1,000 battle deaths. These ten countries accounted for 84 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in 2017. When combined with countries with high levels of political terror, the number jumps to over 99 per cent. Political terror involves extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment without trial.

Following were the deadliest terrorist groups in the year 2017:

  • Islamic State – 4,350 deaths in 2017
  • The Afghan Taliban – 3,571 deaths in 2017
  • Al-Shabaab – 1,457 deaths in 2017
  • Boko Haram – 1,254 deaths in 2017 


Other terrorist groups

Beyond these four deadly organisations, myriad other terrorist groups are active around the world. Last year, a total of 169 groups were responsible for at least one death, but more than 130 others also carried out attacks.

Many of these groups are small but some are large, including Al-Qaida which is thought to have 30,000 fighters across 17 countries in the Middle East and Africa. Other less well-known groups are becoming more prominent, including the Fulani in Nigeria which was responsible for 321 deaths and 72 attacks in 2017. While those numbers represented a fall from its activities in 2016, IEP says that there has been a significant increase in violence by the group in 2018. Another deadly group in Nigeria is the Bachama, which carried out four attacks and killed 30 people in 2017.

In Syria, there are numerous terrorist groups, including Hayat al-Tahrir al-Sham (previously known as both Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Al-Nusra) and Jaysh al-Islam. They were responsible for 176 and 127 deaths respectively in 2017.

In Pakistan, the most active groups include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State, which is also active across the border in Afghanistan.

In neighbouring India, the most deadly group last year was the Communist Party of India (Maoist), also known as the Naxals, which was responsible for 205 deaths and 190 incidents. The northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is a particular focus of terrorist activity in India. Last year five different groups, including Lashkar-e-Taliba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, were responsible for 102 deaths in the state between them.

In Yemen, the most active group is the Houthi rebels, which are fighting a brutal war against the Saudi-led coalition which supports the internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It’s worth noting that the definition of terrorism used by IEP – which only covers attacks by non-state actors – means the targeting of civilians by Saudi forces and their allies is not included in the Global Terrorism Index. Other active groups in Yemen include Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Adan-Abyan Province of the Islamic State.

Among the deadliest groups operating outside the main terrorist hotspots of Africa and the Middle East is The New People’s Army in The Philippines. Last year it killed 113 people in 235 attacks around the country. There is also an Islamic State affiliate in the country, Abu Sayyaf – Philippines Province, which was responsible for 37 deaths last year. Another collection of Islamist extremists, the Maute Group, killed 26 people.

In North America and Western Europe, the threat of far-right political terrorism is on the rise. In the four years between 2013 and 2017, there were 66 deaths and 127 attacks caused in Western Europe and North America by far-right groups and individuals. In 2013, there were no deaths, compared to 17 in 2017. The majority of attacks were carried out by lone actors with far-right, white nationalist, or anti-Muslim beliefs.

The two countries with the most significant falls in terrorism are Iraq and Syria with deaths falling by 5,500 and 1,000 respectively. The large falls in the number of deaths in Iraq and Syria is mainly the result of ISIL’s continuing decline. The number of deaths from terrorist attacks attributed to ISIL fell by 52 per cent in 2017. There was a corresponding decrease in the lethality of attacks, highlighting the weakening capacity of the organisation. Despite its reduced capacity ISIL remained the deadliest terrorist group globally in 2017. ISIL has now lost most of its territory and nearly all of its revenue with the reduced capabilities being reflected in the diminishing rate of deaths per attack. Preliminary data suggests this trajectory will continue into 2018.

In 2017, the Taliban switched focus from attacks on civilians, towards attacks on the police and military personnel. The Taliban killed 2,419 police and military personnel in 2017, up from the 1,782 in the prior year. The number of attacks also increased from 369 to 386 in 2017.

Although the number of deaths from terrorism has fallen considerably over the last three years, new threats continue to emerge. Islamist terrorist organisations have proven to be highly resilient and fluid, splintering and forming new groups and alliances at a rapid rate. Of the 169 terrorist groups responsible for at least one death in 2017, 42 were new groups or groups that had not caused any deaths in the three previous years. In 2017, the most active new group were Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Syria, which was responsible for 177 deaths.

Western Europe recorded a marked fall of 52 per cent in terrorism with FranceGermany and Belgium all recording a significant fall in death from terrorism. In 2017, the number of deaths fell to 81 from 168 in the previous year. This trend has continued into 2018 with only eight deaths being recorded to October 2018.

Steve Killelea explains: The marked improvements in Europe can be attributed to a number of reasons. ISIL has lost much of its attractiveness due to its military defeats and weakened capabilities to mount attacks in EuropeIncreases in counter-terrorism funding, combined with better surveillance techniques, have also contributed to thesteep reduction of deaths in Europe from terrorism. However, interestingly, although deaths from terrorism in Europehave decreased, the number of terrorist incidents increased in this period. This highlights that ISIL is losing its ability to plan and coordinate larger scale terrorist attacks, as a result of lessened capabilities and increased counterterrorism measures.

Alongside the fall in terrorism, the global economic impact of terrorism has also fallen, decreasing by 42 per cent to US$52 billion in 2017. Deaths accounted for 72 per cent of the economic impact of terrorism, with the remainder stemming from GDP losses, property destruction, and non-fatal injuries. However, the true economic impact of terrorism is likely to be much higher as these figures do not account for the indirect impacts on business, investment and the costs associated with security agencies in countering terrorism.

The full GTI 2018 report and interactive map are available at:


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