Terrorist Attacks More Deadly, Despite Decline in the West

In MENA the overall score continued to improve, building on the last six years with the proportion of global terrorism deaths substantially dropping, from 57% in 2016 to just under 12% in 2022. The region recorded 791 deaths in 2022, a fall of 32% and the lowest number in the region since 2013. Attacks almost halved to 695. There has also been a substantial drop in suicide bombings in MENA, in 2016, suicide bombings resulted in 1,947 deaths. In 2022, there were only six suicide bombings that killed eight people.

In the West, the number of attacks continues to fall, with successive falls each year since 2017. Forty attacks were recorded in 2022, a decrease of 27% when compared to the 55 attacks in 2021. However, the number of deaths more than doubled, rising from a low base of nine in 2021 to 19 in 2022. Ten of the deaths were caused by one attack in the US when a gunman killed civilians at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. This is the first increase in deaths in the West since 2019. Ideologically motivated terrorism, meaning those related to political extremism, continues to be the most common type of terrorism in the West, with religiously motivated terrorism declining by 89% since the peak in 2016.

The dynamics of terrorism are changing with unclaimed attacks becoming more common. Of the 3,955 terrorist attacks recorded in 2022, 33% were not attributed to a group. The fastest growing segment was unknown Jihadists, especially in the Sahel, with deaths eighteen times higher than in 2017.

Steve Killelea, Founder & Executive Chairman, IEP: “Terrorism remains a serious threat to peace with minimal gains made over the last three years. Islamic jihadists have proven adaptable, seeking out areas of instability in which they can operate. It is becoming increasingly obvious that to tackle terrorism, systemic approaches are needed, including addressing poor governance, low levels of government capacity, poverty, group grievances, and the use of kinetic force.”

As the conflict in Ukraine consumes the world’s attention and its resources, it is crucial that the global fight against terrorism remains high on the political agenda. As its nature evolves it is imperative that the response of the international community continues to evolve. This is no time for complacency and a loss of focus will lead to an increased threat of terrorism in the future. Fighting terrorism is one of the few remaining areas where the world’s superpowers have a common goal.”

It is evident that the war in Ukraine has diverted military resources – leading to increased instability, including in the Sahel, where Russia and France have wound down their military presence. Contrary to the overall MENA trend in Syria, IS activity is on the rise, causing 42% more terrorism deaths than in 2021, resulting from slightly fewer attacks. The earthquake in the region will lead to increased instability, as it occurred in areas where IS operate. The 344 terrorism deaths caused by IS in Syria in 2022 is also likely to increase.

Violent conflict and war are the most significant drivers of terrorism, with 88% of terrorist attacks and 98% of deaths occurring in countries with active conflicts. Several countries are currently experiencing significant ecological and climate induced changes, particularly in conflict-prone areas, exacerbating these problems. According to the 2022 ETR, 27 countries face catastrophic ecological threats, while also having low levels of societal resilience.

These hotspot countries are clustered in three regions: sub-Saharan Africa, MENA, and South Asia, they are also the most affected regions by terrorism.

The evolution of drones is rapidly transforming the nature of conflict and emerged as a new trend in attacks with groups like IS, Boko Haram, and the Houthis using the technology. The latest estimates suggest that 65 non-state actors can now deploy drones, which have a range from a few kilometres up to 1,500 kilometres for military grade drones. Their use in the 2019 Houthi-Saudi Aramco attack illustrates the power of this technology, with drones launched from Yemen, more than 800km away. The current lack of existing countermeasures means that drones are likely to be used more frequently