x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 December 2017

2016 was the deadliest year for terrorist attack deaths by Isil, report finds

The total deaths attributed to Isil increased by 50 per cent in 2016, marking the group’s deadliest year ever

The number of terrorist deaths attributed to Isil increased by 50 per cent from 2015. AFP
The number of terrorist deaths attributed to Isil increased by 50 per cent from 2015. AFP

Last year was the deadliest regarding the number of deaths caused by terrorist attacks attributed to Isil, increasing by 50 per cent from 2015.

According to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index, global terrorist deaths generally decreased by 13 per cent between 2015 and 2016 for the second consecutive year but the number of deaths in Iraq increased by 2,800.

The yearly report, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and based on the Global Terrorism Database by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (Start), as well as other sources, provides a comprehensive resource on global terrorist trends.

Iraq was the only country out of the five most affected by terrorism - Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria - to record an increase in deaths. The increase was attributed primarily to Isil which increased its suicide attacks and assaults on civilians to compensate for territorial losses. The deaths in Iraq alone accounted for 40 per cent of the group’s increase from the year before.

“Isil deaths have decreased in Syria and global terrorist deaths decreased by 22 per cent in the past two years but they have increased in Iraq,” said Daniel Hyslop, research director at IEP. “A lot of that was in response to the fact that the group was being militarily defeated.”

Tahir Abbas, senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (Rusi) in London, said that while Isil has been forced out of Mosul and Iraq, its ranks still exist in the areas of Iraq and Syria.

“While Islamic State cannot claim to have authority of the region in the form of a self-declared caliphate, it is clear that fighters, many of which are foreign fighters from all over North Africa and the Middle East, remain in the region,” he said.

Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said one consequence of Isil’s losses is that they have seemingly become more lethal.

“There have also been more Isil-inspired terrorist attacks coming to the fore by lone wolf operatives. Isil is constantly mutating which means it’s challenging to keep getting the same results with operations that were effective a few months back but may not necessarily be as effective now,” said Mr Khan.

“We’ve seen quite a lot of violence in Iraq over the past years as the fighting has gone on and the Iraqi government pushes back,” said Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at Rusi. “It reflects the fact that Iraqi forces have been fighting very hard to take back their country and Isil is clearly coming under a lot of pressure on the ground because they’re losing a lot more people.”

Iraq and Syria suffered the highest number of fatalities since 2002 with over 60,000 and 8,000 deaths respectively. They are followed by Yemen at 4,000.

The report found that the Middle East and North Africa had the highest number of deaths and attacks in 2016 followed by South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Civilians were the most targeted in the region, making up 54 per cent of the fatalities. Some 94 per cent of terrorist deaths took place in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Central America and the Caribbean were the least affected regions with only 12 deaths, or less than 0.4 per cent of the world total.

Despite significant reductions in deaths registered in Africa and Afghanistan, with Boko Haram, the Taliban and Al Qaeda killing 6,000 fewer people in 2016 than the previous year, experts say there are still serious areas of concern.

The research found that 99 per cent of all terrorism deaths in the past 17 years have occurred in countries that either are in conflict or have high levels of political terror. Political terror signifies the presence of extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment without trial.

The finding demonstrates the risks associated with counterterrorism strategies that can exacerbate existing grievances that fuel extremism and terrorism. Turkey and Egypt recorded some of the biggest increases in deaths following major government crackdowns.

The global economic impact of terrorism in 2016 was US$84 billion, a reduction of nearly US$6 billion compared to 2015.

But despite the high figure, the economic impact of terrorism is small compared to other major forms of violence as it amounts to just 1 per cent of the total global economic impact of violence, which reached $14.3 trillion in 2016.