A new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD) analysis revealed that, “Although Western Europe has historically experienced thousands of terrorist attacks, highly lethal attacks like the recent events in Paris are extremely unusual. The deadliest terrorist attacks in Western Europe between 2000 and 2014 took place in Madrid, Spain, on March 11, 2004 when assailants attacked six different transportation targets with explosives. Four of the devices detonated, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800.”
START found that, “On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people and wounded 75 in terrorist attacks involving explosives and firearms in Oslo and Utøya, Norway.”
However, “It’s difficult to overstate how much the recent attacks in Paris are unlike any terrorist violence France has suffered in recent history,” Homeland Security Today was told by Erin Miller, program manager for START’s GTD.
“Despite the fact that France has seen thousands of terrorist attacks over the past four decades, the deadliness of Friday’s events surpasses their lethality by an order of magnitude,” Miller said.
“Preliminary data from 2015 suggest that the unusual frequency of mass casualty terrorist attacks in 2014 has continued. Between January and June 2015, there were 11 occasions in which terrorist attacks killed more than 100 people in a single country on a single day. Of these events, which took place in Iraq (2), Kenya (1), Nigeria (3), Syria (4), and Yemen (1), seven involved ISIL or Islamic State provinces.”
“Like the recent attacks in Paris, some of the highly lethal terrorist attacks described above were carried out as part of coordinated events in which perpetrators execute multiple attacks simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously, typically in a single country or city,” the START report revealed, noting that, “Between 2000 and 2014, 14 percent of all terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide were conducted in coordination with other attacks."
“I also think the analysis highlights two other things. First, as surreal as it is when these types of attacks take place in locations where we’re not used to them, the analysis reveals the terrible regularity with which they take place in other parts of the world,” Miller told Homeland Security Today. “Second, the analysis highlights the diverse nature of the threats that face counter-terrorism officials and responders. The strategies that are needed to counter this type of complex, coordinated attack involving multiple types of weapons are likely very different than the strategies that are appropriate for countering other types of attacks … and we can see that the potential outcomes of attacks like this differ as well.”
To provide contextual information on coordinated, mass-fatality attacks, as well as terrorism in France and the attack patterns of ISIL, START compiled the following information from the GTD.
START’s analysis found that, “Between 1970 and 2014, there have been 176 occasions on which terrorist attacks killed more than 100 people (excluding perpetrators), in a particular country on a particular day. This includes both isolated attacks, multiple attacks, and multi-part, coordinated attacks. The first such event took place in 1978, when an arson attack targeting the Cinema Rex Theater in Abadan, Iran killed more than 400 people.”
“Since the Cinema Rex attack, and until 2013, 4.2 such mass-fatality terrorist events happened per year, on average,” the START report stated. “In 2014, the number increased dramatically when 26 mass-fatality terrorist events took place in eight different countries: Afghanistan (1), Central African Republic (1), Iraq (9), Nigeria (9), Pakistan (1), South Sudan (1), Syria (3), and Ukraine (1).
“The occurrence of a series of attacks on a particular day that result in large numbers of casualties may or may not be indicative of explicit coordination among perpetrators,” START said. “Nearly half (11) of the 26 days in 2014 in which more than 100 victims were killed by terrorists in a single country involved the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – or ISIS — as perpetrators. In Nigeria, all nine of the highly lethal days involved the [Al Qaeda-franchise] perpetrator group Boko Haram. Other perpetrator groups responsible for attacks on these high lethality days include the Taliban in Afghanistan, militia groups in the Central African Republic, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), [Al Qaeda-tied] Al Nusrah Front and the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, both in Ukraine.”
Between 2000and 2014, there were 83 days on which more than 100 people were killed by terrorist attacks in a single country. These attacks took place in 25 countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia; however, they were especially concentrated in Iraq and Nigeria, START stated.
“On average,” START’s data revealed, “individual attacks that were carried out as part of a coordinated event were slightly more deadly, causing 2.84 total fatalities on average, compared to isolated attacks, which caused 2.35 total fatalities on average. The average number of perpetrator fatalities among attacks that were part of a coordinated event were slightly higher as well—0.39 perpetrator deaths per attack, compared to 0.33 for isolated attacks."