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Patterns of Islamic State-Related Terrorism Revealed in New Study

Between 2002 and 2015, more than 4,900 terrorist attacks were carried out by groups or organizations affiliated with the Islamic State which resulted in more than 33,000 deaths and 41,000 injuries (including perpetrator casualties), and involved more than 11,000 individuals held hostage or kidnapped, according to a new report from the University of Maryland-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the START study found that, “Excluding incidents where the perpetrator group was not identified, these attacks represented 13 percent of all terrorist attacks worldwide, 26 percent of all deaths, 28 percent of all injuries and 24 percent of all kidnap victims or hostages due to terrorism during the same time period."

Along with private citizens and property, military targets (21 percent) and police targets (14 percent) comprise nearly three-quarters of all attacks carried out by ISIL, the study said.

Based on data from START’s Global Terrorism Database, the new study illustrates “the dynamics of Islamic State-related terrorism over time and place, from 2002 to 2015. In particular, we investigate trends in the number of attacks and deaths caused by Islamic State-related terrorism over time, the geographic spread of Islamic State-related terrorism, and patterns of tactics, targets, and lethality of Islamic State-related terrorism."

The new START study revealed that, “Among ISIL-related perpetrators of terrorism, ‘core’ ISIL was responsible for the majority of attacks (58 percent), deaths (58 percent), and especially hostages (88 percent), compared to ISIL predecessor groups, ISIL-affiliated groups and individuals inspired by ISIL. Attacks carried out by ISIL and ISIL predecessor groups each comprised 42 percent of all injuries caused in ISIL-related terrorist attacks.”

The START study said, "A key distinction of the attacks by ISIL-inspired perpetrators, all of which occurred in 2014 and 2015, is that they took place in
locations where terrorist attacks were relatively rare compared to where ISIL and ISIL affiliates were typically active. Eight of the ISIL-inspired attacks took place in the United States, six in  France, four in Australia, two in Denmark, two in Canada; the Gaza Strip, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United Kingdom and the Philippines each experienced one ISIL-inspired attack."

During the same time period, the START study found, “the weapons used by ISIL in terrorist attacks between 2013 and 2015 were disproportionately explosives rather than firearms and incendiaries. Specifically, the vast majority (80 percent) of weapons used in ISIL’s attacks were explosives, compared to 58 percent of weapons used worldwide. An additional 16 percent of weapons used by ISIL were firearms, compared to 33 percent globally, and 2 percent involved ‘melee’ weapons (usually sharp or blunt objects). Only 1 percent of the weapons used in ISIL’s attacks were incendiaries, much lower than the usage of incendiary weapons in 6 percent of terrorist attacks worldwide. Chemicals, vehicles as weapons, and sabotage equipment comprised less than 1 percent of the weapons used in attacks by ISIL between 2013 and 2015.”

START noted “that recent reports indicate that ISIL’s use of chemical weapons became more common in 2016.”

START further noted that, “Although attacks carried out by individuals who claimed allegiance to ISIL have drawn considerable media attention in recent months, these perpetrators were responsible for less than 1 percent of all ISIL-related attacks and casualties between 2002 and 2015. In addition, attacks carried out by individuals inspired by ISIL were 74 percent less deadly on average than ISIL-related attacks in general (1.9 deaths per attack on average, compared to 7.3).”

For more than a decade, START said, ISIS “has undergone a complex evolution, including name changes, leadership changes and shifts in allegiance to other Salafi-jihadist organizations, most notably Al Qaeda. In addition, the reach of ISIL’s violence surpasses its own membership, to include attacks carried out by other groups and individuals who have pledged allegiance to ISIL regardless of whether or not formal ties exist. This complexity makes it difficult to comprehensively and systematically place into context the violence of one of the most active and deadly terrorist organizations in recent history.”

 

 

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