Surveillance footage of the Aug. 3, 2019, El Paso Walmart shooting. (El Paso Police Department)

Terror 2019: Nearly 8,500 Attacks Around the World, Sharp Increase in Lethality of Racially Motivated Attacks

During a webinar July 9, START released a new Global Terrorism Overview that highlights trends in worldwide terrorism in 2019. In 2019, there were nearly 8,500 terrorist attacks around the world, which killed more than 20,300 people, including 5,460 perpetrators and 14,840 victims. 2019 was the fifth consecutive year of declining global terrorism since terrorist violence peaked in 2014 at nearly 17,000 attacks and more than 44,000 total deaths. The total number of terrorist attacks worldwide decreased 50 percent between 2014 and 2019, and the total number of deaths decreased 54 percent.

In 2019, there were 64 terrorist attacks, killing 51 people in the United States. Terrorism in the United States continued to be characterized by diverse, sometimes complex, and often ambiguous ideological influences, typically without clear ties to formal, named organizations.

  • Perpetrators of the 10 lethal terrorist attacks in the United States in 2019 included white supremacists/nationalists, anti-Semitic extremists linked to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operative, and a conspiracy theory extremist.
  • However, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the United States in 2019 were non-lethal (84%, excluding perpetrator deaths), and these attacks were also motivated by diverse ideological influences, including antifascist, anti-government, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-white, left-wing, pro-choice, and white supremacist/nationalist extremism.

Between 2015 and 2019, 286 people were killed in terrorist attacks in the United States (excluding assailants). Nearly all of the victims (95%) were killed in attacks involving firearms. Firearms were used in 27% of terrorist attacks in the United States during this time period.

Exceptionally deadly attacks targeting Hispanic Americans in the United States and Muslims in New Zealand in 2019 marked a sharp increase in the lethality of “racially and ethnically motivated terrorist attacks” (REMT), many of which were motivated by white supremacy, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant beliefs. At least 86 people were killed in such attacks in Australasia, North America, and Western Europe in 2019, compared to 52 in 2018.

The deadliest terrorist attacks in 2019 took place on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. More than 250 people were killed and at least 500 others were injured when eight assailants carried out suicide bombings at seven different crowded locations, including hotels and churches. A pipe bomb was defused at an eighth location. Sri Lankan authorities indicated that National Thowheeth Jama’ath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim operatives were responsible for the attacks. However, Islamic State reportedly posted a video purportedly showing the assailants pledge allegiance to the group, and reports indicate that one or more of the assailants trained with Islamic State.

Read the report Global Terrorism Overview: Terrorism in 2019 from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism

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