By one measure at least, the world is getting less dangerous. There were 10% fewer deaths from terrorism in 2015 than the year before, according to the latest Global Terrorism Index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). It was still the second deadliest year on record though, with 29,376 people killed in terrorist attacks.
Despite news coverage which often seems to suggest that terrorism is an ever-present threat all around the world, the reality is that a small number of countries suffer disproportionately. On the basis of the IEP’s definition of terrorism – illegal violence by non-state actors designed to intimidate or coerce others, or in pursuit of a political, economic, religious or social goal – more than 72% of terrorist deaths last year occurred in just five countries, and although there were 274 known groups that carried out terrorist attacks, just four of them (Islamic State / ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and Al Qaeda) were responsible for 74% of all deaths.
In addition, it is often countries that are already consumed by civil wars or other conflicts that suffer the most – more than 90% of terrorist deaths in 2015 occurred in countries engaged in violent conflicts. The costs resulting from these attacks is huge, estimated at $89.6bn last year alone.
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