Global Terrorism Index [GTI] is a composite measure made up of four indicators: incidents, fatalities, injuries and property damage.
To measure the impact of terrorism, a five-year weighted average is applied.
The GTI is published by Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress as per the website of the institution.
The GTI defines terrorism as ‘the systematic threat or use of violence whether for or in opposition to established authority, with the intention of communicating a political, religious or ideological message to a group larger than the victim group, by generating fear and so altering (or attempting to alter) the behaviour of the larger group.’
The details below are extracted from the GTI Index published by the IEP.
Despite the year-on-year fall in deaths, the number of attacks rose from 4,458 in 2020 to 5,226 in 2021, a 17% increase and the highest number of attacks recorded since 2007, largely due to violence in the Sahel region and instability in countries such as Afghanistan and Myanmar.
In 2021, 25 countries recorded reductions in terrorism deaths, while 21 countries recorded increases and 117 countries recorded no change in the number of deaths.
Despite a one per cent decrease in the number of deaths from terrorism overall, the ten countries most impacted by terrorism remained largely unchanged.
Afghanistan and Iraq maintained their positions as the two countries most impacted by terrorism, for the third consecutive year.
This is Somalia’s sixth consecutive appearance amongst the five most impacted countries as per the GTI Index.
IS remained the deadliest terror group globally, recording the most attacks and deaths of any group in 2021. However, globally 52 per cent of all terrorist incidents are not ascribed to a group. Despite this, the strength and influence of IS and its affiliate groups, Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), Islamic State - Sinai Province (ISSP) and ISWA, are showing signs of decline. Twenty countries experienced a death from terrorism caused by IS in 2021, a decrease from 26 countries the year prior. Deaths attributed to IS also declined in 2021, falling by 1.6 per cent to 2,066.
South Asia remains the region with the worst average GTI score in 2021, with the region recording 1,829 deaths from terrorism in 2021, an increase of eight per cent or 137 deaths. Pakistan remains one of the ten most affected countries in 2021. Terrorism deaths in Pakistan rose slightly to 275, a five per cent increase from 263 deaths in 2020. There have been no terrorist attacks or deaths in Sri Lanka for the second year. The worst year for terrorism was 2019 when 197 people were killed in 11 attacks.
In 2021, Afghanistan recorded 1,426 deaths, the highest number of terror-related deaths in the world, making it the country most impacted by terrorism for the third consecutive year. In 2021, terrorist incidents in Afghanistan increased by 33%, with deaths increasing by 14%. Overall, Afghanistan accounted for 20% of deaths from terrorism globally in 2021. Civilians accounted for over half of these deaths.
While the Taliban were responsible for the most attacks, the Khorasan Chapter of Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) were responsible for the most deaths in Afghanistan in 2021. ISKP were responsible for 518 casualties in 2021, including the country’s deadliest attack of the year, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at Kabul International Airport, followed by another suicide bomb nearby.
The security situation in Afghanistan remains uncertain, with an escalation in conflict between ISKP and the Taliban remaining a strong possibility. With the Taliban appearing eager to engage the international community in a bid to secure international recognition and future economic assistance, it is likely that ISKP will exploit this as a perceived dampening of its ideology, using it to lure a variety of extremist militants to its ranks including foreign fighters from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, leading to larger, more widespread terror attacks.
Trends in International Terrorism
The data shows a shift in the dynamics of terrorism, with it becoming more concentrated in regions and countries suffering from political instability and conflict, such as the Sahel, Afghanistan and Myanmar. Violent conflict remains a primary driver of terrorism, with over 97 per cent of terrorist attacks in 2021 taking place in countries in conflict. All of the ten countries most impacted by terrorism in 2021 were involved in an armed conflict in 2020.1 Attacks in countries involved in conflict are six times deadlier than attacks in peaceful countries.
Politically motivated terrorism has now overtaken religiously motivated terrorism, with the latter declining by 82 per cent in 2021. In the last five years, there have been five times more politically motivated terrorist attacks than religiously motivated attacks. There are now noticeable similarities between farleft and far-right extremist ideologies, with both targeting government and political figures. Since 2007, 17 per cent of terrorist attacks by these groups have targeted this category.
Additionally, while the motivation can be inferred, most attacks attributed to left or right ideologies are perpetrated by individuals or groups with no formal affiliation to a recognised organisation, with many of the underlying motivational factors being similar.
As new technologies have become more pervasive, so has their use by terrorist organisations. The advent of the IED in Iraq is a good example, and resulted in more than 70 per cent of US forces deaths in the five years from 2001. Smart phones using GPS systems are capable of guiding cheap drones with deadly precision, with attacks by missiles and drones becoming more common.
Advancements, such as AI, 3D printing or autonomous vehicles may in the future be weaponised. These new risks will drive future advancements in counter-terrorism tactics.
The factors that are most closely statistically associated with terrorism vary depending on the socio-economic development of a country. Political terror and acceptance of basic rights are common globally. For OECD countries there are two statistical clusters. They are measures associated with social equity and acceptance of violence within a society. T
he latter being associated with political terror, access to weapons and militarisation.
For less economically developed countries the statistical clusters are weak institutions and societal fractionalisation. The two strongest correlations for this group were Political Terror Scale and Group Grievances.
Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP)
The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.