Fewer died in terror attacks last year: US State Dept

The aftermath of a terror attack on a top Mogadishu hotel by Somalia's Al-Qaeda- linked Shabaab this week.
The aftermath of a terror attack on a top Mogadishu hotel by Somalia's Al-Qaeda- linked Shabaab this week.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But political violence in Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and the Philippines is soaring

WASHINGTON • Despite a spate of bloody incidents that made global headlines, the total number of deaths in terrorist attacks fell last year by 14 per cent, the US State Department said.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group remained the "greatest threat" and carried out devastating attacks in France, Lebanon and Turkey, the agency said in its report on global terrorism.

According to statistics compiled by the University of Maryland for the State Department, there were an average of 981 "terrorist attacks" per month worldwide in 2015, killing a total of 28,328 people over the year.

This represents 13 per cent fewer attacks and 14 per cent fewer deaths than in 2014.

The State Department's acting coordinator for counter-terrorism, Mr Justin Siberell, said the drop was due to fewer attacks in Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria.

More than 55 per cent of attacks attributed to terrorists last year occurred in five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nigeria, he said.

  • Key statistics from the US State Department's 2015 report on terrorism

  • 11,774 Number of terrorist attacks worldwide.

    13% Drop in the number compared with 2014.

    28,328 Number of people who died.

    35,300 Number of people wounded.

    55% Five countries accounted for this percentage of attacks - Iraq, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

But while the global picture could be seen as encouraging, the figures record huge increases in indiscriminate political violence in Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and the Philippines.

The data was released on Thursday as an annex to the State Department's annual strategic assessment prepared for Congress.

The Country Reports On Terrorism warned that the "global terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralised and diffuse".

The report also placed some of the blame on nation states, warning that extremists exploit frustrations "where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked".

Where countries, including allies of the United States, have rigged judicial systems and abuses by security forces and corrupt politicians go unchecked, violent non-state actors can win support.

But the single greatest threat remains ISIS and its growing legions of affiliates and supporters in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

The terrorist group has begun to lose ground to US-backed forces in its self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, and it has begun to struggle to find funds, the report concluded. But ISIS has expanded its territory in Libya, and its branch in Egypt's Sinai peninsula has gained strength, attacking local security forces and claiming the bombing of a Russian airliner.

The group has a small toehold in Afghanistan and last year ordered or inspired attacks "by individuals or small groups of self-radicalised individuals in several cities around the world".

The Nigerian-based group Boko Haram pledged loyalty to ISIS last year, but has since come under increased military pressure from regional government forces.

Meanwhile, ISIS' predecessor as public enemy No. 1, Al-Qaeda, is seeking to mount a comeback and continues to inspire or order attacks, particularly in Yemen and East Africa, the report said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Fewer died in terror attacks last year: US State Dept'. Print Edition | Subscribe