A relapsed terrorist killed two and injured three in a stabbing attack in London last Friday, underlining the urgent need to stress-test defences against a scourge that had seemed lately to be on the wane. After peaking in 2014, deaths from terrorism worldwide fell sharply for the next four years. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, there was a 52 per cent decline from 2014 to last year - from 33,555 deaths to 15,952. In Europe, the figures dropped for two consecutive years, from over 200 deaths in 2017 to 62 last year. Most of the major attacks this year took place in Africa and Afghanistan although Sri Lanka's Easter bombings, which claimed more than 250 lives, were the deadliest incident.
The respite offered by the declining trend should not obscure the dangerous battle that still lies ahead. This year witnessed extensive gains - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was razed to the ground, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed and thousands of his followers were imprisoned. But, as counter-terror agencies repeatedly warn, the caliphate continues to poison minds from its undiminished presence in cyberspace. Meanwhile, the Taleban has replaced ISIS as the deadliest terrorist organisation, while other militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and South-east Asia's Jemaah Islamiah (JI) have revitalised themselves. The scenario has thus changed, but cannot be said to have unassailably improved.