National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: Annex of Statistical Information

Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism
Report
   

STATISTICAL INFORMATION ON TERRORISM IN 2015

Title 22, Section 2656f of the United States Code requires the Department of State to include in its annual report on terrorism "to the extent practicable, complete statistical information on the number of individuals, including United States citizens and dual nationals, killed, injured, or kidnapped by each terrorist group during the preceding calendar year." The definition found in Title 22 of the U.S. Code provides that terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” From 2004 to 2011, the data for the Annex of Statistical Information were collected by the National Counterterrorism Center, part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, through the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS).

Beginning in June 2012, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) contracted with the U.S. Department of State to collect a Statistical Annex dataset and provide a report to include in the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism. Since 2001, START has maintained the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), an unclassified event database compiled from information in open-source reports of terrorist attacks. The first version of the GTD was released in 2006 and included information on worldwide terrorism from 1970 to 1997. START routinely updates and improves the accuracy of the data. The full GTD (1970-2014) and accompanying documentation are available to the public at www.start.umd.edu/gtd. The GTD staff compiled the Statistical Annex dataset to include violent acts carried out by non-state actors that meet all of the GTD inclusion criteria:

  1. The violent act was aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal;
  2. The violent act included evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) other than the immediate victims; and
  3. The violent act was outside the precepts of International Humanitarian Law insofar as it targeted non-combatants.

Readers familiar with the GTD will note that inclusion in the GTD proper, from which the Statistical Annex data set was derived, requires that an event meet at least two out of the three inclusion criteria above. In consultation with the U.S. Department of State, START determined that it was appropriate to include in the Statistical Annex dataset only those events for which all three criteria were met in order to adhere to the definition established in the U.S. Code. In addition, the Statistical Annex dataset excludes any events in the GTD for which there was considerable uncertainty or conflicting reports regarding the inclusion criteria.

The GTD research staff continually evaluates and enhances the methodology to promote comprehensive, accurate, and systematic data collection. In particular, in 2012 START developed data collection tools that expand the number of sources available for analysis and automate the selection of potentially relevant articles from which GTD staff identify unique attacks and record their specific details.


Due to the evolution in data collection methodology with respect to both WITS and prior versions of the GTD it is important to note that the data presented here are not directly comparable with data from either of these sources prior to 2012. In general, comparisons of aggregate statistics over time and between locations should be interpreted with caution due to considerable variation in the availability of source materials.


This Annex of Statistical Information is a guide to worldwide terrorist activity as reported by unclassified sources. These data represent START’s best efforts to report the most comprehensive, valid information on terrorism, based on the availability of open-source data and resources. We hope that these data will be useful for improving knowledge about patterns and characteristics of terrorism, and helpful for maintaining global awareness of the threat it poses.

The Annex of Statistical Information is provided for statistical purposes only. The statistical information contained in the Annex is based on reports from a variety of open sources that may be of varying credibility. Nothing in this report should be construed as a determination that individuals associated with the underlying incidents are guilty of terrorism or any other criminal offense. As with all records in the GTD, the information may be modified, as necessary and appropriate, if new information becomes available.


Any assessments and descriptions, including those regarding the nature of the incidents or the factual circumstances thereof, are offered only as part of the analytic work product of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and may not reflect the views of the United States Government.


SIGNIFICANT TRENDS

  • The total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 14%, compared to 2014. This was largely due to fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and deaths worldwide since 2012.
  • In several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria, and Turkey, terrorist attacks and total deaths increased in 2015.
  • Although terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), and 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan).
  • While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was responsible for 31% fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq, the number of attacks carried out by ISIL in Syria increased by 39%. The geographic reach of attacks by ISIL and its affiliates expanded as several existing terrorist groups pledged allegiance to ISIL. In addition to Boko Haram in West Africa, the most active of these ISIL branches were located in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.
  • The number of attacks in which victims were kidnapped or taken hostage declined in 2015; however, the number of kidnapping victims and hostages increased. This was primarily due to an increase in the number of attacks involving exceptionally large numbers of victims.

INCIDENTS OF TERRORISM WORLDWIDE

In 2015, a total of 11,774 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 28,300 total deaths and more than 35,300 people injured. In addition, more than 12,100 people were kidnapped or taken hostage. In this report we describe patterns of worldwide terrorist activity with respect to changes during the year, geographic concentration, casualties, perpetrator organizations, tactics, weapons, and targets.

Table 1: Terrorist attacks and casualties worldwide by month, 2015

Month
Total
Attacks
Total
Deaths*
Total
Injured*
Total Kidnapped/
Hostages
January
1270
2340
2781
1726
February
1078
2127
2713
894
March
903
2378
2829
1214
April
928
2919
2650
1155
May
1017
2676
2705
1725
June
929
2727
3407
535
July
986
2946
3645
1204
August
993
2400
3349
1260
September
881
2266
3491
543
October
1040
2300
2722
877
November
928
1610
2581
769
December
821
1639
2447
287
Total
11774
28328
35320
12189

*Includes perpetrators

  • On average, there were 981 terrorist attacks, causing 2,361 deaths, and injuring 2,943 people per month worldwide in 2015. There were 2.5 deaths and 3.3 people injured per attack, including perpetrator casualties.
  • Shown in Table 1, total attacks worldwide peaked in January 2015 and gradually declined throughout the year. The months with the most combined casualties (people killed and injured) were June, July, August, and September.
    • This global pattern differs from the monthly variations in 2012, 2013, and 2014, during which total attacks and casualties worldwide generally peaked in May or June, coinciding with the onset of spring “fighting season” in Afghanistan.
    • In 2015, the number of total attacks in Afghanistan did increase 127% between February (88 attacks) and May (200 attacks); however, this trend is obscured in the global statistics due to considerable decreases in the number of terrorist attacks in Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Nigeria during the first six months of the year.
  • The total number of people killed in terrorist attacks peaked in April and July 2015, driven by especially lethal attacks carried out by ISIL in Iraq during these months.
  • Of the 28,328 people killed in terrorist attacks in 2015, 6,924 (24%) were perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Perpetrators were killed intentionally in suicide attacks, accidentally while attempting to carry out attacks, or by security forces or victims responding to attacks. This is an 11% increase in the number of perpetrator deaths, compared to 2014.

LOCATION

Terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015; however, they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), and 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan).


Given the limitations of media coverage in Syria, the data presented here are conservative estimates of terrorism in Syria. Consistent with START’s practice of including in the GTD only those attacks that have been verified by at least one well-regarded source, these statistics represent those incidents that were reported by independent news outlets.


Globally aggregated statistics do not represent uniform patterns worldwide. They are produced by diverse trends in violence and heavily influenced by events in several key locations. The statistical profiles in Table 2 illustrate many of these dynamics.

Table 2: Ten countries with the most terrorist attacks, 2015

 
Total
Attacks
Total
Deaths*
Deaths per
Attack*
Total
Injured*
Injured
per Attack*
Total Kidnapped/
Hostages
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
Iraq
2418
3370
6932
9926
2.99
3.07
11856
15137
5.23
4.79
3982
2658
Afghanistan
1708
1594
5292
4507
3.24
2.91
6246
4700
4.00
3.15
1112
719
Pakistan
1009
1823
1081
1761
1.10
0.99
1325
2836
1.36
1.61
269
879
India
791
764
289
418
0.38
0.57
508
639
0.68
0.89
862
305
Nigeria
589
663
4886
7531
9.29
12.81
2777
2251
7.67
6.31
1341
1298
Egypt
494
292
656
184
1.34
0.63
844
452
1.73
1.55
24
29
Philippines
485
378
258
240
0.54
0.65
548
367
1.16
1.00
119
145
Bangladesh
459
124
75
30
0.16
0.24
691
107
1.52
0.87
4
7
Libya
428
554
462
435
1.24
0.90
657
567
1.85
1.21
764
336
Syria
382
232
2748
1698
7.99
8.24
2818
1473
9.78
9.32
1453
872
Worldwide
11774
13482
28328
32763
2.53
2.57
35320
34785
3.30
2.86
12189
9461

*Includes perpetrators

Four countries listed in Table 2 were not among the ten countries with the most deaths in 2015. These include: India (ranked 14th in terms of total deaths), Philippines (16th), Bangladesh (30th), and Libya (11th). Likewise, four countries not ranked in Table 2 among those with the most attacks, but were among the ten with the most deaths in 2015. These include Somalia (ranked 13th in terms of total attacks), Yemen (15th), Cameroon (23rd), and Niger (34th).

  • Attacks
    • Several countries that have routinely experienced large numbers of terrorist attacks in recent years observed considerable decreases in total attacks in 2015, compared to 2014. In particular, decreases in attacks in Pakistan (-45%), Iraq (-28%), and Nigeria (-11%) drove the 13% net decrease in attacks worldwide in 2015.
    • In contrast, two countries that typically experience especially large numbers of terrorist attacks—Afghanistan (+7%) and India (+4%)—saw relatively small increases in the number of total attacks in 2015.
    • Several countries experienced particularly large increases in total attacks in 2015. These include Turkey (+353%; not listed in Table 2), Bangladesh (+270%), Egypt (+69%), Syria (+65%), and the Philippines (+28%).
    • In both Turkey and Bangladesh, terrorist attacks were especially concentrated during certain times of the year. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Park (PKK) carried out 38 attacks per month on average between July and December 2015, compared to an average of two attacks per month between January and June 2015. In Bangladesh, terrorist violence coincided specifically with the anniversary of disputed 2014 elections, such that 70% of the terrorist attacks that took place in Bangladesh in 2015 occurred in January and February.
  • Deaths
    • In several locations a decrease in attacks coincided with a decrease in total deaths. For example, total deaths declined in several countries that typically experience an exceptionally high number of total deaths: Pakistan (-39%), Nigeria (-35%), and Iraq (-30%). Decreases in these countries more than account for the 14% net decrease in total deaths worldwide in 2015.
    • Despite a slight increase in the number of attacks in India in 2015, there were 31% fewer total deaths due to terrorist attacks, compared to 2014.
    • Afghanistan experienced a 17% increase in total deaths; however, a particularly large proportion of total deaths due to terrorist attacks in Afghanistan—more than 40%—were perpetrator deaths. In fact, an increase in perpetrator deaths in 2015 accounted for more than two-thirds (72%) of the increase in total deaths in Afghanistan.
    • Several countries that experienced large increases in the number of terrorist attacks also saw large increases in the number of deaths due to terrorist attacks in 2015. These include: Turkey (+1,630%; not listed in Table 2), Egypt (+257%), Bangladesh (+150%), and Syria (+62%). In Turkey, the total number of deaths due to terrorist attacks increased from 20 in 2014 to 346 in 2015. Fifty-five (16%) of the people killed in Turkey in 2015 were perpetrators of terrorist attacks,
  • Injuries
    • The total number of people injured due to terrorist attacks worldwide remained relatively stable (+2%) in 2015. However, this global statistic obscures a great deal of regional variation. For example, Pakistan (-53%), Iraq (-22%), and India (-21%) saw large decreases in the number of people injured in 2015.
    • By contrast, in Turkey (+1,498%; not listed in Table 2), Bangladesh (+546%), Syria (+91%), Egypt (+87%), the Philippines (+49%), Afghanistan (+33%), Nigeria (+23%), and Libya (+16%), there were large increases in the number of people injured due to terrorist attacks in 2015.
  • Kidnapping Victims and Hostages
    • While global attacks and total number of deaths decreased, and total number of people injured remained relatively stable in 2015, the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks worldwide increased 29%.
    • In 2015, more than 1,000 people were kidnapped or taken hostage in four countries: Syria (1,453; +67%), Afghanistan (1,112; +55%), Iraq (3,982 victims; +50%), and Nigeria (1,341; +3%). In comparison, more than 1,000 people were kidnapped or taken hostage in two countries in 2014: Iraq and Nigeria. There were also particularly large increases in 2015 in the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in India (+183%), Libya (+127%), and Turkey (+101%; not listed in Table 2).
    • At the same time, several countries saw decreases in the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in 2015. These include, Pakistan (-69%), Bangladesh (-43%), the Philippines (-18%), and Egypt (-17%).

COUNTRY PROFILES


IRAQ

  • By a wide margin, the highest numbers of total attacks, deaths, and people injured took place in Iraq. The average lethality of attacks in Iraq was 3.0, 18% higher than the global average (2.5 fatalities per attack), but 3% lower than the 2014 average in Iraq (3.1).
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remained the primary perpetrator of terrorist attacks in Iraq in 2015. For 69% of attacks in Iraq source materials did not attribute responsibility to a particular perpetrator organization; however, ISIL was identified as the perpetrator in 99% of the remaining attacks for which a perpetrator organization was named. The number of attacks ISIL carried out in Iraq decreased from 959 in 2014 to 741 in 2015 (-23%).
  • The total number of deaths due to terrorist attacks in Iraq decreased 30% in 2015, and two of the 20 most lethal individual attacks in 2015 took place in Iraq, compared to four in 2014. Both of these attacks were carried out by ISIL. The first took place on April 9, 2015, when assailants executed 300 tribal civilians in Qaim, al Anbar. The second took place on July 17, 2015, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at a market in Bani Saad, Diyala, killing at least 120 civilians.
  • In addition, terrorism in Iraq continued to be marked by extremely deadly coordinated attacks. On 93 occasions in 2015, there were more than 10 attacks on a single day within a particular country. Of these, half (51%) took place in Iraq. Likewise, there were 85 occasions in 2015 when more than 50 people were killed in terrorist attacks on one day in a particular country. Approximately one-quarter of these highly lethal days (27%) occurred in Iraq and involved up to 16 attacks on a single day.
  • The vast majority of all attacks in Iraq (85%) were classified as bombings/explosions and 10% were suicide attacks. An additional 6% were armed assaults, 5% were kidnappings, and 3% were assassinations, often targeting government figures and police leadership.
  • The percentage of attacks involving people kidnapped or taken hostage in Iraq (5%) remained stable in 2015. The prevalence of attacks involving people kidnapped or taken hostage in Iraq was half that of the global percentage (10%) in 2015. However, following an extraordinary increase between 2013 and 2014 in the total number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in Iraq (+881%) this number increased again in 2015, by 50%. Once again, this increase was largely due to a relatively small number of attacks that involved extremely high numbers of victims. Specifically, in 2014, there were seven attacks involving 100 or more people kidnapped or taken hostage, and in 2015 there were 15 such attacks.
  • The most common types of targets in Iraq were private citizens and property (47%), businesses (17%), and police (10%). Attacks on all types of targets in Iraq decreased in 2015, with the exception of attacks against businesses, which increased 67%.
  • In 2015 terrorist attacks in Iraq became much more concentrated geographically. In particular, 41% of all attacks in Iraq took place in Baghdad, up from 26% in 2014. Attacks were also particularly prevalent in Saladin province (16%) and al Anbar province (16%) in 2015. However, Nineveh province saw a sharp decline from 421 attacks in 2014 (13%) to 84 attacks in 2015 (3%).

AFGHANISTAN

  • The total number of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan increased 7% between 2014 and 2015, while the total number of deaths increased 17%. However, in Afghanistan the percentage of total fatalities comprised by perpetrator deaths was especially high– 47%, compared to 24% worldwide. In fact, the increase in the number of perpetrators killed in terrorist attacks in 2015 accounts for 72% of the increase in total fatalities in Afghanistan.
  • Like Iraq, India, Libya, and Syria, Afghanistan also experienced a large increase (55%) in the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in 2015.
  • Information about perpetrator groups was reported for two-thirds of all attacks in Afghanistan in 2015 (67%). Nearly all of these (95%) were attributed to the Taliban. Attacks carried out by the Taliban in 2015 killed more than 4,400 people, including at least 2,300 perpetrators, and wounded more than 4,600. The Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State emerged in Afghanistan for the first time in 2015, and was responsible for 4% of attacks.
  • Three of the 20 deadliest individual attacks in 2015 took place in Afghanistan—in Kunduz, Ghazni, and Kolalgu. The Taliban claimed responsibility for all three of these attacks.
  • Attacks against police targets, especially police buildings, checkpoints, and security forces, comprised 45% of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in 2015. Police targets in Afghanistan were more than twice as prevalent as police targets worldwide (19%).
  • As in Iraq, suicide attacks remained especially frequent in Afghanistan, comprising 8% of all terrorist attacks in 2015, compared to 6% worldwide. However, the number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan decreased by 17% in 2015, compared to 2014.
  • Terrorist attacks took place in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in 2015, and were even more geographically dispersed than they have been in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, the five provinces that were most frequently attacked comprised at least 40% of all attacks in Afghanistan, and Helmand province experienced the most attacks by a relatively wide margin. In 2015, only 34% of all attacks took place in the five provinces that saw the most attacks: Helmand (8%), Nangarhar (8%), Ghazni (6%), Kandahar (6%), and Kabul (6%).

PAKISTAN

  • In 2015, the total number of terrorist attacks reported in Pakistan decreased 45%, total number of deaths decreased 39%, and the total number of people injured decreased 53% in comparison to 2014.
  • For 72% of all attacks in Pakistan, source materials did not identify a perpetrator group. Of the remaining attacks, 31% were carried out by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Although TTP remained the most active and deadly perpetrator group in Pakistan in 2015, the number and overall lethality of attacks carried out by TTP declined considerably. Specifically, between 2012 and 2014 TTP’s terrorist attacks killed approximately 500 to 600 people per year, and injured approximately 700 to 1400 people. In 2015, TTP’s attacks killed a total of 240 people and injured 282.
  • Twenty-three other groups, including a number of Baloch nationalist groups such as the Baloch Republican Army, the Baloch Liberation Front, the Baloch Liberation Army, the United Baloch Army, and the Balochistan Liberation United Front, carried out attacks in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan. In addition, the newly formed Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State—which first claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Pakistan in December 2014—remained active in 2015 and carried out 12 attacks.
  • The most frequently attacked types of targets in Pakistan were generally consistent with global patterns: 22% of all attacks primarily targeted private citizens and property, 22% primarily targeted the police, and 11% primarily targeted government entities. However, attacks against utilities, primarily electricity and gas infrastructure, were four times as prevalent in Pakistan (8% of all attacks) as worldwide (2% of all attacks).
  • In 2015, the number of terrorist attacks decreased throughout Pakistan, however disproportionately in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces, where the number of attacks declined by more than half (-59% and -55%, respectively). The concentration of attacks in Balochistan increased steadily from 23% in 2012 to 40% in 2015.

INDIA

  • While India ranked highly among countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2015, the lethality of these attacks remained relatively low and declined by 31% compared to 2014. The lethality of attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria ranged from an average of 1.1 death per attack to 9.3 deaths per attack, while the average number of deaths per attack in India was 0.4, suggesting a unique attack profile among countries experiencing large numbers of attacks. Furthermore, the number of perpetrators killed in terrorist attacks in India doubled in 2015, comprising 20% of all deaths compared to 7% in 2014.
  • The number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in India nearly tripled in 2015, increasing to 862 from 305 in 2014. Like in Iraq, this was largely the result of attacks involving large numbers of people kidnapped or taken hostage. In 2014, there were no attacks in India in which 50 or more people were kidnapped or taken hostage, while in 2015 there were seven, all of which were attributed to Maoist extremists.
  • Terrorist attacks in which the primary tactic was bombing/explosion were less prevalent in India (44%) than worldwide (53%), and there was a single suicide attack—an assault on a police station which the perpetrators did not intend to survive. The types of tactics that were considerably more prevalent in India compared to the rest of the world included kidnappings (18% compared to 8% worldwide) and facility/infrastructure attacks (11% compared to 5% worldwide).
  • More than half of the terrorist attacks in India in 2015 took place in four states: Chhattisgarh (21%), Manipur (12%), Jammu and Kashmir (11%), and Jharkhand (10%). In Chhattisgarh the number of terrorist attacks more than doubled in 2015, to 167 from 76 in 2014. In Assam—one of the states that experienced the most attacks in 2014—the number of attacks declined by nearly half from 94 in 2014 to 49 in 2015.
  • Information about the perpetrator groups responsible for terrorist attacks in India was reported in source materials for 65% of all attacks. Compared to the other countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2015, the diversity of perpetrator groups was much greater in India, with 45 groups active. However, two-thirds of the terrorist attacks carried out in India in 2015 (67%) were attributed to the Communist Party of India-Maoist or Maoist perpetrators not specifically identified as belonging to a particular organization.

NIGERIA

  • Following severe increases in the total number of attacks, deaths, injuries, and hostages in 2014, the number and overall lethality of terrorist attacks declined in 2015. In particular, attacks declined by 11% and the total number people killed due to terrorist attacks declined by 35%. However, the number of perpetrators killed in terrorist attacks in Nigeria declined as well, accounting for one-quarter (26%) of the decline in total deaths. The number of people injured increased by 23% and the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage increased by 3%.
  • In 2015, the average number of deaths caused by attacks in Nigeria was 9.3. This was the highest among the countries that experienced the most attacks in 2015, and nearly four times as high as the global average (2.5 deaths per attack) in 2015.
  • In January 2015, Boko Haram carried out a series of 16 attacks against villages in Kukawa, Nigeria. Reports indicated that assailants killed between 200 and 2,000 people in this series of attacks, potentially placing it among the deadliest in 2015. However, in the absence of verifiable information on casualties, the Statistical Annex dataset systematically records conservative estimates.
  • Like Iraq, Nigeria was particularly likely to experience highly lethal individual attacks, as well as highly lethal coordinated attacks. Six of the 20 deadliest individual terrorist attacks in 2015 took place in Nigeria. Responsibility for two others—in neighboring Cameroon and Niger—was attributed to the Nigerian group Boko Haram.
  • Of the 85 occasions in 2015 when more than 50 people were killed in terrorist attacks on a single day in a particular country, 25 of them took place in Nigeria, more than any other country.
  • More than 1,300 people were kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in Nigeria in 2015, a slight increase from 2014. Four attacks in which more than one hundred victims were kidnapped or taken hostage took place in Nigeria in 2015, compared to two in 2014.
  • Information about perpetrator groups was reported for 80% of terrorist attacks in Nigeria in 2015. Of the attacks for which perpetrators were identified, most were attributed to Boko Haram (80%) or assailants described as “Fulani militants” (19%), who are engaged in a land resource conflict in Nigeria.
  • The majority of terrorist attacks in Nigeria in 2015 (69%) targeted private citizens and property. This is twice as high as the global percentage of attacks against private citizens and property (35%). More than half of the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that targeted private citizens and property (58%) victimized the residents of entire villages, towns, or cities, rather than specific individuals.
  • In 2015, terrorist attacks took place in 30 states and the Federal Capital Territory; however, they were heavily concentrated in Borno, where 44% of the attacks took place.

CASUALTIES

Figure 1: Casualties due to terrorist attacks worldwide, 2015*

Date: 04/2016 Description: Figure 1:  2015_CRT_Casualties due to terrorist attacks worldwide - State Dept Image


  • Following a large increase in 2014, the total number of deaths from terrorist attacks worldwide decreased by 14% in 2015. Although the number of attacks that resulted in zero, one, two to four, or five to ten fatalities decreased, the number of attacks involving more than 10 deaths increased from 562 in 2014 to 597 in 2015.
  • Shown in Figure 1, attacks that caused more than ten deaths represented a relatively small proportion (5%) of all terrorist attacks in 2015, and despite this increase the total number of deaths due to these highly lethal attacks declined from 17,964 in 2014 to 15,278 in 2015. These attacks occurred in 31 different countries in 2015, including most frequently: Nigeria (146), Iraq (116), Afghanistan (112), and Syria (66).
  • In 2014, 20 exceptionally lethal individual attacks that killed more than 100 people took place, primarily driving the dramatic increase in total fatalities that year, compared to 2013 when two such attacks took place. In 2015, the number of exceptionally lethal attacks involving more than 100 deaths declined to 14, but remained very high relative to earlier years. Three countries experienced more than one of these exceptionally lethal individual attacks in 2015: Syria (3), Nigeria (2), and Iraq (2).
  • Among the attacks that resulted in only one death in 2014, 46% were bombings, 29% were armed assaults, 15% were assassinations, and 6% were kidnappings.
  • In 10% of the terrorist attacks that resulted in one death, the person killed was the perpetrator, and 38% of this subset of attacks were suicide attacks. The remainder involved a perpetrator who was either killed accidentally when explosives detonated prematurely, or the attack was repelled by authorities.
  • The majority of non-lethal attacks in 2014 were bombings (61%), and 29% of the non-lethal attacks were unsuccessful (e.g., an explosive was planted but it was defused or failed to detonate).
  • More than 12,000 people were kidnapped or taken hostage in 1,120 terrorist attacks in 2015. While there were 17% fewer kidnapping and hostage attacks in 2015, the total number of people kidnapped or taken hostage increased by 29%.
  • In 24 attacks in 2015, more than 100 victims were kidnapped or taken hostage. Half of these attacks were carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. In several of these cases, reports indicate that the assailants specifically targeted children, allegedly for not following ISIL’s rules, or in order to train them to carry out attacks. Four attacks involving more than 100 victims kidnapped or taken hostage were carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Other countries where these large scale hostage-taking events occurred in 2015 include: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Kenya, Libya, Mali, and Syria.
  • More than 4,200 kidnapping victims or hostages who were taken in 2015 were released, rescued, or escaped from their captors. The remaining hostages were either killed, remain in captivity, or the outcome of the event was not reported.

PERPETRATORS

  • Information about perpetrators was reported in source materials for 52% of terrorist attacks in 2015. A total of 270 groups and organizations were identified as perpetrators of terrorist attacks, including 78 organizations that had not previously been identified as perpetrators in the Global Terrorism Database. The number of newly identified perpetrator organizations declined in 2015 from more than 100 in 2014.
  • In 34% of the attacks with information about perpetrator groups, the organization explicitly claimed responsibility. For the remaining attacks, source documents attributed responsibility to a particular group or groups based on reports from authorities or observers.
  • Table 3 shows the five perpetrator groups responsible for the most terrorist attacks in 2015, along with the number of terrorist attacks they carried out, the number of people killed and injured by these attacks, and the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in these attacks. Of the attacks for which perpetrator information was reported, 32% were attributed to the Taliban or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). (Note: Attacks attributed to ISIL in the Statistical Annex dataset exclude those attributed to specific declared “provinces” of ISIL such as those operating in Egypt, Libya, and West Africa.)
  • Several of the organizations listed in Table 3 carried out more terrorist attacks in 2015 than they did in 2014. These include the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK; +406%), the Taliban (+22%), Maoists in India (+12%), and Boko Haram (+8%). In contrast, the number of terrorist attacks carried out by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP; -29%) decreased in 2015.

Table 3: Five perpetrator groups with the most attacks worldwide, 2015

 
Total Attacks
Total
Deaths*
Total
Injured*
Total Kidnapped/
Hostages
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
2015
2014
Taliban
1093
895
4512
3492
4746
3313
954
649
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)**
931
1090
6050
6328
6010
5859
4759
3180
Boko Haram
491
454
5450
6663
3318
1747
1549
1217
Maoists/Communist Party of India-Maoist
343
307
176
191
163
165
707
163
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
238
47
287
12
580
19
136
68

* Includes perpetrators
** Excludes attacks attributed to declared “provinces” of ISIL

  • The sharp increase in attacks carried out by the PKK took place in the latter half of 2015, when they carried out 38 attacks per month on average, compared to an average of two attacks per month between January and June. Half of these attacks (50%) targeted police.
  • While ISIL was responsible for 31% fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq (741 in 2015 compared to 969 in 2014), the number of attacks carried out by ISIL in Syria increased by 39% (147 in 2015 compared to 90 in 2014). Furthermore, the geographic reach of attacks by ISIL and its affiliates expanded as existing terrorist groups pledged allegiance to ISIL. In addition to Boko Haram in West Africa, the most active of these ISIL branches were located in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.
  • Among these five perpetrator groups, the average lethality of attacks carried out by Boko Haram (12.7 people killed per attack), ISIL (7.3), the Taliban (4.4), and TTP (3.5) were higher than the global average (2.3) in 2015. The average number of people killed by attacks carried out by the PKK (1.2), and Maoists in India (0.5) was much lower by comparison.
  • All five of the most active groups markedly increased the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in 2015; however, the increases in hostage-takings by Maoists in India and the PKK were exceptionally large. Attacks carried out by these two groups in 2015 involved 843 victims kidnapped or taken hostage, compared to 231 in 2014.

TACTICS and WEAPONS

Each recorded terrorist attack can involve one or more tactics in a continuous sequence of actions. Shown in Figure 2, the most commonly used tactic in 2015 involved explosives (52%), followed by armed assaults (23%), which almost always involved firearms.

Figure 2: Tactics used in terrorist attacks worldwide, 2015


Date: 04/2016 Description: Figure 2:  Tactics used in terrorist attacks worldwide, 2015 - State Dept Image


  • In addition to the tactics shown in Figure 2, there were 101 unarmed assaults in 2015—attacks aimed at harming people, without the use of explosives or firearms. Unarmed assaults primarily involved melee weapons, chemical weapons, or vehicles as weapons. There were also 37 hijackings carried out in 2015, primarily targeting cars, trucks, and buses as well as several ambulances.
  • The lethality of terrorist tactics varied considerably. On average, attacks in which hostages were taken were by far the deadliest in 2015, causing more than 8 deaths per attack in barricade events, and more than 4 deaths per attack in the context of kidnappings. The tactics that were least likely to cause large numbers of casualties were unarmed assaults (83% nonlethal) and facility or infrastructure attacks (98% nonlethal).
  • The number of suicide attacks increased by 26%, from 575 in 2014, to 726 in 2015. Suicide attacks in 2015 killed 6,712 people, including 1,722 perpetrators, and wounded more than 10,000 people. Although these attacks took place in 24 countries, two-thirds of them took place in Iraq (33%), Afghanistan (19%), and Nigeria (17%). On average, suicide attacks in 2015 were 4.6 times as lethal as non-suicide attacks.

TARGETS

Each attack in the Statistical Annex dataset includes information on up to three different targets and/or victims. Fewer than 1,300 terrorist attacks in 2015 involved multiple types of targets.

  • More than half of all targets attacked in 2015 (55%) were classified as either private citizens and property or police, as shown in Table 4. Terrorist attacks targeting private citizens and property were particularly prevalent in African countries including Niger (78% of all attacks in Niger), Chad (77%), Cameroon (69%), Nigeria (69%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (66%), and Sudan (56%).
  • Attacks targeting police were most frequently aimed at police buildings, checkpoints, and officers or security forces, and were most prevalent in Bahrain (73%), Turkey (48%), and Saudi Arabia (46%).
  • The most ubiquitous targets of terrorist attacks in 2015 were private citizens and property (attacked in 63 countries), police (attacked in 58 countries), and general (non-diplomatic) government targets (attacked in 50 countries).
  • Attacks on airports and aircraft decreased by 60%; 23 airports or aircraft were targeted in 2015, down from 58 in 2014. However, other types of transportation were targeted more frequently in 2015, increasing to 381 from 356 in 2014.

Table 4: Targets of terrorist attacks worldwide, 2015

Target Type
Number of Targets
Private Citizens & Property
4514
Police
2159
Business
1149
Government (General)
1136
Military
715
Terrorists/Non-State Militia
447
Religious Figures/Institutions
394
Transportation
381
Educational Institution
297
Utilities
255
Violent Political Party
161
Government (Diplomatic)
148
Journalists & Media
146
Other
145
NGO
53
Telecommunication
46
Airports & Airlines
23
Food or Water Supply
17
Tourists
7
Maritime
6
Abortion Related
5
Total
12204