“Salil Mehta is a two-time Administration executive, leading Treasury/TARP’s analytics team, as well as PBGC’s policy, research, and analysis, as well as their first risk analysis function. Salil is the creator of one of the most popular free statistics blogs, Statistical Ideas.”
Terrorist rings come and go throughout history, and Da’ish (ISIL) is the latest to spread horror and fear to a marred civilization. The research here (assembling thousands of data points from regional news and government sources) shows that terrorism is on the rise, squeezed in one location(s) at times but sooner or later spread out in others. The savage barbarism in Paris, on November 13, resulted in 137 deaths. And yet it is but a passing thought to the group responsible (ISIL), who earlier this year, carried out 50 other attacks worldwide. In this article we explore over 45 years of terrorism, a sick anti-freedom gospel that has resulted in over 140,000 attacks around the world.
Here is breakdown of those attacks (including credible foiled attacks), based on the death count within each attack:
1% with >25 fatalities per attack
43% with <25 but at least 1 fatality per attack
50% with 0 fatalities per attack
6% with unknown fatalities per attack
Our research here focuses on the top 1% attacks, each resulting in >25 deaths. These sickening “mass terrorism” attacks resulted in the loss of 100,000 people (less than 10% of all terrorism related deaths, since most attacks per above result in a small number of deaths).
In the chart below we show the evolution of mass terrorism (the top 1% of all attacks) across time. We can see ISIL initiating attacks in 2013, and making large headway in 2014. The broader behaviours of all terrorism attacks (all 100% of attacks either by count or by deaths) follow a similar pattern to what is shown below.
What makes ISIL disturbingly stand out, versus other terrorist groups, is in the speed with which they have been violent on a mass scale. Generally terror networks from a prior generation took years to create mass violence. But ISIL, in only its first full year, has committed more butcherings than any other terror outfits had during their peak year.
Now we showed in the top charts above that ISIL is top of mind to many Americans and Europeans, while Boko Haram is also known, but to a smaller degree. Has our media and knowledge been impacted by where and whom have been the victims of these terrorist attacks? In the global map below, we show the location of where the ISIL and the Boko Haram attacks have been since the beginning of 2014 (through a week ago in November 2015).
Focusing on ISIL for a moment, given the recent Paris attacks that have moved many, let’s see how their number of attacks has evolved since the start of 2014. We pay particular attention to the movement of the attacks away from their core base of Iraq and Syria, and the overall level of and trend in the number of attacks. And discarded from attention, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, was that just days prior coalition drone strikes are believed to have killed their most recognizable mouthpiece, the shrouded Mohammed Jassim Akdulkarim Olayan al-Dharifi (known as “Jihadi John”).
We see more information in the chart above that substantiates the early charts above. That terrorism is unfortunately moveable. We can push it away, and forget about it. And that this sort of ugly evil doesn’t seem to be taking a breather, and sometimes the terrorism -let loose- simply returns.
About the author:
Salil Mehta is a two-time Administration executive, leading Treasury/TARP’s analytics team, as well as PBGC’s policy, research, and analysis, as well as their first risk analysis function. He is a statistics adjunct professor at Georgetown, on the board of an American Statistical Association’s peer-reviewed journal and a council for BlackRock’s FutureAdvisor. Salil is the creator of one of the most popular free statistics blogs, Statistical Ideas. He wrote a bestselling statistics book, Statistics Topics, and is often quoted in the New York Times, Bloomberg, and others.