What 2012 Terrorism Statistics Reveal

By Sherry Harowitz

In 2012, there were 6,771 terrorist attacks worldwide, according to the annual report from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which compiles the report for the U.S. Department of State. But while those attacks occurred in 85 different countries in 2012, more than half occurred in just three countries—Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And those countries accounted for 62 percent of the 11,000 fatalities and 65 percent of the 21,600 injuries reported. Also notable in 2012 was a marked increase in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, including through surrogates like Hezbollah.

Interestingly, about half of all terrorist attacks resulted in no deaths or injuries. Fewer than 3 percent of all attacks resulted in more than 10 deaths; most of these occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria. The country where attacks were on average the most lethal was Syria, with the second being Nigeria. In contrast, India, which ranked fourth in the number of incidents, rated very low in lethality among countries with a high number of incidents.

In terms of who or what group executed attacks, more than 160 organizations were named, but an attacker was suspected or known in only 38 percent of attacks. The Taliban in Afghanistan was responsible for the highest number of attacks and the most deaths, followed by Boko Haram (BH) in Nigeria, and al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The report notes that while the Corsican National Liberation Front was the tenth most active, its attacks caused no deaths, because the group targets vacant properties.

The most commonly used tactics, as in years past, involved explosives—that applied to 62 percent of the incidents in 2012, while 25 percent involved armed assaults. About 5 percent were suicides, which were nearly five times as lethal as nonsuicide attacks. Only 5 percent were attempted assassinations, and only about 64 percent of those were successful.

Roughly half of all attacks targeted private property or private citizens, with 27 percent of those types of attacks occurring in Iraq. Police and other government facilities were the second and third most common targets, followed by business assets, military assets or personnel, and educational personnel and property. Transportation and utilities ranked ninth and tenth, respectively, with 221 attacks against the latter. Airports and airlines were listed separately and were targeted in 20 attacks.



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