Terrorism & Insurgency

Taliban escalation drives increase in terror deaths, although global violence is declining, says Jane’s

12 February 2020

Across 2019, Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre recorded 14,009 terrorist attacks globally - the lowest annual attack total recorded since 2011. Nonetheless, while the attack total represented a more than 10% decrease from the 15,822 attacks recorded in 2018, resultant non-militant fatalities (comprising security forces and civilians) increased by more than 10% in the same period from 13,547 to 14,920.

"A key driver of the downturn in violence was the decrease in activity in high-tempo conflict zones - even Ukraine, which remained the most violent country in terms of recorded attacks, saw its annual attack total decrease by more than a fifth from 2018", said Matthew Henman, head of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "This was offset by a significant increase in fatalities from Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and rising mass-casualty violence in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Burkina Faso, in addition to major standalone attacks such as in Sri Lanka in April 2019."

Key findings from the 2019 report:

  • Taliban attacks increased by almost 90% and resultant fatalities by more than 60% as the group surpassed the Islamic State to become the world's deadliest non-state armed group (NSAG). Indeed, JTIC data highlights that the group accounted for more fatalities than the next nine deadliest groups combined.
  • Ukraine remained the most violent country worldwide in terms of recorded attacks, although this represented the localised and heavily-reported nature of the conflict.
  • The 10% rise in fatalities from 13,547 in 2018 to 14,920 in 2019 was in part driven by a notable increase in mass-casualty violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Burkino Faso.
  • Attacks in the Middle East and North Africa were down almost a fifth in 2019, largely due to comparative falls in violence in Iraq and Syria.
  • Security forces were targeted in more than 60% of all recorded attacks worldwide, the most-targeted single sector.
  • Attacks targeting rival NSAGs rose more than 10% from 2018; more than 80% of such attacks were recorded in Syria.

Taliban attacks increase by almost 90% as the group surpassed the Islamic State to become the world's deadliest terrorist organisation

JTIC recorded 1,077 attacks by the Taliban in 2019, up from 574 in 2018 - an increase of 87.6%. Despite being the third most active group worldwide in terms of attacks - behind Ukrainian pro-Russia separatist group the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Islamic State - the Taliban was by far the deadliest group worldwide in terms of civilian and security force fatalities. Taliban attacks accounted for 4,617 non-militant fatalities in 2019, up almost 60% from 2,980 in 2018.

"The Taliban overtook the Islamic State as the deadliest group in terms of fatalities, accounting for more deaths than the next nine most deadly groups combined", said Henman. "The almost 60% increase in non-militant fatalities from Taliban operations reflected the intensification of the group's operations targeting the security forces across the year".

Islamic State attacks and resultant non-militant fatalities both fell by around 20% in comparison to 2018.

"The decreases reflected a substantial downturn in activity in Iraq and Syria, although the group's operations in West Africa and the Sahel underline the ongoing significant threat posed by the group," said Henman.

Fatalities rise almost 40% in Sub-Saharan Africa

JTIC recorded 1,753 attacks in Sub-Saharan Africa, representing an almost 10% increase from 2018 and bucking the global trend of decreasing violence. Furthermore, resultant non-militant fatalities increased by almost 40%, to 4,657 in 2019 from 3,336 in 2018. Countries in the region accounted for six of the 10 deadliest countries worldwide in 2019 in terms of recorded non-militant fatalities.

"Fatalities in Sub-Saharan Africa increased drastically across 2019, driven by an intensification of existing conflicts and their expansion into new territory," said Henman. "In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) conducted repeated attacks targeting the civilian population, while ongoing Islamist militancy in Mali further exacerbated ethnic and inter-communal violence, in addition to spilling across the border into Burkina Faso and Niger. Furthermore, while on the decline in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State forces in West Africa and the Sahel maintained a high rate of attacks and fatalities."

Attacks and non-militant fatalities 2009-19. (Source: Jane's)Attacks and non-militant fatalities 2009-19. (Source: Jane's)


About Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (www.janes.com/jtic)

Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) uses open source data to build a global database of attacks by non-state armed groups in addition to counter-terrorism operations and key statements by state and non-state actors. The database enables users to search by location, target, group (active and dormant), tactics and casualty numbers in order to quickly obtain actionable intelligence and/or data. The database includes over 400,000 events since 2009 and tracks over 1,000 separate non-state armed groups worldwide.

About Jane's (www.janes.com/solutions)

With a legacy of 100 years, Jane's delivers connected, verifiable, trusted and accurate open source intelligence across defence equipment, military capabilities, security and defence budgets, markets and forecasts. The interconnectivity of Jane's structured data, insight and analysis enables us to provide our customers with the unique insights they need to make more impactful decisions.

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