The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has released an update to its Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the largest, most comprehensive open-source database including information on terrorist attacks that took place around the world between 1970 and 2015. The GTD, which is updated annually, now includes data on events that occurred through December 2015. In addition, the GTD team continually works to improve the data on earlier attacks. Perhaps most notably, with this new update the GTD is now fully geo-coded for the first time, allowing users to conduct geo-spatial analysis on terrorism worldwide across five decades. Additional details about what is new in the latest GTD update can be found in the GTD Codebook.
Unlike many other event databases, the GTD includes systematic data on domestic as well as international terrorist incidents that have occurred during this time period and now includes data on more than 150,000 events.
Below are major findings and trends from the 2015 Global Terrorism Database numbers:
- The total number of terrorist attacks and total deaths due to terrorist attacks worldwide decreased by 12% in 2015, 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 2009.
- In several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria, and Turkey, terrorist attacks, total deaths due to terrorist attacks, or both increased sharply in 2015.
- Although terrorist attacks took place in nearly 100 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than 50% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines), and 69% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen).
- While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was responsible for 10% fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq, the number of attacks carried out by ISIL in Syria increased by 58%. 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. More than 15 perpetrator groups self-identified as “provinces” of the Islamic State in 2015, compared to four in 2014.
- 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.