Terror stats.

There were about 7,000 terrorist attacks in 2013. Then the number soared in 2014. Last year terrorists[1] launched almost 13,500 attacks. That is more than an 80 percent increase. The 2014 attacks killed about 33,000 people.[2] It is startling to see this quantified. That averages to about four per day; with fewer than 3 people killed in each attack. Some of them were so successful that they killed a lot of people, then the median death toll must be pretty low.

So, there is this constant drumbeat of “minor” terrorist attacks going on. Where do most of the attacks occur? Not in Western countries. Some 60 percent happened in Iraq (ISIS), Pakistan (Taliban), Afghanistan (Taliban), India, and Nigeria (Boko Haram). All these are places on the front lines of the struggle against radical Islamist insurgencies. The reverse of the mirror is the 40 percent of attacks spread over many countries, gnawing at civil peace.

Take the case of Iraq in January 2014.[3] There were fifteen attacks (some of them at multiple targets) on twelve different days. That averages to almost three attacks a week. The attacks killed 188 people and wounded 473 others. That averages to about 12 dead and 31 wounded in each attack. Only four of the attacks involved suicide attacks. However, 20 non-suicide car bombs were used in the attacks.

Iraq in January sharply differed from the global averages for the whole of 2014. The attacks in Iraq were less frequent and more deadly than the global averages. They were big car and truck bombs more than smaller suicide vests or hand-grenade attacks. This suggests a high level of professionalism on the part of the Iraqi attackers. They have access to larger stocks of explosives. They know how to build big bombs, conceal the bombs in cars, and prepare the cars (probably a matter of appropriate license plates and dash decorations). They have experienced drivers who can penetrate security lines. They have follower cars that pick up the drivers after they park the bomb-carrying vehicle close to the target. This may reflect the accumulated long experience of anti-American insurgents among the Sunnis and the former Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. People who have survived at this game for a long time practice good security habits.

Ten of the attacks took place in Baghdad, the rest in a variety of provincial cities. Targets included a police station, a military recruiting office, a prison, a military check-point, and the Ministry of Transportation. These five targets were symbols of government power; the victims soldiers, policemen, and bureaucrats. However, twice as many targets were purely civilians: commercial streets and markets (5), restaurants (2), a teahouse, a bus terminal, a taxi stand, and a hospital. This suggests that ISIS was attacking soft targets and a civilian population. They also were attacking Baghdad ahead of all other targets.   The city is the national capital and in theory, the most heavily guarded place in Iraq. It also allows ISIS to attack Shi’ites from within the Sunni quarters of the city.

Obviously, not many were suicide bombers. Thousands of foreign fighters have streamed to ISIS, but apparently not many of them want to be suicide bombers. Only four incidents in January 2014 involved people willing to kill themselves for a higher cause. At the end of the Second World War, 3,860 kamikaze pilots died in attacks on American war ships.[4] Perhaps the enthusiasm for suicide attacks has begun to wane, while professionalism waxes.

[1] Not just Islamic ones; we’re talking full spectrum terrorism here.

[2] “Noted,” The Week, 3 July 2015, p. 16. Of the dead, 24 were Americans. Two a month, world-wide.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents,_2014

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze

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