A woman walks past soldiers at a checkpoint in Gwoza, Nigeria, in April, 2015, shortly after the town was liberated from Boko Haram. (photo: Lekan Oyekanmi/AP)
John Cassidy | The New Yorker | Reader Supported News | November 25, 2015
n Monday, I posted a long piece about how we perceive acts of terrorism in the age of social media. Today, prompted by the publication of a new report by the London-based Institute for Economics and Peace (and by a post on the report by Richard Florida), I’d like to focus on the facts about global terrorism.
If you have a sense that the problem is growing, you’re right. Last year, the number of people killed by terrorist attacks rose by about eighty per cent, reaching an all-time high of close to thirty-three thousand. Since 2000, the annual death toll from terrorism has increased ninefold. Not only that, but terrorist attacks are becoming more focussed on civilians and less focussed on military, political, and religious targets. Thanks largely to the deadly activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and of Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group based in northeastern Nigeria, the number of civilians killed in terrorist attacks jumped a hundred and seventy-two per cent in 2014, to more than fifteen thousand.
Relative to other causes of premature death, terrorism is still a minor phenomenon. For every person killed in a terrorist attack, roughly forty people die in traffic accidents and roughly eighty die of alcoholism. Still, violent attacks on civilians have great salience, psychologically, and, according to the I.E.P. report, they are getting more common, especially in non-Western parts of the world. In 2014, five countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria—accounted for almost eighty per cent of the deaths caused by terrorists. Twelve years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains at the top of list, with close to ten thousand lives lost. Nigeria was the second most affected country, with more than seven thousand five hundred deaths.