What We Now Know About Terrorism - OZY | A Modern Media Company

What We Now Know About Terrorism

What We Now Know About Terrorism

By Sanjena Sathian

Afghan police officers stand behind the bodies of killed Taliban militants after they targeted a governor's office, in Panjsher, Afghanistan, 29 May 2013. Six suicide bombers and a policemen were killed in an attack on the governor's office on 29 May in northern Afghanistan, an official said. 'Six suicide attackers in police uniform entered the governor's office, one of them blew himself up inside the compound and five others were shot dead by police,' said Abdul Kabir Waseq, spokesman for the governor of Panjsher province. Panjsher, around 120 kilometres north of the capital Kabul, is considered one of the most stable provinces in Afghanistan. EPA/S. SABAWOON
SourceS. Sabawoon/Corbis


Because, even though we’ve heard about terrorism nearly daily for the past decade or so, the numbers and history tell us new stories.

By Sanjena Sathian

Let’s start with the good news: Even amid concerns over terrorism at Sochi, Brazil and even the Super Bowl, fewer people are dying every year from terror attacks. The bad news, however, is that the attacks are spiking in frequency, even if they’re claiming fewer lives. And for all you data geeks out there, there’s plenty more to chew on.


That’s the number of terror attacks worldwide in 2012, according to terrorism researchers at the University of Maryland. If the number looks big, it is; in fact, it’s up 50 percent over the previous year — but the number of fatalities has dropped 25 percent since 2007. Most of the attacks in 2012 — and during the 10 years covered by the study (2002-2012) — took place in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Still hungry? Read on. 


In the countries where terrorism is most prevalent, including Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, car bombs are the common form of attack. But when you look at large incidents outside those three hot spots, there’s a clear trend: trains. Madrid, Mumbai and London all had major transit lines attacked, landing them on the list of the 20 worst attacks of the decade.


Number of countries on Earth that haven’t experienced at least one terror attack since 2002.


Terrorism seems to be thriving most in middle-income — not the poorest — countries. 

While these numbers may be surprising, the sad truth is that terrorist attacks no longer are. It’s part of our global reality. But before you think you know the score, these statistics and reminders of horrific events past don’t tell the full story. Because the single biggest terror attack in the past 10 years happened in a country you probably couldn’t guess because it’s not traditionally thought of as a hotbed for terrorists.

Give up?

It’s Nepal, which earns that dubious honor as a result of a horrific bloodbath that hit the country during the Maoists’ 2004 revolt: 518 people died, and 216 were seriously injured.

An Afghan Army soldier shows a diffused bomb used at the scene of a suicide bomb attack that targeted the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 03 August 2013.

New Truths About Terror

Source Abdul Mueed/EPA/Corbis

And that supports what we may have only dimly suspected: Terrorism, in all its unpredictable horror, is set to frame the better part of the next century without real and substantive systemic cures.

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