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Is global terrorism on the rise?

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Georgia Gallagher

In the past twenty years, the number of terrorist attack fatalities has visibly declined. Yet these jaw-dropping stats seem to good to be true, as it seems that every time we turn on the news, another incident is reported. Globally, terrorism is still a major threat ready to strike at any moment. According to Our world in Data, terrorism is the fifteenth most likely cause of death with the leading issues being tobacco abuse, child malnutrition and obesity.

But, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2014, there were only 5 reported fatalities in Paris, which is down from the 153 in 1986.

Number of fatalities per year in Paris, France

According to many news outlets, terrorist attacks occur in waves which is clearly represented by the data. Not represented by the graph is the decline in more recent years.

In 2015 total terrorist attacks decreased by 11.5 percent and total terrorism-related deaths by 12.7 percent.In 2016, we saw a further 9.2 percent decrease in attacks and 10.2 percent decline in total terrorism-related deaths. The downward trend continued in 2017, the most recent data available, with a 19.8 percent drop in attacks and a 24.2 percent decline in fatalities.

The founding director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, Gary LaFee

The real question is why are these major groups such as the Taliban and ISIS or ISIL having less of an effect on human lives? The rise of the white nationalist terrorist groups and anti-muslim groups are now taking the place of those groups that previously dominated headlines. In Western Europe, 59 attacks and 17 fatalities were the result of far right terrorist groups. The most perilous effect of this resurgence of xenophobia is the inability of police and government to identify these terrorists.

The most reasonable response to the decline in global fatalities is the types of attacks, though. Due to the fact that many of the terrorists in more recent years work alone or in small groups, they often don’t have access to large weapons, technologies or the resources to organize other heists. Another increasingly prevalent form of terrorism are the cyber attacks that are keeping Americans on the edge of their seats as we arrest more and more foreign hackers that reside within our cities. However, one consequence of this technological age is the lowering of the overall fatality rate. Nevertheless, these hackers are terrorists that are causing other global damages.

Geography has played a huge role in the terrorism game as well. In the Middle East, the collusion between the government and local terrorist groups is extreme. Consequentially, the data may be obscured as a result of the gray area between what is considered warfare and what is blatant terrorism. However one thing is for sure: the number of overall fatalities in the Middle East and North Africa are increasing. So even though the global terrorism fatality count is decreasing, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Yet one thing is for certain: the world has a long way to go before terrorism is completely eradicated.

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COMMENTS: 6
  1. April 28, 2019 by Samiha.Datta

    This is a really intriguing article, Georgia! I hadn’t realized that terrorism fatalities are actually dropping; as you mentioned, I feel like I always see more and more occurrences on the news. You mentioned that there are some blurred lines between warfare and blatant terrorism; how did you or the data that you used define “terrorism”?

  2. April 28, 2019 by Brennan.Benson

    This is a very interesting article. I thought that the fatalities due to terrorist attacks were rising; the news I hear everyday definitely seems to tell that story. It does make sense that smaller terrorist groups would have less resources to execute attacks. Do you think modern day news exaggerates terrorist attacks?

  3. April 29, 2019 by Annie Ma

    This is very interesting! The visualization is very clean and shows the perhaps unexpected trend that terrorism fatalities have been declining.

  4. April 29, 2019 by Eva Batelaan

    This is a very important topic! I like how you analyzed the trends, including shifts in who is committing these acts of terrorism and changes in what qualifies as terrorism vs. blatant warfare and thereby included how this data is not accurate in some respects.

  5. April 30, 2019 by Nikhil

    Love the graph, and different colors. The topic is also very interesting, as I feel I hear more and more about violence in the world.

  6. May 03, 2019 by Joseph.Wang

    Good job on your article, Georgia! We hear a lot about terrorism these days. It’s good to know that it’s slowly decreasing, but yes the world still has lots more work to do to combat terrorism.

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