Deaths From Terrorist Activity Up Nearly 20% In 2020


The number of deaths from terrorist activity was up by nearly 20% last year, despite a fall in the number of attacks, according to new data.

Figures from Janes, a global agency for open-source defence intelligence, showed 17,122 non-militant deaths in 2020 as a result terrorist attacks.

The data showed an increase of 2,543 deaths - or 17.4% - compared to the 2019 figure.

Despite this, the 2020 Global Attack Index showed a 3.7% fall in the number of attacks to 13,310.

Matthew Henman, head of terrorism and insurgency at Janes, said the downturn could be "largely attributed to the July ceasefire in Ukraine's Donbass region".

However, this "masked major shifts in violence in Afghanistan and key conflict zones in sub-Saharan Africa", where attacks and deaths "rose dramatically", he said.

Afghanistan was named the most dangerous country, with 2,373 attacks by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) recorded by Janes.

It was also the deadliest country, with 6,617 fatalities - a 15.9% increase from 2019.

Mr Henman said the total number of deaths recorded in Afghanistan was higher than the combined total of the next six deadliest countries, and accounted for more than one-third (38.6%) of all non-militant fatalities worldwide.

British Armed Forces personnel from the UK Task Group in Mali on their first patrol
British troops are in Mali as part of 18,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (Picture: MOD).

"Across 2020, the most attacks were recorded in Afghanistan – while the country, coupled with Syria and Ukraine, cumulatively accounted for more than half of all attacks worldwide," he added.

Janes said Afghanistan's increasing violence was "almost exclusively" driven by Taliban attacks on security forces after a peace deal was signed with the US in February last year.

Mr Henman said attacks in Syria and Ukraine decreased by 29.1% and 36.5% respectively, offsetting the increase in Afghanistan.

However, attacks in Iraq rose to 1,466 in 2020, an increase of 50%, which was "largely driven" by the so-called Islamic State's Iraq province.

Janes data showed a 2.9% increase in attacks by the group, after consecutive years when attacks declined.

Fatalities from these attacks grew by 16.8%, which Mr Henman said was the result of "mass-casualty operations" conducted by so-called Islamic State in the Lake Chad basin and Sahel region.

Janes also recorded a doubling in the number of attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2020, with resulting deaths increasing more than three-fold.

The DRC was second only to Afghanistan in terms of recorded non-militant fatalities in 2020.

Cover image: NATO.