October 16, 2012
New data reveals al-Qaida-linked groups among most active terrorist groups in the world
START Consortium releases 2011 data for Global Terrorism Database
Only one of the 5,000 terrorist attacks in 2011 is attributed to al-Qaida Central, but more than half of the top 20 most active perpetrator groups in 2011 are linked to al-Qaida, according to new data released today in the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD), based at the University of Maryland.
The most comprehensive, unclassified database of terrorist incidents, the GTD now contains information on more than 104,000 domestic and international terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2011 that resulted in more than 225,000 deaths and more than 299,000 injuries. These attacks are defined as the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.
The top five most active perpetrator groups of terrorist attacks in 2011 were: Communist Party of India - Maoist (CPI-M); Taliban; al-Shabaab; Boko Haram; and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
While only one of the attacks in 2011 was attributed to al-Qaida Central – the August kidnapping of Maryland native Warren Weinstein in Pakistan – 11 of the top 20 most active groups are linked to al-Qaida. Those groups alone carried out more than 780 attacks that resulted in more than 3,000 deaths and wounded more than 4,600.
Al-Qaida-linked groups were responsible for four of the top five most lethal attacks in 2011.
- al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – Yemen: March 28 – 110 killed, 45 injured
- Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – Pakistan: May 13 – 80 killed, 140 injured
- al-Shabaab – Somalia: Oct. 4 – 70 killed, 42 injured
- al-Qaida in Iraq – Iraq: March 29 – 65 killed, 95 injured
“Total attacks in the GTD in 2011 continued an upward trajectory that began a decade ago, paced by the ongoing historic shift in attacks away from al-Qaida Central and toward its growing number of affiliates,” said Gary LaFree, START director and professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland.
The other most lethal terrorist attack in 2011 was committed July 22 by Anders Breivik in Norway. He killed 69 people and injured at least 60 others when he opened fire on a youth camp hosted by Norway’s ruling Labor Party. Additionally, earlier that day, he detonated explosives in an attack that killed eight people and injured at least 15 others. Breivik confessed to the attacks and in August 2012, was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Terrorist attacks in just five countries accounted for 70 percent of the terrorist attacks worldwide in 2011:
- Iraq (25.78 percent)
- Pakistan (19.96 percent)
- India (12.67 percent)
- Afghanistan (8.35 percent)
- Russia (3.71 percent)
The terrorist attacks in the United States in 2011 (10) accounted for less than 0.2 percent of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2011. U.S. cases of note:
- U.S. Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley received packages Jan. 6, each with a note stating “Report suspicious activity! Total Bull----! You have created a self fulfilling prophecy.” The packages contained a small battery and an electric match that ignited when opened. No explosive material was found. Investigators indicated the notes were in opposition to highway signs urging motorists to report suspicious activity. No group claimed responsibility for the incident.
- On Jan. 7 an envelope addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ignited at a postal sorting facility. The envelope was not opened and therefore did not cause any casualties or property damage. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- During a Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Jan. 17 in Spokane, Wash., authorities found and safely disposed of a backpack containing a bomb. There were no casualties or property damage. In March 2011, Kevin Harpham, who has ties to white supremacist groups, was arrested in connection with the attack. He confessed to planting the bomb and was sentenced to 32 years in prison in December 2011.
- On Sept. 26, animal rights activists drilled a hole into the storage space of Rocky Mountain Fur and Fireworks in Caldwell, Idaho. They pumped several gallons of fuel into and set fire to the retail building. There were no injuries, but the fire caused $100,000 in damage. A group calling themselves the “Arson Unit” sent a message to the North American Animal Liberation Press Office in Los Angeles, Calif., and the BiteBack Magazine website claiming responsibility for the arson. The “Arson Unit” is believed to be a branch of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
With the release of the 2011 data, for the first time, the START Consortium also released four decades of geocoded GTD data for eight regions of the world. The geocoding allows researchers to chart the city-level progression of attacks across global regions and specific terrorist groups and movements, including: the spread of leftist violence in Europe in the 1970s; the diffusion of terrorism in Central American conflicts during the 1980s; the prevalence of ecoterrorism in the United States during the 1990s; and the contagion of terrorism in the Caucasus region during the 2000s. Geocoding for the remaining regions of the world is ongoing.
“The advent of satellite technology and geographic information systems is revolutionizing the study of crime, political violence and terrorism,” LaFree said. “By releasing geocoded GTD data for the first time, we are making a down payment on what we hope will eventually be a fully geocoded Global Terrorism Database.”
The GTD team has also improved the quality of data from previous years, adding more than 1,500 new cases, removing cases that didn’t qualify for inclusion and clarifying and supplementing data with new information in hundreds of other cases. For example, the Haqqani Network is now recognized as an entity separate from the Taliban; they have been linked to 39 attacks since 2006.
Many of the new clarifications and improvements are based on tips from GTD users. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) makes the GTD available through an online interface in an effort to increase understanding of terrorist violence so that it can be more readily studied and defeated. START encourages users to submit appropriate updates, corrections or additions to the cases. Government officials and interested researchers may download the full dataset directly through the GTD Contact Form.
Top 20 most active groups in 2011
- Communist Party of India - Maoist
- Boko Haram*
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
- Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)*
- al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)*
- New People's Army (NPA)
- Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
- Baloch Republican Army (BRA)
- al-Qaida in Iraq*
- Garo National Liberation Army
- al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM)*
- Lashkar-e-Islam (Pakistan)
- Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)*
- Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)*
- People's Liberation Front of India
- Haqqani Network*
- Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
* = an al-Qaida-linked group
Top five most lethal terrorist attacks in 2011:
- al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – Yemen: March 28 – 110 killed, 45 injured Perpetrators detonated explosives at an ammunition factory a day after al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants looted weapons from it. The attack killed 110 and injured 45. Though no group claimed responsibility, AQAP is suspected.
- Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – Pakistan: May 13 – 80 killed, 140 injured Two suicide bombers killed 80 people and injured 140 people at a training center for the Frontier Constabulary when they detonated explosives hidden in their vests. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that "This was the first revenge for Osama's martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
- al-Shabaab – Somalia: Oct. 4 – 70 killed, 42 injured A Somali national, Bashar Abdulahi Nur, detonated a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device targeting the compound that houses several Somali government ministries. 70 people were killed and 42 were injured. The militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Anders Breivik – Norway: July 22 – 69 killed, 60 injured The fourth most lethal terrorist attack in 2011 was committed July 22 by Anders Breivik in Norway. He killed 69 people and injured at least 60 others when he opened fire on a youth camp hosted by Norway’s ruling Labor Party. Additionally, earlier that day, he had detonated 2,100 pounds of explosives in a rental van he had parked in Oslo between the Norwegian prime minister's office building and Norway's Oil and Energy Department building. That attack killed eight people and injured at least 15 others. Breivik confessed to the attacks and in August 2012 he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
- al-Qaida in Iraq – Iraq: March 29 – 65 killed, 95 injured Ten suspected al-Qaida in Iraq suicide bombers stormed the Salah ad Din council building wearing police uniforms. After firing upon government personnel in the council building and executing three government staff members, they detonated explosive belts. At least 65 people were killed in the suicide bombing, 95 others wounded. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but al-Qaida in Iraq is suspected.