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START Releases "Terrorist Attacks on Educational Institutions" Background Report

START Releases "Terrorist Attacks on Educational Institutions" Background Report

December's Peshawar attack proves highly unusual

January 26, 2015Beth Schwartz

On December 16, 2014, gunmen affiliated with the Tehrik-i-Taliban attacked a public school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing 145 people, many of them children. According to START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), it was the deadliest incident Pakistan had seen since October 2007. In the wake of this attack, START’s GTD Program Manager Erin Miller published a background report titled “Terrorist Attacks on Educational Institutions" looking at the history of such events.

As it turns out, the lethality of December’s Peshawar attack was highly unusual. More than 70 percent of attacks between 1970 and 2013 worldwide targeting educational institutions resulted in no deaths, often taking place when school buildings were unoccupied and targeting the facility rather than individuals. This is compared to approximately 50 percent of other types of terror attacks resulting in zero fatalities.

Between 2014 and 2013, Pakistan had more terror attacks on educational institutions than any other country, but again, the lethality of these attacks was lower than in countries like Russia, Iraq, and Nigeria. Miller’s background report takes an in-depth look at attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan, Thailand, Nigeria, and the United States (which saw an unusually high influx of activity in the early 1970s due to anti-war and civil rights movements in schools).

It is important to note that attacks on schools, including mass-shootings, that are not carried out in pursuit of a broader goal and intended to send a message to a broader audience beyond the immediate victims do not fit the GTD’s definition of terrorism, and are not included in the data.