Terrorism: a growing threat to the Western states and societies?

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1 Terrorism: a growing threat to the Western states and societies? Since the attacks on Paris carried out in November 2015 Western populations are afraid of further terrorist acts. The large influx of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries of the MENA-region fuels additional fears because European authorities are not able to ensure a controlled and coordinated entry process. A lot of identities have not been verified, so that the mistrust and reservations of strangers are increasing. The collected data of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) also prove that terrorism continues to rise. As table 1 points out for the period 2013 to 2014 the total number of attacks increased by 3756 incidents. Table 1: Terrorist attacks and casualties worldwide, 2013 and 2014 Year Total Attack Total Killed Total Wounded Total Kidnapped Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: Annex of Statistical Information. Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 & Thereby the threat is spreading towards other countries. In 2014 [a]ttacks were recorded in 93 countries, up from 88 in 2013 (GTI 2015, p. 9). This article offers a brief overview regarding the development of terrorism in recent years and analyses the real threat of terrorism for Western societies while considering the aims of the main perpetrator groups in particular. Terrorism: definition The word terrorism is frequently used by the media, politicians and citizens and often exploited. To put this article on a solid foundation a precise definition of terrorism is needed. As many studies this article specifies the term by the nature of the act as it should be from a scientific point of view. According to authors like Enders and Sandler (2012, p. 4) or Sandler (2014, p. 1) terrorism is a premeditated violent act conducted by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social or economic or religious objective through the intimidation of a large audience beyond that of the immediate noncombatant victims. In the course of this the violent act is outside the percept of the International Humanitarian Law insofar as it targets non-combatants. This paper refers to this specification of the term because the data of the GTD that shall be implied in this analysis are based on these inclusion criteria. Terrorism: development As already mentioned before terrorism is continuously spreading. In 2014 the total number of people killed by terrorist activity increased by 80 percent compared to the prior year and is the largest yearly surge in the last 15 years (GTI 2015, p. 2). The countries affected most are Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Other countries that suffered more than 500 deaths in 2014 are Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon. In spite of the overall increase of terrorist activity the majority of deaths do not occur in Western states (ibid.). Even if they were hit by some of the most deadly assaults in the last 15 1

2 years, only 0.11 percent of the total number of deaths from terrorism were situated there in There were only 37 deaths in the 38 countries categorized as the West. Nevertheless worries regarding domestic Islamic Extremism are growing in Western countries as table 2 points out. Table 2: Percentage of people in western countries that are concerned about domestic Islamic Extremism Source: GTI A closer look at the perpetrator groups that were responsible for most of the recent terrorist attacks could lead to a realistic assessment of the prevalent threat for Western societies. Referring again to the GTD the five main perpetrator groups with most attacks worldwide in 2014 are the Islamic State and the Levant IS(IL), the Taliban, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Indian Maoists (GTD 2015, p. 12). Due to the limited framework the following in-depth analysis includes ISIL, the Taliban and Boko Haram that were responsible for the majority of fatalities related to the conducted assaults. IS(IL) IS(IL) is actually not a new established-group. It was initially founded by Jordanian Abu Musab al Zarqawi at a training camp in Afghanistan. Due to the US-led invasion the group moved to Northern Iraq and has become more active since IS(IL) played a growing role in the insurgency against the US-operation in Iraq, but was more commonly known as al-qu ida in Iraq (AQI) at that time. After setbacks, resurgence, and an expansion into Syria, the current leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi claimed in April 2013 that the Islamic organization became the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Since then IS(IL) extended its demands and now calls for an Islamic State. 2

3 IS(IL) was actually a group with principal focus on its region in Iraq and Syria (the Levant). But meanwhile there is increasing evidence that its focus goes far beyond. The leaders and its members Sunni jihadists aim to establish an Islamic caliphate. The actual geographic range of this ISIL / Daesh Key data caliphate is not entirely clear. But the martially rhetoric that highlights the Islam s war or an apocalyptic battle against all disbelievers suggests the achievement of global coverage. Thereby the model of the Formation: Founder: Leader: Geographical scope: Late 1990s Abu Mus ab al-zarqawi Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Expanding prophet plays a major role. Due to Religious background: Sunni that the usage of force is a legitimate tool to bring those who the resist the establishment of the caliphate in their territory under control of IS(IL) (Milton 2014, p. 29). Hence IS(IL) s ideology and commitment of brutal means clarify that the organization represents a threat with global scale. Above that the increasing membership and thousands of foreign fighters that have joined the terrorist organization in recent times point out that IS(IL) has displaced al Qaeda as the standard bearer of global terrorism. Taliban The Taliban were founded in 1994 by Mohamad Omar. They were constituted by a mixture of Mujahedeen, who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and a group of Pashtun tribesmen (GTI 2015, p. 43). From 1996 until 2001 the organization held power in Afghanistan. Then they were overthrown by the US and its allies. Taliban Key data They have since regrouped as an insurgency movement to fight the Formation: Founder: Leader: Geographical scope: 1994 Mohamad Omar Mullah Akhtar Mansoor Afghanistan now former Karsai administration and the NATO-led International Security Forces (ISAF). Currently Mullah Akhtar Mansoor is the leader of the group that had already claimed its Sunni Emirate Religious background: Sunni in Afghanistan in Compared to ISIL the Taliban have a narrower scope that is concentrated only on Afghanistan. Like any terrorist movement they are ready to use violence, especially against foreign troops 3

4 and forces of the government. Due to media propaganda they engaged to limit the application of violence against civilians. However, the actual statistic points out that beside police and governmental forces the second biggest target was private civilians in 2014 (GTI 2015, p. 43). Therefore their moral intentions should put in question. Since there was only one attack outside Afghanistan in 2014 the danger from the Taliban to Western societies seems to be very limited. Their claims are mostly of national nature. Boko Haram The number of fatalities killed by Boko Haram attacks is higher compared to terrorist acts of other organizations. Boko Haram, also called Jamā'at Ahl as-sunnah lid-da'wah wa'l-jihād, was founded in 2002 by Mohammad Yusuf. Following a dispute with the former Nigerian government and the death of its founder the organization started to Boko Haram Key data increase its radicalization in Up to now Boko Haram is operating in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group has a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist ideology and is originally linked to al-qaeda. But in Formation: Founder: Leader: Geographical scope: 2002 Mohammad Yusuf Abubakar Shekau West Africa 2015 it announced its allegiance with the IS(IL) and recognized the leader of Religious background: Sunni IS(IL), al-baghdadi, as the caliph of the Muslims. In principle, Boko Haram aims to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and opposes Western education, culture and the Christian faith whereby the fundamentalist organization rejects the United States in particular. They use violence against government related forces and authorities as well as against civilians. More than people were killed by Boko Haram attacks in 2014 (GTI 2015, p. 41). Taken all together it is hard to determine if Boko Haram represents a real threat to Western states. Boko Haram s terror is primarily concentrated on the Nigerian state and the immediate neighboring countries. However, its support for the far reaching claims of ISIL gives reason for concern. Boko Haram s development should be attentively observed. 4

5 Table 3: Main locations of attacks conducted by Boko Haram, IS(IL) and Taliban in 2014 Threat of terrorism to Western states and societies In sum, the Taliban pursue national targets whilst Boko Haram primary follows regional objectives. Only IS(IL) s ideology includes apparent global objectives with an enormous propensity towards violence. The Paris attacks in November 2015 express the interest of the fundamentalist organization to stretch its horror vision of an Islamic caliphate and to stir up fears in Western societies. From that point of view, a growing threat for the West can be noted. Including the data that provide information regarding the perpetrators profile and the overall statistics of terrorism, the fueled fears have to be put in context, because most of the terror acts in the West were conducted by lone wolfs. Indeed, lone wolf attacks account for 70 percent of all terrorism related deaths in the West from 2006 to 2014 (GTI 2015, p. 54). Lone wolf terrorists are individuals or small groups who sympathize or identify with terrorist organizations and the respective ideology without material support or specific instructions from such a group. Hence the direct threat is often not imposed by terrorist organizations themselves, but rather by single perpetrators. As a result it can be concluded that the Western states are not that much affected and threatened by terrorist organizations as the civilians in their direct spheres of influence. Due to the fact that lone wolfs are hard to detect and to defend the perceived threat for Western societies seems higher than it is from an objective point of view. 5

6 Reference list Enders, W./Sandler, T.: The Political Economy of Terrorism, Cambridge University Press New York Institute for Economics & Peace: Global Terrorism Index Measuring and Understanding the Impact of Terrorism, ( ). Milton, D. et al.: The Group That Calls Itself a State: Understanding the Evolution and Challenges of the Islamic State, The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, December 2014, ( ). National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism: Annex of Statistical Information. Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, University of Maryland National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism: Annex of Statistical Information. Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, University of Maryland Sandler, T.: Terrorism and counterterrorism: an overview, in: Oxford Economic Papers 2014, p Published by: AGEMA-Services GmbH AGEMA-Services is an internationally operating security company specialized on providing services in high risk areas. Our exceptional expertise and competences enable us to provide goal-orientated solutions to identify, avoid and overcome security risks to our customers. The collaboration with our strategic partners enables us to provide services in nearly every part of the world. AGEMA-Services provides comprehensive and professional security solutions for individuals, companies, organizations and state institutions. AGEMA-Services GmbH CEO Sven Meyer Am Kiel-Kanal Kiel Germany Phone: Mail: Author: Marianne Witt 6

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