Newly formed South Sudan joins Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan at top of Maplecroft terrorism ranking – attacks up 15% globally.
Top four countries sustain over 75% of world's fatalities from terrorism
New research has rated the fledgling state of South Sudan in the top five countries most at risk from terrorist attacks after Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst data also reveals that terrorist attacks are on the increase globally.
The latest Terrorism Risk Index (TRI), released by risk analysis and mapping firm Maplecroft, rates 20 countries and territories as ‘extreme risk,’ with Somalia (1), Pakistan (2), Iraq (3), Afghanistan (4) once again topping the ranking. The ‘extreme risk’ category also includes: South Sudan (5), Yemen (6), Palestinian Occupied Territories (7), DR Congo (8) Central African Republic (9), Colombia (10), Algeria (11), Thailand (12), Philippines (13), Russia (14), Sudan (15), Iran (16), Burundi (17), India (18), Nigeria (19) and Israel (20).
The TRI has been developed by Maplecroft to enable business to identify and monitor the risks posed by terrorism to employees and assets in 197 countries. The index draws on the latest and most comprehensive data available to calculate the frequency and lethality of terrorist incidents over the 12 month period prior to April 1st 2011. The TRI also includes a historical component assessing the number of attacks over five years and assesses risks relating to countries’ geographic proximity to terrorist hotspots.
Following the country’s formal secession from Sudan in July 2011, South Sudan (5) makes its first appearance in the Terrorism Risk Index. The country is rated as ‘extreme risk’ primarily due to the intensity of terrorist attacks, with an average of 6.59 fatalities per terrorist incident, almost three times that of Somalia at 2.23.
A number of terrorist groups operate in South Sudan including the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been responsible for mass-casualty attacks. However, splinter groups that have broken away from the mainstream Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) use terrorist methods and pose the greatest threat. One such group, led by George Athor, was responsible for 111 deaths in an attack in Jonglei province in February 2011. This one incident accounts for over 50% of the 211 fatalities sustained by South Sudan from attacks between April 2010 and March 2011.
Despite ranking 5th in the index, South Sudan’s death toll of 211 from terrorist attacks pales in comparison to the top four countries. Over the same period Somalia suffered 1,385 deaths, Pakistan 2,163 deaths, Iraq 3,456 deaths and Afghanistan 3,423 deaths, which together account for over 75% of the world’s 13,492 fatalities.
Looking at the year on year data, Maplecroft’s research also reveals that the number of terrorist attacks rose by approximately 15% globally, with 11,954 incidents between April 2010 and March 2011, compared to 10394 from April 2009 to March 31st 2010. However, there was a decrease in fatalities falling to 13,492 from 14,478.
Significantly the TRI also reveals that the number of terrorist incidents in Afghanistan increased by over 50% over the same period, rising from 2246 attacks in 2009/10 to 3,470 in 2010/11. The growing number of attacks will be a particular concern at a time when NATO allies are seeking to reduce troop numbers and increasingly hand over security to Afghan forces.
Aside from South Sudan, the latest index sees three more countries join the ‘extreme risk’ category: Iran (16), Burundi (17) and Nigeria (19). Iran continues to experience a relatively small, but lethal, number of mass-casualty attacks including a twin suicide bombing in Zahedan in July 2010, which collectively killed 27 and wounded approximately 300. These attacks, launched by Jundullah, a Sunni Islamist and Baluchi ethnic group, mean that Iran has one of the highest averages of fatalities per incident at 5.71.
Security conditions in Nigeria remain fragile and a source of concern for investors. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has launched attacks beyond the Delta, in the capital, Abuja. MEND is thought to be behind the 1 October 2010 car bombings in the city that killed 12. These bombings took place during celebrations for the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Somalia continues to be the highest risk country in the index, with the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab controlling much of the central and southern areas of the country. However, some of the most devastating attacks take place in the capital, Mogadishu, where al-Shabaab struggles with the Transitional Federal Government. Amongst the worst incidents in the city were armed attacks by al-Shabaab on 8 February and 15 March 2011, which killed 21 and 24 respectively. As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) continues to be unable to dislodge al-Shabaab from Mogadishu, mass-casualty attacks are likely to persist in the city.
None of the major Western economies fall within the ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk’ bracket. However, the UK (38) is rated ‘medium risk,’ and ranked highest out of these countries. This is due to the deteriorating security conditions in Northern Ireland, where there was a general increase in the number of terrorist attacks. In contrast, the US is ranked 61 and ‘low risk.’
Western countries meanwhile remain concerned about the continued risk posed by radical Islam and the prospect of future attacks on Western interests at home and overseas. “The killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by US navy SEALs in May has helped US intelligence target senior members and affiliates of the network,” said Anthony Skinner, an Associate Director at Maplecroft. “Nonetheless, al-Qaeda has in the past proven its ability to adapt and poses a continuous threat to the West.”
Maplecroft’s Terrorism Risk Index is accompanied by subnational mapping of all reported terrorist incidents, which are charted globally down to 100m. “Although some countries are rated as ‘extreme risk’, terrorism attacks can be limited to a specific region or a relatively small number of areas. Thailand is a case in point, where the majority of attacks take place in the southern states,” continued Skinner. “Subnational mapping of this kind enables organisations to pinpoint these hotspots and monitor risks to staff, as well as assets, such as factories, refineries and pipelines.”