A new global study by the London-based Institute for Economics and Peace has ranked Nigeria fourth on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) for 2013, primarily arising from terrorist attacks carried out by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Nigeria is ranked below Iraq with 2,492 attacks that killed more than 6,300 people, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which ranked first, second and third, respectively, while Syria, now driven by a devastating civil war, is ranked fifth.
The institute, in the report released on Tuesday, said the number of people killed in terror attacks worldwide jumped more than 60 per cent last year to a record high of nearly 18,000 and the figure could rise further in 2014 due to an escalation of conflict in the Middle East and Nigeria.
Over 80 per cent of the lives lost to terrorist activities occurred only in five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria – in 2013, the report added.
Four Islamist groups operating in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria were responsible for two thirds of the 2013 attacks and the vast majority of the deaths occurred in those countries, the report said.
There were 303 terrorism incidents catalogued for Nigeria, with 1,826 fatalities and 457 injuries, figures bound to be eclipsed judging by the ferocity of 2014 attacks by Boko Haram. The cost of the insurgency to the national economy was estimated at $28.48 billion, with Nigeria also ranked 151 out of 162 nations in the Global Peace Index.
The report said last year, 6,362 people died in Iraq, the most terrorist-plagued country in the world, arising from 2,492 terrorism incidents, while Afghanistan had 3,111 deaths, out of 1,148 incidents. Pakistan, third on the terrorism index had 2,345 fatalities from 1,933 incidents.
The compilers of the report generally noted an upward trend in militant attacks globally, with two dozen countries accounting for more than 50 deaths in 2013.
The four most active militant groupings are Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (now renamed Islamic State), Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban and transnational al Qaeda-affiliated networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“There is no doubt it is a growing problem. The causes are complex but the four groups responsible for most of the deaths all have their roots in fundamentalist Islam,” said IEP founder Steve Killelea.
“They are particularly angry about the spread of Western education. That makes any attempt at the kind of social mobilising you need to stop them particularly difficult – it can just antagonise them more,” he said.
The number of attacks themselves rose 44 per cent in 2013 from the previous year to almost 10,000.
Deaths in such attacks are now five times higher than in 2000, the report said, citing analysis of data in the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database.
Most but not all militant attacks were religiously motivated. Attacks in India – the sixth most affected country – rose 70 per cent in 2013 largely due to attacks by communist insurgents. The majority remained non-lethal.
Increased targeting of police by the militant groups makes managing the problem even harder, Killelea said, sometimes fuelling rights abuses that compound existing grievances.
The report showed 60 per cent of the attacks involved explosives, 20 per cent firearms and 10 per cent other actions such as arson, knives or attacks with motor vehicles. Only five per cent of all incidents since 2000 have involved suicide bombings.
The report showed some 80 per cent of the militant groups, which had ceased their activities since 2000 did so following negotiations. Only 10 per cent achieved their goals, while seven per cent were eliminated by military action.