Australia

Deaths from terrorism fall globally as IS power fades

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The Global Terrorism Index has found terrorism took 27 per cent fewer lives in 2017, with three Australian deaths.

Deaths from terrorism have fallen dramatically since 2014, when terror activity was at its peak, a report has found, but terrorism is still widespread around the world.

The sixth annual Global Terrorism Index, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), found Iraq, Syria and parts of Europe noted significant improvements, with a reduced number of deaths being attributed largely to the continuous decline of the IS group.

Deaths from terrorism decreased by 27 per cent in 2017 to 18,814 globally, an improvement for a third consecutive year and a 44 per cent decrease since 2014.

Boxing Day sales 2017
Semi trailers and concrete bollards are used to block streets during the Boxing Day sales in Sydney's CBD in 2017.
AAP

The 2018 index ranks 163 countries and the way terrorism affected them over a 12-month period, and while 94 countries improved, 46 countries deteriorated. The remainder were unchanged.

Three Australian deaths

Australia was ranked number 68 in the report, with three deaths from terrorism in 2017. There were none the year before, two in 2015 and four in 2014.  

In April 2017, 29-year old Zeeshan Akbar was allegedly stabbed by two teenage boys at a service station in Queanbeyan, NSW. He died at the scene. 

The following June in Brighton, Victoria, 29-year-old Yacqub Khayre shot dead 36-year-old Kai Hao, a receptionist in a serviced apartment complex, during a siege. Khayre was later shot dead by police. 

Steve Killelea, chair of the IEP, told SBS News: “Australia suffers from terrorism, but it is a low level of terrorism compared to other countries around the world.”

“There are many countries which have no terrorist attacks or have no deaths from terrorism. So just to put it in perspective, Australia had three deaths … there are 167 countries which suffered one or more deaths from terrorism.”

While no specific threat to Australia was detailed in the report, the index saw trends in terrorist activity migrating to parts of the Pacific. Terrorist groups pledging allegiance to IS have emerged in the Philippines, while in Myanmar and Burma the number of terrorist groups has been increasing since 2014. In 2017 there were 211 deaths from 104 different attacks in Myanmar alone.

The issue with tracking such groups is that “a lot of these terrorist groups, they form, they splinter, they merge with other ones. So, it is a very fluid operation,” Mr Killelea said.

Afghanistan and the threat of IS

Afghanistan recorded the highest number of terrorism deaths in 2017, overtaking Iraq and Syria which recorded the largest declines since 2014. In Iraq there were 5,000 fewer terror-linked deaths recorded, while the number dropped by 1,000 in Syria.

“Terrorism has actually improved in the last four years. Most of that is on the back of the defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq,” Mr Killelea said.

IS remains the world’s deadliest terrorist group but Mr Killeleasaid the data suggests the group will decline further in the coming years.

“From preliminary figures in 2018, ISIL's demise will continue. However what we are finding is that many of its hardened fighters are joining and moving to other areas of the world and joining other terrorist groups.”

“For example, if we look in 2017, at the 168 terrorist groups which recorded a killing, 43 of them were what you would call 'new groups' which hadn't killed anyone in the [previous] three years.”

Rest of the world

The report showed terrorism-related deaths in Europe fell by 75 per cent in 2017, with France, Belgium and Germany showing sizeable improvements, which Mr Killelea said is due to a number of factors.

“As ISIL's lost territory it's been much harder for it to actually plan and launch attacks inside Europe. Beefed up security also helps, you've got a lot more police in areas where there is likely to be terrorism, you've had the implementation of bollards in many, many places as well, and a lot more money's gone into preventing terrorism.”

While deaths from terrorism have fallen significantly overall, terrorist attacks from far-right agents in Western Europe and the United States are slowly on the rise. In 2017, there were 31 terrorist attacks by far-right agents, killing a total of 17 people.

Mr Killelea said people should keep in mind that the terrorist attacks in Western Europe and the US are the actions of individuals with extremist views and do not stem from any over-arching organisation.

“A lot of the time when we are looking at the lone wolf attack, we've got people who are mentally disturbed and this plays into it and there is a narrative which you can see playing out through society, which then causes them to adopt very extreme positions and kill people.”

While Western Europe has seen an increase in far-right movements, far-left organisations are operating in certain areas of Latin and South America.

Cost of terrorism

The cost of terrorism on the world's economy has improved in the past years.

In 2017, terrorism cost the global economy just over $70 billion, much of which, Mr Killelea said, comes from the flow-on effects of civilian deaths.

“That's mainly comprised of the lost income of people who are killed in terrorist attacks.”

“It decreased by 42 per cent from the prior [report], which is quite a substantial amount of money.”

Mr Killelea said the report also revealed a new development:

“The most startling fact which has come out of this year is that 99 per cent of all deaths from terrorism occur in countries which engage in ongoing conflict or have state-sponsored terror against their citizens.”

“State-sponsored terror [is defined as] extrajudicial killings, torture, imprisonment without trial.”

It is predicted 2018 will show the continued decline of terrorism worldwide, but Mr Killelea said the correlation between battlefield deaths and terrorism is essential to eradicating it completely.

“If you really want to reduce the number of deaths from terrorism, what it really is about is stopping the wars that are going on currently and being very careful about starting new wars. Particularly unless there are very clear plans on what the peace after that war will be,” he said.

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