Global Terrorism May be Down but is Still a Threat In 2019 – Are We Ready?

By Robert Muggah

Published on Small Wars Journal

The absolute number, prevalence and lethality of terrorist incidents has decreased significantly around the world since its peak in 2014. According to the Global Terrorism Index, the trends occurred in four waves: terrorist incidents increased dramatically from 2002-2007, temporarily declined from 2008-2011, and then shot upward between 2011-2014. The ‘fourth wave’ (2015-2019) involved significant declines in incidents and deaths virtually everywhere. While terrorism is still widely distributed geographically, most events are concentrated in a small number of countries, committed by a modest array of groups and disproportionately affect Muslim populations.

Even so, terrorist threats are changing. Over the past decade Jihadist groups have moved away from monolithic ‘mafia-like’ operations and franchised their activities. As was evident in attacks from Mumbai (2008) to Nairobi (2019), they are extremely adept at deploying digital platforms to encourage recruitment, radicalization, and manage operations in real-time. It is not just Jihadist networks such as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, or al-Shabaab that have expanded their digital skill-sets. There are also signals that white supremacist/ultra-right individuals and groups are expanding their transnational operations, enabled by digital tools and deepening polarization. These digital drivers are complex and enabling more self-radicalization.

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