“Nine numbers on terrorism you should know”

Recently, Vision of Humanity published an analysis of the Institute for Economics & Peace’s 2015 Global Terrorism Index, a report which can be found here (PDF file, 7.6 MB). VoH has compiled a list of nine numbers relating to terrorism to highlight the impact of terrorism in the last year. We shall examine each briefly.

1. 32,685 lives were lost to terrorism last year. 

It is worth exploring how “terrorism” is defined. In the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, the report acknowledges that terrorism has no clear, universal definition. The report opts to use the following definition: ‘the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation’. Others (see: “Globalization and Violence, Vol. 3”, p. xxx) often include state terrorism in definitions. If drone strikes, for example, counted as acts of terrorism, the bodycount would be drastically higher than stated in the Index.

2. The number of people killed by terrorism has increased by nine times since 2000.

Again, this depends on how we define terrorism. In the context of this report, however, a valid point can still be made: people are significantly less safe from non-state terrorist actors than they were only 15 years ago.

3. In 2014, 78% of terrorism-related deaths occurred in only five countries–Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

This statistic shows that non-state terrorist actions largely occur in areas where governments have little power, legitimacy or presence. More than half of all 2014 terrorism deaths occurred in two of these countries (Nigeria and Iraq)

4. In 2014, the economic cost of terrorism was 52.9 billion USD, an increase of over 60% from the previous year.

This figure was calculated from “the direct and indirect costs of the loss of life, destruction of property and losses from ransom payments” (Global Terrorism Index 2015, p.61). This number is only an estimate, as it is noted in the report that it is immensely difficult to calculate “indirect costs” of violence.

5. 67 countries experienced one or more terrorism-related deaths in 2014.

This is correct per the definitions used, but it is worth reflecting on #3 once more, as it acknowledges that, despite the global presence of terrorism, the vast majority of deaths occur in a very small number of countries, which is also highlighted by the Vision of Humanity article’s next point:

6. 95 countries experienced no deaths relating to terrorism in 2014.

It must be noted, however, that “no deaths” does not mean terrorism had no impact. Many terrorist attacks in recent years have had significant impacts on feelings of safety and security, perceptions of foreigners or members of different religious or ethnic groups, and even on the public’s right to privacy due to increasingly restrictive laws enacted as a response to perceived terrorist threats.

7. 2.6% of deaths from terrorism have occurred in the West since 2000.

This is a very small percentage, and it highlights the fact that, particularly in the case of Daesh/ISIS, terrorism impacts an overwhelmingly higher number of people in non-Western countries–particularly Muslims–when compared with victims in Western states.

8. Lone wolf attackers accounted from 70% of all deaths from terrorism in the West from 2006 – 2014.

9. During this time, 80% of deaths by lone wolf terrorists in the West were driven by right wing extremism, nationalism, antigovernment sentiment and political extremism and other forms of supremacy.

These final two points drive home the fact that terrorism in the West is much more likely to come from homegrown political extremism than it is from Islamist groups. An FBI report shows that in the United States, between 1980 and 2005, very few terrorist attacks (approximately 6%) were carried out by Islamist groups. The FBI’s report of terrorist attacks was compiled into this pie chart, by LoonWatch:


Overall, Vision of Humanity’s article, “Nine Numbers on Terrorism You Should Know” provides an insightful analysis of the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. There are some potential issues with the report’s definition of terrorism, but the data provided is sound.

The Costs of Bombing

Recently, a meme compiled by @RafiqIbnJubair of IlmFeed has been shared around Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlining the “costs of bombing” and what this money could otherwise fund. This post shall examine and analyse the claims of this meme.

cost of bombing

6 Hour Tornado Mission: This meme’s first claim is that a six-hour Tornado mission costs £210,000. According to the UK Parliament, Tornado GR4 missions cost taxpayers a whopping £35,000 per flight hour. So, at least the maths are correct in this case. The estimated flight hours of a single mission range anywhere from four to eight hours; the above meme assumes an average of six hours.

4 Paveway Bombs and 2 Brimstone Missiles: It is likely that some Tornado missions will involve both of these weapons. Paveway bombs are estimated to cost approximately £30,000 each, and Brimstone missiles are estimated at a costly £100,000 per missile. It may not be logical to assume that each Tornado will use all of its weaponry in each mission, however; the first two RAF Tornados to bomb Syrian territory after the UK vote reportedly used three Paveway bombs each.

Costs of Bombing: Overall, the meme does raise some excellent points about the costs of the UK military bombing Syria. However, it is difficult to say with any degree of accuracy the exact costs. The costs are sure to be high, though–we can estimate, even for the shortest of missions (4 hours) that use few bombs (2 Paveways, for example), the total cost would still be £200,000. And this is for a “best case” scenario in terms of costs, as it is likely that most missions will be longer in duration and use more of a Tornado’s payload.

Salaries of Publicly-Funded Professions: This meme’s point is dependent on the perspective of the viewer. If we consider using the costs of bombing to train new teachers/doctors/police officers, using salary alone is not sufficient in outlining costs (costs of training professional staff are extensive, reaching up to £250,000 for doctors). If, instead, we consider using the costs of bombing to instead retain professionals in key positions, then the analysis in the meme is likely much more reflective of reality.

Conclusion: Overall, the meme is a bit imprecise with the actual costs of bombing missions into Syria–however, as it is impossible to calculate the costs of future attacks, it is a good place to start. In comparing the costs of war to the costs of social benefits (e.g. police forces, medical services and education), this meme generates a worthwhile conversation about what we’re willing to pay for at home (in this case, the UK).

What is worth exploring further is the cost to societies, like Syria’s, which are victims of such bombings and how many nurses, police officers and teachers are killed by these strikes and the long-term impact this will have on the region.