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Global terrorism in 2014: the most casualties ever

The Global Terrorism Index shows that in 2014, more people died through terrorism than ever before. And five countries bear the brunt.

Terrorism - many, if not most, people right now will associate the attacks in Paris with this word after the horrific events that the French capital saw over the weekend. New statistics put these attacks into perspective: in 2014, the countries most affected by terrorism were all in the Middle East and in Africa, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). The index is compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a think tank based in Sydney, Australia.

Chairman Steve Killelea and his researchers have found that the five countries with the most attacks and victims are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. 2014 saw the number of people killed by terrorists rise to 32,658, "the highest level ever," according to the GTI. That's a dramatic increase of 80 percent compared to 2013.

"But even more troublesome is the number of countries that suffered more than 500 deaths," Killelea told DW. "That number increased from five countries to 11 countries. Some of the new countries are Cameroon, Ukraine or the Central African Republic."

Terrorism is spreading across the world. To arrive at this result, the Institute for Economics and Peace worked with a clearly defined set of criteria.

Two groups are especially lethal

For the Global Terrorism Index, the researchers used a dataset provided by the University of Maryland in the US. The definition they worked with states that terrorism is an act of violence by a nonstate actor with the aim of achieving a political, economic or religious outcome.

Countries are ranked according to four criteria: number of incidents, number of fatalities, number of injured people and the damage done to property through terrorist attacks. Iraq, the country leading the GTI as "most affected by terrorism" saw 3,370 terrorist attacks, or "incidents," and 9,929 fatalities. In the third spot, Nigeria saw significantly fewer incidents (662) in 2014, but 7,512 fatalities.

The most lethal terrorist organization comes from Nigeria: Boko Haram. Together with the terror organization "Islamic State," they are responsible for more than half of all the people killed in claimed attacks in 2014. The total number of deaths is higher, because not all attacks come with an organization that says they were responsible.

But the sheer number of casualties isn't the only dismaying factor. Seventy-seven percent and 44 percent of those killed by Boko Haram and IS, respectively, were private civilians.

"We've noticed a change in tactics over the last 12 months," Killelea said. "The deaths of private citizens and individuals went up over 170 percent. Groups like Boko Haram and ISIL [another name for "Islamic State"] are attacking civilians more than they have in the past."

In the 2014 GTI, France lands in 36th place, with 11 incidents, one death and four injuries. In 2015, the country will sadly place higher, of course. Taking into account the attacks from the weekend and the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, Killelea estimated that France could end up ranking 18th or 19th on the next index.

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