As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.
More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.
Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.
The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.
This year is expected to outpace even 2012’s record high. There were 5,100 attacks in the first six months of 2013, said Gary LaFree, START’s director, and the wave of violence shows few signs of ebbing.
In recent weeks, Al-Shabaab, a militant group based in Somalia, attacked a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, leaving 67 dead; suicide bombers killed 81 at a church in Pakistan; and the Taliban took credit for killing two police officers with a car bomb in Afghanistan.
To find and tally attacks like those, START’s computers comb through 1.2 million articles from 50,000 media outlets each month with an algorithm to help identify and eliminate redundancies. Its 25-member staff then studies, categorizes and counts each attack.
Sectarian attacks – such as the pitched battles between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan – tend to be disproportionately deadly, said Martha Crenshaw, an expert at Stanford University and a START board member.
“Sadly, it seems to be increasingly acceptable in certain belief systems to kill as many members of the other religious community as possible,” she said. “Moral restraints seem to be eroding.”
In the 1970s, most attacks were committed with guns and occurred in Western Europe. In the 1980s, Latin America saw the most terrorist acts. Beginning with the 1990s, South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East has seen steadily rising number of attacks, a trend that has accelerated in recent years.
Although terrorism touched 85 countries last year, just three – Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan – suffered more than half of 2012’s attacks (55%) and fatalities (62%).
Just eight private U.S. citizens died in attacks outside the United States in 2012, all in Afghanistan, according to the State Department. In the United States, seven people died in 11 terrorist attacks last year, six of them in a shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Despite the death of Osama bin Laden and capture of other key al Qaeda leaders, the group has exported its brand of terrorism to other militant Muslims, according to START and other counterterrorism experts.
“We’ve had success in stopping al Qaeda central,” LaFree said. “But we have been unsuccessful in stopping the message.” [CS: And always will be as long as it's in the Koran and other Islamic texts]
Afghanistan’s Taliban was by far the deadliest group in 2012, when it launched 525 attacks that killed 1,842 people.
The second deadliest group was Nigeria’s Boko Haram, a jihadist group that orchestrated 364 attacks last year that killed 1,132 people.
The next most deadly were al Qaeda in Iraq, the Communist Party of India-Maoist, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan’s branch of the Taliban.
And while most terrorism in 2012 was committed in Muslim-majority countries, LaFree and other experts cautioned against viewing Islam itself as inherently violent. [You can caution against it, but again, examining the actual texts makes clear that it actually is inherently violent]
“Not so long ago, terrorism was centered in Western Europe and Latin America,” LaFree said. “It moves. And, unfortunately, it has moved into the Muslim world right now.”
Like Benjamin, Rizwan Jaka, a Muslim leader based in Northern Virginia, said that political – not religious – motivations lay behind many acts of terrorism.
“It isn’t like they woke up and said ‘I’m a Muslim; I’m going to go kill someone in a shopping mall,’ ” Jaka said. “In their twisted mind, this is political retaliation.”
Still, American Muslims are working to reduce Sunni-Shiite tensions, said Jaka, a board member of the Islamic Society of North America.
The Fiqh Council of North America, an influential group that issues rulings based on Sharia, or Islamic law, released a fatwa endorsed by dozens of Muslims in 2005 categorically condemning terrorism. [Muslims continually tell us there is no sharia in the U.S...but there are Muslim groups making sharia rulings?]
More recently, the Islamic Society of North America has met with African and Middle Eastern leaders to urge them to protect the rights of religious minorities and discourage terrorism.
In September, Sunni and Shiite leaders meeting in Washington announced an agreement to set aside differences and address the “dire situation of unrest, destruction, genocide and refugees” in many predominantly Muslim countries.
“All Muslims are one nation, even if the schools of thought are diverse,” the scholars’ declaration said. “Such diversity is a source of intellectual enrichment and should not be the cause of accusations of disbelief, murder, and the desecration of sanctities.”
Unfortunately, in the Orwellian world we now find ourselves in, journalists and news organizations are increasingly sympathetic too or rely on terrorist groups and run to terror-linked Muslim groups for comment. Case in point, ISNA. It’s a Muslim Brotherhood linked, Saudi-funded Islamic group that lost its status in Canada for funding Hamas and is an unindicted co-conspirator to the largest terror conviction in U.S. history. In a sane world, they would have been prosecuted and disbanded. They still might be. Until then, the terror-linked group is now Barrack Hussein Obama’s go to Islamic organization.