The number of people dying in terrorist attacks is dropping, according to a report released this week.
The study, done annually by Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, uses open-source information to track every instance of politically and ideologically motivated violence by nonstate armed groups and individuals. Its latest report shows that the number of terrorist attacks dropped slightly in 2017, to 22,487.
There was a bigger and more significant decline in fatalities. The number of civilians killed by terrorists fell to 18,475 last year, a 33 percent drop from 2016. If you look at the average number of terrorism-related civilian deaths over the past five years, it's even more significant: In 2017, there was a 45 percent drop.
Jane's experts say that's mostly because the world has gotten safer. “These trends were largely driven by downturns in violent militant activity in countries experiencing high levels of violence, alongside significant decreases in fatalities — such as a 44 percent decrease in fatalities in Syria and a 60 percent decline in Iraq,” Center head Matthew Henman said in a statement. “Indeed, of the top 10 most violent countries in 2017, attacks decreased in six countries, and fatalities decreased in eight.”
Even so, some parts of the world remain plagued by violence. Attacks in Syria, for example, account for more than a third of all violent assaults, according to the Jane's count.
The Islamic State also continues to wield deadly influence. It's been the most active militant group in the world for four years running, according to Jane's. Last year it was responsible for the deaths of 6,500 people in 4,500 attacks.
Still, Jane's experts say the group caused fewer fatalities last year than it has in the past. They attribute that to its huge loss of territory in Iraq and Syria. “As it came under growing territorial pressure, the Islamic State transitioned back to insurgent operations, conducting a higher tempo of low intensity violence against security forces and non-state adversaries in areas newly recaptured from the group,” Henman said.
The group did not conduct any centrally planned attacks in the West this year. However, the perpetrators of several violent actions -- including a June bombing at a concert in Manchester and a truck attack in Barcelona -- identified themselves as supporters of the group. This year is expected to bring more such attacks, planned by "lone wolves" and utilizing easy-to-access weapons such as knives, guns and cars.
The Jane's report warned that the upcoming World Cup in Russia might provide a particularly attractive target to the Islamic State. "A successful attack would provide a tremendous propaganda boost for the Islamic State and its fighters and supporters, underlining the ongoing international threat posed by the group despite its territorial defeat," Henman said. "While security will be extremely high across the course of the tournament, low-capability attacks by lone actors with no evident markers of radicalization remain extremely difficult to identify preemptively and there remains a substantial risk of an attack successfully being conducted."