Record number of terrorist attacks in October 2016

Record number of terrorist attacks in October 2016

Non-state armed groups carried out more attacks in October 2016 than any other month in the past 12 months, with over half of them in the Middle East and Africa, according to new data released today by IHS Markit, a leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.

The data was collected from open sources by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC). Information from social media, which could not be verified through conventional and trusted news sources is not included in the data.

Globally, 2,662 attacks were carried out in October 2016 – an average of 86 attacks per day. This represents a 59% rise in the daily average number of attacks compared with September 2016, which saw fewer than 1,000 attacks for the month. In the preceding 12 months, JTIC recorded an average of 59 attacks per-day.

“In October, JTIC recorded over 1,600 attacks in the Middle East and North Africa alone,” said Matthew Henman, head of JTIC. “Syria was the primary driver of this increase, accounting for over 40% of all attacks worldwide. This spike reflects the deepening intensity of the battle for control of Aleppo, with fresh offensives launched by opposition forces.”

At a recent JTIC briefing, the team highlighted three main terrorism trends to watch out for in 2017.

• More headlines expected for Jabhat Fath al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra)

“As the Islamic State continues to lose territory and as the international coalition continues targeted airstrikes, we are likely to see another name in the headlines more often — Jabhat Fath al-Sham,” Henman said. “It is becoming more apparent that a potentially longer-term and equally serious threat is posed by Jabhat Fath ash-Sham as a consequence of its burgeoning operational capabilities, its deep integration within the wider opposition, and its concurrent radicalising influence. Effectively isolating and countering that threat is likely to prove a far tougher challenge for the international community in the long term.”

Looking ahead to the coming months and years, the group is likely to focus on capturing and holding territory in the northwest of the country, particularly the city of Aleppo and surrounding areas of the governorate, in addition to developing its presence and territorial control in the west and south of the country, the report said.

• Declaration of an Islamic State wilaya in Southeast Asia

“There is an increased likelihood that the Islamic State will declare an official wilaya, or province, in Southeast Asia in 2017,” said Otso Iho, senior analyst at JTIC. “In the past year, we have seen a substantial shift in the Islamic State’s use of resources to reach and influence audiences in the region and we have seen a similar shift among Philippine militant groups’ propaganda alignment.”

The first pledges to the Islamic State came in 2014 amid the group’s successes in Iraq and Syria, but during 2014, JTIC did not record any official claims of attacks by the Islamic State in the region and there were no changes to the modus operandi among local militant groups.

“In the beginning of 2016 we started to see videos of training camps for ‘soldiers of the caliphate’ in the Philippines, pledges of allegiances by more groups, and a subsequent acceptance of these pledges by the Islamic State leadership — marking a major change,” Iho said.

The Islamic State then consistently ramped up its propaganda focus on the region, while militant groups have also stepped up their levels of violence and alignment with the group, the JTIC briefing said.

“What has not changed, however, are militant groups’ capabilities in the region,” Iho said. “There is little evidence to suggest that this increasing alignment has led to substantial operational or financial support for attacks.”

Nonetheless, the threat posed by Islamist militancy in Southeast Asia will remain primarily linked to lone actors and small groups, who are encouraged by the Islamic State’s propaganda and who, in some cases, have had direct contact with Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition to regular attacks by Islamic State-aligned militant groups in the southern Philippines, since the start of 2016 there have been at least four attacks tied to the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, three conducted in Indonesia and one in Malaysia.

• Evolution of Islamic State attacks in the West

“Events across 2016 have provided new insights into the operational methods of the Islamic State in terms of conducting operations in the West,” Henman said. “The November 2015 attacks in Paris and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels highlighted the group’s use of returnee foreign fighters to launch attacks directed by its central leadership. The other lone actor attacks claimed by Islamic State supporters underlined the group’s ability to inspire individuals who had not travelled to Iraq and Syria who had no direct contact with the group.”

A series of attacks and foiled attacks in France and Germany across mid-2016, though, underlined a third channel for Islamic State attacks in the West, the briefing said. Western members of the group in Iraq or Syria would communicate with supporters back in their home countries in order to directly encourage, support, and direct attacks therein. One of the foremost examples is French national Rachid Kassim, who French officials have linked to several attacks and foiled plots in the country.

The IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre uses open source data to build its global database of terrorist and insurgent events. The database enables users to search by location, target, group (active and dormant), tactics and casualty numbers in order to quickly obtain actionable intelligence and/or data. The database includes over 200,000 events since 2009 and over 250 group profiles. Information from social media that could not be verified through conventional and trusted news sources is not included in the data.