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A quick look at the composition of terrorist events

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In this blog entry, I will use data from the Global Terrorism Database to briefly explore some aspects of how the composition of terrorist events has changed over time.

 

The overall number of terrorist attacks steadily increased from 1970 until the end of the cold war. It then declined until the beginning of the new millennium after which a sharp increase followed. 

The strongest increase after the low in 2000 comes from bombing / explosions and armed assaults. Assassinations have not returned to its 1990s highs. Hijackings and hostage takings—while only a small proportion of the overall number of events—also increased substantially from 2000 to 2010. 

The latest increases in terrorist events are due to developments in the Middle East and South Asia. The previous increase—which lasted roughly until the end of the Cold War— can mostly be attributed to increases in terrorism in South and Central America and Western Europe. 

 

The latest increases in terrorist events are due to developments in the Middle East and South Asia. The previous increase—which lasted roughly until the end of the Cold War— can mostly be attributed to increases in terrorism in South and Central America and Western Europe. 

Allowing the y-scales to differ it seems that different attack modes are highly correlated when looking at specific regions. However, assassinations and hijackings in the Middle East and south-Asia have been substituted by bombings and explosions. This could be due to target hardening and terrorists’ increased readiness to accept casualties. 

Literature

 

START (2011). Global Terrorism Database: Variables & Inclusion Criteria. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Retrieved from: http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

 

H. Wickham. ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer New York, 2009.

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