Incidents of Terrorism — 2007
(April 30, 2008)
Country Reports on Terrorism
Consistent with its statutory mission to serve as the U.S. Government's knowledge bank on international terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is providing the Department of State with required statistical information to assist in the satisfaction of its reporting requirements under Section 2656f of title 22 of the U.S. Code. The statistical information included in this Annex to the 2006 Country Reports on Terrorism is drawn from the data NCTC maintains on the www.nctc.gov website.
Section 2656f(b) of Title 22 of the U.S. Code requires the State Department to include in its annual report on terrorism “to the extent practicable, complete statistical information on the number of individuals, including United States citizens and dual nationals, killed, injured, or kidnapped by each terrorist group during the preceding calendar year.” While NCTC keeps statistics on the annual number of incidents of “terrorism,” its ability to track the specific groups responsible for each incident involving killings, kidnappings, and injuries is significantly limited by the availability of reliable open source information, particularly for events involving small numbers of casualties. Moreover, specific details about victims, damage, perpetrators, and other incident elements are frequently not fully reported in open source information.
In deriving its figures for incidents of terrorism, NCTC in 2005 adopted the definition of “terrorism” that appears in the 22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2), i.e., “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
To record and update attack records, NCTC has continued to post information in the repository for the U.S. Government's database on terror attacks, the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS) that was unveiled in 2005. A data management system with a more comprehensive dataset than those used in years prior to 2004, WITS is accessible on the NCTC website at www.nctc.gov for the public to have an open and transparent view of the NCTC data. NCTC will insure that the data posted to the website is updated as often as necessary by regularly posting information about new or prior attacks.
Considerations for Interpreting the Data
NCTC cautions against placing too much emphasis on any single set of attack data to gauge success or failure against the forces of terrorism. Furthermore, NCTC does not believe that a simple comparison of the total number of attacks from year to year provides a meaningful measure.
Despite these limitations, tracking and analyzing incidents can help us understand some important characteristics about terrorism, including the geographic distribution of attacks and information about the perpetrators, their victims, and other details. Year-to-year changes in the gross number of attacks across the globe, however, may tell us little about the international communities’ effectiveness either for preventing these incidents, or for reducing the capacity of terrorists to advance their agenda through violence against the innocent.
Methodology Utilized to Compile NCTC’s Database of Attacks
Starting with the 2005 results, NCTC, working with a panel of terrorism experts, adopted a revised methodology for counting terrorist incidents, basing it on the broader statutory definition of “terrorism” rather than that of “international terrorism,” on which the NCTC based its incident counting in years prior to 2004. For 2007, we continued using this broader definition of “terrorism” and overall this broader definition and improvements in cataloging have resulted in a larger, more comprehensive set of attack data, all of which can now be found on NCTC's website, www.nctc.gov.
The data provided on the website is based on the statutory definition set forth in the Developing Statistical Information section to this Annex. Accordingly, the attacks NCTC has catalogued in the database are those that, based on available open source information, meet the criteria for “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” Determination of what constitutes a terror attack, however, is sometimes based on incomplete information and may be open to interpretation. The perpetrator's specific motivation, whether political or otherwise, is not always clear, nor is the perpetrator’s identity always evident. Moreover, additional information may become available over time affecting the accuracy of initial judgments about attacks. Users of this database should therefore recognize that expert opinions may differ on whether a particular attack constitutes terrorism or some other form of political violence.
NCTC has made every effort to limit the degree of subjectivity involved in the judgments. In the interests of transparency NCTC has adopted counting rules that require that terrorists must have initiated and executed the attack for it to be included in the database; foiled attacks, as well as hoaxes, are not included in the database. Spontaneous (i.e., non-premeditated) hate crimes without intent to cause mass casualties are excluded to the greatest extent practicable.
What is a “noncombatant”?
Under the statutory definition of terrorism that NCTC uses to compile its database, the victim must be a “noncombatant.” However, that term is left open to interpretation by the statute. For the purposes of the WITS database, the term “combatant” was interpreted to mean military, paramilitary, militia, and police under military command and control, in specific areas or regions where war zones or war-like settings exist. Further distinctions were drawn depending on the particular country involved and the role played by the military and police, e.g., where national security forces are indistinguishable from police and/or military forces. Noncombatants therefore included civilians and civilian police and military assets outside of war zones and war-like settings. Diplomatic assets, including personnel, embassies, consulates, and other facilities, were also considered noncombatant targets.
Although only acts of violence against noncombatant targets were counted as terror attacks for purposes of the WITS database, if those incidents also resulted in the death of combatant victims, all victims (combatant and noncombatant) were tallied. In an attack where combatants were the target of the event, non-combatants who were incidentally harmed were designated “collateral” and the incident excluded from the posted data set. For example, if terrorists attacked a military base in Iraq and wounded one civilian bystander, that victim would be deemed collateral, and the attack would not be counted.
In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is particularly difficult to gather comprehensive information about all incidents and to distinguish terrorism from the numerous other forms of violence, including crime and sectarian violence, in light of imperfect information. The distinction between terrorism and insurgency in Iraq is especially challenging as terrorist groups target combatants and non-combatants and also engage in tribal and sectarian violence. Therefore, some combatants may be included as victims in some attacks when their presence was incidental to an attack intended for noncombatants. We note, however, that because of the difficulty in gathering data on Iraq and Afghanistan, the dataset does not provide a comprehensive account of all attacks of terrorism in these two countries.
What is “politically motivated violence”?
The statutory definition also requires the attack to be “politically motivated.” NCTC has adopted a series of counting rules to assist in the data compilation. Any life threatening attack or kidnapping by any “Foreign Terrorist Organization” or any group designated by other authorities is deemed politically motivated. Similarly, any serious attack by any organization or individual against a Government/Diplomatic official or a Government/Diplomatic building is deemed politically motivated and is therefore considered terrorism. On the other hand, any attack that is primarily criminal or economic in nature or is an instance of mob violence is considered not to be “politically motivated.” Similarly, any terrorist organization actions that are primarily intended to enable future terrorist attacks (robbing a bank or selling narcotics for the purpose of raising money, for example) are not considered terrorism.
In between these relatively clear-cut cases, there is a degree of subjectivity. In general, NCTC counting rules consider that attacks by unknown perpetrators against either unknown victims or infrastructure are not demonstrably political and therefore are not terrorism. However, there are exceptions to this general rule: if such an attack occurs in areas in which there is significant insurgency, unrest, or political instability, the attack may be considered terrorism; or if the attack occurs in a region free of such political violence, but involves something more than a shooting (for instance, improvised explosive device, beheading, etc.), the attack may, depending on the circumstances, be considered terrorism. Finally, if low level attacks against noncombatant targets begin to suggest the existence of a chronic problem, the attacks may be considered terrorism.
Incidents of Terrorism Worldwide*
Incidents of Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan*
NCTC Observations Related to Terrorist Incidents Statistical Material
Approximately 14,000 terrorist attacks occurred in various countries during 2007, resulting in over 22,000 deaths. Compared to 2006, attacks remained approximately the same in 2007 while deaths rose by 1,800, a 9 percent increase from last year’s number. As was the case in the previous two years, the largest number of reported attacks and deaths occurred in Near East and South Asia. These two regions accounted for about 87 percent of the 355 casualty attacks that killed 10 or more people—only 45 casualty attacks occurred in Africa, East Asia & Pacific, Europe & Eurasia, and Western Hemisphere.
The number injured during terror attacks rose in 2007, as compared with 2006, by 15 percent; this is largely attributed to a more than doubling of the reported injuries in Africa from 2006. Kidnappings in 2007 fell two-thirds, with the largest decline in Nepal where peace negotiations during the year apparently curtailed hostage taking by 95 percent.
The perpetrators of over 9,200 terrorist attacks (64 percent of total attacks) in 2007 could not be determined from open source information. Of the remaining attacks, as many as 130 various subnational groups—many of them well-known foreign terrorist organizations—or clandestine agents were connected to an attack in various ways, including as a claimant, as the accused, or as the confirmed perpetrator. In most instances, open source reporting contains little confirmed or corroborating information that identifies the organizations or individuals responsible for a terrorist attack. In many reports, attackers are alleged to be tied to local or well-known terrorist groups but there is little subsequent reporting that verifies these connections. Pinpointing attackers becomes even more difficult as extremist groups splinter or merge with others, make false claims, or deny allegations.
No terrorist attack occurred last year that approached the sophistication of planning and preparations that were characteristic of the 9/11 attacks. However, open source reporting alleges that Islamic extremists played an important role in a 2007 UK bombing plot that was foiled when vehicle bombs were discovered outside several night clubs, as well as a disrupted German bombing plot that targeted American interests. Reporting points to a steadfast al-Qa'ida that is planning attacks in northwest Pakistan and was able to expand its propaganda campaign in 2007 to invigorate supporters, win converts, and gain recruits while its al-Qa’ida linked groups carried out several successful attacks.
Types of Attacks
As was the case in 2006, most 2007 attacks were perpetrated by terrorists applying conventional fighting methods such as bombs and weapons including small arms. However, technology continues to empower terrorists and effective methods of attack are offsetting countermeasures against terrorism. Terrorists continued their practice of coordinated attacks including secondary attacks on first responders at attack sites with uniquely configured weapons and other materials to create improvised explosive devices (IED), including the introduction of chemical IEDs in 2007.
Victims and Targets of Attacks
As was the case in 2006, substantial numbers of victims of terrorist attacks in 2007 were Muslim.
Open source reporting identified approximately 70 percent of the approximately 67,000 killed or injured victims as “civilians,” and therefore actual tallies of significant types of victims cannot be specifically determined. However, the reporting does yield some insights about the demographics of these victims.
In addition to the human toll, over 19,000 facilities were struck or were targets of terrorist attacks last year. Since the data’s baseline in 2005, the most common types of properties damaged or destroyed during an attack were vehicles and residences, but in 2007 communities were frequently attacked, an approximate increase of 45 percent, from just over 930 attacks in 2006 to well over 1,300 attacks in 2007. The percentage of attacks for other types of property damage or destruction, such as those associated with energy, transportation, education, government, and other enterprises, remain at single digit levels with a few notable exceptions.
An Academic’s Perspective of Statistical Data
The full letter of Dr. Laitin is available in the 2007 NCTC Report on Terrorism, available via the Internet at www.nctc.gov.
Terrorism Deaths, Injuries, Kidnappings of Private U.S. Citizens, 2007
The term "Private U.S. Citizen" refers to any U.S. citizen not acting in an official capacity on behalf of the U.S. Government; therefore these figures do not include, for example, U.S. military personnel killed or injured in a terrorism-related incident while on active duty or employees of the Department of State and other federal agencies. Members of U.S. Government employees’ households are considered private U.S. citizens.
Although every effort was made to include all terrorism-related deaths and injuries involving private U.S. citizens, the figures below reflect only those cases reported to, or known by, the U.S. Department of State, and may not reflect actual numbers of injured, which may not always be reported depending on their severity. As NCTC also notes, in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is particularly difficult to gather comprehensive information about all incidents and to distinguish terrorism from the numerous other forms of violence.
U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 19
TERRORISM DEATHS OF PRIVATE U.S. CITIZENS IN 2007 (BY COUNTRY)
TERRORISM KIDNAPPINGS OF PRIVATE U.S. CITIZENS IN 2007 (BY COUNTRY)
Source: US Department of State.