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Global Terrorism Index: ISIS now ‘deadliest, wealthiest terror group’

Daesh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has intensified its activities in 2016 leading the Institute for Economics and Peace

Francesca Astorri

Published: Updated:

Daesh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has intensified its activities in 2016 leading the Institute for Economics and Peace to label it as the “deadliest and wealthiest terrorist group”.

This is one of the main findings of the 2016 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) that measures the impact of terrorism in 163 countries, covering over 99 percent of the world’s population.

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace that has released the 2016 GTI, ISIS generated an estimated $2bln in revenues in 2015, the majority of which from smuggling of oil (50 percent), taxes (30 percent) and traffic of antiquities (10 percent).

The Islamic State and groups that support it or are affiliated with it managed to more than double their presence around the world, being active in 28 countries in 2015, compared to 13 in 2014. Half of all plots with an ISIS connection have been conducted by people who have had no direct contact with ISIS, raising the issue of lone actors.

“At the end of 2015 ISIS controlled 6-8 million people in an area the size of Belgium, and maintained a force between 30,000-50,000 fighters while attracting the greatest number of foreign fighters in history” wrote Dr Christina Schori Liang, Senior Program Advisor and Senior Fellow, Emerging Security Challenges Program, at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), as expert contributor to the 2016 GTI report.

According to the results of the 2016 GTI, ISIS is also considered the deadliest terrorist group, having killed 6,141 people in 2015, followed by Boko Haram which accounts for 5,478 victims. ”As well as increased lethality, there was also an increase in the number of countries targeted by ISIS. ISIS conducted attacks in 11 countries in 2015, up from 6 countries the previous year. The group undertook attacks in 252 different cities in 2015” the GTI report states, adding that the majority of the attacks were against private citizens and property, accounting for 43 percent of all deaths. Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria are the countries with the highest impact of terrorism in the world, accounting for 72 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2015.

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, in 2015 the overall impact of terrorism increased by 6 percent with many countries experiencing an intensification of terrorism.

Terrorism is largely centralized in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa regions, but we faced a substantial increase in terrorism also in Western countries. According to 2016 GTI report, 2015 was the worst year for deaths from terrorism for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries aside from the September 11 attacks in 2001: 21 out of 34 OECD member States experienced a terrorist attack in 2015 with deaths from terrorism dramatically increased, rising by 650 percent when compared to 2014.

“Since World War Two the world is a much safer place, but in the last ten years world peace has declined and terrorism plays a crucial role in this trend” said Daniel Hyslop, Director of Research at the Institute for Economics and Peace, presenting the 2016 Global Terrorism Index on Tuesday in Rome, Italy.

Despite these terrifying figures, terrorism as a tactic of sustained mass destruction is considered to be ineffective as almost half of the terrorist attacks result with no casualties.

There are still many countries in the world which are untouched by terrorist activity: 71 countries did not experience an incident of terrorism in 2015. Between the countries with no impact of terrorism there are Oman, Poland, Malawi, Benin, Romania, Cuba, Costa Rica and Singapore.