Foreign Policy Blogs

Review of Maplecroft's “Terrorism Risk Index 2011”

UK based risk advisory company; Maplecroft has released its annual Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) for the year 2010-11.  The report released recently shows some important variations in the patterns of terrorist activities on the global scale.

A summary of the report released to this blog, indicates a notable increase of terrorism risk status of Greece and Russia. This is a prominent shift reflected in this year’s TRI when compared to the year report released by Maplecroft. Russia has moved up from medium risk category country into the high risk category. This, the report says, is primarily due to an increase in large-scale mass-casualty attacks carried out by separatists from the North Caucasus. The report indicates that March 2010 bombings on the Moscow Metro, for example, were the deadliest attacks on the city’s underground rail system and the first terrorist attack on Moscow’s Metro since 2004. In another attack in September 2010, a suicide car bomber detonated at the central market in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alania killing at least 17 and injuring more than 160.

However, the report indicates that the largest fall in rankings is in the case of Greece, which dropped from 57 to 24 to overtake Spain (27) and become the European country most at risk from terrorist attacks. The report agrees that not many people would expect Greece to emerge as a high risk country. However, the report says that the challenge Greece faces is from left-wing terrorism that has caused its increased risk profile. Between June 2009 and June 2010, the country experienced 180 attacks – more than took place in Yemen. Recently, small left-wing groups have re-emerged, attacking a range of targets. Attacks tend to be non-fatal, but they can be highly disruptive as was seen in early November 2010, when a series of parcel bombs were addressed to embassies in Athens as well as European leaders and institutions.

Another interesting trend that the TRI 2011 presents is in Yemen. The report says that Yemen saw a very significant increase in risk. It was included in the extreme risk category for the first time. This is due to an increase in the number of attacks on its soil as well as its use as a haven by al-Qaeda. Between June 2008 and June 2009, only 31 terrorist attacks were recorded in Yemen. This increased to a total of 109 attacks between June 2009 and June 2010. Yemen’s most infamous association with terrorism, however, is its apparent use as a haven for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP was behind an airliner bombing plot in December 2009 when a passenger attempted to set off plastic explosives on an international passenger flight from Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, USA. More recently, the group was behind a plot involving packages containing bombs sent from Yemen in cargo planes. Two were intercepted in the UK and Dubai.

The Terrorism Risk Index has been developed by Maplecroft, and comprises of three separate sub-indices: incidence – which calculates the frequency of attacks over a 12-month period (June 2009 – June 2010, the latest available data); intensity –a calculation of how lethal terrorist attacks are. The report indicates that in some countries like Greece for example, there have been a lot of small scale attacks that typically do not kill anyone. In other countries, like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan for example, terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many people as possible. The intensity index also counts the number of mass-casualty attacks per country. The third includes historical aspects– the historical component looks at a country’s past experience of terrorism, whether it has a long-standing militant group that has operated in the country, for instance, Colombia’s FARC which has been active since the 1960s. Based on these parameters the Index, released annually covers 196 countries.

The release from the company indicates that to maintain consistence in definition the data used for the analysis is taken up the US National Counter-terrorism Center’s Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (NCTC). The company agrees that terrorism by itself is hard to define, making it harder for analysts to review data. Hard still is the fact that the analysis of terror activities globally is influenced by various subjective factors. It agrees that there is “no universally agreed definition of terrorism and any attempt at defining such a politically-loaded word is bound to provoke debate.” Hence to overcome the ideological underpinnings that overstretch the definition of the phenomenon called terrorism, TRI adopts a very broad definition. For the purposes of the index, Maplecroft defines terrorism as “incidents in which sub-national or clandestine groups or individuals deliberately attack civilians or non-combatants (including military personnel and assets outside war zones and war-like settings).”

At a subjective level the report agrees that it is not always possible to determine an ideological motive for such attacks, nor the exact circumstances under which they occurred. The report notes that it is not always easy to distinguish where the perpetrators of the attacks are foreign nationals operating in a third country or are nationals from the same country where the attack takes place. Therefore, to capture the risk posed by al-Qaeda and other international Islamist groups, Maplecroft has introduced a component to the index which tracks whether a country has experienced an attack by al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab or similar, or whether it has been threatened by one of these groups.

The report draws up a list of countries that it considers to be at risk of an al-Qaeda attack (including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), or an attack by al-Shabaab or another international Islamist group. These countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Palestinian Occupied Territory, Somalia, Tajikistan, Uganda, USA, Uzbekistan and Yemen. The countries that have been threatened or have had failed plots by al-Qaeda or another international Islamist group include: Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Ethiopia, France, United Kingdom, Kenya, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Oman and Qatar. Further the report indicates the other countries that are considered to be at risk due to regional proximity of such extremists groups. These include; Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Tanzania and Nigeria.

The worst scoring on Maplecroft Terrorism Risk Index are sixteen countries rated as ‘extreme risk’ with Somalia (1), Pakistan (2), Iraq (3), Afghanistan (4), Palestinian Occupied Territories (5), Colombia (6), Thailand (7), Philippines (8), Yemen (9) and Russia (10). Maplecroft report found no major Western economies in the high or ‘extreme risk’ bracket; the United States (ranked 33 on the risk index), France (44) and the United Kingdom (46) all remain in the ‘medium-risk’ category. India is ranked 16 in the list, has been categorised as an ‘extreme risk’ nation in the index of global terror risk. “India experienced a total of 749 terrorist incidents between June 2009 and June 2010. This compares to 775 terrorist attacks between June 2008 and 2009, a year previously. Levels of terrorism in India have thus remained constant and the country’s ranking has remained in the extreme risk category,” the index explained. China rose to number 43 from number 54 due to an increase in the intensity of security incidents in 2008-09 compared to 2006-07. Iran rose to number 19 from number 25, due to insurgencies in Baluchistan and Khuzestan and rising anti-government sentiments and Egypt rose to number 54 from number 66, due to a spate of minor security incidents in late 2008 and early 2009.

Maplecroft's Analysis of Terror Risk Countries

Maplecroft's Analysis of Terror Risk Countries

Terrorism Blog wishes to thank Jason McGeown, Communications Manager at Maplecroft for kindly providing a summary of the TRI for this report.