We need to do more to curb terrorism in Africa

Over the weekend, terror organisation al-Shabaab killed 28 people on a bus in northern Kenya.

They asked travellers to recite passages from the Koran. They shot those who were unable to prove they were practising Muslims.

In his speech to the Australian parliament, Indian PM Narendra Modi pointed out that “terrorism has become a major threat for us all”, so we need a “comprehensive global strategy for a global problem”. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently chaired a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, calling on the international community to do more to tackle terrorism.

So it’s useful to look at the bigger picture of trends in global terrorism.

The best source is the just-released Global Terrorism Index 2014, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, founded and chaired by Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea. The index ranks 162 countries according to the impact of terrorism.

It uses four indicators to measure the impact of terrorism: the number of terrorist incidents, the number of deaths, the number of casualties and the level of property damage.

The problem is getting worse: the number of lives lost to terrorist attacks increased by 61 per cent last year, rising from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013.

There’s been a 44 per cent increase in the number of terrorist incidents, rising from 6825 in 2012 to 9814 in the same period.

Explosives accounted for the majority of these attacks. Suicide bombings accounted for less than 5 per cent

In 2012, the top six terrorist groups were all of the Islamist type. They accounted for almost half of all terrorist fatalities in the world. Last year, all of the most lethal terrorist groups in the world were Islamist organisations, including the Taliban in Afghanistan, IS (in Iraq and Syria), Tehrik-e-Taleban (Pakistan), Boko Haram (Nigeria), Lashkar-e-Jangvi (Pakistan), Djabhat an-Nusrah (Syria), and al-Shabab (Somalia).

Eighty two per cent of all deaths from terrorist attack last year occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. Iraq is the country most impacted by terrorism, with 2492 attacks last year killing 6362 people. That represents a 164 per cent increase from 2012. IS was responsible for most of those deaths.

Last year, 24 countries experienced terrorist attacks that killed more than 50 people. Eight OECD countries recorded deaths from terrorism: Turkey, Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Israel, Czech Republic and Chile.

In 2013, there were 3721 attacks recorded in the rest of the world killing 3236 people, an increase of over 50 per cent from the previous year. A total of 60 countries recorded deaths from terrorist attacks last year.

While Australia didn’t experience any deaths related to terrorism in the past year, curiously we tie with Angola, ranking 95 out of 124 on the global terrorism index this year.

Leaving aside this case, the index finds 13 countries are facing a greater risk of substantial terrorist activity: Angola, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

One clear message for Australia from the latest global terrorism index is the need for us to undertake more counter-terrorism work in Africa, a region where Islamist terror groups have growing reach.

We should send a military officer to serve with US Africa Command to help its counter- terrorism work. We have only one Australian defence attache on the continent That’s totally inadequate to cover security cooperation across 54 countries.

We should develop a special program on African counterterrorism working with appropriate NGOs and sponsor African educational institutions that compete with radical messages emitted from foreign-funded educational institutions.

We should invest in public diplomacy activities in Africa to promote universal values, while offering more police assistance.

Our federal police have only one Africa-based officer.

While it’s right that we’re fighting terrorism in the Middle East as a top 20 global power we should also make a contribution to building Africa’s resilience to the forces of international terrorism.

This article originally appeared in The Australian Financial Review. Image courtesy of Flickr user eirasi.

3 thoughts on “We need to do more to curb terrorism in Africa

    1. Hi Sykes, thanks for reading. The attack had occurred ‘last weekend’ when this article was originally published in the Australian Financial Review in November 2014. Apologies for any confusion.

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