After the horrible events that happened yesterday in Paris and the mass of instant analyses by more or less reliable experts that swamped the news media, I started wondering whether there was some data out there to put these events in perspective. I had a look at the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, which compiles all terrorist acts all over the world since 1970. Here are a few graphs drawing on this data.
This is by far the worst terrorist act on French soil. I actually still remember the bombings in Paris by the GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé) in the mid-1990s during the Algerian war, but the number of people killed was only a fraction of what happened yesterday. The number of wounded is also unprecedented. Terrorist acts were however much more frequent in the 1980s. Until this Friday, the most deadly terrorist attack in France was the bombing of the Strasbourg-Paris train on June 18 1961 by the OAS, the paramilitary organisation opposing Algerian Independence, which caused 28 deaths and 100 injured.
The West European country with the biggest number of casualties due to terrorism since 1970 is the United Kingdom. More than 3’000 people died and more than 5’000 were injured in terrorist acts between 1970 and 2014. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were the main responsible for this, but there was also the Lockerbie bombing, in which 243 people died. The second is Spain (ETA, but also the Atocha bombings in 2004).
3. Suicide attacks are completely uncommon in Europe. In terms of people killed, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and more recently Syria are the countries where the largest number of people die due to suicide attacks. As a share of all terrorist acts, however, suicide attacks are more common in East Asia. The following graphs are based on data for 2011-2014.