Most active terrorists linked to al-Qaida

U. MARYLAND (US) — Only one of the 5,000 terrorist attacks in 2011 is attributed to al-Qaida Central, but more than half of the top 20 most active perpetrator groups in 2011 are linked to al-Qaida, new data shows.

The findings, released in the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD) at the University of Maryland, is the most comprehensive, unclassified database of terrorist incidents, and currently contains information on more than 104,000 domestic and international terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2011 that resulted in more than 225,000 deaths and more than 299,000 injuries.

The attacks are defined as the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.


While only one of the attacks in 2011 was attributed to al-Qaida Central—the August kidnapping of Maryland native Warren Weinstein in Pakistan—11 of the top 20 most active groups are linked to al-Qaida.

Those groups alone carried out more than 780 attacks that resulted in more than 3,000 deaths and wounded more than 4,600.

Al-Qaida-linked groups were responsible for four of the top five most lethal attacks in 2011:

  • al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen, March 28: 110 killed, 45 injured
  • Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Pakistan, May 13: 80 killed, 140 injured
  • al-Shabaab, Somalia, October 4: 70 killed, 42 injured
  • al-Qaida in Iraq, Iraq, March 29: 65 killed, 95 injured

“Total attacks in the GTD in 2011 continued an upward trajectory that began a decade ago, paced by the ongoing historic shift in attacks away from al-Qaida Central and toward its growing number of affiliates,” says Gary LaFree, professor of criminology and criminal justice and director of START.

Terrorist attacks in just five countries accounted for 70 percent of the terrorist attacks worldwide in 2011: Iraq (25.78 percent) ; Pakistan (19.96 percent); India (12.67 percent); Afghanistan (8.35 percent) and Russia (3.71 percent).

With the release of the 2011 data, for the first time, the START Consortium also released four decades of geocoded GTD data for eight regions of the world. The geocoding allows researchers to chart the city-level progression of attacks across global regions and specific terrorist groups and movements, including the spread of leftist violence in Europe in the 1970s; the diffusion of terrorism in Central American conflicts during the 1980s; the prevalence of ecoterrorism in the United States during the 1990s; and the contagion of terrorism in the Caucasus region during the 2000s. Geocoding for the remaining regions of the world is ongoing.

“The advent of satellite technology and geographic information systems is revolutionizing the study of crime, political violence, and terrorism,” LaFree says. “By releasing geocoded GTD data for the first time, we are making a down payment on what we hope will eventually be a fully geocoded Global Terrorism Database.”

The GTD team has also improved the quality of data from previous years, adding more than 1,500 new cases, removing cases that didn’t qualify for inclusion, and clarifying and supplementing data with new information in hundreds of other cases. For example, the Haqqani Network that is now recognized as an entity separate from the Taliban have been linked to 39 attacks since 2006.

Many of the new clarifications and improvements are based on tips from GTD users. START makes the GTD available through an online interface in an effort to increase understanding of terrorist violence so that it can be more readily studied and defeated.

START encourages users to submit appropriate updates, corrections or additions to the cases. Government officials and interested researchers may download the full dataset directly through the GTD Contact Form.

Source: University of Maryland