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Deaths Fall but the Right Wing Rises

Although the world’s riskiest countries for terrorism remain quite dangerous this year, there have been a few more promising trends when it comes to terrorism, according to the 2019 Terrorism Risk Insurance Market Report recently issued by JLT—a global risk management brokerage firm.

One of these more positive trends is the recent near total collapse of the Islamic State (ISIS). By March 2019, the self-described ISIS caliphate no longer controlled territory; at its peak, the militant group held territory about the size of Portugal.

A month later in April, ISIS’ fugitive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appeared in a propaganda video for the first time in five years. In the video, al-Baghdadi acknowledged the militant group’s defeat in its last organized stronghold in the eastern Syrian desert in the town of Baghuz. Moreover, some experts say al-Baghdadi’s control of ISIS has been weakened due to an internal leadership struggle.

The collapse of ISIS is reflected in the decrease in their large-scale terrorist attacks, defined as attacks that result in more than 100 killed. In 2018, ISIS committed two such large scale attacks—bombings in Pakistan and Syria that both took place in July 2018. But by end of August this year, ISIS had committed no large-scale attacks in 2019.

Still, while no longer able to control territory, ISIS is believed to be regrouping in towns and villages on both sides of the Syrian border, and the group is planning to revert to the insurgency-style tactics it used after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, experts say.

As of May 2019, the five riskiest countries for terrorist attacks were Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, according to the JLT report. That top five is similar—but not identical—to the list in 2018 when the riskiest countries were Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

On a worldwide basis, however, the number of people killed in terrorist incidents continues to fall, according to data from Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre by IHS Markit. In 2018, the latest year for which all data is in, the number of lives lost due to terrorism fell to 13,570 from 18,466 in 2017. The 2018 figure is close to the 10-year low of 13,561 lives lost in 2010, and far below the 10-year high of 45,081 in 2014.

Globally, religious extremism is expected to remain the primary terrorism threat, but in Western countries the threat from the extreme right-wing (ERW) is strengthening, the JLT report says.

The success of hard-right political parties spurred an increase in attacks by lone wolves inspired by far-right ideology.