Global Suicide Terrorism Hits Record High in 2016
Last year was the deadliest recorded for suicide bombings, with more than 5,650 people killed worldwide.
According to the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, 800 perpetrators carried out 469 suicide attacks in 28 countries.
According to its report, the number of suicide bombings rose 45 percent in the Middle East in 2016 over the preceding year (298 bombings in 2016, compared with 207 in 2015), and the number of suicide bombers and victims also rose significantly (513 suicide terrorists and approximately 3,915 fatalities in 2016, compared with 353 suicide terrorists and 2,294 fatalities in 2015). The vast majority of the suicide bombings in the region (about 90 percent) were carried out by the Islamic State and its affiliated organizations
A steep rise in the number of suicide bombings was also noted in Turkey (21 bombings in 2016, compared with five in 2015) and Yemen (34 in 2016, compared with 13 in 2015). Turkey’s involvement in the fighting in Syria, combined with the internal conflict with the Kurdish minority in that country, made Turkey a target for deadly suicide bombings by both the Islamic State (9) and the Kurdish underground (12). The escalation in Yemen is partly attributable to competition for dominance in the region between the Islamic State, which was responsible for 13 bombings, the report said, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which carried out 14 bombings. Isolated suicide bombings also took place in Saudi Arabia (4), Egypt (4), Jordan (2), and Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Israel (1 each).
In comparison with the rise in the number of suicide bombings in the Middle East, the report noted that the number of bombings in southern Asia dropped (78 bombings in 2016, compared with 95 in 2015). This region has been a key theater of suicide bombings, mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for more than a decade. Yet despite the fall in the number of terrorist bombings in Afghanistan in 2016 (52, compared with 69 in 2015) and Pakistan (20, compared with 24 in 2015), the bombings became more deadly: in Afghanistan there were 500 fatalities in 2016, compared with 400 in 2015, and in Pakistan there were 382 fatalities in 2016, compared with 220 in 2015. Additional bombings took place in Indonesia (3), Russia (3), India (2), Kyrgyzstan (1), China (1), and Bangladesh (1). Most of the suicide bombings in southern Asia were committed by the Afghan Taliban (39), the Pakistani Taliban (12) and the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar Pakistani organization (5). In addition, for the first time since it was founded, the Islamic State launched suicide bombings in this region (13 in Afghanistan and 3 in Pakistan). On August 8, 2016, in the framework of the inter-organizational rivalry, both the Islamic State and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took responsibility for the suicide bombing in a hospital in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, which claimed over 90 lives.
The number of suicide bombings in Africa (in countries that are not classified as part of the Middle East) also declined: 86 bombings in 2016, compared with 144 in 2015, a 40 percent drop. The main reason was a steep decline in bombings carried out by the Boko Haram organization in Nigeria (37 bombings in 2016, compared with 96 in 2015), and Chad (1 bombing, compared with 8 in 2015), with a slight insignificant increase in Cameroon (15 bombings, compared with 13 in 2015). The decrease is attributable to the success of the campaign against Boko Haram led by the new regime in Nigeria, backed by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISON) coalition. In Somalia, where the al-Shabaab group affiliated with al-Qaeda has been active for years, 29 suicide bombings were carried out in 2016, compared with 18 bombings in the preceding year. Most of these bombings were against military targets of the AMISON force. Three bombings were also carried out by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali, compared with 4 bombings in 2015, and the Islamic State staged 1 bombing in Kenya.
The involvement of women in the suicide bombings in 2016 was again significant: 44 suicide bombings were carried out during the year with the involvement of 77 women in 8 countries around the world, causing the death of approximately 400 people. Although the number of suicide bombings carried out by women fell sharply, compared with the record number of 118 suicide bombings in 2015, the report noted that the use of women as suicide terrorists expanded in 2016, primarily in theaters in which they had not previously operated: France, Austria, Morocco, Libya, Bangladesh, and Indonesia (most of these operations were foiled by the security forces).
Western Europe became a more active theater for suicide bombings in 2016. Signs of this trend emerged already in late 2015 in a series of bombings in Paris in November that marked the first fulfillment of the Islamic State’s threat to strike in the heart of Europe. Suicide bombings took place in Belgium and Germany in 2016, and a number of attempted suicide bombings were foiled.
In conclusion, the report said "It appears that suicide terrorism will be a key tool for the Islamic State in consolidating its image as unconquerable, creating deterrence against its enemies, and taking revenge for the international activity against it."