Targets of jihadist terrorism: an overview on fifteen years of attacks in the West

City busses in London, the Boston marathon, the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Brussels Airport and the Christmas market in Berlin. The  apparent connection between these locations is that they have all been a target of jihadist terrorist attacks.

Over the past fifteen years there have been 112 jihadist terrorist attacks in several Western countries.

The AIVD publication 'Insight into targets: fifteen years of jihadist attacks in the West' offers an insight into the actual targets of jihadist terrorism in the period from January 2004 until December 2018.

Factual account

This publication provides insight in the targets of jihadist terrorism by studying the attacks in the West of the past fifteen years.

It contains a factual account of the amount of attacks, the geographical distribution, which targets were affected the most, differences between countries and the means of attack.

The aim of this publication is to provide objective knowledge on the targets of jihadist terrorist attacks in the West.

Most attacks occurred in the last five years

Of the 112 attacks carried out in the West in the past fifteen years, three quarters of these attacks occurred in the last five years. This coincides with the rise of ISIS and the fact that from 2014 onward ISIS leadership began to call on its sympathisers in the West to carry out attacks.

In the period from January 2004 until December 2018, fourteen Western countries have had to deal with attacks:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Finland
  • France
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Sweden

Of these countries, France has had to bear the brunt of jihadist terrorism: 27% of all attacks in the West took place there. France is followed by the United States (20%), and then the United Kingdom (13%), and Germany (10%).

In total, 70% of all attacks of the past fifteen years in the West took place in these four countries.

Preference for easily accessible targets

The vast majority of the attacks was aimed at easily approachable or accessible targets with little to no surrounding security measures.

In the past fifteen years a third of all attacks in the West occurred in freely accessible public locations where the victims were random passers-by or other people in the area.

Increase in the use of stabbing weapons and vehicles

In the past fifteen years, 41% of all attacks was committed with a stabbing weapon, such as a knife. For 26% of attacks, explosives, such as IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and pipe bombs were used. In a quarter of cases, a firearm was the means of attack.

In the past five years explosives became less frequent as a means of attack, whereas the use of stabbing weapons and vehicles were on the rise.

You can download this AIVD-publication by clicking on the link below.