National Counterterrorism Center: Annex of Statistical Information

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
August 5, 2010

Information Cut Off Date: March 19, 2010

Developing Statistical Information

Consistent with its statutory mission to serve as the United States government's knowledge bank on international terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is providing the Department of State with required statistical information to assist in the satisfaction of its reporting requirements under Section 2656f of title 22 of the US Code (USC).


This statute requires the State Department to include in its annual report on terrorism "to the extent practicable, complete statistical information on the number of individuals, including United States citizens and dual nationals, killed, injured, or kidnapped by each terrorist group during the preceding calendar year." While NCTC keeps statistics on the annual number of incidents of "terrorism," its ability to track the specific groups responsible for each incident involving killings, kidnappings, and injuries is significantly limited by the availability of reliable open source information, particularly for events involving small numbers of casualties. Moreover, specific details about victims, damage, perpetrators, and other incident elements are frequently not fully reported in open source information.


  • The statistical material in this report, therefore, is drawn from the incidents of "terrorism" that occurred in 2009 as reported in open source information, which is the most comprehensive body of information available to NCTC for compiling data that it can provide to satisfy the above-referenced statistical requirements.


This Annex is provided for statistical purposes only. The statistical information contained in the Annex is based on factual reports from a variety of open sources that may be of varying credibility. Any assessments regarding the nature of the incidents or the factual circumstances thereof are offered only as part of the analytic work product of the National Counterterrorism Center. Nothing in this report should be construed as a determination that individuals associated with the underlying incidents are guilty of terrorism or any other criminal offense. As with all entries in the Worldwide Incident Tracking System, the statistical information will be modified, as necessary and appropriate, when and if the underlying incidents are finally adjudicated.


In deriving its figures for incidents of terrorism, NCTC in 2005 adopted the definition of "terrorism" that appears in the 22 USC § 2656f(d)(2), i.e., "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."


NCTC posts information in the repository for the US government's database on terror attacks, the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS). WITS is accessible on the NCTC website at for the public to have an open and transparent view of the NCTC data. A detailed description of the methodology and counting rules is also available on the website, as is a geospatial tool to allow mapping of the data. NCTC will ensure that the data posted to the website is updated as often as necessary by regularly posting information about new or prior attacks.


Tracking and analyzing terrorist incidents can help us understand some important characteristics about terrorism, including the geographic distribution of attacks and information about the perpetrators, their victims, and other details. Year-to-year changes in the gross number of attacks across the globe, however, may tell us little about the international community's effectiveness either for preventing these incidents, or for reducing the capacity of terrorists to advance their agenda through violence against the innocent.



Incidents of Terrorism Worldwide*
  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Attacks worldwide 11,023 14,443 14,435 11,725 10,999
Attacks resulting in at least 1 death, injury, or kidnapping 7,963 11,278 11,097 8.411 7,875
Attacks resulting in the death of at least 1 individual 5,083 7,412 7,235 5,045 4,764
Attacks resulting in the death of 0 individuals 5,940 7,031 7,200 6,680 6,235
Attacks resulting in the death of only 1 individual 2,853 4,127 3,984 2,870 2,694
Attacks resulting in the death of at least 10 individuals 226 295 353 234 234
Attacks resulting in the injury of at least 1 individual 3,805 5,774 6,243 4,869 4,536
Attacks resulting in the kidnapping of at least 1 individual 1,156 1,343 1,156 961 877


People killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terrorism 74,327 74,616 71,856 54,653 58,142
People worldwide killed as a result of terrorism 14,482 20,515 22,736 15,727 14,971
People worldwide injured as a result of terrorism 24,795 38,314 44,139 34,057 34,057
People worldwide kidnapped as a result of terrorism 35,050 15,787 4,981 4,869 4,869


Incidents of Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan*
  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Terrorist attacks in Iraq 3,438 6,631 6,210 3,256 2,458
Attacks resulting in at least 1 death, injury, or kidnapping 2,648 5,910 5,507 2,878 2,167
People killed, injured, or kidnapped as a result of terrorism 20,629 38,878 44,012 19,077 16,869


Terrorist attacks in Afghanistan 494 962 1,124 1,222 2,126
Attacks resulting in at least 1 death, injury, or kidnapping 357 667 898 982 1,480
People killed, injured, or kidnapped as a result of terrorism 1,557 3,532 4,657 5,430 7,584


NCTC Observations Related to Terrorist Incidents Statistical Material

Approximately 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries during 2009, resulting in over 58,000 victims, including nearly 15,000 fatalities. Attacks decreased by about six percent in 2009 and deaths by about 5 percent. This marks the second consecutive year for declines for both attacks and fatalities. Unlike the preceding four years where the Near East witnessed the largest number of attacks, the largest number of reported terrorist attacks in 2009 occurred in South Asia, which also had, for the second consecutive year, the greatest number of fatalities. Together, South Asia and the Near East were the locations for almost 2/3rds of the 234 high-casualty attacks (those that killed 10 or more people) in 2009.


  • Of the 10,999 reported attacks, about 4,850, or 44 percent, occurred in South Asia these attacks accounted for approximately 6,270 fatalities, or 42 percent of the worldwide total in 2009. Attacks in Afghanistan nearly doubled from 2008 and increased in Pakistan for the third consecutive year.
  • Another 30 percent of the attacks occurred in the Near East with attacks in Iraq accounting for three-fourths of these incidents. Compared with 2008, attacks in Iraq declined by nearly one-quarter, continuing an ongoing decline since August of 2007. Since 2005, Iraq continues to be the single country with the most attacks and fatalities due to terrorism.
  • Almost 700 of the 850 reported attacks in Africa were associated with turmoil in the Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Compared with 2008, attacks in Africa rose by 140 (19 percent) and fatalities increased by over 250 (eight percent).
  • The number of reported attacks in 2009 increased in the Western Hemisphere by about 27 percent, mostly attributable to increases in Colombia; in East Asia and the Pacific the number of reported attacks declined by 16 percent, mostly attributable to declines in the Philippines.


Sunni extremists were identified with about one-half of all attacks in 2009. Almost 90 groups were associated with these attacks. According to open source reports, the Taliban, more than any other group, claimed credit for the largest number of attacks and the most fatalities. Al-Shabaab was the second deadliest group, followed by al-Qa’ida in Iraq as the third deadliest group.


Largest Sunni extremist attacks

  • On October 25, 2009, al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed155 people including 24 children, and wounded 720 in a double suicide VBIED attack in Baghdad, Iraq
  • On December 8, 2009, al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed 127 people including 12 students, and wounded 513 others in multiple suicide VBIED attack in Baghdad, Iraq
  • On October 28, 2009, Sunni extremists killed 117 people, and injured 200 others in a VBIED attack in Peshawar, North-West Frontier, Pakistan
  • On August 19, 2009, al-Qa’ida in Iraq killed 101 people, and wounded 1,200 others in a coordinated SVBIED and VBIED attack in Baghdad, Iraq.
  • On May 10, 2009, Sunni extremists killed 88 people and wounded 245 others including several journalists in mortar attacks in Mogadishu, Banaadir, Somalia


Other notable Sunni extremist attacks

  • On February 9, 2009, the Taliban killed 15 including 11 children, and wounded 15 others in a mortar attack on a school in Darra Adam Khel, North-West Frontier, Pakistan
  • On August 27, 2009, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula slightly wounded the Saudi minister of the interior for security affairs in a suicide bombing in Jiddah, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
  • On November 27, 2009, Caucasus Emirate killed 39 people and wounded 95 others in an IED attack against a passenger train near Bologoye, Tverskaya Oblast', Russia
  • On December 25, 2009 Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab injured 1 person when he allegedly detonated an IED that malfunctioned on a flight over Detroit, Michigan, United States


Of the remaining incidents, as many as 150 groups were identified as perpetrators. The largest non-Sunni attacks include the following:

  • On January 17, 2009, the Lord’s Resistance Army killed approximately 400 people in assault and incendiary attacks near Tora, Orientale, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • On May 9, 2009, the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) killed 86 people including 25 children, and wounded 24 others including 1 child in an assault and armed attack in Nord-Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • On November 23, 2009, Ampatuan clan members killed 66 people including 34 journalists in armed attack in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Philippines and Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao, Philippines

Types of Attacks

Most attacks in 2009 were perpetrated by terrorists applying conventional methods such as armed attacks, bombings, and kidnappings. Drawing on the lessons learned from the Mumbai attack in 2008, Sunni extremist elements used suicidal militia style attacks in numerous large scale attacks in 2009. Terrorists continued their practice of coordinated attacks that included secondary attacks on first responders at attack sites; they also continued to reconfigure weapons and other materials to create improvised explosive devices, and used women and children to evade security counter-measures.


  • Suicide attacks declined from 405 in 2008 to 299 in 2009. This was largely due to declining violence in Iraq. A total of 13 countries experienced suicide attacks in 2009. The country with highest number of suicide bombings was Afghanistan with 99, followed by Pakistan with 84, and Iraq with 82.
  • Attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for about 60 percent of all terrorist attacks.
  • Al-Qa’ida in Iraq used dual suicide bombers to target the residence of an anti-terrorism police official and first responders and on-lookers, killing 12 police officers, 24 civilians, and wounding 83 civilians and children.
  • Attacks by female suicide bombers declined significantly from 2008, accounting for only seven of the 299 total suicide attacks. Three of these attacks occurred in Iraq, two in Sri Lanka, and two in Russia.
  • In Thailand, Muslim separatists used a woman and child to park VBIEDs in an effort to avoid suspicion and security procedures.

Victims and Targets of Attacks

As has been the case since 2005, substantial numbers of victims of terrorist attacks in 2009 were Muslim.


  • Almost 58,000 individuals worldwide were either killed or injured by terrorist attacks in 2009. Based upon a combination of reporting and demographic analysis of the countries involved, well over 50 percent of the victims were Muslims, and most were victims of Sunni extremist attacks.


Open source reporting largely identifies victims as civilians – approximately two-thirds of almost 48,000 killed or injured. As such, the fidelity of victim types is difficult to obtain, but the fragmented reporting on it does yield some insights about the demographics of these victims.


  • Police officers are a favored terrorist target, accounting for 14 percent of the total killed and wounded in 2009.
  • Government officials, employees and contractors killed and wounded from terrorist attacks doubled from 2008 and accounted for five percent of the total victims.
  • The press experienced its single worst day in history on November 23rd in a terrorist massacre in the Philippines that killed 34 members of the media, the largest number of reporters ever killed in a single incident.


An Academic’s Perspective on Open Source Event Data


The Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS) data provided in the National Counterterrorism Center's Report on Terrorism is the triumph of empirical analysis over primal fear of terrorism and impulses to react rashly. The NCTC mission statement, which emphasizes analysis and information sharing, paves the way for such an approach to thinking about terrorism and developing effective counterterrorism strategy. Terrorism is difficult to analyze for several reasons. The broad variety of types of terrorism, the tendency for terrorists to operate outside of predictable patterns, and the unknown relationship between cases reported in the open source arena and actual terrorist incidents, stand as barriers to a full understanding of the phenomena. News reporter Lincoln Steffens's account of creating the impression of a crime wave in New York in the early 20th century just by changing his reporting practices is a cautionary tale against the temptation to put too much faith in the reliability of open source data. Despite these limitations, the NCTC data set provides vital starting points to overcome the barriers that can impede useful empirical analysis toward the prevention of terrorism. Our thinking about terrorism can be organized by establishing the causal drivers behind the lethality and frequency of terrorist incidents, with help from coherent models like the routine activities theory and games theory. Thoughtful analysis of the best data available is no panacea, but enlightened approaches to counterterrorism can substantially reduce the risk of lapses in our ongoing attempts to prevent terrorism.

Brian Forst, American University
March 12, 2010


The full letter of Dr. Brian Forst is available in the 2009 NCTC Report on Terrorism, available via the Internet at


* Incidents are limited to attacks against non-combatant targets. 2005 to 2008 numbers were updated since last year’s publication on the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System at