Yearbook Terrorism

Database "Terrorist Attacks Worldwide" and Yearly Volume "Terrorism Yearbook" (german: Jahrbuch Terrorismus)


With the September 11, 2001 attacks the phenomenon of terrorism eventually became one of the focus points of security policy. Today, more than 15 years later, global terrorism continues to be a very pressing issue. Attacks like in Madrid 2004, London 2005, San Bernadino and Paris 2015 as well as Brussels, Nice and Berlin 2016 prove unequivocally that the West still faces a serious terrorist threat. In parts of the Middle East and Africa the situation even is significantly more severe: in a nexus of state failure, extremist ideologies and resource allocation conflicts terrorism has become a preferred method of warfare – with disastrous consequences. Horrific conflicts like the ones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan are the main reason why the global death toll from terrorist attacks has more than quintupled since 2000.Islamist-extremist and jihadist terrorism remains the main challenge, but this fact should not distract from the danger that ethno-nationalist groups like the Turkish PKK, right-wing extremist attackers in Europe and the U.S. or left-wing extremist groups like the Indian Maoists pose to their respective societies.

The research project

It was against this backdrop that the ISPK started the research project “Terrorism Yearbook” in 2006. A decade of what became known as the “War on Terror” – costly both in terms of human lives and resources – has shown that terrorism cannot be easily beaten. In fact, shortsighted policies and counterproductive approaches have caused more harm than good. The “Terrorism Yearbook” aims at analyzing the terrorist threat in all its forms, pointing out trends and reflecting on policy measures with scientific validity and reliability, all while maintaining independence from the sentiments and hastiness of day-to-day politics. However, it would be equally suboptimal to treat terrorism exclusively as an object of academic research, thereby denying its practical relevance. Therefore, it is also the objective of the “Terrorism Yearbook” to craft comprehensible risk assessments and policy recommendations that are based on facts and data.

Since its first volume was published in 2006, the “Yearbook Terrorism” hast gained much respect among experts and by now belongs to leading publication series on security policy in the German-speaking countries. Nationally and internally acclaimed experts like Peter Neumann, Guido Steinberg, Stig Jarle Hansen, Cristoph Reuter and John Nagl have contributed to the project. For its continuous examination of the topic of terrorism the project was awarded the Civic Engagement Award by the Annette Barthelt Foundation in 2017.

The database

The project “Terrorism Yearbook” consistsof two parts, the first one being a database of terrorist incidents worldwide. It is a common criticism that – relative to the importance of the issue in the public discourse – we lack solid numbers on which to base accurate quantitative assessments. Since 2006 the ISPK collects information on the location, victims, targets, perpetrators and means of terrorist attacks in order to address this desideratum. This undertaking is unique in the German-speaking countries. To give an example, from 2012 to 2015 17,717 incidents were coded in twelve to sixteen categories, which makes for a dataset with about a quarter of a million fields.

Continuous data collection can contribute to the detection of trends or the evaluation of counter-terrorist measures. For example, in 2006 and 2007 the rising numbers of incidents were a warning sign for the subsequent political destabilization of Thailand. Similarly, declining numbers illustrate the positive interrelation between security situation and peace negotiations in Columbia in recent years. An overview of the incident count, affected countries, body counts, perpetrators and means is published in each edition of the Terrorism Yearbook in the form of numbers and graphics. Furthermore, one chapter always addresses the methodological challenges as well as the possibilities and limitations of quantitative terrorism studies.

Since 2017 the ISPK offers free online access to its georeferenced database for all interested users. Incidents can be searched and filtered by means of different criteria, locations and hotspots can be displayed on an interactive map. At the moment, the online access is limited to the 2014 and 2015 dataset. Current datasets will be added later.

Link to the map

The publication

The second part of the project are in-depth qualitative analyses that take the form of chapters in the by now seven volumes of the Terrorism Yearbook. These contributions – authored by academic experts and practioners alike – are divided into four topics: the discussion of current and general trends, regional analyses of (potential) terrorist hotspots, policy issues in dealing with terrorism, and finally theoretical and methodological considerations regarding terrorism studies.

Of course the “Terrorism Yearbook” analyzes pressing developments related to terrorism in all their complexity, like for instance the rise of the so-called Islamic State, but it also intentionally provides the space to discuss less prominent topics, like terrorism in Iran or the role of Christian militias in the Syrian civil war. Just like the quantitative part, the qualitative analyses place high value on continuity: new developments, changes, progress and setbacks in important regions and aspects – like for instance Afghanistan and the German engagement in the country –are covered in every volume of the yearbook – regardless of whether this mirrors the current public interest.

Link to the newest volume



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