Patterns in Terrorism in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia: 2007-2010

The Burke Chair has prepared two new reports on terrorism in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia: 2007-2010. These reports draw on unclassified US reporting by the National Counterterrorism Center and the US Department of State.

The first report is entitled Patterns in Terrorism in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia: 2007-2010,  and is available on the CSIS web site at

This report draws on an extensive modeling effort by Andrew C. Gagel.  It provides a statistical trend of the US count of terrorist actions by terrorist organization in each region and country, along with maps of the number and density of terrorist acts. These trends and developments are summarized in a short overview for each sub region.

The data on North Africa do not yet reflect the sudden wave of instability and unrest sweeping through the region. The data that are available, however, do reflect a sharp drop in the overall level of violent terrorism in the region, driven largely by the success of the Algerian regime in defeating extremist movements in the that country.

This does not mean that terrorism has been defeated. There still is significant violence in Algeria, and the shift on the part of several extremist groups to join under the title of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has created a new and more regional threat that extends into the SubSahara. As a result, AQIM has become the main perpetrator of terrorist violence, particularly in urban and suburban Algeria. 

The data on the Middle East show that it remains a major center of global terrorism that involves every country in the region. The NCTC data show that terrorist violence is driven by a wide range of groups, including semi-secular movements, Sunni and Shi’ite extremist groups, and Jewish extremist groups. As is the case throughout this analysis, the NCTC data sharply underreport the total level of violence because of the difficulties in defining and counting the role of state sponsors of terrorism and state terrorism that represses populations under the guise of internal security.

Active violence in Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, the West Bank, and, more importantly Iraq over the past four years has had a major impact on the region. Al-Qa’ida and its offshoots have been highly active as well as various Islamic groups in Gaza and Iraq including Hamas and the Islamic State of Iraq/Mujahideen Shura Council.  The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) also remained active in southern Turkey. 

Terrorist activity was also high in Central Asia and South Asia.  Unsurprisingly, terrorist activity was the highest in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, with India and Nepal also experiencing high rates of attacks. 
The data show that Taliban conducted the majority of known attacks in Afghanistan, killing, wounding, and kidnapping more Afghanis than any other group in the last four years.  Attacks were centered in Helmand province in the south and along the border with Pakistan in the east. The number of attacks in attacks in Afghanistan increased during each consecutive fighting season since 2007, spiking in the summer months and receding in the winter.

The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) accounted for the most of known attacks and deaths in Pakistan; however the majority of attacks were perpetrated entities not identified by the NCTC.  Other active groups in the country included the Balochistani-based Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Republican Army (BRA), but their attacks were not on the scale or scope of the Pakistani Taliban.  The data warn that instability in Pakistan is far broader than the threats relating to either the conflict in Afghanistan or tensions with India. Much of the threat is caused by internal, rather than external, instability.

The data also show that that India experienced a wide range of attacks from a wide range of both foreign and indigenous groups, mainly at the hands of Islamist extremists and Maoists. The most dangerous pattern of terrorism is clearly caused by terrorist groups with links to Pakistan—terrorism that could trigger a broader confrontation between India and Pakistan.

The second report is entitled US State Department and Counter-Terrorism Center Reporting Terrorism in the Middle East and Central Asia, August 2010, and is available on the CSIS web site

This document reformats the latest annual US State Department country reports on terrorism (, to provide a single source showing the reports for the entire Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia.

This report provides an overview of US government assessments of the role of given state and non-state actors in sponsoring or conducting terrorist activities. It also describes the role of other states in fight internal terrorism and in cooperating in the international struggle against terrorism.
As such, it provides both a useful overview of official unclassified US government views, and a basis for discussing ways to improve cooperation in counterterrorism and conduct a dialogue on different US, other country, international organization, and independent expert views of terrorism and who should be designated as a terrorist.

Andrew C. Gagel