Think tank: 2017 saw fewer suicide attacks, increase in female bombers

As in previous years, ISIS was the leading source of these attacks.

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January 9, 2018 07:26
2 minute read.
Think tank: 2017 saw fewer suicide attacks, increase in female bombers

Somali security officers assess the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion, at the gate of Naso Hablod Two Hotel in Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu, Somalia October 29, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

There were fewer suicide attacks in 2017 than in recent years, but with more female bombers, INSS reported on Sunday.

The report, written by INSS terrorism expert and former counterterrorism adviser to the prime minister Yoram Schweitzer and INSS researcher Aviad Mendelboim, said that “suicide attacks remain one of the most effective tools available to terrorist organizations to achieve their objectives.”

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There were 348 suicide attacks carried out in 23 countries throughout the world by 623 terrorists in 2017, the report said. That was the lowest number of suicide attacks since 2013.

There were 469 suicide attacks in 2016, 452 in 2015 and 592 in 2014, the report said. Approximately 4,310 people were killed and 6,700 people were wounded in suicide attacks last year.

As in previous years, ISIS was the leading source of these attacks, with the report “crediting” ISIS with 220 attacks, or 63% of the attacks worldwide.

“Suicide attacks remain one of the most effective tools available to terrorist organizations to achieve their objectives,” as they are “particularly lethal and create a profound feeling of helplessness among the affected public,” the authors wrote.

This allows the groups “that deploy the suicide bombers [to] build an image of power that is far greater than their actual power,” the report said.

Number of suicide attacks by year (credit: INSS)

Schweitzer and Mendelboim noted that ISIS’s media outlets proclaimed it was responsible for a much higher number of suicide attacks – 771 suicide attacks in 2017 in Syria and Iraq alone. But they disputed that figure as propaganda or indicated that their report only “credited” a suicide attack where it was verified by at least two different independent sources, and a coordinated suicide attack on multiple adjacent targets was counted as one attack.

In Iraq and Syria, where the largest number of suicide attacks occurred, and Libya, there was a significant drop of about 50% in the number of suicide attacks in 2017 – “a trend that may be attributed to the weakening of the Islamic State in these territories in late 2016,” the report said.

Of those committing suicide attacks, 137 were women and girls – the highest number of female suicide bombers since women began participating in suicide attacks.

The “most striking statistic this year is the increased involvement of females, including women, children, and teenage girls, in suicide attacks,” the report said.

In 2017, 137 women took part in 61 suicide attacks in six countries, compared with 77 women the previous year and 118 women in 2015, it said. About 333 people were killed during these attacks.

Around 126 of the women, or 92%, who operated in Africa were affiliated with Boko Haram, the report said.

The numbers could be even higher, with ISIS claiming it deployed 38 female suicide bombers in the battle of Mosul in Iraq. But the INSS report’s more restrictive methodology recorded only seven female suicide bombers in Iraq in 2017.

Although no suicide attacks were carried out in Israel in 2017, 13 suicide attacks planned by Palestinian terrorist organizations were thwarted, the report said, quoting Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Nadav Argaman in his recent Knesset appearance.

“Despite the decline in the extent of the phenomenon relative to the previous year, suicide terrorism served as a weapon employed by paramilitary forces in their operations against state militaries” and “throughout the world against non-combatant civilians,” the report concluded.


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