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Death by terrorism: regional counterterrorism responses

By Jo Coghlan - posted Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The U.S State Department has released its 2010 annual report on incidents of global terrorism in 2009. The U.S government relies on Worldwide Incidents Tracking System (WITS) data provided by the American National Counterterrorism Centre. The National Counterterrorism Centre themselves acknowledge it is difficult to categorise acts of terrorism because of the types of terrorism, the tendency for terrorists to operate outside of predictable patterns, and to establish a case for actual terrorist incidents that identifies the attackers and their motivations.

The United Nations defines terrorism as: "An anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action…for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons." The British Government's definition of terrorism is: "The use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear."

The U.S. government's 2010 report on 2009 terrorist attacks against non-combatants shows a decline in global terrorist attacks, a trend it has reported since 2006. In 2009, incidents of global terrorist attacks was 10 999. In 2006 incidents of global terrorism were 14 443, higher than the 2008 rate of 11 725. Similarly terrorist attacks resulting in at least one death, injury or kidnapping declined from 8 411 (2008) to 7 875 (2009). In relation to deaths of more than 10 people in one attack, 2334 attacks were reported in both 2008 and 2009. People killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terrorism in 2009 was 58 142: 14 971 were killed, 34 057 were injured and 4 869 were kidnapped.


Of the 10 999 acts of terrorism that occurred in 2009, they occurred in 83 countries. There were more acts of terrorism in Iraq than in Afghanistan: 2 458 compared to 2 126 respectively. More people were killed, injured or kidnapped in Iraq (18 869) compared to Afghanistan (7 584). Significantly high incidents of terrorism occurred in Pakistan as well as in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of the 850 acts of terrorism reported in Africa in 2009, 700 occurred in these two African states.

Almost 90 groups were associated with 2009 terrorist attacks. The most prominent groups were the Taliban, followed by Al-Shabaab and al-Qa'eda. Muslim civilians accounted for the majority of terrorist victims. Police, government officials and journalists were also highly represented in victim statistics. On 23 November 2009, 32 journalists were killed in a terrorist attack in the Philippines.

Most terrorist attacks used conventional methods such as armed attacks and bombings. The use of coordinated attacks – the use of secondary attacks on first responders to attack sites – continued. Reconfigured weapons and the use of improvised explosives also continued. Suicide attacks however declined from 405 in 2008, to 299 in 2009. Thirteen countries experienced suicide attacks. The highest number was reported in Afghanistan (99), Pakistan (84) and Iraq (82). Attacks by female suicide bombers declined, with only seven in 2009.

Regional terrorism and counterterrorism responses

Australia, in line with other Western states, had adopted significant counterterrorism measures since 2001, such as the 2006 Lombok Treaty with Indonesia. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assesses Australia's terrorist threats. Under the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002, there are currently 19 organisations on Australia's terrorist watch list, including Abu Sayyaf Group, Al-Qa'eda, Kurdistan Workers Party and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

There have been no domestic terrorist attacks; however, Australians have been killed in overseas terrorist attacks. One Australian was killed in a terrorist attack in Istanbul on 10 September 2001; 10 in New York on 11 September 2001, 88 in Bali on 12 October 2001 and four on 1 October 2005; one in Riyadh on 12 March 2003; one in London on 7 July 2005; three in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 and three Australians were killed in Jakarta on 17 July 2009.


In 2003, Zeky Mallah was the first person charged under Australia's 2002 anti-terrorist legislation. High profile terrorist charges in Australia were bought against Jack Thomas (found guilty of receiving funds from al-Qa'eda and sentenced to five years jail) and Jack Roche (sentenced to nine years in jail for conspiring to blow up the Israeli embassy). More problematic uses of Australia's anti-terrorist legislation have since emerged. On 29 June 2007, two car bombs were defused in London, and on 1 July 2007; a terrorist car bomb was detonated at Glasgow Airport. On 2 July Dr Mohamed Haneef was arrested in Brisbane and charged two weeks later with recklessly providing assistance (a mobile phone SIM card) to a relative later charged over the U.K. attacks. On 16 July, after being granted bail by a Brisbane magistrate, Dr Haneef had his 457 work visa revoked by the Australian Immigration Minister and was returned to detention pending his committal hearing on 31 August. On 27 July the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charge.

New Zealand introduced the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. By law it provides that all individuals and groups designated by the Security Council under Resolution 1267 are automatically designated the same by the New Zealand government. New Zealand more broadly has adopted the U.N. Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as the basis for its counterterrorism policies. New Zealand supported the United Nations Workshop on Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540 for Pacific Island Countries in April 2009 and it has chaired the 2009 and 2011 Pacific Islands Forum Working Group on Counterterrorism.

In Indonesia, terrorist bombings occurred on 17 July 2009 at Jakarta's Ritz Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels, killing nine people including the two suicide bombers. In response 14 people were arrested and nine were sentenced to death, including leader Noordin Muhammad Top, the Malaysian leader of Jemaah Islamiya (JI). Top was considered responsible for the earlier 2003 Jakarta bombing, the 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy, and the 2005 Bali bombings. In recent years Indonesia has convicted more than 60 nationals on terrorism charges.

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About the Author

Jo Coghlan is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University.

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