from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

The Orlando Massacre and Global Terrorism


June 13, 2016

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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A brief note to place Sunday morning’s horrific massacre in Orlando, Florida, within the broader global context of terrorism. In 2014, the last year for which there is complete data, there were eighty-two terror attacks around the world that killed more than fifty people—twenty-eight of them killed over 100 people. This is according to the Global Terrorism Database, which is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The country and number of attacks with more than fifty fatalities is listed below.


Nigeria: 37

Iraq: 17

South Sudan: 7

Syria: 7

Cameroon: 3

Ukraine: 3

Central African Republic: 2

Afghanistan: 2

Pakistan: 2

Somalia: 1

Sudan: 1

The United States has fortunately avoided being the location of such mass-fatality terrorist attacks since 9/11 through new laws, vastly more funding, and a massive expansion of homeland security and intelligence capabilities. Indeed, before the attack against the Pulse night club, forty-five Americans had been killed within the United States by “violent jihadist attacks,” according to the New America Foundation. Not only was the hate crime perpetrated in Orlando the deadliest terror attack within the United States since 9/11, it was deadlier than every other jihadist terror attack combined since then.

In countries where large and highly-capable militant armies exist, governments lack the homeland security and law enforcement infrastructure needed to prevent mass-fatality attacks as successfully as been the case for the United States. The innocent victims of terrorism within these countries suffer so greatly, because they try to create a life among ongoing insurgencies and civil wars, cannot rely upon the state to protect them, and then are killed by terrorists searching for the least well-defended populations, in order to spread fear and elicit recruits. Few of these eighty-two attacks were covered by Western media, and even those (like myself) who try to understand terrorism probably knew of only a dozen of them. Though we do not know their individual stories, we should recognize that they too are the tragic victims of the scourge of terrorism, which overwhelmingly has devastated those living within conflict-prone Middle Eastern and African countries.

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