The U.S. State Department’s (DOS’s) 2014 County Reports on Terrorism assessment reveals some disturbing trends that should grab the attention of intelligence and law enforcement agencies in this country.  As documented by DOS, terrorism is becoming a more savage and attractive platform for radical and extremists groups and individuals to exercise intimidation, fear, and power.

Key Concerns You Need to Know

With the increase of terrorist attacks, what are some key points you need to be aware of?

  • Terrorist attacks increased by 35 percent and deaths from those attacks spiked by 81 percent[1]
  • Savagery of terrorist attacks intensified with beheadings, crucifixions, stonings and mass executions
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) established a repressive and violent Islamic caliphate in large portions of Syria and Iraq that attracted 16,000 foreign fighters, including nearly 4,000 Westerners
  • ISIS recruits have returned home and plotted and executed terrorist attacks   
  • Homegrown violent extremists (“lone wolf”) attacks rose in Western countries  
  • Targeting of religious minorities, women and children for violence and enslavement in international human trafficking networks increased
  • Law enforcement and security personnel remain popular targets for terrorists  

Another major concern is ISIS’ mastery and adroit use of the Internet and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to radicalize individuals anywhere in the world to plan and launch attacks in their own countries.  In addition, successful terrorist assaults that occur in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa are promoted on the Internet as propaganda pieces that ISIS and, to a lesser extent, al-Qaeda, use to inspire “copy cat” attacks here in the United States or in other western countries.

Types of Attacks

As detailed in the DOS report, terrorists promoted their agendas with the following attack types:

  • Suicide Bombings (young men and women)
  • Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs)
  • Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
  • Small Arms and Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs) attacks
  • Kidnappings
  • Beheadings
  • Arson

Where are they happening?

The primary physical targets include military installations, schools and universities, police departments, hotels, restaurants, and government buildings; secondary attack sites are commonly public transportation assets such as airports, buses and ferries.  While the major targets of Middle East and African terrorist attacks were Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims, common targets worldwide are Jewish civilians, military and security personnel, government workers, government officials, and police officers.  The map below shows the countries with the highest impact of terrorism, as of 2014. 


Countermeasures: What Can You Do?

Given this information, intelligence agencies, joint terrorism task forces, fusion cells, law enforcement agencies, emergency management agencies, schools and universities, private corporations with a global footprint, public and private transportation companies, and religious institutions should consider adopting formal risk-based countermeasures to prevent, protect against, respond to, or recover from a terrorist attack.  Countermeasures should be driven by a formal risk assessment that prioritizes protection measures for people and critical infrastructure assets.  Public and private entities can develop effective countermeasures by adopting or refining the following threat mitigation and risk reduction program components:


[1] Mallin, Alexander, State Terror Report: Fatalities in Attacks Spiked by 81 Percent in 2014,, accessed June 26, 2015.

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