By Brigitte L. Nacos
Bagdad, May 22, 2011: A series of 17 attacks, including one resulting in an explosion that struck a United States military patrol, shook Baghdad, killing 20 people, including 2 American soldiers and 8 Iraqi policemen. At least 80 people were wounded in the attacks, including three American soldiers.
Khost. May 22, 2011: Insurgents wearing police uniforms and vests laced with explosives stormed a police compound in the eastern Afghanistan province of Khost killing three police officers and two Afghan National Army soldiers. A civilian who was walking near the compound was also fatally struck.
Karachi, May 22, 2011: A team of heavily armed terrorists stormed a major Pakistani naval base in Karachi setting off a gun battle with Pakistani security forces. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and justified it as revenge for killing of Osama bin Laden. At least 12 Pakistani security personnel were killed and 14 others injured.
The news of the above attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan did not receive particular prominent coverage outside the three countries, if they were reported at all. Because similar strikes occur regularly--each week, if not daily--, they are no longer deemed extraordinary events and “breaking news” material by news organizations.
However, those in charge of American and Western strategic communication and public diplomacy should recognize and spread the potent message contained in those terrorist events in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and hundred, indeed thousands of similar strikes that hit the region year-in and year-out.
The reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this month demonstrated once again that the terrorism perpetrated by Al Qaeda and its allies is widely perceived as targeting primarily the West and in particular the United States. While bin Laden himself wanted his motives and actions understood as a holy war against western Christians and Jews, he ignored conveniently that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Al Shabaab, and other Islamist groups targeted and killed and injured more Muslims than his declared non-Muslim enemies.
Here are some terrorism statistics from 2009 compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center:
About 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries; there were over 58,000 victims, including nearly 15,000 fatalities.
The largest number of attacks with the largest number of victims killed occurred in South Asia, Taken together, South Asia and the Near East suffered almost two-thirds of the 234 high-casualty attacks killing 10 or more people.
As for the terrorist perpetrators, Sunni extremists were responsible for about one-half of all attacks with Taliban claiming responsibility for the largest number of attacks causing the highest number of fatalities. Somalia’s Al-Shabaab was the second deadliest group, followed by Al Qaeda in Iraq.
As for the victims of terrorism, nearly 48,000 persons were either killed or injured, well over 50% of them were Muslims, and of those most of them were victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Concerning the large number of Muslim victims of Islamist terrorism, the 2009 statistics were not an exception but rather a continuation of the numbers recorded in previous years. Moreover, concerning the multitude of recent incidents in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan like those taking place last weekend, there is reason to believe that nothing will change in terms of the identity of terrorist attackers and their victims in the future.
These basic facts should be part and parcel of all responsible governments’ public information directed to their own populations and, as mentioned earlier, they should be one of the centerpieces of western strategic communication in the Muslim world.