Nearly 18,000 people lost their lives in 2013 as a result of terrorist attacks, the first jump in fatalities after a steady decline over the past five years, much due to a sharp uptick in violence in Iraq, according to statistics released today by the State Department.
The numbers, reported today as part of the State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, show that of the 17,891 deaths by terror attack, more than a third, 6,378, occurred in Iraq. Afghanistan suffered the second-most deaths, followed by Pakistan. The previous year, less than half the number of people lost their lives due to terrorism in Iraq.
Like last year, the weapon of choice for terrorists around the world was explosives - used a majority of the time - followed by armed assaults and, to a much lesser extent, assassinations, according to the numbers compiled for the State Department by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.
As to who was responsible for the attacks, START said it only had information on the alleged culprits about a third of the time, but in those cases the most prolific named attackers were the Taliban, followed by al Qaeda in Iraq or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"Syria continued to be a major battleground for terrorism for both sides of the conflict and remains a key area of longer-term concern," the report also notes in a section called "Key Terrorism Trends in 2013." "Terrorist violence in 2013 was increasingly fueled by sectarian motives, marking a worrisome trend, particularly in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Pakistan."
As worrisome as the trends identified by the State Department are, the number of fatalities caused by terror attacks is extremely small relative to other global dangers. Snakebites kill more people each year, according to the World Health Organization, and double the number die yearly in auto accidents in the U.S. alone.