There's new information pointing to a troubling trend in Afghanistan. A newly released global terrorism study indicates terrorist acts in 2019 were on the rise there as peace talks in the country were ongoing.
The Global Terrorism Database is maintained by researchers at the University of Maryland. It tracks terrorist acts and trends and contains more than 200,000 incidents, going all the way back to 1970.
According to the report, 2019 made five years in a row that terrorism has been on the decline. There were 8,500 attacks recorded in 2019, a 14% drop from the year before. A good sign overall, but a closer analysis reveals a disturbing truth.
"A little over one-fifth of all of the attacks we recorded in the database in 2019 took place in Afghanistan which is really remarkable," said Erin Miller, Global Terrorism Database program manager. "That's a pretty heavy concentration of violence."
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It's a slight increase over the year before with Afghanistan accounting for nearly half of the people killed in terror attacks in 2019 worldwide. In fact, the Taliban was responsible for more terrorist attacks in 2019 than any other group by a wide margin.
"The Taliban and the United States government were engaged in peace talks in 2019," Miller said. "It doesn't necessarily bode well for the ongoing success of the peace talks. There seems to be a fundamental disagreement among the parties on whether the negotiations should come first, or the cessation of violence should come first. It's sort of the chicken or the egg problem."
Though terrorist attacks in the United States remain rare (especially when compared to other crimes), the US has seen a slight uptick, the vast majority of them non-lethal. The 2019 attack at an El Paso, Texas Walmart killed 23 people. Miller says it was the textbook definition of terrorism.
"There was the use of violence. It was intentional and planned in advance and it was motivated by white supremacy in particular xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment," he explained.
The deadliest terrorist attacks in 2019 took place on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. More than 250 people were killed and at least 500 others were injured in suicide bombings at seven different crowded venues, including churches. One of the victims was 11-year-old Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa. CBN News spoke to his devastated father shortly after his death.
"I have wonderful memories, but I have a hole where all the future memories were going to be," Alex Arrow said. "His teenage years that he won't have. His adult years that he won't have. His family that he won't have and what the world lost."
While the report points to a sharp increase in racially and ethnically motivated attacks against Hispanics in the US, and Muslims in New Zealand, it notes the number of attacks in Iraq decreased more than 50 percent last year from the year before. That's largely attributed to the decline of ISIS there.