The ‘70s and ‘80s were deadlier in Europe for terrorism
IN THE space of three months, Britain has suffered through three deadly terrorist attacks that have killed 34 people, excluding the attackers, and injured more than 200.
Since the beginning of the year a further 60 people have died in terrorist attacks in the rest of Europe including 14 when a nail bomb exploded on a St Petersburg metro train and 39 in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve.
It can be easy to think we're living through intensely dangerous times.
Yet, analysis by a Maryland University and published by The Economist newspaper has shown that by sheer number of deaths related to terrorist incidents, Europe was a far more dangerous place in the 1970s and 1980s.
The deaths that have occurred in Manchester and London over the past months are clearly a tragedy and families of the lost won't be comforted by tables of data.
Nevertheless, deaths caused directly by terrorism in both the UK and Western Europe more widely are significantly lower nowadays then in decades previously.
One expert has pointed out "traffic accidents have claimed the lives of roughly 100 times more people than those killed by terrorists".
Looking at this year's figures may be misleading - we're not even half way through - but the past couple of the years have indeed been some of the bloodiest for about a decade.
According to data held on the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, Western European deaths exceeded more than 100 in both 2015 and 2016, years that included the Paris Bataclan Theatre attack, Nice and Berlin truck rampages and Brussels Airport bombing.
While tragic, none of these attacks individually exceeded the casualties caused by the co-ordinated attacks on Madrid's commuter rail network in 2004. These killed 191 and injured more than 2000.
In fact, between 2006 and 2015 there were very few terrorism related deaths in Europe, with the exception being the 2011 attacks by far right fanatic Anders Breivik in Norway which killed 77.
You have to go back to the 1970s and 1980s to find the most lethal years for terrorism in Western Europe.
During these years, there would generally be many attacks leading to a few casualties per event, whereas in recent years there have been fewer, but deadlier, attacks.
The year 1972 was the height of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland when paramilitaries fought over whether Britain or the Republic of Ireland should have sovereignty of the region. That year 400 people were victims of terror in Europe.
1974 saw the Birmingham pub bombings that killed 21 in a series of co-ordinated explosions. In total around 1800 civilians died throughout the course of the The Troubles, as well as a further 1100 military personnel.
1980 was the peak year of terrorist atrocities caused by ETA, a group in Spain who used violence to push for independence for the Basque region. In that year, more than 400 people died.
But the worst year for deaths was 1988 when approximately 450 people died in Europe. 270 of those were on PanAm flight 103 which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
In 2003, the Libyan Government, then under the control of the now late Muammar Gaddafi, formally claimed responsibility for the bomb on the flight which was planted in the hold.
"During the 30 years of the Troubles, the annual risk for civilians of being killed in Northern Ireland was about one in 25,000," said the Economist in an editorial in March.
"Even in 2001, the year of America's worst terrorist attack, the likelihood of an American in the United States being killed in a terrorist attack was less than one in 100,000.
"In the decade up to 2013, that fell to one in 56m. Defeating terrorism depends above all on good intelligence, maintaining perspective and refusing to allow attacks to undermine the principles that make an open society."
Last month, Professor of Criminology at the University of Maryland, Gary LaFree, said that one of the challenges of creating appropriate policy to combat terrorism was to understand the extent of the atrocities.
"For most places and times, terrorism is an incredibly rare event.
"In many recent years, the US has experienced fewer than 25 terrorist attacks. At the same time, there are about 13,000 homicides and 360,000 robberies every year in the United States," he wrote in The Conversation.
"In recent years, worldwide traffic accidents have claimed the lives of roughly 100 times more people than those killed by terrorists."
Prof LaFree said more than half of all terrorist attacks in the university's terrorism database since 1970 have yielded no fatalities.
Only 17 attacks from around the world killed more than 300 people in a single event or co-ordinated events.
While 2001's September 11 attacks on New York, in which 3000 people perished, remains the single deadliest terror attack in modern history.
"Because a few deadly but highly unusual attacks attract so much concern, terrorism policies tend to be based on extremely rare and unusual events rather than the thousands of more common but less spectacular ones," he said.
It's worth noting that when it comes to deaths by terrorism, many of the attacks that frequently lead to substantial numbers of deaths occur far from the West.
Hundreds of innocent people have died in Asia in 2017 including more than 100 less than a week ago in Afghanistan's capital Kabul when a truck bomb exploded at an intersection.
Certainly, deaths in the West in recent years due to terrorism have been higher than the average. But they are far from their peak in decades past.