The only downgrade made since the 2017 Terrorism and Political Violence ratings were released in March is for Venezuela, which has changed from high to severe. This is due to a political crisis that has been ongoing since the beginning of April.
As near-daily violent protests have continued and intensified, anti-government activist groups have displayed the intent and capability to carry out attacks using terrorist tactics against the security forces and government buildings.
In addition to the severe risk of civil unrest, the Venezuelan government’s plan to rewrite the constitution may mean that violent protests are likely to intensify further and the likelihood of a military intervention is increasing. This makes a military coup d’etat, an uprising against the government or a mutiny, and even the prospect of a civil war, more likely.
Aside from Venezuela, Risk Advisory is currently monitoring the ongoing situations in Nigeria and Papua New Guinea. Although the terrorism threat in large parts of Nigeria appears to have decreased in the past few months, political uncertainty over President Buhari’s health and a potential presidential succession is pushing up the risk of protests and politically-motivated unrest in the north of the country. This means that our TPV score remains at severe, for now.
In Papua New Guinea, Risk Advisory is monitoring the ongoing situation to determine if a downgrade in TPV score from medium to high would be justifiable in the next quarter. The aftermath of a chaotic general election in June-July 2017 brings an increased risk of unrest, a possible political crisis, and even military mutinies or interventions in government.
This quarter Risk Advisory has also upgraded Denmark, from low to negligible. This is because there have not been any successful or foiled attacks in the country since 2015, and the authorities are well-placed to counter the threat. Disruptive protests and bouts of unrest have also been rare.
Despite few changes to the global terrorism and political violence ratings so far in 2017, the frequency of violent terrorist incidents globally appears to be increasing, particularly in India, Mali and Philippines. TerrorismTracker data shows that attacks globally are at a four-year high. There have been at least 2,310 terrorist incidents so far in 2017, 51 more than during the same time period a year ago, and 186 more than in 2015.
The increasing frequency of attacks also appears to be continuing in Western countries this year. In 2016, there was a total of 96 terrorist attacks in the West, the most since 2010. In the first seven months of this year there were 72 attacks, suggesting that the number of terrorist incidents in the West this year may surpass the 2010 total of 128.
Recent terrorism incidents and threats
30.01.2017 - Armed attackers shot and killed a construction project manager in the Jamui district of Bihar state, India. According to local media sources, the militants tried to extort money from the victim. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, however. TerrorismTracker data indicates that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M) group has carried out similar attacks in the area and often targets construction projects in India’s ‘`Red Corridor’.
15.02.2017 - Attackers caused severe material damage when they set fire to a factory and machinery inside a construction company compound in Muang and Bannang Sata districts in Yala province, Thailand. Media reports said that the attack did not cause any casualties, but the fire reportedly destroyed 90% of the property. No group claimed responsibility for the
attack, however, the local authorities said that they suspect that ethnic Malay separatists were responsible.
The threat environment and patterns of violence
Construction projects represent a valuable economic target for terrorist and insurgent groups globally. Targeting trends since 2010 show that attacks on the construction sector globally have fluctuated, but that this year it is being targeted more frequently than in recent years. Globally in 2017, there was a 150% increase in the frequency of terrorist attacks on construction in the first seven months of the year, compared with the same period in 2016.
TerrorismTracker data shows that in the past decade, 9% of all attacks on businesses globally have directly targeted construction projects, making it the third most targeted business sector globally, behind only oil and gas and retail. TerrorismTracker data also shows that there have been terrorist attacks against construction projects in at least 27 different countries over the past ten years, at an average of 44 incidents per year.
The majority of terrorist attacks on construction over the past decade have occurred in India, where Maoist insurgents actively target business projects in and around the ‘Red Corridor’, located mostly in central-eastern India. There have been at least 117 attacks on construction projects in India in the past ten years, many of which have resulted in the deaths of project workers, as well as significant damage to construction equipment. The group most active in carrying out such attacks is the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M), which has been responsible for at least 1,242 attacks in India since 2007, 225 of which targeted businesses.
The intent of left wing groups like the CPI-M to target construction projects appears to be an attempt to reject the influence of the state and of the capitalist economy. Maoists in India and elsewhere have conducted raids and sabotage attacks on construction projects, as well as on mines, and other business ventures in remote areas. The sometimes violent attacks against construction have been justified by Maoists as a response to the Indian government and businesses ‘stealing’ land. This Maoist militancy exists to some degree in more than ten Indian states.
Besides targeting construction and other major projects to damage the government and the economy, attacks against construction projects appear to be financially motivated as well. In many cases, terrorist and insurgent groups use the extortion of businesses, including the construction of mining and oil and gas projects, to raise funds for their operations. Groups like the CPI-M, or Maoists in the Philippines, frequently extort businesses operating in their strongholds, where the remote location makes it difficult for security forces to defend such projects.
Although the majority of attacks on construction projects globally have occurred in India, TerrorismTracker data shows that attacks on the sector also occur relatively regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Iraq and Nigeria. Risk Advisory have recorded fewer attacks of this kind in Philippines and Turkey.
Construction projects represent major investments for many different business sectors globally, and as a result it is impossible to provide accurate statistics on the human and economic cost of the attacks that occur on the sector. TerrorismTracker data shows that attacks on construction typically involve damage to equipment and site property, and often result in the kidnap or death of construction workers. Gathering this detail is particularly challenging since most of the attacks appear to occur in remote areas, as opposed to in more developed urban centres.
If current trends continue, attacks on construction projects globally in 2017 will reach a five-year-high. The security situation in India and Afghanistan, the countries where the vast majority of these attacks occur, show no sign of improving significantly, making it unlikely that attacks on construction will decline in frequency. Construction projects will remain a valuable economic and symbolic target for terrorist groups with the intention of undermining the state, rejecting capitalism, and extorting operations for financial gain. This means the industry will likely remain one of the most targeted business sectors globally.
The tragic effects of terrorism have forced the new-construction industry to re-evaluate traditional methods of fire protection in commercial infrastructures. That includes everything from building codes, to structural design issues and the less durable fireproofing materials currently specified for commercial steel structures.
- Craig Scott, Canadian politician
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