One of the many dangers of COVID-19 pandemic is that it will worsen the impact of terrorism in certain regions. And it will also present complex challenges for national and international counter-terrorism responses.
According to a report by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), the raging pandemic could present opportunities for terrorist organizations. The organizations will get to consolidate and expand their operations and territory. This will happen as governments turn their focus from counter-terrorism operations to addressing the public health crisis.
The pandemic might also provide an audience for terrorist organizations. This will facilitate recruitment efforts and radicalization. Both al-Qaida and ISIL have issued formal statements on the pandemic, offering guidelines to stop the spread of the virus, but also with messaging aiming at new recruits
According to the GTI report, the pandemic has also presented operational challenges for terrorist groups. With curfews and travel restrictions, it is difficult for terrorists to move, recruit, raise revenue, or launch attacks. Measures taken to combat the virus have also reduced crowds, and therefore reduced the number of potential terrorist targets.
Taliban Remains The Most Active Terrorist Group, States GTI Report
A report prepared by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) states that the Taliban remains the most active terrorist group in Afghanistan. The group continues to mount large-scale attacks across Afghanistan. And the total attacks by the group increased by six percent. The Taliban kept their focus on police and military targets in 2019, recording 508 attacks and over 2,900 fatalities. Civilian deaths decreased by 45 percent. But the attacks against civilians did increase by 25 percent.
The peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban continued into 2019 with both sides finally seeking to reach an agreement. An agreement was signed in February 2020 outlining plans for a phased withdrawal of the US and coalition troops and the exchange of prisoners between the Taliban and Afghan government.
The Taliban were responsible for one of the deadliest terror attacks of 2019. This was when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle. Assailants also opened fire on a National Directorate for Security (NDS) base in the Maydan Shahr district in January 2019. In the attack, 129 fatalities and 54 injuries were reported.
In 2019, the Khorasan Chapter conducted 55 attacks resulting in 320 deaths. But it has significantly weakened since 2018. This is as a result of military operations by the Afghan government, the Taliban, and US forces.
The four terrorist groups responsible for the most deaths are the Taliban, ISIL, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab. These four groups were responsible for 7,578 deaths from terrorism. This represents 55 percent of total deaths in the year 2019.