Global Terrorism Declined Slightly in 2022, With the Sahel as the New Epicenter

 Flag of the Islamic State. 

Flag of the Islamic State. 

“[Terrorism] deaths in the Sahel constituted 43% of the global total in 2022, compared to just one percent in 2007.”

A recent report from the new Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace offers a useful overview of the state of global terrorism over the past year. The report claims that global terrorism declined slightly in 2022, along with the number of terrorist-caused deaths and attacks. The Islamic State (IS) has been named the deadliest global terror group for the eighth straight year.

As previous global assessments have underscored,[i] [ii] the accompanying report relays that the African continent, and especially West Africa’s Sahel region, now constitutes the global epicenter of terrorism. As the report notes, violence from the Sahel , where both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have substantial, feuding branches, has seen a rise in terrorist incidents by a factor of 17 since 2017. Indeed, it notes that deaths in the Sahel were 43 percent of the global total in 2022, compared to just 1 percent in 2007.Mali and Burkina Faso are the sources of the preponderance of violence. Notably, two of the three most deadly terrorist groups in the world are African: al-Shabaab, which is al-Qaeda’s East African branch, and Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen, which is the Sahel-based faction of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.[iii] Another notable takeaway from the report is that, although the African continent is the epicenter of global terrorism, the country with the single highest number of terrorism incidents in the past year was Afghanistan, albeit with a significant decline in deaths and incidents from the years prior. However, this decline is somewhat artificial because the Taliban are now state representatives, which means that any attacks that they carried out were not included as part of these tallies. Thus, notably, even in their absence, Afghanistan remains rife with terrorist incidents. Even as global attention has largely shifted away from a predominant focus on jihadist-linked terrorism and toward near-peer competition, the broader trend of Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Taliban-linked violence has far from disappeared.


Institute for Economics & Peace. “Global Terrorism Index 2023: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism,” IEP (Australian think tank), March 2023.

In 2022, deaths from terrorism fell by nine per cent to 6,701 deaths and is now 38 per cent lower than at its peak in 2015. The fall in deaths was mirrored by a reduction in the number of incidents, with attacks declining by almost 28 per cent from 5,463 in 2021 to 3,955 in 2022. However, if Afghanistan was removed from the index, terrorism deaths would have increased by four per cent.

Afghanistan remained the country most impacted by terrorism for the fourth consecutive year, despite attacks and deaths falling by 75 per cent and 58 per cent respectively. The GTI does not include acts of state repression and violence by state actors and, as such, acts committed by the Taliban are no longer included in the scope of the report since they took control of the government.

The deadliest terrorist groups in the world in 2022 were Islamic State (IS) and its affiliates, followed by al-Shabaab, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM).

IS remained the deadliest terror group globally for the eighth consecutive year, recording the most attacks and deaths of any group in 2022. Despite this, terrorism deaths attributed to IS and its affiliate groups, Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISK), Islamic State – Sinai Province (ISS) and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), declined by 16 per cent. However, there has been a rapid increase in deaths attributed to unknown jihadists in the countries where ISWA operates, increasing by 17 times since 2017 to 1,766 terrorism deaths. Given the location, many of these are likely unclaimed attacks by ISWA. If most of the deaths caused by unknown jihadists were included as IS terrorism deaths, then the outcome would have been similar to 2021. Eighteen countries experienced a death from terrorism caused by IS in 2022, a slight decrease from 20 countries the year prior.The Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa is now the epicentre of terrorism, with the Sahel accounting for more terrorism deaths in 2022 than both South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) combined. Deaths in the Sahel constituted 43 per cent of the global total in 2022, compared to just one per cent in 2007. Of particular concern are two countries, Burkina Faso and Mali, which accounted for 73 per cent of terrorism deaths in the Sahel in 2022 and 52 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.


[i] For information on the United Nations’ recent assessments of the global state of terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “UN Warns About Islamic State Surging in Africa and Afghanistan,”” OE Watch, 3-2023.; Jason Warner, “African Leaders, UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[ii] For how West African states view the current threats from terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “Coastal West African States Brace for Wave of Terrorism From the Sahel,” OE Watch, 10-2022.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

[iii] For more on how al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb views its current struggles in the Sahara and Sahel, see: Jason Warner, “Al-Qaeda Leader in Maghreb Says Group Has No Plans to Attack French Homeland, Though Celebrates French Departure,” OE Watch, 4-2023.

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