In February, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' (CRG) Global Extremism Monitor found that more than 3,400 people were killed in extremist violence and counter-extremist efforts.
Defeating the scourge of religious extremism will only be possible once we grasp the scale of the challenge. The two deadly attacks in Belgium's capital Brussels reminded us that this is a global problem.
The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics (CRG) tracks violent and non-violent incidents of religious extremism, and responses to it, around the world. Today we release this information in the second issue of our new monthly Global Extremism Monitor. Our data shows that in February 2016, at least 3,405 lives were lost as some 22 religious extremist groups instigated violence across the world and states battled to defeat them. Among the dead were 1,620 militants, 660 members of the security forces, and 936 civilians.
We recorded 647 incidents in 54 countries, including both extremist and counter-extremist activities, in February. This included major non-state counter-extremism efforts, such as the Centre for Strategic and International Studies' launch of a commission on countering violent extremism.
Our findings are a low estimate, based on open source data in English. CRG's analysts were careful to include only incidents we were sure counted as religious extremism. As in January, much of the violence we recorded was outside the Middle East and North Africa. Only 52 per cent was in the region. Thirty-four per cent was in sub-Saharan Africa, and 13 per cent in Central and South Asia. ISIS was by far the deadliest extremist group, killing at least 1,123 in at least 69 attacks. By contrast, al-Qaeda killed 176 people in 43 assaults.
Fewer than half of the global fatalities in the battle against religious extremism occurred in the Middle East and North Africa; 39 per cent were in sub-Saharan Africa. In Somalia alone, we recorded 38 attacks by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
The world's attention on the Syrian civil war rightly noted the fall in violence as a partial truce came into effect at the end of the month. In fact, few attacks in February made headlines like January's high-profile assaults in Jakarta and Istanbul. Yet globally, the deadly threat of religious extremism remained.
Our data showed:
In five countries, violent extremism killed more than 100 civilians
Although 55 per cent of the 936 civilian fatalties recorded in February's Global Extremism Monitor occurred in the Middle East and North Africa, three out of the five countries that saw the most civilian deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Boko Haram was responsible for a quarter of all civilian deaths linked to extremism, with the number in Cameroon and Nigeria almost equal at 108 and 111 respectively. On the other side of the continent, Somalia was once again among the deadliest countries for civilians, with 107 killed. However, Iraq and Syria dominated. Our data showed 147 and 227 civilian deaths in those countries respectively.
ISIS killed over six times as many people as al-Qaeda
Amid debate over whether ISIS or al-Qaeda poses a greater long-term threat, our February data showed that ISIS was responsible for far more violence than al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the month.
When all ISIS-affiliated groups are taken into account, the organisation was involved in at least 69 attacks, causing over 1,123 deaths. This was almost as many as the total deaths stemming from all state counter-extremism efforts across the globe, which amounted to at least 1,539 deaths. In comparison, the Global Extremism Monitor recorded 176 deaths from 43 assaults by al-Qaeda and its affiliates throughout February.
At least 25 militaries battled extremists alone or in coalitions
Our data showed at least 44 countries involved in some form of counter-extremist activity. Of these, at least 25 used military force against extremists, either alone or in coalition. Four international groupings – the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi forces in Yemen, the Islamic Military Alliance, and the African Union mission fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia – were active in two regions.
State-counter extremism efforts caused at least 1,539 deaths, according to our February findings. Some 1,290 of the casualties were extremists, 29 were members of security forces, 158 were civilians and the remainder were unknown.
If we compare February's data with January's findings, the consistently high level of extremist violence becomes clear. In January, we recorded nearly 3,000 fatalities as a result of extremism. In February, we recorded nearly 3,400.
Download the MonitorRead the full report of our Global Extremism Monitor findings for February 2016.