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August 25, 2023


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Evolving patterns of violence in developing countries

New research by the Mineta Transportation institute has shown that attacks in less economically advanced countries are more frequent and violent than in economically advanced countries such as those in North America and Europe.

The resulting report, ‘Evolving Patterns of Violence in Developing Countries‘, shows that some of the attacks that have occurred were quite complex – and the most lethal were carried out by jihadist groups.

Focusing on what they designate as Group 2 countries, those with developing economies and not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the findings show that they had seven times the number of attacks, and three times greater lethality compared to economically advanced Group 1 countries with OECD membership.

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Using the MTI database of Terrorist and Serious Criminal Attacks Against Public Surface Transportation, the authors, Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce Butterworth looked at attacks against passenger trains and train stations, buses and bus stations and stops, and all rail infrastructure and operating and security personnel in both sets of countries between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2022.

They cite as examples the 2006 jihadist bombings on commuter trains leaving Mumbai, killing 189 and injuring at least 800; the 2010 train derailment by Maoist insurgents in West Bengal, killing 48 and injuring 800 and the 2014 car bomb by jihadists at a bus station in Nigeria, killing 71 and injuring 24.

“Rethink current security and training strategies”

Many Group 2 countries have long-running insurgencies that produce frequent and lethal attacks. There are far more attacks on buses and bus depots and stops in Group 2, reflecting greater reliance on bus travel. Explosives dominate attack methods, and while jihadist attackers are responsible for only 9.7% of attacks, they create 33.7% of fatalities. Jihadists are, they note, the most lethal attackers in both Group 1 and Group 2 countries. Suicide attacks account for only about 3% of the attacks in both groups, but while that percentage has gone down in Group 1, it has gone up in Group 2.

India, Pakistan and Iraq account for half of the attacks in Group 2 countries, although levels of violence in India and Pakistan have declined slightly in recent years. Levels in sub-Saharan Africa have increased, owing to the activities of jihadist groups in the Sahel. Levels in Thailand have also increased, owing to separatist activity in the southern part of the country.

The report is intended as a companion report to the August 2022 MTI report on violence in economically advanced countries, ‘Changing Patterns of Violence Pose New Challenges to Public Surface Transportation in the United States’.

Jenkins explained: “We hope that by analysing and comparing what has been going on in advanced and non-economically advanced countries, governments and transportation professionals will be able to use the data to help understand the overall picture and rethink their current security and staff training strategies.”


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