November 20th, 2014

Change in the Threat of Terrorism

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

In the Guy Carpenter Global Terrorism Report Uncertain Future: Evolving Terrorism Risk (1) we provide a comprehensive review and outlook of terrorism risk. Key components of the report are highlighted below.

The threat from terrorism has undergone significant change since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Heightened and more effective counter-terrorism activities in the following years have prevented repeat attacks on the scale of those carried out in New York and Washington D.C. Nevertheless, al-Qaeda and its affiliates, along with individuals inspired by the movement, still pose a significant threat to Western interests around the world as events of the last 18 months have shown.


Islamic militants have shifted to softer targets with attacks and plots becoming more localized as senior al-Qaeda leaders have increasingly called on individuals to execute unsophisticated attacks in their home countries and regions. An increased focus on inflicting civilian casualties and the targeting of “un-Islamic” assets, such as government buildings and personnel and nightclubs has resulted. This trend has been reflected in developments over the last 18 months as individuals and cells inspired by al-Qaeda carried out relatively low capability but high profile attacks in several cities around the world. A number of other unsuccessful attacks perpetrated by lone attackers have also taken place.

The volatile landscapes in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq and other Middle Eastern and North African countries raises important questions about the future of the international terrorist threat. United States and European policy and activities in these landscapes may further motivate militants to launch additional attacks and target Western interests.

Cyber terrorism and cyber security, discussed earlier in this report, are emerging risks that have the potential to threaten countries’ national security. Critical infrastructure, including nuclear plants and other industrial facilities, is increasingly being targeted by cyber hackers intent on causing damage, disruption and potential loss of life. Nevertheless, terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are currently seen as lacking the necessary sophistication and capability in this area to successfully disrupt a major facility. For insurers with terrorism-related risks on their books, it will be important to understand the threat and how it is evolving, the varying risk in different regions and which developments and risks are likely to emerge in the remainder of 2014 and beyond.

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1. Guy Carpenter, Uncertain Future: Evolving Terrorism Risk, Global Terrorism Report, June 2014.

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