Although travel restrictions have reduced some international terrorism activity, domestic risks due to security force overstretch, economic problems, and cyber tools & diffusion are rising. Pent-up hostility and continued ethno-territorial & religious tensions may mobilise more lone actors in the developed world, seen recently in France and Singapore. Several recent attempts and attacks of this perpetrator profile involve religious buildings and their occupants as targets. An overview of data, issues, and successes in the safety of religious buildings is given here.
In incidents recorded by the Global Terrorism Database (up to 2019), 24% (1235/5056) had at least two fatalities (single fatality is usually the assailant). With the notable exception of Sri Lanka, the average fatalities per incident have declined over time in most countries. Afghanistan has experienced more low fatality attacks, but since 2016 there have been around a dozen with more than 10 fatalities, including the Jawdara mosque bombing which lists 74 deaths (18/10/2019). A spike in incident frequency is observable from around October 2004 onwards. This is probably a product of US involvement in and media attention on Iraq and Afghanistan, which affects the GTD data-gathering process and case representation. For the African context, many massacres and terrorist incidents involving religious buildings are not captured in this data set. It is important to recognise that although religiously-tinted terrorist groups are typically represented in religious persons/institution attacks, ideology in the form of ethno-territorial or racial war also features. Nigeria as a case in point shows attack data and deaths from Boko Haram as well as Fulani ‘extremists’, which are usually herdsman seeking property gains.