South Asia at High Risk of Terrorism, Nepal Could Be Safe Heaven

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3967 terrorist attacks took place in South Asia's four countries- Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which is more than 33 percent of all attacks. Terrorist killed 6,737 individuals only in four South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which is more than 23 percent of total fatalities.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department released its Country reports on Terrorism. Country Reports on Terrorism is an annual report published by the United States Department of State. According to U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (the "Act"), which requires the Department of State to provide to Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of the Act. Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published Patterns of Global Terrorism.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remained the greatest threat globally, maintaining a formidable force in Iraq and Syria, including a large number of foreign terrorist fighters according to the report. 11,774 terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015. South Asian countries are on frontline after Iraq among the 92 countries. Ten countries with the most terrorist attacks are Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Egypt, Philippines, Bangladesh, Libya, and Syria. Four countries are South Asians among the ten countries. 3967 attacks took place in four South Asian countries- Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which is more than 33 percent of all attacks.

2016-06-03-1464958611-9317515-ScreenShot20160603at5.46.36PM.png Ten countries with the most terrorist attacks, 2015. Source: U.S. State Department.

Several countries that have routinely experienced large numbers of terrorist attacks in recent years observed considerable decreases in total attacks in 2015, compared to 2014. In contrast, two South Asian countries that typically experience especially large numbers of terrorist attacks--Afghanistan (+7%) and India (+4%)--saw relatively increases in the number of total attacks in 2015. There was an increase between 2014 and 2015 in total attacks in Afghanistan, from 1594 to 1708. Likewise, There was an increase between 2014 and 2015 in total attacks in India, from 764 to 791. In 2015, there were 28,328 individuals killed by terrorists around the world according to the report. Terrorist killed 6,737 individuals only in four South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which is more than 23 percent of total fatalities. Despite a slight increase in the number of attacks in India in 2015, there were 31% fewer total deaths due to terrorist attacks, compared to 2014 according to the report.

There was an overall decrease in global terrorism. Reversing trends that had been established in recent years, there was a decrease between 2014 and 2015 in total attacks, from 13,463 to 11,774, and total fatalities, from 32,727 to 28,328. In contrast, South Asian Country Afghanistan experienced a 17% increase in total deaths; however, a particularly large proportion of total deaths due to terrorist attacks in Afghanistan--more than 40%--were perpetrator deaths. In fact, an increase in perpetrator deaths in 2015 accounted for more than two-thirds (72%) of the increase in total deaths in Afghanistan.

High Risk in Nepal Because of Indo-Nepal Open Border

Nepal is a small mountainous country surrounded by China to the north and India to the south, east and west with the total land area of 147,181 km2. Nepal has experienced no significant acts of international terrorism yet. Although its open border with India and weak controls at the border is raising concerns that international terrorist groups could use Nepal as a transit and possible staging point. The Indo-Nepal border is open. Nepalese and Indian nationals can move freely across the border without passports or visas and can live and work in either country. People of both the countries can cross the border at any point, despite the existence of border check posts at several locations. The whole length of the border is not monitored; illegal movement of goods and people is a common feature on both sides. Criminals commit crimes in either country and cross the border to hide and escape punishment. Terrorists with illegal arms and ammunitions can cross over to Nepal easily.

According to the report, the number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in India nearly tripled in 2015, increasing to 862 from 305 in 2014. Like in Iraq, this was largely the result of attacks involving large numbers of people kidnapped or taken hostage. In 2014, there were no attacks in India in which 50 or more people were kidnapped or taken hostage, while in 2015 there were seven, all of which were attributed to Maoist extremists. India ranked highly among countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2015. More than half of the terrorist attacks in India in 2015 took place in four states: Chhattisgarh (21%), Manipur (12%), Jammu and Kashmir (11%), and Jharkhand (10%). In Chhattisgarh, the number of terrorist attacks more than doubled in 2015, to 167 from 76 in 2014. In Assam--one of the states that experienced the most attacks in 2014--the number of attacks declined by nearly half from 94 in 2014 to 49 in 2015. After attacks in India, terrorists can easily sneak into Nepal. This is why; an open border with India and weak border security has increased the risk that international terrorists could use Nepal as a transit or staging point.

The report of the U.S. State Department should be wake up call for Nepali authorities. Otherwise, terrorist groups can exploit Nepal for safe heaven, transit point or staging point.