Why is recent international (Europe, N-America, …) Islamist terrorism exclusively perpetrated by Sunnis?

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Feb 06, 2017 02:23 PM 0 Answers
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According to the Global Terrorism Database, the number of terrorist attacks with fatalities in Western Europe has recently started to rise for the first time since the 1970s:

No. terrorist attacks with 1–10 casualties, per year, in Western Europe
Source: Global Terrorism Database

Going through the list at GTB reveals that some of those in 2015 were claimed by Islamic State (all in France):

List of deadly attacks in Western Europe
Source: idem

Out of the remaining ones with more than one fatality, those were either also suspected salafists inspired by Islamic State, or terrorism carried out by non-muslims (such as nationalist attacks against refugee shelters or against schools).

It appears that all recent international terrorist activity by islamists in Western Europe is by Sunnis, such as those organised or inspired by Al Qaeda or Islamic State. Longer ago, Hezbollah and other Palestinian groups regularly orchestrated terrorist attacks in Europe, sometimes quite deadly (but it may be debatable whether those are accurately referred to as islamist, the motivation may rather be nationalist, such as for Palestine). Apart from the Lockerbie bombing (270 fatalities), for which responsibility was accepted by Gadhafi, attacks with more than 50 fatalities in the last 20 years were by Al Qaeda, Islamic State, or non-Muslim far-right inspired individuals (the attack listed as Greek is the bombing of TWA Flight 841 from Tel Aviv to New York, which happened to crash in Greece but Greece was not the target of the attack).

Fatalities 51-100

The same for attacks with 11–50 fatalities. The only Shia attack listed is the Hezbollah Al Descanso bombing in 1985:

Fatalities 11-50

After the Palestinian terrorist attacks in Europe died out since the 1980s, it appears the only Islamist terrorism has been from Sunni Salafi extremists.

In the above, I have focussed on data for Western Europe, but I am interested in answers either focussing on Europe, North America, or globally outside the Muslim-majority world. I have deliberately avoided data for Middle East / North Africa / Muslim-majority countries, as terrorist attacks in those are dominated by countries in warzones with a situation that is very different from Europe or North America.

Why has international Palestinian terrorist attacks ceased and is international islamist terrorism now exclusively Sunni?

(I choose the word international to exclude attacks motivated by purely domestic political motives, such as Chechen separatism or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict)

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  • February 6, 2017