Global Terrorism Database

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A chart plotted from the data in the GTD. A total of 182,438 incidents are plotted.

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a database of terrorist incidents from 1970 onward. As of May 2021, the list extended through 2019 recording over 200,000 incidents, although data from 1993 is excluded.[1] The database is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States.[2] It is also the basis for other terrorism-related measures, such as the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.[3]


The GTD describe itself as the "most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world" and includes over 200,000 terrorist attacks in its 2021 version.[2] The entire database (about 80 MB Excel file and 9 MB geodatabase file) is available for download via the website.[4] The GTD includes more than 95,000 bombings . It also includes more than 20,000 assassinations and more than 15,000 kidnappings. [5]

The manner of encoding of the data is described in a codebook, also available as PDF download from the website. The codebook states that the database was designed to be "useful to as broad an audience as possible" and that hence researchers chose to "err on the side of inclusiveness."[6]


In 2001, the University of Maryland, College Park obtained a large database of terrorist attacks from 1970 to 1997 collated by Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services. Data from 1993 was missing because it got lost in an office move by Pinkerton. Although START attempted to retrospectively code these events, they believe that around 85% of the original data is still missing; as such, data from 1993 is not included in the main database, however the surviving data is still available to download separately.[7] With funding from the National Institute of Justice, the University of Maryland finished digitizing the data in December 2005. In April 2006, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), working with the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), received additional funding from the Human Factors Division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend the GTD beyond 1997. The data generated for 1997 to 2007 was then harmonized with the Pinkerton data from 1970 to 1997 to create a unified database of terrorist events from 1970 to 2007 (excluding 1993). New years were periodically added, and as of August 2014, the data goes up to 2014.[8]

The GTD was formally introduced in a paper in Terrorism and Political Violence by Gary LaFree and Laura Dugan of START, published in 2007.[9] An update on the GTD by LaFree was published by Perspectives on Terrorism in 2010.[10] Another update was published in Evidence-based Counterterrorism Policy in 2012.[11] In 2017, Benjamin Acosta and Kristen Ramos published the 1993 Terrorism and Political Violence Dataset, which marks a comprehensive recollection of the previously missing 1993 data.[12]

In 2018, the GTD suffered a lapse in funding that caused projects and updates to be temporarily put on hold. The Department of Defense Combating Terrorism and Technical Support Office and the German Federal Foreign Office were able to provide short-term funds which enabled the GTD to put out their report for 2018, but the Global Terrorism Database continues to seek funding for the long term. If they are not able to get it, they will be unable to update for the indefinite future and the GTD may not remain free as a result.[13]


Use in other databases and indices[edit]

Data from the Global Terrorism Database is used to generate the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.[3]

Academic reception[edit]

A number of academic papers studying various aspects of terrorism, including trends in the amount and types of terrorism, draws on data from the GTD for its empirical analysis.[14][15][16]

In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, author Steven Pinker used data from the Global Terrorism Database for his analysis of trends in terrorism, calling it "the major publicly available dataset on terrorist attacks."[17]

In 2014, Pape et al. observed that, "according to the GTD data today, there were over 70 percent more suicide attacks in 2013 (619) than the previous peak in 2007 (359) during the Iraq war." Meanwhile, their Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST) claims a 19 percent decrease for the same period:[18]

Pape's comparison of GTD and CPOST[19]
2007 359 521
2013 619 423
% change +72% −19%

Pape et al. noted that this difference can be explained by a change in methodology between 2007 and 2013. As noted above, the GTD data were collected by four different organizations:[20]

GTD Data Collection Phases by Collection Institution
start end organization / methodology
1/1/1970 12/13/1997 Pinkerton Global Intelligence Service (PGIS)
1/1/1998 3/31/2008 Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS)
4/1/2008 10/31/2011 Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG)
11/1/2011 12/31/2014 (ongoing) National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

Pape et al. quote GTD officials as claiming that their "researchers, past and present, have ensured that the entire database uses the same standards for inclusion and is as comprehensive as possible." Pape et al. disagree while noting that their CPOST methodology has been consistent since their first recorded incident in 1982. They conclude, "American policy makers and the public deserve the best data available on terrorism, one of the most important national security issues of our time."[18]

Reception in news media and blogs[edit]

The Global Terrorism Database has been cited in The Guardian,[21][22] using a database of terrorism we look at how the frequency and type of attack has changed the New York Times,[23][24][25] the Washington Post,[26][27] the Wall Street Journal,[28] and Foreign Policy.[29][30]

While calling the Global Terrorism Database a treasure trove of information, a 2013 Washington Post fact-checking article criticized its use by government officials to hype the threat of terrorism around the world, given its use of a definition of terrorism conflicting with Congressionally required law.[31]

An article for Stratfor stated that the Database does not pull incidents from thin air, but expressed concern that claims of a 70% increase in 2017 North American terrorist fatalities were based on the GTD classifying the 2017 Las Vegas shooting as an essentially certain case of goal-driven ideological terrorism; when no clear ideological or political motive has been found. Excluding that one incident would have yielded a 10% decline.[32]

An article for Security Magazine noted that trends monitored by the Global Terrorism Database showed that Global Terrorism was declining, but that U.S. attacks are on the rise. According to the trends, global terrorism had decreased for the fourth consecutive year, but terrorist attacks were the highest they had been in the United States since 1982.[33] The report by the Global Terrorism Database also noted that the number of U.S.-based attacks in 2017 and 2018 had remained stable, despite an increase in attacks to more than 65 in 2017.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the GTD | GTD". Retrieved 2021-05-20.
  2. ^ a b "GTD Frequently Asked Questions". Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "About GTI Index". Vision of Humanity. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  4. ^ "Download GTD". Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  5. ^ "Overview of the GTD". Global Terrorism Database.
  6. ^ Global Terrorism Database Codebook: Inclusion Criteria and Variables (PDF) (Report) (October 2019 ed.). University of Maryland. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 1, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  7. ^ GTD Codebook: Inclusion Criteria and Variables. October 2019. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Available at:
  8. ^ "History of the GTD". National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  9. ^ LaFree, Gary; Dugan, Laura (2007). "Introducing the Global Terrorism Database" (PDF). Terrorism and Political Violence. 19 (2): 181–204. doi:10.1080/09546550701246817. S2CID 20868440.
  10. ^ LaFree, Gary (2010). "The Global Terrorism Database: Accomplishments and Challenges". Perspectives on Terrorism. 4 (1). Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  11. ^ LaFree, Gary (2012). Generating Terrorism Event Databases: Results from the Global Terrorism Database, 1970 to 2008. Evidence-based Counterterrorism Policy. Vol. 3. pp. 41–64. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0953-3_3. ISBN 978-1-4614-0952-6.
  12. ^ Acosta, Benjamin; Ramos, Kristen (2017). "Introducing the 1993 Terrorism and Political Violence Dataset". Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 40 (3): 232–247. doi:10.1080/1057610X.2016.1184061. S2CID 147834791.
  13. ^ "Message from the Global Terrorism Database Manager |". Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  14. ^ Wang, Xiaoyu; Miller, Eric; Smarick, Kathleen; Ribarsky, William; Chang, Remco (May 2008). "Investigative Visual Analysis of Global Terrorism". Computer Graphics Forum. 27 (3): 919–926. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1467-8659.2008.01225.x. S2CID 35217883.
  15. ^ Lee, Joonghoon (December 2008). "Exploring Global Terrorism Data: A Web-based Visualization of Temporal Data" (PDF). Crossroads. 15 (2): 7–14. doi:10.1145/1519390.1519393. S2CID 11438242. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  16. ^ Godwin, Alex; Chang, Remco; Kosara, Robert; Ribarsky, William (2008). "Visual analysis of entity relationships in the Global Terrorism Database" (PDF). In Kim, Moon S; Chao, Kaunglin; Tolone, William J; Ribarsky, William; Balandin, Sergey I; Javidi, Bahram; Tu, Shu-I (eds.). Visual Analysis of Entity Relationships in Global Terrorism Database. Defense and Security 2008: Special Sessions on Food Safety, Visual Analytics, Resource Restricted Embedded and Sensor Networks, and 3D Imaging and Display. Vol. 6983. SPIE Proceedings. pp. 69830G. CiteSeerX doi:10.1117/12.778084. S2CID 17470701.
  17. ^ Pinker, Steven (October 4, 2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature. ISBN 978-1-101-54464-8.
  18. ^ a b Pape, Robert; Ruby, Kevin; Bauer, Vincent; Jenkins, Gentry (August 11, 2014), "How to fix the flaws in the Global Terrorism Database and why it matters", New York Times, retrieved 2016-01-08
  19. ^ If the numbers in 2007 and 2013 are independent Poisson counts, then the GTD results show an increase of 8.3 standard deviations, while CPOST reports a 3.2 standard deviation decrease; both are statistically significant by all commonly used standards.
  20. ^ GTD Global Terrorism Database Codebook: Inclusion Criteria and Variables, University of Maryland, College Park, MD: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), June 2015, p. 4, archived from the original on 2015-07-12, retrieved 2015-11-28
  21. ^ Rogers, Simon (April 17, 2013). "Four decades of US terror attacks listed and detailed. How many terror attacks have hit the US since 1970 – and how serious are they?". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  22. ^ Chalabi, Mona (December 30, 2013). "Russian terrorist attacks since 1991: what's changed? Two bomb attacks today in Volgograd are thought to be the work of terrorists". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  23. ^ Shane, Scott (April 16, 2013). "Bombings End Decade of Strikingly Few Successful Terrorism Attacks in U.S." New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  24. ^ "Nigerian Television Becomes Front for U.S. in Terrorism Fight. State Department Ramps Up Efforts Against Boko Haram". New York Times. May 17, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  25. ^ Fernandez, Manny; Blinder, Alan (April 8, 2014). "At Fort Hood, Wrestling With Label of Terrorism". New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  26. ^ Kessler, Glenn (November 6, 2013). "Hyping the number of deaths from terrorism". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  27. ^ Plumer, Brad (April 16, 2013). "Eight facts about terrorism in the United States". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  28. ^ Jones, Seth G. (April 30, 2012). "Al Qaeda Is Far From Defeated". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  29. ^ Groll, Elias (April 15, 2013). "A brief history of terrorist attacks in Boston". Foreign Policy. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  30. ^ Groll, Elias (May 23, 2013). "Obama's counterterrorism policy, by the numbers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  31. ^ Glenn Kessler (November 6, 2013). "Fact Checker Analysis – Hyping the number of deaths from terrorism". Washington Post.
  32. ^ Ben West (Aug 28, 2018). "Understanding Terrorism Is More Than a Numbers Game". Stratfor.
  33. ^ "Global Terrorism Decreases in 2018; U.S. Attacks Increase". Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  34. ^ Miller, Erin (October 2019). "Trends in Global Terrorism: Islamic State's Decline in Iraq and Expanding Global Impact; Fewer Mass Casualty Attacks in Western Europe; Number of Attacks in the United States Highest since 1980s" (PDF). START GTD. Retrieved October 25, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]