Predicting precisely where and when terrorism will occur is futile - most terrorists thrive on surprise attacks - and the risk that terrorism poses to an individual traveler remains small. Yet some destinations are more likely than others to experience terrorism, usually due to a combination of factors.
The following is iJET Travel Risk Management’s list of the 10 countries most susceptible to terrorism today, and a brief explanation of the factors behind the threat in each nation. iJET intentionally excluded from this list turmoil-torn countries with very low numbers of travelers (business and leisure), such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Also, due to negligible variances in threat level between these 10 countries, iJET did not rank these 10 in order of risk; the list is alphabetical. iJET maintains security risk ratings for 182 countries. Terrorism is one of six sub-categories used to calculate those rankings.
Colombia: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has essentially declared war on President Alvaro Uribe, due largely to his pledge to stamp out terrorism in the country. FARC strikes increasingly target urban areas, and though the group historically has carefully selected its targets (politicians, journalists and others who vocally opposed the group), FARC terrorists have shown an increasing willingness to inflict broader damage, as evidenced by the Aug. 24 bombing on a pier in Puerto Rico, Colombia that killed seven people. On Sept. 13, at least eight foreigners were kidnapped in northern Colombia, where both the FARC and the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) operate. The FARC engages in frequent battles with the AUC and rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN); these battles frequently cause collateral deaths and injuries.
Indonesia: The Aug. 5 bombing of the Marriott hotel in central Jakarta suggests that President Megawati Sukarnoputri lacks control of radical militants in the country. The presence of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) cells in Indonesia and recent trials of JI leaders and accomplices in last October’s Bali bombing make the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The more that Indonesian police arrest suspected terrorists, the greater the likelihood that attacks will continue, especially against Western targets, including businesses. The vast size of the country and its many islands provide ample room for terrorists to hide and plan and carry out attacks.
Israel: Palestinian terrorists groups, backed by legions of willing suicide bombers, have developed a sophisticated capability to stage attacks. These groups, especially Hamas, have the technological know-how to build both suicide belts and improvised explosive devices, and possess an intelligence network to identify potential targets and deliver bombers. The close proximity of Palestinian cities and villages to Israeli targets and the absence of a border fence between Palestinian and Israeli communities give potential bombers the ability to reach destinations within hours of receiving instructions. While Israeli security forces are the most advanced in the world in tracking and arresting terrorists, the current wave of attacks will continue for the foreseeable future.
Kenya: As a country hosting numerous and various foreign businesses and interests, Kenya is a desirable target for Al Qaeda and sympathetic groups. Inadequate border security and close proximity to countries with little or no security, such as Somalia and Sudan, exacerbate Kenya’s predicament. Many terrorism experts predict a repeat of the Nov. 28, 2002 attacks in Mombassa.
Nigeria: Nigeria is bordered by unstable countries (Chad and, to an extent, Cameroon) and is home to major multi-national oil firms, which are attractive targets for terrorists. Nigeria’s population is roughly 50 percent Muslim, which allows militant Muslims from outside Nigeria to blend in while planning attacks. Nigeria has not experienced a major terror attack in recent memory, but high religious and ethnic tensions over control of Nigeria’s oil wealth make the country ripe for an attack.
Philippines: Terrorism in the Philippines is driven by separatist groups, primarily the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Philippine security forces are more effective than those in Indonesia, partly due to U.S. military assistance and training. But that U.S. presence also makes the country a desirable terrorism target. Low-level terrorist attacks in the southern Philippines are relatively common - a Sept. 8 grenade attack in Cotabato killed three people - but bolder attacks, such as those in March and April in Davao, are becoming more common. Terrorists would view a major attack in metropolitan Manila as a huge success.
Russia: The threat of terrorist bombings continues to plague southwest Russia and major urban centers in European Russia; this includes a real threat to tourist areas, especially Moscow. A Sept. 15 truck bomb in Manas killed at least two people and injured 15. On July 4, President Vladimir Putin set elections for a president for Chechnya for Oct. 5, a move that enraged militants in Chechnya. More acts of terrorism and sabotage against civilian targets are expected prior to the elections. Russian officials acknowledge that there are at least 3,000 rebel fighters engaged in a guerrilla campaign in southern Russia.
Spain: The Basque separatist group ETA continues to target a variety of Spanish interests, most notably the tourism industry. Common targets include political offices of PP and PSOE parties, police installations, hotels and resorts. Authorities blame ETA for the Sept. 14 shooting of two policemen in Lagran. Roots of Basque separatism run very deep. Despite some significant arrests by joint Spanish-French law enforcement agencies over the past 18 months, the popular support enjoyed by the ETA militant network does not appear to have eroded significantly. ETA often - but not always - warns authorities of attacks in advance, thereby diminishing the chances of collateral injury. But authorities have attributed more than 800 deaths to ETA attacks in the past 35 years.
Thailand: A major terrorist attack in Thailand is increasingly likely. Numerous tourist destinations and foreign businesses are in relatively remote locations that give terrorists the opportunity for “hit and run” operations. The Thai government has been slow to actively combat terrorism, but finally accepted the reality that terrorists are operating in the country. Thai officials have warned of possible terrorist attacks during the mid-October Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Authorities only recently banned the parking of large trucks near buildings, hotels and malls, a measure that many nations took months or years ago. The recent arrest of Hambali, a top terrorist operative in Southeast Asia, was a major success for Thai authorities, who were working with U.S. assistance. But as in the Philippines, Thai cooperation with the U.S. anti-terror effort is a double-edged sword.
Yemen: Vast areas of Yemen are out of the reach of government forces, and Al Qaeda is known to have relocated large numbers of fighters and training bases to Yemen’s tribal regions. Numerous Islamic militants are active in Yemen and the country provides easy access to arms and munitions via gun markets. The ability of the terrorists to hide in remote, lawless regions - and among the population - while planning attacks makes preventing terrorism nearly impossible. On Sept. 12, armed tribesmen sabotaged an oil pipeline in Marib. The Yemeni government, while aiding the U.S. in the war on terror, has also released many Islamic militants who “promised” not to carry out additional attacks.