Even before it ends, 2015 has been the year with the highest number of deaths (148) caused by terror attacks in Western Europe since 2004. That year, 196 people died and more than 1,850 were wounded, in large majority in the attacks that hit the Cercanías commuter network in Madrid.
This year’s casualties came mainly from the two sets of attacks in France—in January, against the magazine Charlie Hebdo, and in November, at several sites around Paris. These tragic episodes are particularly shocking in the light of the relative tranquillity that’s reigned over Europe in the past 20 years.
Aside from Madrid and now Paris, the only other large attacks since 1995 occurred in London, where in 52 were killed in a 2005 attack on the city’s public transit system, carried out by four Islamist extremists.
In the past 45 years, there have been more than 16,000 terror attacks in Western Europe, an average of more than 350 per year, according to the Global Terrorism Database, maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The peak was reached in 1979, when 1,019 attacks were perpetrated in Europe, but all through the 1970s, 1980s, and mid-1990s attacks occurred with an average frequency of about 10 per week. Since 1997, the trend line has been even lower.