The global terrorism risk map from Aon, the world’s second largest insurance broker, has some surprises. All of the central and south American countries are designated either “low” or “negligible” risk – apart from Colombia, which is designated “extreme risk”. And Northern Ireland is seen as under a lesser threat of terrorist attack than the rest of the UK.
It is the first time the Chicago-based broker, which employs former military and security service specialists to help make its assessments, has compiled a map of terrorism risk, although it has done a similar exercise for political risks for the past 10 years.
Paul Dobbs, chairman of Aon’s special risks division, said: “If you want to get mugged, go to Latin America – but as far as explosions are concerned, the risks are practically negligible, outside Colombia.”
Aon reckons one reason that Colombia now falls into its most dangerous category is because guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) have been receiving training from the Provisional IRA, and have switched their tactics from attacks in rural areas to large vehicle bombs in urban areas, which cause much greater damage.
Aon thinks Northern Ireland faces a lesser threat than the rest of the UK because al-Qaeda is more likely to attack the UK mainland.
All of the UK remains vulnerable to attack from the Provisional IRA, but while Irish republicans retain terrorist capability, they appear to have no current intention of using it – a key factor in the broker’s risk assessment process.
Although the US Department of Homeland Security recently lowered its national terrorism threat level from “high” (orange) to “elevated” (yellow) following the end of serious fighting involving US troops in Iraq, Aon’s Mr Dobbs said he thought the outcome could encourage further terrorism.
“The Iraq war showed it is very difficult to match the US in conventional warfare, so ‘asymmetric’ risks, such as terrorism, could be greater,” he said.
Although there are far fewer international terrorist incidents than in the mid-eighties, Aon points out that terrorist attacks are becoming more lethal.
“Most terrorist organisations active in the 1970s and 1980s had clear political objectives,” it says. “They tried to calibrate their attacks to produce just enough bloodshed to get attention for their cause, but not so much so as to alienate public support. Now, a growing percentage of terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many people as possible.”