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New Report by UNH Institute for the Study of Violent Groups Shows Number of Attacks on U.S. Embassies Down, Number of Deaths Up

Release Date:
9/20/2012 9:00 AM

Sept. 20, 2012

WEST HAVEN, CONN. -- The number of attacks on U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world has actually decreased since 2006, but the attacks that have occurred are deadlier, according to a new study released by the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG).

 ISVG embassy attacks 500px

Based at the University of New Haven, the ISVG collects open-source data on terrorist groups and acts worldwide and analyzes the results. An analysis of attacks on American targets shows that in the past 33 years, there have been several serious attacks on U.S. diplomatic properties in addition to the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans and "protests" that occurred on Sept. 12 and 13. While the report looks back 33 years, it analyzes data for the last five years.

In the past week, similar attacks have occurred in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bangladesh, India, Sudan and Tunisia.

ISVG embassy attacks chart  Data supplied by ISVG at the University of New Haven.

The ISVG study shows that since 2006, the number of attacks on U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions has actually decreased from 10 in 2006 to four in 2012.  Fifty-three attacks during the last five years – including 14 bombings and 30 armed assaults – resulted in 214 deaths.  The attacks took place on five continents, 13 of them in Iraq.  

The data shows there were 10 attacks in 2006, four in 2007, 14 in 2008, four in 2009, nine in 2012, eight in 2011 and four in 2012.   While the highest number of embassy attacks was in 2008, 2012 had the most casualties.  The data shows 16 deaths in 2006; 51 in 2008; 26 in 2009; 19 in 2010; 41 in 2011 and 57 in 2012.

“While attacks against U.S. embassies have decreased over the last six years, the casualties caused by such attacks have increased. This trend may be indicative of more complex and well-coordinated attacks, such as the attack carried out by the Taliban on the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in September 2011 that resulted in 36 casualties, as well as in the recent attacks in Egypt, Libya and Yemen,” said Robert Berntsson, an ISVG researcher in the national security program in UNH’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences.

Most of the time, the attacks were not coordinated with one another but Berntsson noted three attacks were staged by Jund al-Sham, an Afghani terrorist group, and three by Al Queda.  The Taliban was responsible for two of the attacks.

During the 33 years the report analyzed, there were several very serious attacks against American embassies, including the 1979 attack in Tehran, Iran, which led to a prolonged hostage situation, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania carried out by Al Qaeda, and the February 2012 uprising in Syria that led to the closing of the American embassy because of the potential threat of violence against the embassy and its personnel.

For more information or a copy of the full report, go to

The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. Founded in 1920 on the campus of Yale University in cooperation with Northeastern University, UNH moved to its current West Haven campus in 1960. The University provides its students with a unique combination of a solid liberal arts education and real-world, hands-on career and research opportunities. UNH enrolls approximately 6,400 students, including nearly 1,800 graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates – the majority of whom reside in University housing. Through its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, Tagliatela College of Engineering, and College of Lifelong & eLearning, UNH offers 75 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. UNH students have access to more than 50 study abroad programs worldwide and its student-athletes compete in 16 varsity sports in the NCAA Division II’s highly competitive Northeast-10 Conference.