President Trump has claimed that there have been many attacks in Europe that have gone unreported by the media - and even suggested that there was a nefarious reason for doing so.
The remarks were made at a press conference at MacDill Air Force base on Monday.
The president made the claim about the media, as he defended his ‘travel ban’ on persons from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days, and refugees from Syria indefinitely.
The White House has since released a list of 78 incidents from September 2014-December 2016 which it claims had not been sufficiently covered by the media.
The list included high profile attacks which most definitely were in the news, such as the attacks on Paris, Sydney, and the Orlando night club massacre.
Also included were attacks which law enforcement authorities had not deemed to be related to terrorism, such as the murder of a British backpacker in Australia by her roommate, a French national.
CNN White House producer Kevin Liptak shared the list:
Where suicide attacks happened
The Chicago Project on Security & Terrorism (CPOST), run by the University of Chicago has compiled a database of suicide attacks since 1982-June 2016.
The database records the location, the target type, the weapons used, as well as information about the attackers.
Looking at 2015-2016 (White House included attacks in last four months of 2014)
CPOST defines a suicide attack as:
An attack in which an attacker kills himself or herself in a deliberate attempt to kill others. CPOST includes only suicide attacks perpetrated by non-state actors; attacks authorised by national governments are not included.
Not all terrorist attacks are perpetrated in this way, yet the numbers for this subset far outstrip those listed by the White House.
In total there were 886 suicide attacks recorded in this time frame. The White House' list for the same period, with the addition of the last four months of 2014, and not limited to just suicide attacks, included 78.
Speaking to indy100, Walker Gunning, executive director of CPOST commented:
As far as we can tell, there isn’t a clear rationale for why those specific 78 attacks were chosen. Many of the attacks have received significant media attention, including: the Tunisian hotel attacks, Paris, Brussels, Garland, San Bernardino, Orlando, Nice, and the downing of the Russian airliner among others. All of these dominated the news cycle for days.
There are also a few small local events in other countries that did not get major coverage due to lack of casualties or some other variable.
Finally, there is a stunning lack of attacks in Iraq, our ally in the fight against ISIS, which has been a frequent target of the group and which the Trump administration recently targeted with an executive order/travel ban.
How often did President Trump mention these attacks?
Focusing just on suicide attacks that took place in the first six months of 2016 we can compare the attention the president gave each on the day of their event.
Out of 234 suicide attacks from 1 Jan 2016 - 30 June 2016 recorded by CPOST, Trump made reference via his Twitter feed to just six.
- Turkey 28 June 2016
- Israel 9 June 2016
- Pakistan 27 March 2016
- Belgium 23 March 2016
- Iraq 16 January 2016
- Syria 16 January 2016
The president also tweeted about the downing of Egypt MS804, a flight from Paris to Cairo, which was discovered in the Mediterranean ocean.
66 people were killed and debris was found in the Mediterranean yet initial investigations failed to find a conclusive cause.
In December 2016 traces of explosives were found in the recovered bodies, yet other investigations speculated about a cockpit fire caused by an overheated iPad or iPhone 6S. This tallied with the setting off of on board smoke detectors ahead of the flight’s disappearance.
On the same day, a Somali suicide bomber wounded 8 people when he detonated explosives in a café in Mogadishu. The incident went unmentioned by the president, who tweeted about his belief that MS804 had been a terrorist attack.
The attack in Somalia does not feature on the White House list, nor Trump’s timeline.
On 16 January there were no suicide attacks, but there was shooting in Baghdad and a massacre by Isis in Deir ez-Zor, Syria killing between 135-300, possibly more. Trump did make reference to these attacks.
Evidently, the public do not hear about victories by the security service, and their work preventing terrorism remains secretive in order to save lives. Yet the president did not refer to prevented attacks, he was claiming there are terrorist atrocities in Europe which have happened, which have not been reported.
Walker Gunning also commented on the attention given by the US media to terror attacks around the world:
It is undoubtedly true that the US media gives more attention to high profile attacks in Europe than those in the Middle East. However, this is mostly attributable to a simple reason. Terrorism is a personal issue that inspires a great deal of fear. People feel it in the pit of their stomach. Many Americans can easily imagine themselves traveling to most of the countries in Europe and thus being a target of those attacks. The majority of Americans do not have as strong a sense of connection to the Middle East or Africa and thus feel less personally at risk. Attacks in Europe are also rare and thus make a bigger splash in the news cycle.
Nevertheless, our data clearly shows that Middle East is the main target of terror attack and we should remember the struggles our allies in the region face in dealing with them.