Will Pakistan See More School Attacks? A Quantitative Analysis

A year back, it was my second day as a Data Science intern when APS happened. We the people who live by the children of house saw the 144 children brutally murdered on the hands of terrorists. The news shook Pakistan and unearth the earth. These kids were too young to fight but they won.


Father laminated decade old homework of his kid who was killed in APS attack.
An honorable teacher, Abu Bakr. He took 3 bullets to save four children. Three of them survived. He now walks with Cane.


Terror attacks on schools and colleges around the world have risen to higher levels than at any point in more than 40 years. It’s a global phenomenon that is increasing unprecedentedly. The long haul outcomes of assaults have been extremely frightful for children throughout the world.

The assaults have left scars more than any assaults on the grounds in light of the fact that there target was not just to slaughter individuals but subjugate their minds to irreversible oppression. By attacking the educational institutes around the world, the terrorist advanced in murdering hopes, dreams and aspirations. They succeeded in debilitating nations.

A similar incident happened on 16th December 2014 which left Pakistan amidst the shouts of mothers and tears of fathers when Army Public School in Peshawar was attacked and 132 children were brutally murdered.

I went on to find out the patterns of terrorism related to school incidents driven by emotions after the APS attack and the revelations was startling.


I took a peek into a well maintained database of terrorism attacks globally. The database is a research project by University of Maryland and they have open-sourced it. I filtered through all the terrorist attacks globally and then filtered the database to attacks on educational institutes only. The major challenge was to find an aggregate of all the people killed and wounded in the attacks. A major portion of R scripting, a statistical computing language was involved in cleaning the database to desired form to run analysis.

Characteristics of Global Terrorism Database

  • Contains information on over 140,000 terrorist attacks
  • Currently the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world
  • Includes information on more than 58,000 bombings, 15,000 assassinations, and 6,000 kidnappings since 1970.
  • Includes information on at least 45 variables for each case, with more recent incidents including information on more than 120 variables.
  • Supervised by an advisory panel of 12 terrorism research experts.
  • Over 4,000,000 news articles and 25,000 news sources were reviewed to collect incident data.



The planned mantra dates back to 1970s but the frequency has increased dramatically post war on terror.

When I analyzed, I came across a startling number of individuals who became subject to terrorist attacks done by suicide bombers. The second lead is taken by Armed Assault, a technique which was used prior to suicide bombing. In recent past, the events of Armed Assault have increased with the great pace.

  • 74% of the attacks on Educational Institutes all around the world were conducted using Suicide Bombers.


South Asian region have been very unlucky in this regard. It had the highest number of attacks on Educational Institutes. Middle East takes the second lead and South America stands third. As I dig deeper, I find more startling facts.


In the figure above, it is evident how the pace of attacks on South Asian region increased after 2000.

  • The correlation is very interesting as American invasion of Afghanistan happened in 2001. Post American invasion, the frequency of attacks increased in South Asia, Hence the terrorism increased.

I tried to dig more to see what else I can find out of the data. I divided the attacks in 5 years intervals to see frequency in accordance to years.



The graph proved our primary inferences that the frequency dramatically increased post American war against terrorism.

  • There have been more attacks in last decade than in last 40 years.
  • There have been a total of 884 attacks all over the world in 5 years from 2005-2010, that is one attack every 45 hour.

Let’s breakdown the attack type by regions

The data again shows that South Asia had highest number of Bombings followed by facility attacks and armed assault. The Middle East stands second.

We also tried to compare the frequency of attacks of each region to another. The result is plotted below


  • It appears that there’s a little correlation between Sub-Saharan African and South Asia. The probable reason could be mercenaries of the same terrorist organizations.


We tried to find what weapon types are used versus the regions. The results were very interesting as in most of countries, only bombing and Fire Arms were used.

wapon type


When we ran to check overall result of what weapon types were used in attacks. The result was not different to our finding above.

  • It is apparent that most of the terrorist organizations prefer to use Bombing and Explosives for attacks followed by Firearms.
  • The most dangerous day for attack is Tuesday as historically highest number of attacks happened on Tuesday.


  • On any given day, the frequency of Suicide Bombing is always high but it goes dangerously high on Tuesday
  • I couldn’t correlate why Tuesday is the best day for attack, however I assume the reason for Tuesday to be a best day for attack could be because the staff gets in flow with the weekend work.



The breakdown of attacks by month with each countries show that Pakistan is the country which had highest number of attacks in every month. We can then clearly see that Afghanistan takes the second lead. We have United States and Thailand at the third place and Iraq at the fourth. Sadly, Pakistan is the only country which had a high frequency of attacks every single month.
We have also generated a table for the highest number of attacks by city.

The table below represents the number of attacks breakdown to the cities. Guatemala stands first, the country has a long history of a civil war. Iraq as we all know had a great resistance post American invasion but the most surprising fact is that Peshawar stands third. Peshawar is provincial capital of a KPK. The city always had a beefed up security because it has border with Afghanistan even then, there have been 58 attacks on educational institutes only. We have 8 cites of Pakistan alone in the table. The number is highest compared to other cities of the world.


Country City Total Attacks
Guatemala Guatemala City 66
Iraq Baghdad 64
Pakistan Peshawar 58
Peru Lima 51
Pakistan Mohmand district 43
El Salvador San Salvador 38
Chile Santiago 37
Colombia Bogota 37
Iraq Mosul 30
Colombia Medellin 28
Lebanon Beirut 28
Turkey Istanbul 28
Bangladesh Dhaka 27
Nigeria Maiduguri 27
Pakistan Bajaur district 27
Pakistan Safi 27
Pakistan Bara 26
Pakistan Karachi 26
Pakistan Quetta 25
Pakistan Landi Kotal 24

Another table for countries most attacked per region

I was flabbergasted of the fact that Pakistan had the highest number of attacks region wise. Pakistan leads in attacks on educational institutes not only in South Asia but the whole world. We had a surprising number of 743 attacks since 1970.


Region Country # Attacks
South Asia Pakistan 743
South Asia India 205
South Asia Afghanistan 204
South Asia Bangladesh 54
South Asia Nepal 42
Middle East Iraq 180
Middle East Turkey 116
Middle East Algeria 66
Middle East Lebanon 45
Middle East Israel 31
South America Peru 151
South America Colombia 107
South America Chile 50
South America Argentina 16
South America Bolivia 10
Southeast Asia Thailand 194
Southeast Asia Philippines 101
Southeast Asia Indonesia 19
Southeast Asia Vietnam 4
Southeast Asia Myanmar 2
Sub-Saharan Africa Nigeria 92
Sub-Saharan Africa Burundi 47
Sub-Saharan Africa South Africa 27
Sub-Saharan Africa Somalia 10
Sub-Saharan Africa Uganda 10
Central America Guatemala 98
Central America El Salvador 72
Central America Nicaragua 14
Central America Honduras 8
Central America Puerto Rico 7
Western Europe Italy 44
Western Europe Spain 31
Western Europe Northern Ireland 22
Western Europe France 18
Western Europe Greece 15
North America United States 156
North America Mexico 6
North America Canada 2
USSR Russia 24
USSR Ukraine 3
USSR Georgia 2
USSR Tajikistan 2
USSR Estonia 1



There have been a total of 1248 attacks on educational institutes in South Asia out of which 60% happened in Pakistan. We are the country which had 264% more attacks than in Afghanistan and 85% more than Attacks in Afghanistan and India combined. The safety of education, progress and development is at the cliffs edge.

Terrorism is the plague that my country has suffered since years. The deadliest attack in the history of Pakistan on a school happened last year when an army school was attacked in Peshawar. The attack left 132 children dead.

For death for every child, died the dreams of parents, the future of nation, a doctor, an engineer, an architect, an artist and everyone who they could have been. The Peshawar Army Public School resumes the candle of education but the screams of kids still haunt corridors of school and the walls though may have been painted but still contain the blood stain of innocents.


Author: Rana Muhammad Usman is an aspiring data scientist who likes to write about social issues. He tweets @rana_usman. He could be reached at usmanashrafrana@gmail.com

Database: Global Terrorism Database has been used for analysis.

This appeared in Dawn. The Dawn Version can be Read Here

This article is cited in BBC Article Here

This article is also cited in La Stampa Italy



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