U.S. Terror Plots: Most Aim at New York City

May 5, 2010 Updated: May 5, 2010

While terrorist attacks in the United States have steadily declined during the past 40 years, New York is still the most frequently targeted city.

Following the attempted bomb attack in New York’s Times Square earlier this week, a report from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) says New York City is the country’s most common terrorist target.

The statistics are from the Global Terrorism Database, which has information on over 80,000 worldwide terrorist incidents since 1970. The database is a project of START. An updated version of the open-source database, with information through 2008, will be launched in late May.

According to START, which is based at the University of Maryland, of the 1,347 attacks in the United States from 1970-2007, more were in New York City than the combined number of attacks in the other four most frequently targeted U.S. cities.

Miami suffered 70 attacks; San Francisco had 66; Washington, D.C., had 59; and Los Angeles had 54.

But even in 1973, at the height of the attacks, 48 percent of all terrorist attacks in the United States were in New York City.

In New York City’s five boroughs, between 1970 and 2007, there were 284 terrorist attacks. In the same period, 2,813 people were killed by terrorist activity (98 percent were from the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001).

The total number of terrorism casualties, including those killed or wounded in attacks, is over 4,000 people.

In addition to al-Qaeda, which is responsible for the deadliest attacks on the city, about 40 other groups have committed terrorist acts through 2007. According to START, they represent a range of goals, ideologies, and backgrounds.

For example, in the 1970s, the worst perpetrators of violence in New York City were Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN); a Puerto Rican separatist group; The Jewish Defense League (JDL), which attacked targets it thought were anti-Semitic; the Independent Armed Revolutionary Commandos (CRIA), another Puerto Rican separatist group; and Omega-7, an anti-Castro Cuban organization.

Although different targets have been singled out in the past four decades, the most common have been businesses, government offices, and nongovernmental organizations. The most commonly used weapons in attacks were bombs and explosives.