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Developed countries across Europe are becoming more and more vulnerable to terrorism, mostly due to the rising power of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other Islamist extremist groups, a global risk consultancy has warned.
The risk of an extremist terrorist or political attack poses a threat to business across Europe but seven countries in particular are in particular danger: France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Estonia.
"Top risks for business include increased terrorism threats across developed economies, and a progressively uncertain and dangerous geopolitical environment, where the risk of armed conflict is growing amid changing and unstable regional balances of power," said Aon in a report published on Tuesday with the Risk Advisory Group.
The risk to western European countries was highlighted in January this year, when gunmen claiming affinity to Al-Qaeda killed 17 people in a series of attacks in Paris. Norway, meanwhile, saw 77 people slaughtered in 2011 by a far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
While Islamic extremists are viewed as the major threat to Western European countries—and to Australia and Canada, where terror risk levels are also rising—Aon said Russia's increasing aggression towards it neighbors was also raising concerns.
The consultancy said danger levels were rising in both Ukraine and Estonia, as assessed by its "Terrorism Tracker," which rated the risk of terrorism, civil unrest and conflict based on the previous 12 months.
"Russia's military maneuvers and increase in military spending mean that the potential for further armed conflict in the area is no longer unthinkable," Aon said.
The consultancy advised that businesses in vulnerable European countries should build "terrorism insurance programs that align more closely with their exposure."
Last week, political risk research firm Verisk Maplecroft also noted that terrorism risks were rising in Western countries. Just as with Aon, it singled out France Belgium, Canada and Australia as particularly vulnerable.
In addition, Verisk Maplecroft said that Paris had experienced one of the steepest rises in terrorism risk of any city in the world, following the attacks in January.
"The risk level in Paris is representative of a wider trend for Western countries, including Belgium, Canada and Australia, where key urban centers face substantially higher threat levels than elsewhere in the country, in part due to the significant PR value attached to such high profile targets by militant Islamist groups," Verisk Maplecroft said in a research note.
Urban centers are particularly important when it comes to protecting from terrorism as around 80 percent of the world's economy was generated from cities, the research firm added.
"Sub-national differences in terrorism levels should be an imperative for multinational organizations looking to understand and price the risks to assets, employees and supply chains," said Charlotte Ingham, principal analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, in the note.
Despite concerns about Europe, the countries and cities at the very highest risk were in the Middle East—in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan—and the African countries of Nigeria, Somalia and Libya.
Maplecroft's top six riskiest cities were all located in Iraq, with Baghdad up top. In the past five years, Iraq's capital city has suffered 380 terrorist attacks, resulting in 1141 deaths and 3654 wounded, according to the analysis firm.
On the plus side, Aon said that terror risks had fallen in seven countries in Latin America, including Cuba and Honduras, which saw their first drops in a decade.
"This reflects counter-terrorism progress and moves to end long running conflicts in Colombia and Peru," the consultancy said.
"No countries in Latin America are rated at increased risk in 2015, highlighting the potential for business investment across the continent."