Terrorist Attacks at All-Time High, State Report Finds

State Department report finds sharp rise in terror attacks, deaths in 2006.

February 9, 2009, 6:28 PM

April 30, 2007 — -- Terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high, according to a new State Department report.

The report also suggests that al Qaeda and the Taliban have been resurgent despite setbacks to their leadership. Instead, they have changed their tactics and added to what the report for the first time calls a "global insurgency."

The State Department's 2006 Country Report on Terror, an annual worldwide survey of terrorism, notes that terror attacks increased 25 percent last year from the previous year. The 14,338 attacks worldwide killed 20,498 people.

The majority of those attacks took place in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries the United States has referred to as the front lines in the war on terror. Almost half of the terror attacks in the world occurred in Iraq last year. There, 6,630 attacks killed approximately 13,000 people.

Not even the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, touted by the Bush administration as a major development in the war on terror, was able to stem the tide of terror in Iraq.

"The June 7 death of [al Qaeda in Iraq's] leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, damaged the group's leadership but did not diminish attacks against coalition forces and Iraqis nor did it halt overall increasing attack trends by the group," the report says.

Afghanistan is going in the wrong direction too, according to the report. The Taliban and al Qaeda have regrouped after their 2001 ouster from power, resulting in a 50 percent increase in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan last year -- to 749 from 491 in 2005.

"Despite this progress, the Taliban-led insurgency remained a capable and resilient threat to stability," the report says, citing effective Taliban propaganda as a major reason for the group's resurgence.

Despite the staggering number of attacks, the report does not cite Iraq in its list of terrorist safe havens.

"Iraq is not currently a terrorist safe haven, but terrorists, including Sunni groups like al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Sunna, as well as Shia extremists and other groups view Iraq as a potential safe haven and are attempting to make it a reality," the report says, echoing language used in the 2005 report.

When asked why Iraq was not on the list, the acting coordinator of the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, Frank Urbancic, told reporters, "Well, it's a potential safe haven this year. And we simply looked at the assessment according to the definition that we use."

"The situation is serious and we're watching it. I mean, there's no question that they are increasing their capabilities," Urbancic added, referring to the terrorists in Iraq.

"Al Qaeda had a banner year in 2006," Bruce Reidel, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News. "It staged a significant comeback in Afghanistan. Its franchise in Iraq had its best year ever from their standpoint."

In percentage terms, the biggest increase in terrorism is actually in Africa, which saw a 64 percent increase, largely because of violence in Sudan and in Nigeria.

There are some bright spots in the report. Attacks were down considerably in Europe and South Asia. Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country and a victim of horrific attacks in recent years, saw terrorism drop 95 percent last year.

The terrorism report also gives some insight into the victims of terrorism. More than 1,800 children were killed or injured in attacks last year, up more than 80 percent from the previous year. More than half the victims of terrorism last year were Muslims.

The report also says that terrorists are changing their tactics.

"Early [al Qaeda] terrorist attacks were largely expeditionary. The organization selected and trained terrorists in one country, then clandestinely inserted a team into the target country to attack a pre-planned objective," the report says.

"We have seen a trend toward guerilla terrorism, where the organization seeks to grow the team close to its target, using target country nationals," the report explains.

"A deeper trend is the shift in the nature of terrorism, from traditional international terrorism of the late 20th century into a new form of transnational non-state warfare that resembles a form of global insurgency. This represents a new era of warfare," the report says.

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