In its annual terrorism report, the State Department cites a sustained threat from al Qaeda, and offers to remove North Korea removal from its list of state terrorism sponsors if it de-nuclearizes.
Terrorism fatalities rose worldwide in 2007, according to the State Department's annual terrorism report. The agency attributes the trend to terrorist activity in Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas, and increasingly skilled suicide bombers.
"Country Reports on Terrorism, 2007 ," released yesterday, reports that fatalities rose by nearly 9 percent from 2006, increasing from 20,872 to 22,685, while the number of attacks stayed steady at approximately 14,500. Injuries increased 15 percent.
Iraq accounted for half of the terrorist attacks last year, as well as two-thirds of the fatalities, reports The New York Times. The number of specific incidents there, however, decreased from 2006, which the report attributes to the U.S. troop "surge" that bolstered security in Iraq.
The resurgence of al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas has created another epicenter of terrorism, researchers found.
The State Department recorded more than double the number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2007 than in the previous four years between 2002 and 2006.These attacks resulted in large number of casualties and occurred often in densely populated cities such as Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
"A number of these attacks targeted well-protected government targets and made use of coordinated and complex operations, such as the November 24 and September 4 suicide attacks in Rawalpindi," said the report. "On October 18, the most deadly suicide attack in Pakistan’s history took place against Bhutto’s homecoming procession in Karachi, killing over 130, and injuring hundreds more."
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Ambassador Dell L. Dailey, the State Department's top counterterrorism official, did not fault directly fault Pakistan's government . The the report, however, said, "that a primary reason for the terrorist network's resurgence is a much-criticized cease-fire last year between the Pakistani federal government and tribal leaders beyond its authority near the border with Afghanistan."
Another reason for the rise in deaths: more proficient suicide bombers.
"Overall, suicide bombing attacks rose by about 50 percent and suicide car bombings about 40 percent," explains the report's statistical annex compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center. "Suicide bombers operating outside of vehicles increased by about 90 percent, and the ability of these attackers to penetrate large concentrations of people and then detonate their explosives may account for the increase in lethality of bombings in 2007."
As Russell E. Travers, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a news briefing announcing the report's release "I think it's a fair statement that around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people."
Repeating last year, the report listed the same five state sponsors of terrorism : Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. It said Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism, helping "Palestinian terrorist groups, Lebanese Hizballah, Iraq-based militants, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan" to destabilize the region to further Iranian national interests.
The report did signal an opening for North Korea's removal from the list, however.
"As part of the Six-Party Talks process," the report stated, "the United States reaffirmed its intent to fulfill its commitments regarding the removal of the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in parallel with the DPRK’s actions on denuclearization and in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law."