The 'US Country Reports on Terrorism 2011' claims 2011 as an extremely significant year in counter-terrorism, which witnessed a 12 percent fall in the number of worldwide attacks.
Dan Benjamin, the State Department's Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, presented its annual report on worldwide terrorism on Tuesday. The Congress-mandated Country Reports on Terrorism reviews events and developments that occurred during 2011.
"Besides the death of Osama bin Laden and a number of other key al-Qaeda operatives, we saw millions of citizens throughout the Middle East advance peaceful public demands for change without any reference to al-Qaeda's incendiary world view," Benjamin said at a special briefing. This upended the group's longstanding claim that change in this region would only come through violence. These men and women have underscored, in the most powerful fashion, the lack of influence al-Qaeda exerts over the central political issues in key Muslim-majority nations, he told reporters.
At the same time, Benjamin underscored that "we have no illusions that the transition process that we are in the midst of will be painless or happen quickly." He cautioned that "terrorists could still cause significant disruptions for states undergoing very challenging democratic transitions."
The report's narrative notes, among other things, the continued weakening of the al-Qaeda core in Pakistan, but it also demonstrates that the outfit's affiliates, while also suffering losses, increased their overall operational ability. And this is particularly true of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. "So for all the counter-terrorism successes that we've seen against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the group and violent extremist ideology and rhetoric continue to spread in some parts of the world," says the report.
The report also notes that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are not the only terrorist threat that the United States faces. Washington is increasingly concerned about Iran's support for terrorism and Hezbollah's activities as they have both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s.
The statistical annex of the report, prepared by the National Counter-terrorism Center, says the total number of worldwide attacks in 2011 was more than 10,000 in 70 countries, resulting in more than 12,500 deaths. But it is a drop of 12 percent from 2010.
The largest number of reported attacks occurred in South Asia and the Near East. More than 75 percent of the world's attacks and deaths occurred in these regions. The victims of terror attacks remain overwhelmingly Muslim. The majority of attacks occurred in just three countries - Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which together accounted for 85 percent of attacks in these regions and almost 64 percent of attacks worldwide. Although it is worth noting that both Afghanistan and Iraq saw declines in the number of attacks from the previous year - 14 percent in the case of Afghanistan, 16 percent in the case of Iraq.
Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011, an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year. And this is attributable in large part to the more aggressive attack tempo of the Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram, which conducted 136 attacks in 2011, up from 31 the previous year.
Benjamin noted that as a result of international pressure and events such as the Arab awakening, both al-Qaeda the organization and al-Qaeda the idea are evolving. "Understanding the group's strengths and weaknesses and the trajectory of its evolution are continuing critical challenges for us and will remain so," he added.
Benjamin warned that "so long as Assad refuses to go and Syria's transition is blocked, the danger grows of more foreign fighters, including extremists of the al-Qaeda type, infiltrating Syria." He said the U.S. government was very much alert to this issue. "We've spoken with the Syrian Opposition groups and warned them against allowing such fighters to infiltrate their organizations. They've assured us that they are being vigilant and want nothing to do with AQ or with violent extremists," he said, adding that the Free Syrian Army has issued several statements urging foreign fighters to leave Syria.
by RTT Staff Writer
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