The United States State Department has released its annual report on worldwide terrorism. The report found that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide, and the number of people killed in such attacks was much lower in 2009 than just three years earlier. However, threats remain, said the document, which mentioned Al-Qaeda and Iran as central figures in the global terror threat.
There were 10,999 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2009, down from 14,443 in 2006. Terror attacks claimed 14,971 victims in 2009, down from 23,000 in 2006.
The report cited Israel as a success story, pointing out that four Israelis were killed by terrorists in 2009, down from 27 in 2008. Israel's Cast Lead counterterrorism operation in Gaza in the beginning of 2009 led to a dramatic decrease in the frequency of attacks from the area.
The report gave Lebanon mixed reviews. The Lebanese government took steps to curb terrorism within its borders “including stronger monitoring in and around Palestinian refugee camps,” the report found. However, its border with Syria “remained a problem related to arms smuggling,” and Hizbullah “continued its acquisition of smuggled arms... in violation of UN resolution 1701.”
The Lebanese government “continued to recognize Hizbullah, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, as a legitimate 'resistance group' and political party,” the report stated.
Egypt was praised for its “active opposition to terrorism.” However, the report noted that Egypt's Sinai region has become a hotbed for terrorism and criminal activity. The area “was a base for the smuggling of arms and explosives into Gaza... [Smuggling] has created criminal networks that may be associated with terrorist groups in the region.”
Al-Qaeda: Biggest Threat
The Al-Qaeda terrorist organization poses the biggest threat to the United States, according to the State Department. The group's Iraq branch suffered several losses in Iraq, and lost support among Iraqi civilians, but its branches in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen remain strong. Its leaders continue to plot attacks on the US and on American interests worldwide.
The group has proved itself to be “adaptable and resilient,” the report said, and its core in Pakistan “remained the most formidable terrorist organization targeting the US homeland.”
Al-Qaeda has lost some support in Iraq and in the Muslim world as a whole, the report said, in particular in response to terrorist attacks that kill local Muslims. However, the organization has increased its attempts to recruit members in Europe and North America, with some success.
Iran: Biggest Terror Sponsor
Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2009, the report said. “Iran's financial, material and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy,” it stated.
Among the terrorist groups receiving funding, weapons, and training from Iran are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, Hizbullah, Shiite Muslim groups in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran has also refused to put senior members of Al-Qaeda on trial.
Another major sponsor of terrorism is Syria, which publicly condemns terrorism but insists that many organizations that target civilians are actually “national liberation movements” and not terrorist groups. Syria provides a safe haven for members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP, and provides material support to Hizbullah.