Terrorism Report Highlights Global Challenge

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington -– International counterterrorism cooperation is improving, but new terrorist tactics and a spike in Iraqi violence led to a 25 percent increase in terrorist incidents worldwide in 2006, according to an annual State Department report on global terrorism.

“Working with allies and partners across the world, through coordination and information sharing, we have created a less permissive operating environment for terrorists, keeping leaders on the move or in hiding, and degrading their ability to plan and mount attacks,” according to the 2006 Country Reports on Terrorism, released April 30.

The 312-page report finds that “cooperative international efforts have produced genuine security improvements” through enhanced border and transportation security, robust intelligence sharing and military cooperation, and success in tracking and freezing terrorist finances, which has reduced terrorist operational ability to mount large-scale attacks.


Despite the gains, the report acknowledges that “progress has been mixed.”     

First, the report declares that al-Qaida and its affiliates, though weakened, remain “the most immediate national security threat to the United States.” This is in part due to a shift in tactics, such as increased use of local groups operating in al-Qaida's name.

Second, state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria, continued contributing arms, training, funding, and other support to terrorists across the region in 2006.  Cuba, North Korea and Sudan are also identified as state sponsors of terrorism in the report.

Finally, the report finds that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a motivating factor for some terrorists.  Al-Qaida and other groups exploit the conflict to draw new recruits, and the refusal by the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Territories to disavow terrorism and continued violence emanating from its territories continues to concern U.S. policymakers.


The annual report to Congress includes analysis from the National Counterterrorism Center, a U.S. intelligence clearinghouse, which found only a slight increase in the overall number of civilians killed, injured or kidnapped by terrorists in 2006. But the attacks were more frequent and deadlier, with a 25 percent jump in the number of terrorist attacks and a 40 percent increase in civilian fatalities from the previous year.

In 2006, NCTC reported, there were a total of 14,338 terrorist attacks around the world. These attacks targeted 74,543 civilians and resulted in 20,498 deaths.

The 2005 edition of Country Reports on Terrorism recorded a total of 11,153 terrorist incidents worldwide.  A total of 74,217 civilians became victims of terrorists in that year, including 14,618 fatalities.

Violence in Iraq accounted for 45 percent of the overall attacks counted by NCTC and 65 percent of worldwide terrorism deaths.  Terrorist incidents in Iraq nearly doubled from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.  Although kidnappings declined by 50 percent internationally, Iraq experienced a 300 percent increase, according to NCTC.

The report also found a 50 percent increase in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, from 491 incidents in 2005 to 749 in 2006. To defeat the resurgent threat, the report urges the international community deliver promised assistance and continue working with Afghans to build counterinsurgency capabilities, ensure legitimate and effective governance and counter a surge in narcotics cultivation.

NCTC reported that the majority of terrorist attacks remain centered in the Middle East and South Asia, but noted that overall attacks in South Asia declined by 10 percent. 

As a result, the report says, “Muslims bore the substantial share of being victims of terrorist attacks in 2006,” with as many as 50 percent of the total number of civilians killed or injured by terrorists in 2006, based on NCTC analysis.  Terrorists targeted a total of 350 mosques, mostly in Iraq.

Children were increasingly the victims of terrorism in 2006, with 1,800 killed or injured in attacks, an 80 percent increase from the previous year.  As in 2005, government officials, teachers and journalists remain the leading professionals targeted by terrorists, according to the report.


Elsewhere in the world, overall terrorist incidents declined, according to the report.  Terrorism in the Western Hemisphere was confined primarily to groups based in Colombia and the Andean region.

While praising Canada and Mexico for their commitment to fighting terrorism, the report expresses concern about Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has strengthened ties with Cuba and Iran and has allowed terrorist groups and drug traffickers from neighboring Colombia to cross its borders.     

Europe and Eurasia experienced a 15 percent decrease, and no major attacks similar to the 2004 bombing in Madrid, Spain, and the 2005 attack in London.  In 2006, Spanish and French officials also made progress against the Basque separatist group ETA, Turkey confronted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Russia made gains against Chechen militants and violence continued to wane in Northern Ireland as the peace process moved forward. (See related article.)

Africa, though threatened by civil and ethnic violence, saw little in the way of terrorist attacks, the report says, but remains a concern due to the presence of al-Qaida affiliates, regional instability and loosely controlled borders that can provide terrorist safe havens. 

In East Asia, the report highlights increasing regional counterterrorism coordination, with Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines playing leading roles in confronting threats from groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf. 

The full text of Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see Response to Terrorism.