Terrorism in 2009
The State Department put out its annual Country Reports on Terrorism today, (three months late, we might add).
Here are a few of the highlights, some of them a bit surprising:
* While Osama bin Laden's core al Qaida organization remains the most potent threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad, it wasn't even in the Top Three terrorist groups when it comes to deadly attacks in 2009. Those slots were occupied by the Taliban; the Somalia-based al Shabaab group; and the al Qaida in Iraq "franchise."
* There were just 25 U.S. noncombatant fatalities from terrorism worldwide. (The US government definition of terrorism excludes attacks on U.S. military personnel). While we don't have the figures at hand, undoubtedly more American citizens died overseas from traffic accidents or intestinal illnesses than from terrorism.
* For the first time in the last five years, the number of terrorist incidents in South Asia (including Afghanistan and Pakistan), exceeded the number in the Near East (which includes Iraq).
* Russ Travers, a top official of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a State Department briefing that media reports suggesting an increase in terrorist attacks in Iraq this year are not borne out by data for the first quarter of 2010.
* The number of attacks in Iraq decreased to 2,458 in 2009 from 3,256 in 2008. In terms of fatalities, the numbers were 3,654 in 2009 and 5,013 the year before.
* The number of attacks in Afghanistan nearly doubled, from 1,222 in 2008 to 2,126 in 2009. There was a smaller increase, of 30 percent, in neighboring Pakistan.
* The number of suicide bombings against noncombatants actually declined, by 25 percent, to 299. There were, however, more armed attacks in the style of the 2008 Mumbai, India attacks.
* Well over half of the world's terrorist victims in 2009 were Muslim.
* The idea that the United States was somehow immune from the radicalization that has taken hold in parts of some immigrant communities in Europe has proven over-optimistic.
The report says: "Not only have there been more cases of Americans becoming operatives for foreign terrorist organizations, we have also seen U.S. citizens rise in prominence as proponents of violent extremism. The most notable is al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s Anwar al-Aulaqi, who has become an influential voice of Islamist radicalism among English-speaking extremists."
* Finally, as it is every year, Iran was designated the "most active" state sponsor of terrorism. Which is why the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.