WASHINGTON: The worldwide terror threat is evolving as Al-Qaeda-linked groups and other militants become increasingly violent and a new generation of global terrorists is spawned in Syria, the U.S. warned Wednesday.
U.S. counterterrorism efforts focused on Al-Qaeda have “degraded” the core leadership, but “subsequently 2013 saw the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous Al-Qaeda affiliates and like-minded groups in the Mideast and Africa.”
Even Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. troops in 2011, has had “difficulty in maintaining influence,” said the State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on terrorism.
“The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world – including both Al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations – posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests.”
The report identified a 43 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 from 2012, according to statistics provided by the National Consortium for the Study of terrorism and Responses to terrorism.
It counted 9,707 terrorist attacks around the world in 2013, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. Most of those occurred in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen. In 2012, the figures were 6,771 terrorist attacks, with more than 11,000 deaths and more than 21,600 injuries. Most of those were in the same 10 countries as in 2013.
Despite the spike in the number of attacks, the report pointed out that nearly half of them caused no fatalities and 53 percent caused no injuries.
The most lethal attacks in 2013 were conducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the report.The Syrian war has proved a fertile breeding ground attracting thousands of foreign fighters who have joined the fight against President Bashar Assad.
They seized advantage of the chaos and lack of governance as well as a flow of money from the Gulf for extremist groups. But Assad has also been aided by Shiite militia, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, funded and supported by Iran, adding to the violence on the ground.
Many governments are “becoming increasingly concerned that individuals with violent extremist ties and battlefield experience will return to their home countries or elsewhere to commit terrorist acts,” the report noted.
This has fueled growing “concern about the creation of a new generation of globally committed terrorists, similar to what resulted from the influx of violent extremists to Afghanistan in the 1980s.”