In its annual counterterrorism report, the US state department said the number of people killed or injured in terrorist attacks jumped to 67,000 in 2007, up from 59,000 the year before. About 60% of those occurred in Iraq.
The number of terrorist attacks in 2007 was roughly flat compared to 2006, indicating that terrorist organisations are become more adept at their deadly craft.
“Around the globe, people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people,” said Russ Travers, deputy director of the national counterterrorism centre.
He noted that as security forces improve barriers against car bombs, suicide terrorists have turned to backpacks to deliver explosives.
David Heyman, a terrorism expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, noted the increase in chemical attacks, for instance using chlorine, in Iraq, and said that shows the country is a terrorist training ground in addition to a war zone.
“This is a heads up,” he said. “Those who have gone to Iraq are in that theatre to not only attack civilians and disrupt US operations and kill Americans, but to train as future terrorists in other countries.”
The report states that al-Qaida remained the chief terrorist threat to the US and its allies, noting that the group had reorganised in north-west Pakistan since it was driven from Afghanistan after September 11 2001.
Meanwhile, al-Qaida in Iraq has been weakened by the US presence in that country, the report stated.
A strengthened US presence in Baghdad, along with an increase in cooperation from Sunni tribes, “has succeeded in reducing violence to late 2005 levels”, the report notes.
In addition, “The continued growth and improved capabilities of the Iraqi forces have increased their effectiveness in rooting out terrorist cells.”
Rebel terrorist attacks in Colombia declined, as did attacks in Saudia Arabia and Jordan, the report noted, while the number of attacks in Pakistan doubled, and the number of deaths quadrupled in 2007 from the year before.
State sponsors of terrorism continue to undermine efforts to eliminate terrorist threats, the report said. The report said Iran is the principle national sponsor of terrorist groups, noting its support for Hizbullah in Lebanon and Shia militias in Iraq.
Officials cautioned against using the data as an indicator of progress in the US war on terrorism, in part because of its reliance on incomplete and often ambiguous information.
“In an aggregate count, we’re talking about different groups with different agendas,” Travers said.
According to the report, about 9,400 police and roughly 2,400 children were injured or killed in terror attacks, with both figures representing an increase over 2006.
Attacks against schools, particularly girls’ schools, increased, with 300 strikes killing or wounding 180 teachers and almost 800 students, according to the report.
Al-Qaida killed about 5,400 civilians, a figure that the state department said belies the group’s claim it doesn’t kill innocents.
A substantial number of terror victims were Muslims, and more than 100 mosques were struck in terror attacks in 2007.
Attacks on journalists increased 22% in 2007, and hostage situations involving journalists increased to 79 in 2007, up from 47 the year before.