A U.S. State Department report issued Friday says Iran remains the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, and that the Al Qaeda terror organization appears to be weakening. It also said more than 14,000 people were killed in 2005 in global incidents of terrorism.
The death toll of 14,600 from some 11,000 incidents of terrorism, was a more than four-fold increase over the 3,400 fatalities from terrorism reported by the State Department in 2004.
But officials here said the difference came almost entirely from a new way of defining terrorist activity that now, among other things includes, attacks on civilians in Iraq.
The State Department's Special Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Henry Crumpton, told reporters he believes the world was safer than it was during the previous year though a long struggle remains ahead in the global anti-terrorism effort:
"Despite what some may argue is an increase in radicalization, and despite the continued violence we see, there's a growing recognition and a realization among civilized countries and individuals that we've got to bond together," he said. "There's been progress made in multilateral efforts. I think there's been progress made in some of the regional efforts that we've embarked upon, and bilaterally."
Crumpton said Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror organization remains the most prominent threat to the United States and its allies.
But he said the group's operational control has weakened since its was driven from its Afghan safe haven by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
At the same time, he said loosely affiliated terror cells operating locally may be taking the place of the mainline Al Qaeda and are difficult to detect or counter.
The report, mandated by an act of Congress, again listed the same six countries as state sponsors of terrorism, which are subject to sanctions under U.S. law.
They are Iran, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Cuba and North Korea, despite what the report said was significantly better anti-terrorism cooperation by Libya and Sudan.
Iran was said to have remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The U.S. document said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security were directly involved in supporting and encouraging a variety of groups including Lebanon's Hezbollah and Syrian-based Palestinian factions.
Crumpton said Iran continues to resist demands for the handover of Al Qaeda fugitives, and is apparently lending material support to Iraqi insurgents:
"Tehran has repeatedly refused to bring to justice, publicly identify, or share information about detained senior Al Qaeda members who murdered Americans and others in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings," added Mr. Crumpton. "Iran encouraged anti-Israeli terrorist activity, rhetorically, operationally and financially. In addition, Iran has provided assistance to anti-coalition forces in Iraq. As the President said earlier this year, some of the most powerful IED's [Improvised Explosive Devices) we're seeing in Iraq today include components that come from Iran."
Though again listing Syria as a terrorism sponsor, the report credited Damascus with efforts to prevent foreign militants from crossing its borders into Iraq.
It also gave favorable mention to several countries including Colombia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Algeria for moving against terrorist safe-havens.
Indonesia was praised for mounting a broad anti-terrorist effort after a second round of bombings in the resort of Bali last year, and for promoting moderate religious theology to blunt radicalization.