STATE DEPARTMENT —
The U.S. State Department says the number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased by 35 percent in 2014, with an 81 percent rise in the number of deaths.
The State Department released the assessment, on Friday, in its annual global terrorism report.
The review helps the U.S. to assess its effectiveness and determine how to best “calibrate its response to threats, said Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, the State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
The State Department said the rise in deaths was attributed, in part, to the number of attacks that were “exceptionally lethal.”
In 2014, a total of 13,463 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 32,700 deaths and more than 34,700 injuries," the State Department said.
It also said more than 60 percent of terrorist attacks took place in five countries – Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The report also noted that more than 9,400 people were abducted by terrorists in 2014, three times as many as in 2013.
Rise in Islamic State violence
The State Department said the Islamic State was responsible for 1083 attacks, last year, the largest number of any terror group. It said those attacks resulted in more than 6,200 deaths.
Iraq had the highest number of terror-related deaths and kidnappings, which coincided with the expansion of the Islamic State. It noted the group's "unprecedented seizure" of territory in Iraq and Syria.
“The ongoing civil war in Syria has been a spur to many of the worldwide terrorism events that we have witnessed,” said Kaidanow.
The State Department said the rate of foreign fighters traveling to Syria exceeded the rate of foreign fighters terrorist fighters who “traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”
Boko Haram, al-Shabab among threats in Africa
The State Department said Boko Haram and “related actors” were responsible for hundreds of attacks that resulted in over 5,000 casualties in West Africa, last year.
In Nigeria, nearly 1,300 people were kidnapped or taken hostage in terrorist attacks in 2014, compared to fewer than100 in 2013, the report said, noting that Boko Haram was responsible for most, if not all of the abductions. This includes the kidnapping of several hundred girls from a school in Chibok.
The State Department said Boko Haram “shared” with Islamic State militants a “penchant for the use of brutal tactics,” which include stonings, mass casualty attacks and the enslavement of children.
In East Africa, the State Department said Somalia-based al-Shabab remained the “primary terrorist threat,” although the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) had had some success in pushing the group out of urban areas of Somalia.
Iran: State Sponsor of Terrorism
The State Department said Iran continued to back terrorist groups around the world, mainly through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.
It said Iran extended support to groups including Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and the Palestinian group Hamas. It also said Iran continued to send arms into Syria, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Iran’s link to terrorism comes at a time when the U.S. and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are nearing a final deadline for a nuclear agreement with Iran, in exchange for sanctions relief to the country.
Kaidanow emphasized that no plans were under consideration to remove sanctions against Iran associated with terrorism.
The U.S. also designated Syria, Sudan and Cuba as state sponsors of terrorism, last year. However, the U.S. rescinded Cuba’s designation, last month, as Washington and Havana continue the process of normalizing relations.
Mixed results in Afghanistan, Pakistan
The total number of attacks in Afghanistan rose by 38 percent, last year, but neighboring Pakistan experienced a 6 percent drop.
In Afghanistan, the vast majority of attacks were linked to the Taliban. The report said "attacks carried out by the Taliban in 2014 killed more than 3,400 people, including perpetrators, and wounded more than 3,300."
In Pakistan, no specific group was identified as the source for nearly 80-percent of attacks.
The remaining were linked primarily to the Tehreek – e- Taliban Pakistan (TPP) group.
‘Lone Wolf’ attacks a concern
The report said the prominence of the threat posed by the “core” al-Qaida group dropped last year, mostly as a result of the terror group’s leadership losses in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the State Department said al-Qaida and Islamic State “adherents” carried out a series of “lone offender” attacks in Western countries, including Canada and Australia.
The State Department said it was hard to assess whether these attacks were directed by al-Qaida or the Islamic State, or inspired by the terror groups.
US counterterrorism strategy
The report noted that the fight against terrorism was not one the U.S. could pursue alone.
“We have been working to shift our counterterrorism strategy to more effectively partner with countries where terrorists networks seek a foothold,” the State Department said.
Kaidanow said addressing evolving terrorist threats required an expanded U.S. approach to terrorism engagement.
She said President Barack Obama’s administration had repeatedly emphasized the U.S. goal of brining strong and capable partners to the forefront to help combat terrorism.