US Notes Progress in Counter-Terrorism Efforts

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Terrorists struck less often during 2002 than in any year since 1969, but hundreds of people still lost their lives in attacks, mostly in Asia and the Middle East.

Their killers were Islamist, communist and other rebel groups, in some cases armed or otherwise supported by regimes the U.S. government has listed as terror-sponsors, with Iran again named as the most active.

The State Department's report on global terrorism, released Wednesday, reports 199 international terrorist attacks during 2002, a 44 percent drop from the previous year's 355 attacks, which included the worst in history.

Of the 199 attacks, 99 were carried out in Asia, 50 in Latin America, 29 in the Middle East, nine in Western Europe, seven in Eurasia and five in Africa, the report said.

Not one took place in the U.S.

Thirty Americans were killed by terrorists elsewhere, however, 12 of them in Asia - including U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and missionary Martin Burnham, killed after being kidnapped in Pakistan and the Philippines, respectively.

Eleven U.S. nationals were killed by terrorists in the Middle East, four in the Gulf region, two in Colombia and one in Russia.

The 30 Americans are among a total of 725 people of all nationalities killed in attacks in 2002. Just over 2,000 were wounded.

The deadliest attack of the year was the bombing of a popular tourist resort on the Indonesian island of Bali on October 12. Among the 202 killed were scores of Australian tourists, and seven U.S. citizens.

Dozens of suspects are in Indonesian custody in connection with that attack, including members of an Asian terror network known as Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Some will be going on trial within the next few weeks.

JI has been described by experts as the Asian arm or extension of al Qaeda, the loosely-knit web of terror groups headed by Osama bin Laden, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the U.S.

Those attacks resulted in the U.S.-led ousting of the fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had sheltered al Qaeda, and ushered in a period of unprecedented international cooperation in counter-terror efforts.

According to Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based terrorism specialist and author of a recent book on al Qaeda, 3,100 members and supporters of the network have been arrested in 98 counties since the beginning of 2002.

More than 400 of those were arrested by Pakistani authorities, including top-level al Qaeda operatives Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Abu Zubeidah. On Wednesday, Islamabad announced the capture of another six, including a prime suspect in the Oct. 2000 bombing of a U.S. Navy destroyer in Yemen, in which 17 sailors were killed.

The terrorism report praised a number of other countries for their efforts, including several Gulf states, Indonesia, the Philippines and especially Singapore for its actions against JI.

Releasing the report Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said unprecedented progress had been made in counter-terror cooperation worldwide.

"Terrorist cells have been broken up, networks disrupted, and plots foiled," while life has been made hard for those still at large.

Hopes for a 'transformed' Iraq

Powell said terror-sponsoring states were under pressure and increasingly isolated.

The report designates the same seven states as terror-sponsors as have been listed in previous reports - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba and North Korea.

The states on the list, the report said, had not acted sufficiently during 2002 to dissociate themselves from their links with terrorism, even though some had taken steps to cooperate with international counter-terror efforts.

Cuba, it said, had repeatedly sent agents to U.S. missions around the world to provide false leads designed to subvert post-Sept. 11 investigations.

"State sponsors of terrorism impede the efforts of the United States and the international community to fight terrorism," it said.

"Without state sponsors, terrorist groups would have a much more difficult time obtaining the funds, weapons, materials, and secure areas they require to plan and conduct operations."

While Iran again topped the blacklist for its support of violent anti-Israel groups, Iraq may soon be removed.

Powell has recommended an immediate end to terrorism-related sanctions against Baghdad now Saddam Hussein's regime has been toppled.

He said he hoped Iraq could become an example of a "state transformed," one which could contribute to peace and security rather than threaten it.

Even as he hailed the "remarkable achievements" in anti-terror efforts since Sept. 11, Powell pointed to the death toll in attacks during 2002, and warned against complacency.

"Even as I speak, terrorists are planning appalling crimes and trying to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. We cannot and will not relax our resolve, our efforts and our vigilance."

The 2002 report adds three groups to the list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), bringing the total to 36.

The newcomers are JI in southeast Asia, the Communist Party of Philippines/New People's Army in the Philippines, and Lashkar i Jhangvi, a pro-Taliban group in Pakistan linked by the Pakistan government to Daniel Pearl's murder and attacks against Christian targets in that country.

Americans may not support FTOs, their representatives may not visit the U.S., and U.S. banks must block any assets.

In another development, the U.S. government on Thursday will open a new clearinghouse for intelligence relating to terrorist threats.
The Terrorist Threat Integration Center's aim is to gather, analyze and report on terror-related data from various government agencies.

It will be headed by a veteran CIA officer, John O. Brennan, and be located at CIA headquarters in Langley until it moves into its own premises next year.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow