(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, released on Thursday, counts 11,774 terrorist attacks in 92 countries last year, but it says that's an improvement over 2014.
"The total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% and total deaths due to terrorist attacks (28,328) decreased by 14%, compared to 2014," the report says. "This was largely due to fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and deaths worldwide since 2012."
"Of the 28,328 people killed in terrorist attacks in 2015, 6,924 (24%) were perpetrators of terrorist attacks," the report says. "Perpetrators were killed intentionally in suicide attacks, accidentally while attempting to carry out attacks, or by security forces or victims responding to attacks.
"This is an 11% increase in the number of perpetrator deaths, compared to 2014," says the report.
The report also says the number of terrorist kidnappings and hostage-takings increased in 2015 to more than 12,100.
Although terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically, the report says:
More than 55 percent of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), and 74 percent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria).
In several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria, and Turkey, terrorist attacks and total deaths increased in 2015.
-- While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) was responsible for 31 percent fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq, the number of attacks carried out by ISIL in Syria increased by 39 percent.
-- The geographic reach of attacks by ISIL and its affiliates expanded as several existing terrorist groups pledged allegiance to ISIL. In addition to Boko Haram in West Africa, the most active of these ISIL branches were located in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.
-- The most frequent targets of terrorist attacks in 2015 were private citizens and property (attacked in 63 countries), police (attacked in 58 countries), and general (non-diplomatic) government targets (attacked in 50 countries).
-- Attacks on airports and aircraft decreased by 60 percent last year; 23 airports or aircraft were targeted in 2015, down from 58 in 2014. However, other types of transportation were targeted more frequently in 2015.
--The most commonly used terror tactic in 2015 involved explosives (52 percent), followed by armed assaults (23 percent), which almost always involved firearms.
The State Department report notes that the global terrorist threat "continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse." It says terrorist groups continued to thrive in failed states, "where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked, justice systems lacked credibility, and where security force abuses and government corruption went unchecked."
The report says ISIL/ISIS remained the greatest threat globally, although its capacity and territory began to "erode" in the second half of 2015. However, ISIL, along with al Qaeda and its various branches, "increased their focus on mass casualty attacks" in 2015. (This included attacks on international hotel chains in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Tunisia; other popular public locations; and the bombing of a Russian passenger plane.)
Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015, providing a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world – particularly Hezbollah. The report also notes that Iran continued to be deeply involved in the conflict in Syria, working closely with the Assad regime to counter the Syrian opposition, and also in Iraq where Iran continued to provide support to (Shiite) militia groups.
At a press briefing on Thursday, State Department officials noted that the statistics cited above were compiled by the University of Maryland, but the U.S. government uses them to "make informed assessments about policies and priorities and where to place resources."
Justin Siberell, the State Department's Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism, told reporters that a "key trend" in 2015 was the increased level of cooperation to address terrorist threat. This includes the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Siberell also hailed the international community for taking steps to block the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria. "We are beginning to see the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to this conflict zone decrease," he said.
In response to a reporter's question about the report's avoidance of the term "radical Islam" or "Islamic extremism," Siberell said, "When we talk about terrorism – and this report is about country reports on terrorism – there is no association with any particular religion when we look at the issue of terrorism broadly. And so that’s what this report seeks to do to capture terrorism in all its forms."