Terror Attacks Declined Sharply
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|Thu, 05-01-2003 - 9:32am|
The State Department, in its annual report on global terrorism, says the number of terror attacks declined sharply last year due to increased international cooperation and resolve. Seven countries - Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan - were again listed as state sponsors of terrorism, though Iraq may soon come off the list.
The State Department says there were 199 terrorist attacks last year, a 44 percent drop from 2001 and the lowest figure in more than 30 years.
A total of 725 deaths were attributed to terrorism, a dramatic decline from the nearly 3,300 recorded the previous year, which included the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
The past year's most deadly single attack was the car bombing last September in a tourist area of Bali, Indonesia that killed more than 200 people.
Introducing the report at a news conference, Secretary of State Colin Powell said increased vigilance, international cooperation and U.N. financial sanctions created after the September 11 attacks are definitely making life more difficult for terrorist factions.
"It is harder for terrorists to hide and find safe-haven," he said. "It is harder for them to organize and sustain operations. Terrorist cells have been broken up, networks disrupted and plots foiled. The financial bloodlines of terrorist organizations have been severed. Since 9-11 more than $134 million of terrorist assets have been frozen. All around the world, countries have been tightening their border security and better safeguarding their critical infrastructures."
Mr. Powell said the liberation of Iraq by U.S. forces has freed the world from the "potentially-catastrophic combination" of a rogue regime, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorists.
He said he hoped Iraq, which is soon to be stricken from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism, can become an example of a "state transformed" a contributor, rather than a threat, to international peace and security.
Among the other countries listed as terrorism sponsors, the report said Iran is the "most active."
It said Iran's Revolutionary Guards and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security were involved in planning of, and support for, terrorist acts, while the country's leaders continue to verbally and materially support groups opposed to Middle East peace efforts.
Syria, which Mr. Powell will visit later this week, was cited for continuing to host offices of radical Palestinian factions. The State Department's anti-terrorism coordinator, Cofer Black, said U.S. officials can not accept Syria's argument that it permits only political activity by the radicals.
"We reject this distinction. Syria permits re-supply flights of Hezbollah through its territory," he said. "Syria rejected a U.S. request to close the Palestinian Islamic Jihad office. There are some good things. Syria quickly condemned the attacks of September 11 and has provided valuable information on al-Qaida that has helped save American lives. Nonetheless, we want to make absolutely clear to Syria that nothing short of full cooperation against all terrorist groups is acceptable."
Though Sudan also remained on the list of terrorist sponsors, Mr. Black said the United States is pleased with the Khartoum government's recent cooperation, saying it has, among other things, given U.S. investigators access to critical financial records and ratified international counter-terrorism agreements.
Libya was similarly given credit for positive efforts, though the report noted that Libya did not settle the issue of the 1988 bombing of Panam flight 103, including accepting responsibility for the attack and complying with U.N. requirements for permanently lifting sanctions.
Mr. Black said Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization is "on the run" with more than one-third of its leadership killed or captured, but he said it is still planning attacks and its threats must be regarded "with utmost seriousness."