Ter­ror­ist at­tacks soared in 2014, U.S. re­ports

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Paul Richter paul.richter@latimes.com

WASHINGTON — Ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence ex­ploded around the world last year, driven by a surge in at­tacks by the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group in the Mid­dle East and Boko Haram in West Africa, the State Depart­ment said in a re­port Fri­day.

The num­ber of ter­ror­ist at­tacks jumped 35%, to 13,500, while the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties soared 81%, to 33,000, the re­port says. A ma­jor fac­tor was an in­crease in es­pe­cially deadly at­tacks, in­clud­ing 20 as­saults that killed 100 or more peo­ple.

The surge in lethal­ity comes as gov­ern­ments have col­lapsed or come un­der at­tack in parts of the Mid­dle East and Africa, in­clud­ing in Syria, Iraq, Ye­men, Libya and Nige­ria.

The num­ber of peo­ple kid­napped or taken hostage tripled, to more than 9,400, largely at the hands of Is­lamic State and Al Nusra Front in Syria and Boko Haram in Nige­ria.

Tina Kaidanow, the State Depart­ment’s counter-ter­ror­ism co­or­di­na­tor, said much of the ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence was con­fined to a few trou­bled na­tions.

But she said the threat of “lone wolf at­tacks” is grow­ing in the West, in part be­cause Western gov­ern­ments are mak­ing it harder for re­cruits to travel to join ex­trem­ist groups abroad.

Still, an es­ti­mated 16,000 for­eign fight­ers joined Is­lamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

The ex­trem­ist groups’ ef­fec­tive out­reach on so­cial media and the In­ter­net is also driv­ing zealots to plot and launch at­tacks, Kaidanow said. She cited lethal as­saults last year by gun­men in Ot­tawa and Syd­ney.

The sta­tis­tics came in an an­nex to the State Depart­ment’s an­nual “Coun­try Re­ports on Ter­ror­ism,” which was re­leased Fri­day.

At a news brief­ing, Kaidanow ar­gued that the nega- tive trends, while trou­bling, aren’t a good mea­sure of how well the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s counter-ter­ror­ism pro­grams have per­formed.

Kaidanow said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has helped other na­tions im­prove bor­der se­cu­rity, strengthen counter-ter­ror­ism laws and in­crease in­for­ma­tion shar­ing to sharpen their de­fenses against ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence.

“We have been ef­fec­tive in deal­ing with the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of our part­ners glob­ally,” she said. “This is not a bat­tle … the United States can un­der­take alone.”

She said the threat posed by the core Al Qaeda net­work con­tin­ued to di­min­ish in 2014 af­ter the deaths and ar­rests of lead­ers in Pak­istan, Afghanistan and Ye­men.

Al Qaeda also lost “mo­men­tum,” the re­port says, be­cause of the grow­ing promi­nence and al­lure of Is­lamic State, which says it in­tends to set up Is­lamic caliphate across the Mus­lim world.

Even so, the re­port says, Al Qaeda con­tin­ues to pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion for lethal af­fil­i­ates, in­clud­ing Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, based in Ye­men; Al Qaeda in the Ma­greb, based in North Africa; Al Nusra Front in Syria; and the Shabab, which op­er­ates in East Africa.

The re­port also says Iran has been “dra­mat­i­cally bol­ster­ing ” the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment in Syria, “pro­long­ing the civil war … and wors­en­ing the hu­man rights and refugee cri­sis there.”

Iran has sent arms to Syria, in­clud­ing through Iraqi airspace, in vi­o­la­tion of United Na­tion Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, the re­port says.

Although the ad­min­is­tra­tion has tac­itly co­op­er­ated in some ways with Iran in the fight against Is­lamic State in Iraq, the State Depart­ment com­plained about Iran’s ap­proach. It cited the role of the Quds Force, an elite branch of the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps.

“Iran has used Iraqi Shia mil­i­tants and high-pro­file ap­pear­ances by Quds Force of­fi­cials on the front lines of Iraq to claim credit for mil­i­tary suc­cesses against [Is­lamic State] and to be­lit­tle coali­tion airstrikes and U.S. con­tri­bu­tions to the gov­ern­ment of Iraq’s on­go­ing fight against [Is­lamic State],” the re­port says.

The re­port also cites Iran’s sup­port of ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas, Iraqi Shi­ite mil­i­tant groups, and Pales­tinian Is­lamic Ji­had.

As­so­ci­ated Press

IRAQI SE­CU­RITY forces fight off an at­tack by Is­lamic State this week in Husay­bah, east of Ra­madi.

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