Published On: Thu, May 1st, 2014

Global terrorism rose 43% in 2013

 State Department says 16 Americans killed out of 17,891 total
Surge complicates sprawling counter-terrorism efforts led by US

Terrorist attacks rose 43% worldwide in 2013 despite a splintering of al-Qaida’s leadership and a sprawling global counter-terrorism campaign, according to new statistics released by the State Department on Wednesday.

The exposure of Americans to terrorism abroad remained minimal in 2013, with 16 US citizens killed out of 17,891 globally and seven Americans wounded out of 32,577. Almost 3,000 people were kidnapped or taken hostage by terrorists in 2013, and a mere 12 of them were Americans.

Despite the increase in attacks, the vast majority of terrorist incidents were local and regional, not international in focus, the State Department data indicates.

The State Department’s figures, released on Wednesday as part of an annual report, exclude domestic terrorist incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. They are calculated by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Rapid deterioration of security in Iraq, the grinding civil war in Syria and persistent insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan contributed to a significant growth in total terrorist attacks last year, which complicate an amorphous, 13-year US counter-terrorism effort that exhibits few signs of concluding.

In Iraq, where voting in parliamentary elections began Wednesday, 6,378 people were killed and another 14,956 wounded in terrorist incidents last year, a sharp rise from 2012’s 2,436 dead and 6,641 wounded. Total attacks in the country rose to 2,495 in 2013 from 1,271 the previous year.

In neighboring Syria, where a three-year civil war has left an estimated 150,000 people dead, the State Department found attacks were up to 212 from 133, although their lethality remained at approximately five people killed per assault.

A major jihadist group responsible for many of the attacks in both countries, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, increased in potency in 2013. It killed 1,725 people last year, above its 892 death toll in 2013, and increased its efficiency to 4.30 deaths per attack from 3.58.

Attacks and deaths attributable to the Taliban remained the highest in 2013 of any competitor militant group, whether connected in some way to al-Qaida or not. The Taliban was said to be responsible for 2,340 civilian deaths from 641 attacks last year, up from 1,842 dead in 525 attacks.

At the State Department, counter-terrorism coordinator Tina Kaidanow said that the terrorism threat continued to “evolve rapidly” in the past year – an echo of a line delivered earlier this year to Congress by intelligence officials attempting to avoid comment on President Barack Obama’s claim that al-Qaida is on a “path to defeat”.

Counter-terrorism efforts, Kaidanow asserted, have diminished al-Qaida’s core operatives and command structure. But the effect of al-Qaida’s core diminishment has been to “allow a bit of space to a number of these [affiliated] groups to situate themselves” to operate more autonomously, she said.