Terror attacks worldwide declined in 2017, says State Department
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WASHINGTON – The number of terrorist attacks worldwide decreased by 23 percent in 2017 and the number of deaths from such incidents dropped by 27 percent, according to a State Department report released Wednesday.
Nathan A. Sales, the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, said those statistics illustrate the sweeping gains the U.S. and its allies have made in combating the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and other extremist groups across the globe.
But, Sales warned, those terrorist organizations remain a significant threat to the U.S.
“Despite our successes, the terrorist landscape grew more complex in 2017,” Sales wrote in the State Department report.
“ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates have proven to be resilient, determined, and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere,” the report says.
The worldwide decrease in terrorism was due mostly to a decline in violence in Iraq, Sales said. Terrorism claimed the lives of 4,269 people in Iraq last year, compared to 9,782 in 2016. And the number of attacks in that country dropped to 1,951, from 2,969 in 2016.
Overall, there were 8,584 terrorist attacks around the world in 2017, claiming more than 18,700 lives and causing and more than 19,400 injuries. While attacks occurred in 100 countries, they were concentrated in five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Philippines, according to the report.
Sales specifically highlighted U.S. efforts to drive ISIS out of Syria and Iraq as the Trump administration’s chief accomplishments in the fight against terrorism. He said 99 percent of the territory that ISIS occupied in Iraq and Syria has now been liberated – freeing more than 7.7 million people from the grip of that brutal terrorist group.
ISIS first swept across the Middle East in 2014, capturing large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and setting up a “caliphate” there.
ISIS was still responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2017. But the State Department report says ISIS carried out 23 percent fewer terrorist attacks and caused 53 percent fewer total deaths in 2017 than it did in 2016
Sales cautioned that many of those ISIS fighters are now returning home from battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, posing a more dispersed threat on potentially “soft targets,” such as hotels, markets, and other civilian gathering spots.
The State Department report lists four state-sponsors of terrorism: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Sales singled out Iran as the most pernicious player.
“Iran is the world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism and it brings to its terrorist activities the resources of a state,” Sales told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. He said Iran and its proxies are active across the globe, from Africa to South America.
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