Acts of terror killed a record number of people last year because of the huge loss of life in the 11 September attacks in the United States, according to a new report on international terrorism issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department. American officials say the tragedy helped to unite many nations against terror, but they say the fight will be long, and that further attacks should be expected.
Washington, 22 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department's annual report on international terrorism applauds accomplishments of the coalition of states in the fight against such groups as Al-Qaeda. But it also stresses that the job will take a long time, and will not be easy.
The report lists the same seven nations as state sponsors of terrorism as previous reports -- Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba. The document -- titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2001" -- was released in Washington on 21 May by Secretary of State Colin Powell. By law, the State Department must issue the report to the U.S. Congress each year.
According to the report, Iran was the world's most prolific sponsor of terrorism in 2001, mostly for its support of Palestinian organizations that targeted Israel during the year. According to the report, increased Iranian backing of these groups offset a decline in the country's support for terrorist activities elsewhere.
Specifically, Iran is accused of supporting Hizbollah, based in Lebanon, as well as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which have taken responsibility for some terrorist attacks against Israel.
As for Iraq, the State Department said it was the only Arab-Muslim nation that did not condemn the September attacks on the United States. And it noted that a state radio broadcast soon afterward expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden, whom the U.S. has blamed for the attacks.
And the report notes that Czech police must provide heavy security for the Prague headquarters of RFE/RL because of fears that Iraq might retaliate for Radio Free Iraq broadcasts critical of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
According to the report, the total number of people killed in terrorist attacks last year was 3,547, more than in any previous year. It says about 90 percent of the victims died in the 11 September attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
In releasing the report at the State Department, Powell notes that the terrorists who struck during 2001 used weapons of opportunity -- explosives, firearms, even fuel-laden jetliners, as were used in the U.S. attacks. But the secretary warned that the world should brace for future attacks that may be of a more sinister nature. "The report records the death toll in 2001 from terrorist attacks in which conventional weapons were used. It also confirms that terrorists are trying every way they can to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, whether radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear."
In the meantime, Powell said, the impact of the September attacks has galvanized the civilized world in a way that no other attacks had before them. Since the acts of terror in the United States, he said, America and its allies are using military, diplomatic, and even economic pressure against terrorists to prevent further attacks, or at least make them more difficult to mount. "Country by country, region by region, coalition members have strengthened law enforcement and intelligence cooperation. We have tightened border controls and made it harder for terrorists to travel, to communicate, and therefore to plot. One by one, we are severing the financial bloodlines of terrorist organizations."
Joining Powell to release the report was Frank Taylor, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. Taylor noted that the U.S. and its allies last autumn quickly routed the Taliban regime that allowed Al-Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan. But Taylor said Al-Qaeda itself still may regroup and pose a threat to America. "Despite our early and, indeed, encouraging success, the fact is we're just beginning this campaign, and there's still much work to be done to complete it successfully. Additional terrorist attacks are very, very likely."
In fact, Taylor said the United States may not be the site of the next major terrorist attack. And the State Department antiterrorism coordinator stressed that the setting for such an act may not be political at all. "Any major event like the World Cup in [South] Korea and Japan would be a perfect venue for a terrorist group or organization to attempt to make a political statement."
South Korea and Japan are the co-hosts of this year's World Cup soccer tournament from 31 May to 30 June. According to Taylor, the U.S. is helping both countries arrange security for the games. Washington is drawing on its experience with guarding against attacks at the Winter Olympics earlier this year in Utah.
(The full text of the "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2001" is available on the State Department website: http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2001/)