Terrorist Attacks Rose Sharply in 2005, State Dept. Says

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 29, 2006

The number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased nearly fourfold in 2005 to 11,111, with strikes in Iraq accounting for 30 percent of the total, according to statistics released by U.S. counterterrorism officials yesterday.

Although only half of the incidents resulted in loss of life, more than 14,600 noncombatants were killed, a majority of them in Iraq alone and 80 percent in the Near East and South Asia. American nonmilitary deaths totaled 56.

The figures were compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and released with the annual State Department Country Reports on Terrorism.

Unlike those of previous years, the 2005 report included a "strategic assessment" of the war on terrorism, which concluded that while "al-Qaeda is not the organization it was four years ago," the group was "adaptive and resilient . . . and important members of its core cadre remained alive and were adjusting to our operational tempo."

"Overall," the 262-page report said, "we are still in the first phase of a potentially long war. The enemy's proven ability to adapt means we will probably go through several more cycles of action/reaction before the war's outcome is no longer in doubt. It is likely that we will face a resilient enemy for years to come."

The assessment was somewhat more grim than those offered by the White House in recent months. Although the struggle against global terrorism is far from over, President Bush said in a February speech at the Naval Academy that "we're winning."

The NCTC defines terrorist attacks as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets" but acknowledges that such terms are "open to interpretation." "Combatants" are defined as "military, paramilitary, militia, and police under military command and control in specific areas or regions where war zones or war-like settings exist."

Diplomats and other nonmilitary government "assets," as well as civilians, are considered noncombatants for counting purposes.

On the positive side, the report noted that al-Qaeda's leadership is "scattered and on the run," with its finances and logistics disrupted and its organizational networks increasingly decentralized.

But while Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were said to be "frustrated" by their lack of direct control over terrorist operations, the fact that they remained at large allowed them to "symbolize resistance to the international community, demonstrate they retain the capability to influence events, and inspire actual and potential terrorists."

The apparent inability of bin Laden and Zawahiri to orchestrate large-scale attacks -- and al-Qaeda's increasing "emphasis on ideological and propaganda activity" -- was one of several emerging trends, said Henry A. Crumpton, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, in a briefing.

The number of "high fatality incidents" around the world, excluding Iraq, was among the few statistics in the report that decreased from 2004 -- when attacks in places such as Russia and Madrid killed hundreds -- to 2005.

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