The US State Department has said that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide rose by a third in 2014, while terror fatalities nearly doubled. Jihadist militants in Africa and the Middle East were behind the surge.
Extremist groups including "Islamic State" (IS) in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria fuelled a dramatic 35 percent jump in the number of terror attacks in 2014, the US State Department said Friday in its annual terrorism report.
According to the new statistics, there were 13,463 terrorist attacks over the course of the year, which led to nearly 33,000 deaths. That's up from just over 18,000 deaths in nearly 10,000 attacks in 2013. More than 9,400 people were also taken hostage - triple the rate of the previous year.
The bulk of the attacks cited in the country-by-country report took place in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria. The worst incident was a June 2014 assault by IS militants on a prison in Mosul, Iraq, which left 670 Shiite prisoners dead, constituting "the deadliest attack worldwide since September 11, 2001," the report said.
IS made rapid territorial gains in Syria and Iraq in 2014, overtaking al Qaeda - which orchestrated the September 11 attacks on the US - as the world's leading jihadist militant group. Al Qaeda's leaders "appeared to lose momentum as the self-styled leader of a global movement in the face of ISIL's rapid expansion and proclamation of a caliphate," the report said, using an alternate acronym for IS.
The threefold rise in kidnappings is attributable to mass abductions carried out by IS and the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front in Syria. Boko Haram in Nigeria was responsible for almost 1,300 abductions in the West African country in 2014, including the more than 200 girls taken from a school in Chibok in April 2014. By comparison, less than 100 terror-related kidnappings were reported in Nigeria in 2013, according to the report.
The department also acknowledged the "unprecedented" stream of foreign fighters joining militant groups in the Middle East. It noted that more than 16,000 individuals had traveled to Syria as of late December, surpassing the rate of those who traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia "at any point in the last 20 years."
The State Department's counterterrorism coordinator said that although the report presented a bleak picture, the US and its allies had made significant gains in clamping down on terrorism financing and stemming the flow of fighters traveling to conflict zones.
"We have made progress," coordinator Tina Kaidanow told a news conference.
"We must do more to address the cycle of violent extremism and transform the very environment from which these terrorist movements emerge," she added, saying that weak or failed governments had allowed such groups to thrive in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Nigeria and Iraq.
The report also highlighted a rise in "lone offender violent extremists in the West" such as the in Paris last January.
In one positive development, the report found that terrorist activity saw a decline in Pakistan, the Philippines, Nepal and Russia.
nm/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)