POLITICS
09/20/2018 08:21 am ET

Terrorism-Related Deaths Fell 27 Percent In 2017, State Department Says

Fewer attacks in Iraq account for much of the drop. But groups like ISIS and al Qaeda continue evolving as potent threats.

Terror attacks and related deaths are on the decline worldwide, but potent threats remain, according to the State Department. 

The number of global terrorist attacks fell 23 percent in 2017 from the year before, and deaths linked to these attacks decreased by 27 percent, according to the department’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017. The annual report, released Wednesday, attributed much of the drop to fewer attacks in Iraq, said Nathan Sales, State’s coordinator for counterterrorism. 

About 60 percent of all attacks took place in five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines, Sales added.  

An international campaign to root out the so-called Islamic State has caused the terror organization to cede 99 percent of its territory in Syria and Iraq. The final push to kick ISIS militants out of their last strongholds in Syria began last week.

Despite the ISIS territory losses, the United Nations and the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general estimate that the group still has 20,000 to 31,100 fighters, comparable to 2014.

Meanwhile, the terrorist threat has grown more “complex,” the report warned. Groups like ISIS and al Qaeda remain determined, adjusting their tactics as counterterrorism missions intensify.

“They have become more dispersed and clandestine, turning to the internet to inspire attacks by distant followers, and, as a result, have made themselves less susceptible to conventional military action,” Sales said. “Further, the return or relocation of foreign terrorist fighters from the battlefield has contributed to a growing cadre of experienced, sophisticated, and connected terrorist networks, which can plan and execute terrorist attacks.”

ISIS, for example, has experimented with unmanned aerial systems and chemical weapons, and both groups have used vehicles as mechanisms to carry out attacks in cities around the world. 

“Al Qaeda is a determined and patient adversary,” Sales said. “They have largely remained out of the headlines in recent years. They were content to let ISIS bear the brunt of the international response. But we shouldn’t confuse a period of relative quiet with al Qaeda’s abandonment of its capabilities and its intentions to strike the United States and its allies.” 

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