International terrorist attacks fell during 2002

Thursday, May 1, 2003

WASHINGTON -- International terrorist attacks fell significantly in 2002 and so did anti-U.S. attacks, the State Department reported Wednesday.

Seven countries remained on a list of countries the department says sponsor terrorism -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. An official said Iraq is likely to be removed now that President Saddam Hussein has been deposed.

"It's legally difficult to take them off the list," said Cofer Black, the department's counterterrorism coordinator, but Secretary of State Colin Powell is recommending steps to do so.

Iraq's links to terrorist groups, which the administration cited as one of the reasons for going to war to remove Saddam, included laying the groundwork for possible attacks on the United States and other countries, the report said.

The report accused Cuba of sending agents to U.S. missions overseas to provide false leads designed to subvert investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks.

'Are not safe'

Presenting the annual report, Powell said the United States, with help from many other countries, "will make certain that terrorists and their supporters are not safe in any corner or cave of the world."

But, he said, "We cannot and will not relax our resolve, our efforts, our vigilance."

He said that "unprecedented progress has been made across the international community" in combatting terrorism. He noted that more than $134 million in terrorist financial assets have been frozen.

The report said Iran was the most active state sponsor of terrorism, with its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei referring to Israel as a "cancerous tumor." The report said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Ministry of Intelligence and Security assisted Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian groups opposed to Israel's existence.

Syria, one of Powell's stops on a trip beginning today, allows some terror groups to maintain offices in Damascus and helps Iran supply Hezbollah via the Syrian capital, the report said.

In 2002, there were 199 terror attacks worldwide, a drop of 44 percent from the 355 attacks recorded in 2001. A total of 725 people were killed last year, far below the 3,295 -- including thousands in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania -- who died in 2001.

Attacks on the United States declined from 219 to 77.

Thirty U.S. citizens were killed in attacks in 2002. Among them were seven died at a resort in Bali, Indonesia, five at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, in Pakistan.

The American victims included a hiker and a missionary in the Philippines, two diners in a West Bank pizzeria, two attending church services in Islamabad, Pakistan, three people at a missionary hospital in Yemen, and Laurence Foley, an administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan.

The bombings in Bali in October which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, was the deadliest terror attack since the Sept. 11 attacks.

In Africa, simultaneous attacks on a commercial airliner and a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in November were cited as dramatic evidence that sub-Saharan Africa continues to suffer from terror.

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