documentBy Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — Ambassador Daniel Benjamin says 2011 was a significant year for counterterrorism efforts worldwide as al-Qaida lost its leader of 22 years along with a number of other key operatives.
"We saw millions of citizens throughout the Middle East advance peaceful public demands for change without any reference to al-Qaida's incendiary worldview," Benjamin said at a State Department briefing.
The State Department released its congressionally mandated Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 in Washington July 31.
The annual report, which is compiled by several U.S. government agencies and U.S. embassies, noted that the loss of Osama bin Laden and other key operatives put the al-Qaida network on "a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse." Bin Laden was killed in a special operations raid on his compound in May 2011. It was the terrorist group al-Qaida that launched the 2001 terrorist attack on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people from more than 88 nations in a single day.
The report noted that the successes against al-Qaida are attributable, in large part, to global counterterrorism cooperation, which has put considerable pressure on the al-Qaida core leadership, though it also notes that al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents remain adaptable.
"They have shown resilience; retain the capacity to conduct regional and transnational attacks; and, thus, constitute an enduring and serious threat to our national security," the report said.
According to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), there were 10,283 terrorist attacks in 2011, affecting 43,990 victims from 70 countries. The number of people killed by terrorists in 2011 totaled 12,533, which fell 12 percent from the 13,193 deaths reported in 2010 and was nearly 29 percent below the 22,720 deaths reported in 2007. The fall in the number of deaths due to terrorist attacks began after 2005 and has shown a steady decline since, the report indicated.
The 2011 numbers in the NCTC annex represent five-year lows, but underscore the human toll and geographic reach of terrorism, the report said. "The [Middle] East and South Asia continued to experience the most attacks, incurring just over 75 percent of the 2011 total," the NCTC annex said.
The report also noted an increase in attacks that occurred in Africa and in the Western Hemisphere, "exhibiting the constant evolution of the terrorist threat." The report said the number of terrorist attacks fell 14 percent in Afghanistan and 16 percent in Iraq.