Al Qaeda decline hard to reverse after Bin Laden killing: U.S.

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:48pm EDT

1 of 2. Osama bin Laden is shown in this video frame grab released by the U.S. Pentagon May 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Pentagon/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden's death sent al Qaeda into a decline that will be hard to reverse, the United States said on Tuesday in a report that found terrorist attacks last year fell to their lowest level since 2005.

Describing 2011 as a "landmark year," the United States said other top al Qaeda members killed last year included Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, reportedly the militant organization's No. 2 figure after bin Laden's death, and Anwar al-Awlaki, who led its lethal affiliate in Yemen.

"The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse," the State Department said in its annual "Country Reports on Terrorism" document, which covers calendar year 2011.

The report attributed the killings, which included the May 2011 raid in which U.S. commandoes shot bin Laden in Pakistan, to improved cooperation on counterterrorism. But it also said al Qaeda is adaptable and poses "an enduring and serious threat."

While saying there were no terrorist attacks in the United States last year, the report said the U.S. government remains concerned about "threats to the homeland," citing the foiled 2009 Christmas Day attempt by the Nigerian "underwear bomber" who sought to blow up a Detroit-bound aircraft.

The report included a statistical annex prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center, part of the U.S. intelligence community, that showed that the overall number of terrorist attacks worldwide fell to 10,283 last year from 11,641 in 2010.

The number of worldwide fatalities fell to 12,533 last year from 13,193 the year before, according to the statistics, which NCTC issued in a report published on June 1.

That was the lowest level since 2005, when there were more than 11,000 attacks and more than 14,000 fatalities. The general decline in terrorism-related fatalities - which peaked at more than 22,000 in 2007 - reflects, in part, less violence in Iraq.

The State Department report said that as al Qaeda's "core has gotten weaker," affiliated groups have gained ground, citing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as a particular threat and voicing concern about al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

It also reported an increase in terrorist attacks in Africa, due largely to Nigeria's Boko Haram militant group, as well as in the Western Hemisphere, which it attributed chiefly to FARC insurgents in Colombia.

Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said last year was also significant for the "Arab Spring" of popular protests and what he described as its rebuff to al Qaeda's ideology.

"We saw millions of citizens throughout the Middle East advance peaceful public demands for change without any reference to al Qaeda's incendiary world view," he said, adding upheavals also present risks.

"Revolutionary transformations have many bumps in the road," he added. "Inspiring as the moment may be, we are not blind to the attendant perils."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (21)
Butch_from_PA wrote:
I wish the world would distinguish between war and terrorists.
If the Colorado killings was not terrorism it sure seems like a terrorist attack.

Does one need a political motivation to be a terrorist? If so – why are Syrian terrorists call freedom fighters – or is terrorism basically a new name for a morphed form of Cold War – if you are not with us you are against us and will be classified as a terrorist.

Wonder when it will finally click in that electronic espionage is terrorism. I guess only after that form of terrorism turns back to bite those who created that industry. Then people in power will be offended and call it terrorism.

Jul 31, 2012 1:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SeaWa wrote:
Very good question Butch! It is obvious to me that the Colorado movie theater killings was not terrorism. At least in the modern sense of the word. It was an illegal act of violence, a crime, committed by an individual acting out personally. It was not in the ‘name’ of a movement or a philosophy, religion, political entity, or government. It was not driven by a larger organization and the criminal was not directed or coerced to participate. But that is my gut reaction. It gets to the point of splitting hairs sometimes.

Jul 31, 2012 1:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Adam_Smith wrote:
Personally, I thought Al Qaeda was already in difficult to reverse decline after 9/11 having exhausted its supply of suicidal fanatics capable of hijacking and piloting commercial airliners. After that, its threat has been greatly overrated.

Jul 31, 2012 1:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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