WASHINGTON – The number of terrorist incidents in Iraq – and resulting deaths, injuries and kidnappings – skyrocketed from 2005 to 2006, according to statistics released by U.S. counterterrorism officials Monday.
Of the 14,338 reported terrorist attacks worldwide last year, 45 percent took place in Iraq; 65 percent of the global fatalities stemming from terrorism occurred in Iraq. In 2005, Iraq accounted for 30 percent of the worldwide terrorist attacks.
The figures, compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center and released with the annual State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, showed that the number of incidents in Iraq rose 91 percent, from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.
Almost all of those incidents involved the death, injury or kidnapping of at least one person. All told, the number of people killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terrorism in Iraq jumped 87 percent, from 20,685 to 38,713.
The State Department’s annual report – which included an assessment of the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – said the invasion of Iraq has brought “measurable benefits,” including the removal of “an abusive totalitarian regime with a history of sponsoring and supporting regional terrorism.”
Still, the report acknowledged, the invasion “has been used by terrorists as a rallying cry for radicalization and extremist activity that has contributed to instability in neighboring countries.”
The report also said that since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2002, the country “remains threatened by Taliban insurgents and religious extremists,” though “the majority of Afghans believe they are better off than under the Taliban.” The number of terrorism incidents in Afghanistan rose 52 percent in 2006 compared with 2005, and the number of people killed, injured or kidnapped nearly doubled.
Asked if the invasion of Iraq has helped reduce terrorism, Frank C. Urbancic Jr., acting coordinator for the Office of Counterterrorism, told reporters at the State Department: “If the battle against terrorism isn’t Iraq, it’s going to be somewhere else. It started out in Afghanistan. The terrorists are looking for places where they can operate, and that’s what they’re doing. So we can fight them in Iraq, we can fight them somewhere else… . They’re expanding their scope.”
Urbancic added: “I mean, Iraq is at least a relatively friendly place. The people of Iraq are deserving people and they deserve better, and it’s good for us to help them.”
The State Department report noted that “although Iraq is a proven ally in the War on Terror, Iraq’s developing security and armed forces will require further training and resources before they can effectively address the terrorist groups already operating within their borders.”
The report acknowledged that tensions have risen between Turkey and the Iraqi government as “Turkish leaders expressed increasing frustration at what they viewed as Iraq’s inaction against the PKK” – the abbreviation for the Kurdistan Workers Party, which launches attacks into Turkey from Kurdish areas of Iraq.