US State Department Releases Annual Terrorism Report

Last week, the US Department of State released its Country Reports on Terrorism 2009. Although it takes a broad-brush look at foreign terrorism in general, those narrowly focused on maritime terrorism will find portions of the report worth reading. Despite its title, this legislatively required report does not just deal with terrorism in various countries. It starts with a strategic assessment and has chapters on State sponsors of terrorism, the global challenge of terrorism using weapons of mass destruction, terrorist safe havens, terrorist organizations, and legal requirements and key terms, as well as some statistics.

The Strategic Assessment identifies “al-Qa‘ida‘s core in Pakistan†as “the most formidable terrorist organization targeting the U.S. homeland. It has proven to be an adaptable and resilient terrorist group whose desire to attack the United States and U.S. interests abroad remains strong.†The threat from al-Qa’ida in 2009 was more dispersed than previously, as the core group reached out to partner with other groups and to radicalize individuals, including Americans, in sometimes successful efforts to increase operational capability.

Besides al-Qa’ida and two of its regional franchises, the report discusses 41 other terrorist organizations, including several that have demonstrated capabilities for maritime terrorism in the past:

  • Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) – no major attacks against Western interests since 1988 and no successful attacks in 2009
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) – multiple kidnappings, beheadings, and assassinations carried out in 2009
  • Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) – bombing attacks causing “extensive damages and casualties†in 2009
  • HAMMAS – largely quiet in 2009
  • Hizbollah – although suffering the loss of a huge arms shipment seized by the Israeli navy, it “remains the most technically- capable terrorist group in the worldâ€
  • Jemaah Islamiya (JI) – bombed Jakarta hotels in 2009
  • Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) – after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, its “deepening commitment†to attacks against Western targets gives analysts serious concerns that “it could evolve into a genuine global threatâ€
  • Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – conducted over 40 terrorist attacks in early 2009 before its sanctuaries were overrun by Sri Lankan troops; its international financial network survived largely intact, although the principal organizer was apprehended
  • Palestine Liberation Front – Abu Abbas Faction (PLF) – no reported attacks in 2009, after two the previous year

Country reports discuss both terrorist incidents that occurred and the local government’s efforts to combat terrorism generally. Countries are grouped into six regions, including Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, and Western Hemisphere.

The full report is no longer available as a 292-page PDF on the State Department’s website. Instead, individual sections of the report can be accessed separately, a handy feature if you are interested only in a specific region, organization, or issue, but painful if you want a copy of the whole report. The PDF version may have been removed because the National Counterterrorism Center: Annex of Statistical Information, listed in the Table of Contents of the PDF version did not actually appear there.

By Professional Mariner Staff