Terror attacks in Pakistan rising, U.S. State Department reports

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Washington, May 1 : Terrorist attacks have more than doubled in Pakistan from 2006 to 2007, reflecting the growing violence in the country's turbulent tribal areas and new bombings against Pakistani government officials and security services, according to a report released Wednesday by the State Department.

The report also said the number of deaths from the attacks in Pakistan quadrupled in that time period, to 1,335 fatalities, casting doubt on the American-backed counterterrorism policies of President Pervez Musharraf that the new government in Islamabad is now reshaping.

The new statistics show that terrorist strikes against nonmilitary targets worldwide remained virtually unchanged in 2007 from 2006, at roughly 14,500 attacks, but the number of deaths from those attacks increased to 22,685 from 20,872, according to statistics compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center.

"It's a fair statement that around the globe, people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people," Russ Travers, deputy director of the counterterrorism center, told reporters on Wednesday.

Iraq alone accounted for nearly half of all attacks and two-thirds of fatalities globally, although attacks in Iraq declined by 9 percent in 2007 after an infusion of more than 20,000 American troops, according to the report, "Country Reports on Terrorism, 2007," posted Wednesday on the State Department's web site.

Fighting in Afghanistan intensified over the past year, partly because of attacks from militants based in Pakistan, resulting in a 16 percent increase in strikes there, the report said.

The report recognizes the enduring threat of Al Qaeda, whose leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be in hiding in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It also acknowledged the growth of Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, including the Algeria-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility for the suicide-bombing last December of the United Nations office in Algiers that killed 17 staff members.

"Core elements of Al Qaeda are adaptable and resilient, and Al Qaeda and associated networks remain our greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners," Dell L. Dailey, the State Department's top counterterrorism official, told reporters. "By making use of local cells, terrorists have been able to sidestep many of our border and transportation security measures."

American officials are expressing increasing concerns that Al Qaeda is strengthening its ability to plot attacks from Pakistan.

The new government in Islamabad is remaking the country's counterterrorism strategies, to include negotiating with some of the most hard-line militants. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, said: "We will combine the use of force against terrorists and civil dialogue with those who, because of religious or ethnic considerations, were misled into supporting extremists."

General Dailey, a retired three-star Army officer, expressed cautious support for the talks, but said the United States would insist that the new Pakistani government not curtail operations against the most hard-line extremists in the tribal areas.

ANI

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