Terrorist attacks claimed more than 22,000 lives worldwide in 2007, with more than half of the fatalities taking place in Iraq, the US government said Wednesday in an annual report, the dpa reported.
The number of deaths last year in terrorist attacks increased from 2006, jumping from 20,872 to 22,685, the US National Counterterrorism Centre said, even though the number of attacks dipped from 14,570 in 2006 to 14,499 in 2007.
About 6,200 of the attacks - or 43 per cent - occurred in Iraq, taking the lives of 13,600 people and accounting for about 60 per cent of the world's total, the centre said.
Terrorist attacks in Iraq decreased by more than 400 compared to 2006 but remained well above the 2005 figure, when the government counted 3,469 in Iraq, the report said.
At the same time, terrorists have increased their use of suicide attacks to increase higher levels of casualties and have been capable of adapting to counterterrorism tactics, said Russ Travers, the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Centre.
"Around the globe people are getting increasingly efficient at killing other people," Travers said.
Overall, 72,066 people were killed, hurt or kidnapped in terrorist incidences in 2007, down from more than 75,000 the previous year, the report said.
Al-Qaeda remained the largest threat in 2007 and by finding refuge in the remote, tribal region of Pakistan has rebuilt its strength and stepped up terrorist attacks in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, the report said.
"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," said Dell Dailey, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator said.
Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism through its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and by training and equipping Shiite militants in Iraq, the State Department said.
Iran has stepped up its activities to increase its influence in the Middle East and drive the United States out of the region, the report said.
"It will come as no surprise to hear that Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism," Dailey said.
Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are on the state- sponsors-of-terrorism list, although Pyongyang could soon be removed if the country follows through on its nuclear disarmament agreement with the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea.
The State Department said terrorist groups continued to merge with al-Qaeda, which has been able to reconstitute strength by restoring central leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian- born deputy of Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups accounted for at least 5,400 of civilian deaths worldwide. More than 50 per cent of those killed in terrorist attacks in 2007 were Muslims, the counterterrorism centre said.
Terrorist attacks in Pakistan doubled as al-Qaeda and extremist groups stepped up assaults on President Pervez Musharraf's government and fatalities quadrupled, the State Department said.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is still a threat but has suffered blow under the increased presence of US troops in 2007. Dailey said there was a "noticeable reduction" in the number of incidents in Iraq and than attacks with improvised bombs declined toward the end of the year.