Just Security readers will be interested to know that today, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism released its Country Reports on Terrorism for 2013. This report provides the Department of State’s annual, statutorily mandated assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that transpired in 2013, including country-by-country breakdowns of foreign government counterterrorism cooperation, and profiles of designated FTOs. The full report can be found here.
The report’s executive summary includes the following “key trends” in terrorism in 2013:
Key Terrorism Trends in 2013
–The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world – including both AQ affiliates and other terrorist organizations – posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests.
–As a result of both ongoing worldwide efforts against the organization and senior leadership losses, AQ core’s leadership has been degraded, limiting its ability to conduct attacks and direct its followers. Subsequently, 2013 saw the rise of increasingly aggressive and autonomous AQ affiliates and like-minded groups in the Middle East and Africa who took advantage of the weak governance and instability in the region to broaden and deepen their operations.
–AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri experienced difficulty in maintaining influence throughout the AQ organization and was rebuffed in his attempts to mediate a dispute among AQ affiliates operating in Syria, with ISIL publicly dissociating its group from AQ. Guidance issued by Zawahiri in 2013 for AQ affiliates to avoid collateral damage was routinely disobeyed, notably in increasingly violent attacks by these affiliates against civilian populations.
–Syria continued to be a major battleground for terrorism on both sides of the conflict and remains a key area of longer-term concern. Thousands of foreign fighters traveled to Syria to join the fight against the Asad regime – with some joining violent extremist groups – while Iran, Hizballah, and other Shia militias provided a broad range of critical support to the regime. The Syrian conflict also empowered ISIL to expand its cross-border operations in Syria, and dramatically increase attacks against Iraqi civilians and government targets in 2013.
–Terrorist violence in 2013 was increasingly fueled by sectarian motives, marking a worrisome trend, particularly in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Pakistan.
–Terrorist groups engaged in a range of criminal activity to raise needed funds, with kidnapping for ransom remaining the most frequent and profitable source of illicit financing. Private donations from the Gulf also remained a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly for those operating in Syria.
–“Lone offender” violent extremists also continued to pose a serious threat, as illustrated by the April 15, 2013, attacks near the Boston Marathon finish line, which killed three and injured approximately 264 others.
–Many other terrorist groups not tied to AQ were responsible for attacks in 2013, including the People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which carried out a number of high-profile attacks last year, including a February 1 suicide plot targeting the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.