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Terror report: Attacks down overall

Iran considered 'most active state sponsor of terrorism'

From Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

Powell: "We cannot and will not relax our resolve, our efforts and our vigil."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. State Department annual report released Wednesday said terrorist attacks were down overall last year -- the lowest level since the 1960s -- but that the world is still a dangerous place.

Terrorism still "casts its grim shadow across the globe," Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference.

"Even as I speak, terrorists are planning appalling crimes and trying to get their hands of weapons of mass destruction," Powell said. "We cannot and will not relax our resolve, our efforts and our vigil."

The report, called Patterns of Global Terrorism, said that although Syria, Sudan and Libya had taken steps to combat terrorism, they had not done enough to be taken off the list of "state sponsors of terrorism."

The list of seven countries remained unchanged -- Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. But State Department counterterrorism coordinator Cofer Black said the process was under way to remove Iraq from it.

The report said Iran was considered "the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2002" for its support for terrorist attacks against Israel by Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

Iran's record against al Qaeda was "mixed," the report said.

Although Tehran detained and turned over a number of al Qaeda members, it also provided safe haven to others and support to extremist groups in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq with ties to al Qaeda, the report said.

Attacks drop 44 percent

Powell cited increased cooperation in the war on terrorism and military action in Afghanistan and Iraq as contributing factors for the decrease in attacks.

The report counted 199 attacks conducted by international terrorist groups, a 44 percent drop from the 355 attacks in 2001.

The number of deaths from terrorist attacks was significantly lower than the previous year. Last year 725 people were killed, compared to 3,295 people in 2001, a majority of whom perished in the September 11 attacks.

There were 77 anti-U.S. attacks last year, down 65 percent from 219 in 2001, the report said.

Thirty American citizens were killed last year in terrorist attacks, including Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, missionary Martin Burham in the Philippines and the U.S. administrator for USAID in Jordan, Lawrence Foley.

Black credited increased security measures across the world and the arrest of more than 3,000 al Qaeda operatives in more than 100 countries for the decrease.

The report said more than one-third of al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured, but noted that all the operatives arrested were planning attacks when they were captured.

Mixed reviews

"Libya appears to have curtailed its support for international terrorism," although it may have some residual effects from its past contacts, the report said.

The report said "Libya's past record on terrorism," specifically its refusal to accept responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, "continued to hinder [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi's efforts to shed Libya's pariah status."

Black said the United States was pleased with Sudan's counterterrorism progress last year, noting Khartoum's help in providing U.S. access to individuals and financial records.

But he cited Sudan's support for Palestinian groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as evidence Khartoum "has a ways to go."

Syria likewise had a mixed record on terrorism, the report said.

Syria "has cooperated significantly with the United States and other foreign governments against al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations and individuals," the report said.

But the report criticized Syria's support of Palestinian extremist groups, its insistence that it supports only political wings of the militant groups and its role in espousing the view that the groups are undertaking a legitimate fight against Israeli occupation.

"We reject this distinction," Black said.

The report said Cuba remained on the list because it sent agents to U.S. missions around the world to provide false leads designed to subvert investigations into the September 11 attacks.

Singled out for praise

Greece was singled out by Black and in the report for its "tremendous progress" in arresting members of the November 17 group. France and Germany were also noted for excellent cooperation.

Although the report said terrorism in the Middle East remained a big part of the political landscape, many countries, notably Egypt, Yemen and the Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, were strong partners in the war on terrorism.

In East Asia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines were credited with combating terrorism.

Singapore was singled out for its efforts to fight Jemaah Islamiya, or JI, the group responsible for the Bali bombings. JI was listed by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization last year.

The report cited the freezing of financial assets of terrorist groups as a major tool in combating terrorism. More than 166 countries have issued orders freezing over $121 million in terrorist-related assets.

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