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U.S. raises estimate for terror attacks

With new definition, tracking site lists five times more incidents

From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government Tuesday increased its 2004 estimate of terrorist attacks worldwide to 3,192 from 651 after changing to a broader definition of terrorism.

A new U.S. government Web site set up to track terrorism incidents says the 2004 incidents left 28,433 people killed, wounded or kidnapped.

A preliminary report in April said there were 651 terrorist attacks in 2004 classified as "significant," with 1,907 people killed. (Full story)

But unlike the previous figures, the new estimate by the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, includes attacks that were strictly domestic in nature, officials said.

For example, NCTC officials said, the earlier estimate did not include the following:

• The February 27, 2004, sinking of a superferry in the Philippines that killed about 130 people when a bomb planted by Abu Sayyaf rebels went off. The terrorist attack was one of the deadliest in the history of the Philippines.

• The August 24 downings by Chechen suicide bombers of two Russian airliners. The attacks occurred nearly simultaneously, killing a total of 89 people. (Full story)

The new Terrorism Knowledge Base Web site -- www.tkb.org -- was to be officially unveiled publicly at midnight July 5 on the homepage of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a group set up after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

"We're trying to be as open and transparent to the public as possible," outgoing NCTC acting director John Brennan told reporters.

Brennan said the goal is "a new statistical baseline on worldwide terrorism."

"NCTC is taking ownership of this process," he said.

NCTC defines terrorism as the use of violence against civilians or noncombatants to further a political goal.

As a result, Brennan said, attacks by insurgents in Iraq against U.S. soldiers will not be counted as terrorism, nor will attacks against Israeli soldiers on the West Bank.

But attacks against military personnel in a "non-combat setting" will be counted, such as the al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

The preliminary NCTC statistics on global terrorism were released simultaneously with the State Department's annual terrorism report.

The State Department report said "international terrorism continued to pose a significant threat to the United States and its partners in 2004."

The State Department drew criticism from Democrats when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided not to have her department release the statistics -- which had previously been part of the report -- and to allow intelligence officials to decide about their release.

Creation of the NCTC was recommended in July 2004 by the 9/11 commission, and President Bush established the center the next month by executive order.

State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told reporters in April that his agency was deferring to the NCTC as the government's "primary organization for analysis and integration" of terrorism intelligence as called for in the intelligence overhaul passed by Congress in December 2004.

The State Department had to revise its report covering 2003 because it had underreported the number of attacks. (Full story)

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