- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2003

Terrorist attacks decreased sharply worldwide in 2002 to their lowest level since 1969, the State Department's annual report released yesterday shows, and Secretary of State Colin Powell hailed the war on terrorism for foiling the deadly plots.
"The last time the annual total fell below 200 attacks was in 1969, shortly after the advent of modern terrorism," said Cofer Black, State Department coordinator for counterterrorism.
The report showed a steep reduction in attacks by "international terrorists" to 199 in 2002 from 355 a year earlier a 44 percent drop.
The number of deaths fell to 725 from 3,295 in 2001, a year that included the September 11 attacks, the report said.
"Terrorist cells have been broken up, networks disrupted and plots foiled," Mr. Powell told reporters as the report was released. "But terrorism still casts its grim shadow across the globe."
In the report, the United States again branded seven countries Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan as sponsors of terrorism.
Mr. Black said steps would be taken to remove Iraq from the list now that Saddam Hussein's government has been overthrown.
Cuba, which remained on the list, was accused of sending agents to U.S. missions around the world to provide false leads designed to subvert investigations into the September 11 attacks, the report said.
With the drop-off in attacks around the world, Mr. Powell said unprecedented progress has been made globally.
"With every passing month the campaign has intensified," and for terrorists still on the loose, "life has definitely become more difficult," Mr. Powell said.
But he warned against complacency. "We cannot and will not relax our resolve, our efforts, our vigilance."
The report designated Iran as the most active supporter of terrorism. Its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has referred to Israel as a "cancerous tumor."
The report said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security have assisted Lebanon's Hezbollah as well as Palestinian groups such as Hamas that reject peace with Israel.
Iraq's ties to terror groups, which the Bush administration cited as one of its reasons for going to war to remove Saddam, threatened the United States and other Western countries, the report said.
A leading member of the Israeli Knesset was in Washington to talk with U.S. lawmakers yesterday, where he said Saudi Arabia would pick up where Iraq had left off and called on Washington to disengage from Riyadh.
"I would urge the United States to disengage from Saudi Arabia and make it known and open that this is a major problem," said Yuri Shtern, chairman of the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
Mr. Shtern said the war on terrorism would be strengthened if governments shared security information and developed international legislation to cut off the money supply to groups using suicide bombers.
Mr. Shtern's visit came after the 89th suicide bombing in Israel over the last 2 years. Yesterday's attack, on a popular beachside bar, killed two other persons and injured more than 50 others.
Suicide bombers "are something the modern world is not properly built against. We don't have a set of rules or proper punishment for that. I would like to start an international dialogue on that," he said.
Syria, which Mr. Powell is due to visit this week, permits some terror groups to maintain headquarters or offices in Damascus and helps Iran supply Hezbollah via Damascus, the report said.
The Syrian government insists the offices are involved only in political and informational activities, the report said.
Mr. Powell has said he will talk to President Bashar Assad about Syria's support for terror and reports that it helped Iraq with military technology and did not stop Syrian fighters from joining the war against the U.S.-led coalition.
Thirty U.S. citizens were killed in 2002, including seven at a resort in Bali, Indonesia; five at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, in Pakistan; a hiker and a missionary in the Philippines; two American diners in a West Bank pizzeria; two attending church services in Islamabad, Pakistan; three persons at a missionary hospital in Yemen; and Laurence Foley, an administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan.
The October bombing in Bali, which killed 202 persons, mostly foreign tourists, was the deadliest terror attack since the September 11 attacks.
In Africa, simultaneous attacks on a commercial airliner and a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in November were cited as dramatic evidence that sub-Saharan Africa continues to suffer from terror.
For the first time, Greece arrested members of the deadly November 17 group, the State Department said, in a significant step against domestic terrorism.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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