Babylon & Beyond

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SOUTH ASIA: Al Qaeda gets deadlier

May 1, 2008 |  9:16 am

Al Qaeda used a haven in Pakistan's tribal areas to double the number of attacks in that country and kill four times as many people there in 2007, says a State Department report to Congress released Wednesday.

At a news briefing, Ambassador Dell L. Dailey, the State Department's top counter-terrorism official, stopped short of blaming Pakistan for the increase and said the terrorist network was "weaker now than it was at the 9/11 time frame."

The annual terrorism report itself, however, says that a primary reason for the terrorist network's resurgence is a much-criticized cease-fire last year between the Pakistani federal government and tribal leaders beyond its authority near the border with Afghanistan.

The agreement enabled Al Qaeda to more freely travel, train and plan attacks around the world, the report says. Overall, there were nearly the same number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2007 as the year before -- about 14,500. But many more people were killed, especially as the number of suicide bombers rose, says the 312-page report, which is required by Congress and compiled using statistics from the National Counterterrorism Center.

Suicide bombings worldwide were up about 50%. Attackers have shifted their tactics, more often traveling on foot and using explosives-laden backpacks to strike in crowded areas rather than relying on vehicles that could be deterred by heightened security.

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—Josh Meyer in Washington