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US redefines terrorism, and incidents skyrocket

Stuff World News | July 6, 2005

WASHINGTON: The US government yesterday dramatically raised its official 2004 estimate of international terror attacks to 3192 from about 650 after adopting a broader definition of terrorism aimed at presenting a clearer picture of the worldwide phenomenon.

The National Counterterrorism Centre, or NCTC, set up last December to integrate and analyse US intelligence on terrorism, said terror attacks left 6060 people dead, 16,091 wounded and 6282 taken hostage worldwide last year.

The Middle East/Persian Gulf region and South Asia accounted for 37 per cent and 33 per cent of all incidents, respectively.

The NCTC also announced a new analytical database called the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System that will allow public access beginning on Wednesday at the Internet website www.tkb.org/NCTCHome.jsp.

The five-fold increase in the estimate of 2004 terror incidents results from the introduction of a new definition of terrorism that encompasses both international and domestic attacks and includes all injuries and property damages.

In late April, the Bush administration reported that 651 incidents of international terrorism had resulted in 1,907 deaths, 6704 injuries and 710 kidnappings in 2004. The data was based on a narrower definition that excluded indigenous attacks and included only those injuries that were more than superficial and damages of over $US10,000 ($NZ14,967.81).

New data include all injuries and damages.

NCTC interim director John Brennan said his agency decided to broaden its definition of terrorism after concluding that the narrower criteria did not accurately depict the scope of what he called a growing and devastating world problem.

"There has in fact been an undercounting of international incidents prior to this year," he told a press briefing. "This represents a new statistical baseline for the phenomenon of worldwide terrorism. We want to be able to stand behind the information we put out and say, yes, it has integrity." The State Department last year initially released erroneous figures that understated the attacks and casualties in 2003 and used the figures to argue that the Bush administration was prevailing in the war on terrorism.

It later said the number of people killed and injured in 2003 was more than double its original count as the number of "significant" terrorist attacks rose to a 20-year high of 175.

The newly calibrated data for 2004 showed that Iraq alone accounted for 866 attacks or about 27 per cent of the total, with 2708 people killed, 5,711 wounded and 222 kidnapped.

That compares with an April report of about 200 attacks in Iraq in 2004, versus a reported 22 in 2003.

President George W Bush views says Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism in part because the insurgency is led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But the NCTC's data does not include attacks on US forces as terrorism incidents because the new criteria define terror as premeditated political violence directed at civilians and noncombatants including police and military assets in noncombat settings.

"I'm not saying other definitions are wrong," said Brennan, who added that the new database will be updated regularly and should provide a far more comprehensive and reliable picture of worldwide terrorism.

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