WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq's sectarian warfare fueled a sharp increase in global terrorism in 2006, the U.S. State Department reported Monday.
The total number of terrorist attacks was up more than 25 percent from the previous year, according to the State Department's annual report on global terrorism.
Incidents in Iraq accounted for nearly half of the 14,000 attacks and about two-thirds of the more than 20,000 fatalities worldwide. The number of deaths blamed on attacks increased by about 40 percent.
The spike comes from the eruption of sectarian killings and bombings that followed the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra, according to Frank Urbancic, the State Department's acting counterterrorism coordinator.
That attack, blamed on al Qaeda in Iraq, destroyed a revered Shiite Muslim shrine and led to a wave of reprisals between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities.
The number of people killed in terrorist attacks in Iraq rose from 8,262 in 2005 to 13,340 last year, said Russell Travers, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Militants find new safe haven
Terrorist organizations behind the violence are setting up along Pakistan's northwest frontier in safe havens created by the country's September 2006 peace agreement with tribal leaders, the report said.
Despite the presence of 80,000 Pakistani troops and border guards along Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan, the tribal areas have become "sources of instability for Pakistan and its neighbors," Urbancic said.
Tribal leaders are not living up to their agreement to deny shelter to Islamic militants, he said. That has led to more fighters pouring into Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are battling a resurgent Taliban movement.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda and other groups, including Islamic guerrillas and Kurdish separatists fighting the Turkish government, are fighting to establish sanctuary in Iraq amid the chaos, Urbancic said.
The report accuses Iraq's neighbors Iran and Syria of fueling violence in Iraq by providing weapons and training to militant groups and allowing fighters to cross into Iraq to attack American troops.
The report also singles out their support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006. Urbancic called Iran "the most dangerous enabler of terrorism in that region."
The report found that in Africa, al Qaeda operatives remain in Somalia despite the Ethiopian invasion in December that pushed a coalition of Islamic militias out of the capital, Mogadishu. Islamic fighters continue to fight troops from Ethiopia and the Somali transitional government.
"Somalia remains a concern, as the country's unsecured borders and continued political instability provide opportunities for terrorist transit and/or organization," the report found.
Some successes noted
Despite the overall increase in international terrorism, there were some successes in the past year, the report indicated.
The plot to bomb trans-Atlantic airliners last year was foiled, and no major terrorist attacks occurred in Europe in 2006.
The total number of attacks declined in Indonesia, Pakistan and India, despite attacks on commuter trains in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed more than 200 people in July.
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