Terrorism down as support for al-Qaeda drops: ... Terror attacks are down 40% since 2001

Terrorist violence declined markedly around the world in 2007 while popular backing for al-Qaeda was slipping, according to the authors of a Canadian study based on US statistics.

The report, Human Security Brief 2007 by lecturers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, found terrorism fatalities were down by some 40 per cent in 2006 compared to 2001, and according to preliminary data, dropped even further in mid-2007.

The figures were based on three US sources: the National Counterterrorism Centre, the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism at the University of Maryland.

The Canadian academics decided not to include the victims of the conflict in Iraq in the study.

"The intentional killing of civilians in wartime is not normally described as terrorism, but as war crime or crime against humanity," said the study's main author Andrew Mack.

The study described a "dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world" for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

The analysis was in stark contrast to US and British security analysts' and intelligence agencies' conclusions, based on the same data. The US and British experts have concluded the threat of terrorism, particularly Islamic terrorism, is on the rise.

The study pointed to more widespread and coordinated counterterrorism efforts, "bitter doctrinal infighting" within the global Islamist networks, and Muslims' rejection of terrorists' "indiscriminate violence, extremist ideology and harshly repressive policies" for the downswing.

After looking at the results of polls carried out last year in the Arab and Muslim world, especially in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the report said that support for terrorism appeared to be waning.

For Mack, the drop in popularity for al-Qaeda in the Arab and Muslim world was due to the rejection of extremist ideology, particularly after "the terror groups' gratuitous and indiscriminate violence against their co-religionists".

"By deeply alienating the very publics whose support is critical to their cause, the Islamists have become their own worst enemies and created conditions that will likely bring about their eventual demise.

"Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are far from being eliminated, but the strategic outlook for the terror network is bleak," he said.

The researchers also cited the number of fatalities rather than numbers of attacks in their study because deaths were deemed to be a better indicator of the human costs of terrorism, while "definitions of what constitutes an attack vary considerably".

The study is available on the internet at www.humansecurity.info.

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