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Cover Stories
Special> World in Retrospect 2009> Cover Stories
UPDATED: December 18, 2009 NO. 51 DECEMBER 24, 2009
World Security Enters New Phase
The world community seeks answers to looming terrorist threats


TAKING ON TERROR: Pakistanis take to the streets in the southern city of Karachi on December 8 in a march supporting the government's military crackdown on Taliban militants (XINHUA) 

The year of 2009 has witnessed an increasing amount of terrorism around the world—requiring serious countermeasures.

In Europe, the radical group ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) launched a series of terrorist attacks in Spain on the 50th anniversary of its founding, demonstrating its relevance—and its deadly abilities. Other European nations, notably Germany, have also thwarted similar terrorist plots.

Perhaps more troubling of all was an incident in September when New York City officials neutralized another potential terrorist attack, which would have been the largest of its kind since September 11, 2001.

In the Muslim world, meanwhile, religious militants and insurgent violence have steadily gained strength. In Iraq, for example, there have been more than 2,100 terrorist attacks this year, far more than the 1,492 attacks reported in 2008.

Al Qaeda, of course, has been causing unrest in Yemen and other regions, too. Somalia's Youth Party, for example, has recently created general chaos amid a deteriorating political situation. This situation has been worsened by collaborations with violent terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

Then there is North Africa, where extremist forces in Algeria—and other countries like Mauritania and Mali beyond—remain largely unchecked. This has resulted in the export of threats and violence to the outside world, mainly Europe.

In Central Asia, the Islamic Jihad Union has made a major comeback, threatening the security situations in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

At the same time, across South Asia in Pakistan and Afghanistan, suicide attacks continued to increase steadily, while overall terrorist attacks have peaked in number.

In fact, according to Jane's Information Group in London, terrorist activity in South Asia represents as much as half of the total figure worldwide.

In Southeast Asia, on the other hand, Thailand and the Philippines have been racked by continuous terrorist incidents. Nearby, Islamic extremists have once again gained ground in Indonesia, the world's most populous, though moderate, Muslim nation.

Terrorism spreads

Al Qaeda has used its organizational fluidity as a means to adjust to new tactics to expand and consolidate its strength.

This year, Al Qaeda's top leaders, including its second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a series of video messages emphasizing new alliances with Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) as well as other terrorist forces. Indeed, there is plenty to suggest that Al Qaeda continues to have a strong foothold in Pakistan.

In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, branches of Al Qaeda have also reorganized and united. The militants have also made it widely known that they plan to join local insurgent forces and domestic rebellions to attack the government and local Western targets.

Al Qaeda has also intensified efforts at self-promotion, in its attempts to gain greater sympathy and support from Muslims all over the world.

To do so, Al Qaeda and its offshoots have repeatedly publicized and marketed their brand of extremism via online forums, electronic periodicals and video speeches, among other mechanisms.

The TTP, on the other hand, has consistently rallied its forces as a bulwark against local Pakistani counter-insurgency operations and paramilitaries. Indeed, ever since Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed by U.S. forces in August, the new TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud has sworn to retaliate.

The TTP, in fact, has already succeeded in attacking the Islamabad office of the United Nations' World Food Program, and Pakistan's main army headquarters. These attacks came even after Islamabad launched crackdowns against militant sanctuaries in South Waziristan.

To the north, the Afghan Taliban has reinforced its strength, committing highly elusive hit-and-run terrorist attacks. Overall, the group has been maintaining a highly lethal and skilled campaign of suicide bombings and guerilla warfare in the face of powerful joint attacks by U.S. and Afghan military forces.

Taliban forces have also spread to the northern and western parts of Afghanistan like an inkblot. Statistics show that, from the beginning of 2009 to the end of October, there have been some 1,200 terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, alarmingly more than the total number of 615 for the previous year.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are optimizing their vast rural and mountain terrain with which they are familiar. In these, the Taliban have unlimited opportunities to target Western forces.

As a result, the death toll for NATO and U.S. military forces in Afghanistan has risen sharply in recent months, with 295 casualties from January to September, compared with the total number of 294 in 2008.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has reactivated after a long period of silence, posing a new threat to both Indonesia and nearby countries in the region. On July 17, most notably, Jakarta's the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels were struck by bombings, killing and injuring dozens. According to the International Crisis Group, JI has a core structure of some 900 loyalists, while most of its leaders have not even come close to seeing justice.

The normally peaceful India has also seen a disturbing rise in terrorist attacks. The number of terrorist incidents in India this year as of October has surpassed 1,000, much higher than that of the previous year, which stood at 839.

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