Terrorist violence down, support for Qaeda on the wane: study
* Canadian academics say downswing result of counter-terrorism efforts, global Islamist networks’ infighting, Muslim rejection of violence, extremist ideology, repressive policies
Daily Times, May 23, 2008
PARIS: Global terrorist violence declined markedly in 2007 and popular backing for Al Qaeda is slipping, according to the authors of a Canadian study based on US statistics.
The study — ‘Human Security Brief 2007,’ authored by lecturers at Simon Frazer University in Vancouver — reports that terrorism fatalities were down by around 40 percent in 2006 compared to 2001, and dropped even further in mid-2007 according to preliminary data. The figures were based on three US sources: the National Counter-terrorism Centre, the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism at the University of Maryland. The study describes a “dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world” for Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. The analysis stands in stark contrast to US and British security analysts’ and intelligence agencies’ conclusions based on the same data. The British and US experts have concluded that the threat of terrorism, particularly Islamic terrorism, is on the rise.
The study points 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 Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the report says support for terrorism appears to be waning.
For the study’s main author Andrew Mack, Al Qaeda’s drop in popularity in the Arab and Muslim world is 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 Canadian academics decided not to include the victims of the Iraq conflict in the study. “The intentional killing of civilians in wartime is not normally described as terrorism, but as war crimes or crimes against humanity,” said Mack. 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. afp