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Report Says Al-Qaida Diminished, But Affiliates Still A Threat

Chadian soldiers during a procession through Mali's capital earlier this month. Instability in the country has helped fuel al-Qaida affiliates in Africa, the State Department says.

The State Department says Iran has stepped up its efforts on behalf of global terrorism to a level not seen for 20 years, but that the core elements of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan are heading for defeat even as the network's affiliates remain a threat.

"Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism and [Hezbollah's] terrorist activity have reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa," says the Country Reports on Terrorism 2012.

Among those attacks was one that killed six on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Other attacks were thwarted in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya, the report says.

It says the vehicle for Iran's troublemaking has mostly been the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement, Iran's ally and proxy in Lebanon.

The report also says that al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to decline owing to "leadership losses," and what remains of the group is increasingly focused on survival. However, despite "significant setbacks" to Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabab in Somalia:

"The dispersal of weapons stocks in the wake of the revolution in Libya, the Tuareg rebellion, and the coup d'etat in Mali presented terrorists with new opportunities."

In Libya, it said, "the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya's nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities."

The report was released on the same day that U.S. officials put more than 50 Iranian officials on a sanctions list for alleged human rights abuses as the Obama administration eased restrictions on communications equipment to Iran.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the State Department says it is taking coordinated steps to punish officials involved in human rights abuses in Iran while making it easier for the Iranian people to access communications technology.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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