State Dept: Worldwide terrorist attacks decreased by 23 percent in 2017

State Dept: Worldwide terrorist attacks decreased by 23 percent in 2017
© Anna Moneymaker

The State Department says the annual count of the number of terrorist attacks worldwide dropped by 23 percent in 2017, according to an annual report from the agency's counterterrorism center.

Nathan Sales, of the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, told reporters Wednesday that more than half of the attacks occurred in five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines, according to CNN.

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"The total number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017 decreased by 23 percent" compared to the year before, Sales said.

"The total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 27 percent," he added, according to CNN.

Downward trends in the number of terrorist attacks were directly related to U.S. coalition-backed successes in Iraq, according to the State Department, which drove terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) out of a large portion of territory last year.

The "overall trend was largely due to dramatically fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq," Sales said.

Terrorist groups have adapted to their loss of physical territory in the Middle East, Sales warned in the same report, adding that militant groups have begun operating in more "clandestine" manners to adjust to U.S. strategies.

ISIS, al Qaeda, and affiliated groups have “proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere,” the report states.

Militant groups such as ISIS continue to retain “both the capability and the intent to strike the United States and its allies," Sales added.

The downward trend in the total number of attacks follows the Trump administration's announcement of the end of funding for stabilization efforts in Syria, considered a major breeding ground for armed extremist groups.

The State Department "continues to work with the international community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria," the agency said in a statement last month.