Terrorist attacks soar, deaths down from 2007 peak-study

* Terrorism incidents jumped after 2003 Iraq invasion

* Deaths from terrorism peaked in 2007-study

* More than a third of all victims killed were Iraqi

NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The number of terrorist attacks

each year has more than quadrupled in the decade since September

11, 2001, a study released on Tuesday said, with Iraq, Pakistan

and Afghanistan the most affected.

The number of annual deaths in attacks, however, peaked in

2007 -- the height of the Iraq conflict -- and has been falling

ever since. The survey reported 7,473 fatalities in 2011, 25

percent down on 2007. That figure included dead suicide bombers

and other attackers.

Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Yemen were the five

countries most affected by terrorism in descending order, it

said, based on a measure giving weightings to number of attacks,

fatalities and injuries and level of property damage.

The Global Terrorism Index - published on Tuesday by the

U.S.- and Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace

think tank - ranked countries based on data from the Global

Terrorism Database run by a consortium based at the University

of Maryland, a commonly used reference by security researchers.

The U.S. military interventions pursued as part of the

West's anti-al Qaeda "war on terror", the researchers suggested,

may have simply made matters worse - while whether they made the

U.S. homeland safer was impossible to prove.

IRAQIS ACCOUNT FOR THIRD OF TERRORISM DEATHS

"After 9/11, terrorist activity fell back to pre-2000 levels

until after the Iraq invasion, and has since escalated

dramatically," Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of

the Institute for Economics and Peace, told Reuters in an e-mail

interview.

"Iraq accounts for about a third of all terrorist deaths

over the last decade, and Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan account

for over 50 percent of fatalities."

The study says terrorism incidents numbered 982 in 2002,

causing 3,823 deaths, rising to 4,564 terrorist incidents

globally in 2011, resulting in 7,473 deaths.

The researchers used the University of Maryland definition

of "terrorism": "the threatened or actual use of illegal force

and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political,

economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or

intimidation".

It did not include casualties from government-backed action

such as aerial bombing or other killings.

The study said its methodology allowed researchers the scope

to exclude actions that could be seen as insurgency, hate crime

or organised crime and incidents about which insufficient

information was available.

The upswing in attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan only

occurred after the Iraq war, the study showed, coming at largely

the same time as heightened U.S.-backed military campaigns there

by NATO and the Pakistani government respectively.

SYRIA, YEMEN WORSENING

The findings suggested foreign powers should think twice

before intervening militarily, Killelea said, even in countries

such as Syria, already seeing widespread bloodshed. Unless the

conflict was brought to a swift end, terror attacks might

actually increase, he said.

The greatest deterioration in 2011 took place in Syria and

Yemen, the report said. Yemen has seen a dramatic upsurge in al

Qaeda-linked activity in recent years, while Syrian rebels

fighting President Bashar al-Assad have increasingly turned to

suicide attacks and bombings.

Of the 158 countries surveyed, only 31 had not experienced a

single event classified as a "terrorist act" since 2001, the

report said. Even when the 9/11 attacks on New York and

Washington were taken into account, North America remained the

least-affected region over the period studied.

Western Europeans were 19 times more likely to die in a

terrorist attack than North Americans, the report said. Aside

from the United States - whose rating improved sharply over the

decade as the casualties of 2001 were no longer factored in -

the greatest improvements were seen in Algeria and Colombia.

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