Al-Qaeda and its affiliates still present a “serious threat” to the U.S. despite losses among its core leadership in Pakistan, the State Department said in its annual report on global terrorism.
The report said the al-Qaeda terrorist threat “has evolved” and is now dispersed across the Middle East and North Africa, where some operationally autonomous affiliates are growing increasingly aggressive and taking advantage of instability in the region. The groups are also increasingly financially autonomous from the core al-Qaeda leadership, raising their own funds through illegal operations like kidnapping for ransom and credit card fraud.
According to the State Department, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is primarily active in Yemen, “continues to pose the most significant threat to the United States and U.S. citizens” among al-Qaeda affiliates. The leader of the group, which carried out roughly 100 attacks in Yemen last year and has attempted multiple attacks on the U.S., was designated the deputy to al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2013.
Terrorism in 2013 -- particularly amid the civil war in Syria -- was increasingly fueled by sectarian motives, which the report called "a worrisome trend."
The report also found a “resurgence” of activity by the Iranian intelligence and security forces connected primarily to Iran's support for the Assad regime in Syria and for its ally in Lebanon, Hizballah, which is a designated terrorist group that has sent fighters to Syria to back Assad.
In Israel, the number of rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza dropped significantly since 2013, according to the report. There were 74 launchings last year from Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, down from 2,557 a year earlier, which is the the lowest number in more than a decade.