U.S. Says Iran, Hizbullah 'Stepped up Level of Terrorist Plotting'

Iran is the "pre-eminent" state sponsor of terrorism and together with Hizbullah are pursuing increasingly destabilizing activities around the world since the 1990s, the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Daniel Benjamin, said Tuesday.

“Iran is and remains the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world … and also, together with Hizbullah, as they pursue destabilizing activities around the globe, we are firmly committed to working with partners and allies to counter and disrupt Iranian activities,” Benjamin told journalists after a briefing on the annual "Country Reports on Terrorism."

The report notes that al-Qaida and its affiliates are not the only terrorist threat that the United States faces.

Both Iran and Hizbullah have “stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year … and are engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s,” Benjamin said.

The international community is increasingly alert to this threat and will resist it, he added.

Asked about a possible involvement of Hizbullah in a suicide bombing attack on Israelis that killed six people in Bulgaria, the U.S. official said: “I’m going to leave that the Bulgarians to characterize.”

But he told journalists that “quite a number” of activities in the world bear the hallmarks of either Iran or the Lebanese party.

Soon after the July 18 bombing of a bus packed with Israelis at Burgas airport, authorities released closed circuit television footage of a long-haired young man dressed like a tourist whom they believe was the suicide bomber.

Israel has blamed Iran and Hizbullah. Tehran has denied any involvement.

The State Department's report said “Hizbullah persisted in using force and threats to intimidate the Lebanese people.”

“The group’s robust relationships with the regimes in Iran and Syria, involvement in illicit financial activity, continued engagement in international attack planning, and acquisition of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets continued to threaten U.S. interests in the region.”

The report also said violent extremists continue to find refuge in Pakistan, leading to more aggressive and coordinated attacks in Afghanistan. And warned about gains in Yemen made by al-Qaida's Arabian peninsula offshoot.

In total, there were more than 10,000 terrorist attacks in 70 countries last year. Some 12,500 people were killed, the majority in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Still, the global figures reflected a 12 percent drop in terrorism from 2010.

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