In 2015, the world saw a decrease in terrorist attacks and resulting fatalities for the first time since 2012, according to a yearly report on global terrorism released Thursday by the U.S. State Department.
The report found that the total number of terrorist attacks went down 13 percent from 2014 with fatalities from attacks decreasing 14 percent — despite high profile mass casualty attacks such as those in Paris last November.
Of the terrorist groups, ISIS is the greatest worldwide terrorist threat, although al Qaeda, whose leadership has been severely degraded since 2001 and its affiliates continue to pose a threat, the report said. Yet ISIS lost territory in both Iraq and Syria midway through the year and paralleling the loss, the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to the conflict region also began to decrease.
But 2015 saw ISIS gain territory in Libya which the report notes, “continued to serve as a key operational and transit hub for foreign terrorist fighters traveling to and from Syria and Iraq.”
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ISIS also gained new allegiances from terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, other parts of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Asia and throughout Africa, most notably Boko Haram.
The report noted that Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in spite of the U.S. led negotiations which brought about the Iran Nuclear Deal. In addition, Iran continues to have a seat at the International Syria Support Group although the report found that Iran “views the Assad regime in Syria as a crucial ally” and “a key link to Hezbollah, Iran’s primary beneficiary and terrorist partner."
Meanwhile in Iraq, Iran "increased its arming and funding of Iraqi Shia terrorist groups in an effort to reverse ISIL gains in Iraq," the report said. It also pointed out that many of these groups have only served to exacerbate sectarian tensions and have committed "serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians."
Syria and Sudan were also found to be State Sponsors of Terror, having both been on the list since the 1990’s with Syria as far back as 1979.
This is the first report without Cuba on the list since 1982. The country was removed just last year as the two countries worked to re-establish diplomatic relations.
Abigail Williams is a producer in the NBC News Washington bureau.