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Study: New Attack On U.S. Likely

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Another Sept. 11-style terrorism attack is "highly likely" in the United States, which ranks fourth in an index assessing the risk to 186 countries, a research company said Sunday.

The London-based World Markets Research Center ranked Colombia, Israel, Pakistan, the United States and the Philippines, in descending order, as the five countries most likely to be targeted in a terrorist attack in the next 12 months, Guy Dunn, author of the company's World Terrorism Index, said in a telephone interview.

The goal of the index, to be published Monday, is to assess the risk of terrorism in 186 countries and, "crucially, against those countries' interests abroad over the next 12 months," he said.

Five criteria were used: motivation of terrorists, the presence of terror groups, the scale and frequency of past attacks, efficacy of the groups in carrying out attacks, and prevention — how many attacks have been thwarted by the country.

The categories were weighted differently; for example 40 percent for motivation and 10 percent for prevention.

"Another Sept. 11-style terrorist attack in the United States is highly likely," the report states. "Networks of militant Islamist groups are less extensive in the U.S. than they are in Western Europe, but U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has exacerbated anti-U.S. sentiment."

In terms of motivation, Dunn said, "the United States, as a global superpower, is considered a legitimate, high-profile target." But in terms of presence of terrorist cells, the United States has relatively few, "although it is probably the most open society in the world," he said.

Terrorists also consider U.S. interests in other countries legitimate political targets, he said.

The company, specializing in country risk, has hundreds of clients in 45 nations. Approximately 80 percent are multinational companies and banks,

Dunn said. The remaining 20 percent are mostly governments, but also universities and charities. Foreign Ministries, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are among them.

Terrorism has moved from being a peripheral threat before Sept. 11 2001, to being a key risk to business, Dunn said. It is no longer isolated in the targeted countries, he said, giving the example of the Irish Republican Army's attacks limited to the United Kingdom.

In a survey of the clients, 72 percent said they considered terrorism when making international location decisions, he said.

"What changed with 9-11 was that the threat was internationalized. .... All countries were at some risk. In essence terrorism has become a key risk to business. Companies have to take a much more specific interest in terrorism," Dunn said.

The index is intended to help clients "put their own assumptions into perspective," he said.

The countries listed sixth through ninth are Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq and India. Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom are tied for 10th place, he said.

The report says the country least likely to be attacked by terrorists is North Korea, Dunn said.

"It may have be on the 'Axis of Evil,' but this is about terrorist attacks on its soil," and repression practiced by the Pyongyang government hinders terrorism, Dunn said.

Iceland is next-to-last at 185, and Andorra, Belarus, Liechtenstein and Slovenia are tied for places 181-184, Dunn said.