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Study: 9/11-style attack on US likely
( 2003-08-18 10:00) (Agencies)

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 year, said Guy Dunn, author of the company's World Terrorism Index.

The index, to be published Monday, assesses the risk of terrorism to the countries and their interests abroad, he said. The country least likely to be attacked by terrorists is North Korea, Dunn said.

The assessments used five criteria: motivation of terrorists, the presence of terror groups, the scale and frequency of past attacks, efficacy of the groups in carrying out attacks and how many attacks were thwarted by the country.

The categories also were weighted differently. For example, 40 percent was given to motivation and 10 percent to 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 the 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 American interests in other countries legitimate political targets, he said.

Dunn said the United Kingdom, tied at 10th place with Sri Lanka, is a target partly because of its close relationship with the United States; its key roles in wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism; and the presence of sophisticated militant networks.

But Britain also "probably has the strongest counterterrorism capabilities in the world" because of years of fighting the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, 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. They include foreign ministries, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Terrorism has moved from being a peripheral threat before Sept. 11, 2001, to being a key risk to business, and no longer is isolated in the targeted countries, Dunn said.

In a client survey, 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.

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