NEW YORK - A new study into international terrorism over the past decade says the number of attacks have levelled out since 2007.

The Global Terrorism Index, drawn up by the Institute for Economics and Peace, says attacks rose steadily from 2002 to 2007. It says that more than a third of all victims between 2002 and 2011 were Iraqi.

The index ranks and compares 158 countries over a 10-year period to shed light on the impact of terrorism.

It says that the biggest rise took place between 2005-2007, driven by events in Iraq.

Pakistan, India and Afghanistan accounted for 12%, 11% and 10% of global terrorist incidents respectively from 2002 to 2009, the report said.

Thailand, the Philippines and Russia also accounted for a notable portion at 5%, 4%, and 4% respectively.

“The overall global trend does give some hope for optimism as the steep increase in terrorist activity experienced from 2003 to 2007 has halted, however the deteriorating situation in Syria and other future possible conflicts in the Middle-East could reverse the situation,” the report said.

Fatal attacks in Western Europe have decreased since 2002 but it still had 19 times more deaths than the US, the study shows, although the time-frame means the 9/11 attacks of 2001 are not included.

North America was highlighted as the region least likely to suffer a terrorist incident, followed by Western Europe and Latin America.

Only 31 nations did not experience a terrorist attack between 2002 and 2011, the study revealed.

The study says al-Qaeda is much weakened and responsible for only one of 4,564 attacks carried out in 2011 - however correspondents say that it does not include al-Qaeda’s affiliates such as those in Yemen and North Africa which are responsible for hundreds of other deaths.

The index defines terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation”.

Among its key findings, the study argues that low income countries are less likely to suffer from terrorism than lower middle-income countries, suggesting that poverty is not a prime motive for attacks.

It says terrorism correlates with low political stability, low cohesion between various groups in society, human rights violations and high levels of group grievances.

Agencies add: The number of terrorist attacks each year has more than quadrupled in the decade since September 11, 2001 with Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan the most affected, the study said.

The survey reported 7,473 fatalities in 2011, 25 per cent down on 2007. That figure included dead suicide bombers and other attackers.

Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Yemen were the five countries most affected by terrorism in descending order, it said, based on a measure giving weightings to number of attacks, fatalities and injuries and level of property damage.

The US military interventions pursued as part of the West’s anti-al Qaeda ‘war on terror’, the researchers suggested, may have simply made matters worse - while whether they made the US homeland safer was impossible to prove.

“Iraq accounts for about a third of all terrorist deaths over the last decade, and Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan account for over 50 per cent of fatalities.”

The study says terrorism incidents numbered 982 in 2002, causing 3,823 deaths, rising to 4,564 terrorist incidents globally in 2011, resulting in 7,473 deaths.

It did not include casualties from government-backed action such as aerial bombing or other killings.

The study said its methodology allowed researchers the scope to exclude actions that could be seen as insurgency, hate crime or organized crime and incidents about which insufficient information was available.

The upswing in attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan only occurred after the Iraq war, the study showed, coming at largely the same time as heightened US-backed military campaigns there by Nato and the Pakistani government respectively.

The findings suggested foreign powers should think twice before intervening militarily, Killelea said, even in countries such as Syria, already seeing widespread bloodshed. Unless the conflict was brought to a swift end, terror attacks might actually increase, he said.

The greatest deterioration in 2011 took place in Syria and Yemen, the report said. Yemen has seen a dramatic upsurge in al Qaeda-linked activity in recent years, while Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad have increasingly turned to suicide attacks and bombings.

Of the 158 countries surveyed, only 31 had not experienced a single event classified as a “terrorist act” since 2001, the report said. Even when the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington were taken into account, North America remained the least-affected region over the period studied.

Western Europeans were 19 times more likely to die in a terrorist attack than North Americans, the report said. Aside from the United States - whose rating improved sharply over the decade as the casualties of 2001 were no longer factored in - the greatest improvements were seen in Algeria and Colombia.