WASHINGTON — A surge in the number of Al Qaeda affiliates and like-minded groups in the Middle East and North Africa poses a serious threat to US interests and allies, the State Department said Wednesday in reporting a more than 40 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide between 2012 and 2013.
The department also singled out Iran as a major state sponsor of terrorism that continues to defy demands to prove that its atomic ambitions are peaceful — even as Washington pursues negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.
In its annual global terrorism report, the department said losses in Al Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan accelerated the network’s decentralization in 2013. That has resulted in more autonomous and more aggressive affiliates, notably in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, northwest Africa, and Somalia, it said.
‘‘The terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2013, with an increasing number of groups around the world — including both [Al Qaeda] affiliates and other terrorist organizations — posing a threat to the United States, our allies, and our interests,’’ said the ‘‘Country Reports on Terrorism.’’
The report found a 43 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 from 2012, according to statistics by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
It counted 9,707 terrorist attacks around the world in 2013, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. Most of those occurred in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand, and Yemen.
In 2012, the figures were 6,771 terrorist attacks, with more than 11,000 deaths and more than 21,600 injuries.
The department said losses in Al Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan accelerated the network’s decentralization.
The most lethal attacks in 2013 were conducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the report.
Affiliated groups have taken advantage of conditions on the ground ‘‘to broaden and deepen their operations,’’ it said.