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Terrorism Concerns Businesses Worldwide

IN A YEAR THAT SAW terrorist attacks on hotels in Pakistan and India as well as an attempted attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, terrorism ranked among the top concerns of American companies operating overseas, according to the 2008 analysis of major risks around the world from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

“We had a U.S. worker that was killed in Khartoum, we had attacks against hotels in Pakistan and India, we had a bus bombing against a Canadian company in Algeria,” says Todd Brown, executive director of OSAC. “It may not be quite as big a threat in some regions as in others, but it certainly is a prevalent threat,” he adds.

Piracy off the coasts of Africa, drug-cartel violence in Mexico, rebel activities in Colombia, corruption in Europe, and resource shortages in Asia also were among the risks that ranked high for American companies around the world.

OSAC is a U.S. State Department body charged with promoting security cooperation between the government and American business interests worldwide. The annual security analysis is based on reports from the group’s 5,000 members as well as on news accounts and other unclassified information.

The report cited extremist activity from the Middle East to Europe, including the “increased ambition and capability” of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), concerns about al Qaeda factions in the Persian Gulf, and “the potential for instability in Yemen to adversely impact Saudi Arabia.” It also noted the threat from groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban operating on the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Transnational and homegrown terrorism in Europe remain a concern, the report notes, despite the fact that the region has not experienced a large-scale terrorist attack since the 2005 London transit bombings.

Brown notes that many other long-term concerns remain, even if they did not top the list this year. Among those are protection of intellectual property and counterfeiting.

The threat environment is also fluid. In last year’s analysis, Colombia earned “high praise” for the decline in guerrilla violence and kidnapping, but this year the country is back on the list of top concerns. Brown says that violence from the rebel group FARC has not reemerged at the high levels of the past, but OSAC is still hearing that its constituency is touched by FARC violence.