By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog co-editor
Washington (CNN) – As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.
More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.
Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.
The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.
Editor's note: Dagfinn Høybråten is a vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chairman of the GAVI Alliance Board. GAVI is a public-private partnership that works with governments, vaccine producers, faith-based organizations and others to expand access to vaccines and immunization. Since its launch in 2000, GAVI has helped immunize 370 million children in the poorest countries.
By Dagfinn Høybråten, Special to CNN
Despite their political, religious and ethnic differences, leaders from around the world are coming together for today's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. As they do, it is worth noting that faith and science are also coming together around the world to promote healing and equality in the form of access to vaccines.
Vaccines are a triumph of science due to their incredible capacity to save lives and protect health. Yet vaccines reach only four out of five children who need them. To reach the fifth child, science has found an important partner in the faith community, which helps bring vaccines to the most remote areas and the children who need them most. FULL POST
By Nasir Habib and Shaan Khan, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - For the second time in two days, a deadly blast shook a northwest Pakistani city as worshippers marked the sacred holiday of Ashura.
The explosion occurred near a Shiite Muslim procession in Dera Ismail Khan. The bomb was planted inside a bicycle repair shop, killing five people and injuring more than 70 others, said Mian Iftikahr Hussain, the provincial information minister.
The spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, said the group would continue "its mission" and attack Shiite Ashura processions across Pakistan.
By Shaan Khan, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - Malala Yousufzai's courageous blogging against the Taliban set her apart from other 14-year-old Pakistani girls.
Growing up in a region once dominated by the Islamic extremists, she knew the fear associated with the word Taliban.
One of her fears came to pass Tuesday, when gunmen sought her out and opened fire on her school van, leaving her seriously wounded along with two other classmates.
By Nasir Habib
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - For the second time in less than two weeks, a prominent Pakistani is offering a six-figure bounty to anyone who kills the man who produced "Innocence of Muslims," a film that has offended many Muslims throughout the world.
Former Pakistani lawmaker Ikramullah Shahid told demonstrators protesting the movie in Peshawar on Monday that he'd pay $200,000 to anyone who kills the filmmaker, according to Siraj Ul Haq, a senior leader of the religious group that organized the rally.
By Reza Sayah, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - It has been more than a month since a teenage Christian girl was charged in Pakistan under the country's blasphemy laws . Her accusers say she burned pages from the Quran, Islam's holy book. Amid twists in her case, including changed statements by witnesses, she is facing life in prison.
On Monday, CNN reported that three witnesses whose testimony could absolve the 14-year-old Rimsha Masih have changed their statements, a potential setback for her. She has denied the charges.
The case has drawn the country's complex laws about blasphemy into the spotlight. Here is a primer on those laws.
From Reza Sayah and Nasir Habib, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - A Christian girl accused of violating Pakistani blasphemy laws by allegedly burning pages containing texts from the Quran will have to wait at least another two weeks to learn her fate after a court ordered a stay of proceedings in her case Monday.
A juvenile court had been due Monday to hear the case of the girl, Rimsha Masih. But the Islamabad High Court said the hearing should wait until it has ruled on a petition by Rimsha's lawyers seeking a dismissal, one of the lawyers said.
By Ashley Fantz, CNN
(CNN) - A 14-year-old Pakistani girl who had faced life in prison for allegedly burning the Quran will have her case heard in juvenile court, the girl's lawyer told CNN.
A local court ordered the transfer on Monday, Tahir Naveed Choudhry said.
Pakistani police told CNN their investigation concluded Rimsha Masih is innocent and was framed by an imam.
"There was no legal evidence against Rimsha," officer Munir Jafri told CNN.
By Reza Sayah and Nasir Habib, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) - A Pakistani judge on Friday granted bail to Rimsha, a 14-year-old Christian girl detained over accusations she burned pages of the Quran in a case that has heightened religious tensions in the volatile country.
The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which represents religious minorities in the country, will pay the sum of roughly $10,000 to secure Rimsha's release from jail, said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, one of her lawyers and a leading member of the alliance.
From Nasir Habib, CNN
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) – Pakistani police say a Muslim cleric planted evidence to link a Christian girl to blasphemy - a new twist in a case that has fanned flames of religious tension in the country and attracted worldwide interest.
The imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, will himself face blasphemy charges for tearing pages out of a Quran to use as evidence against the girl, Islambad police chief Bin Yamin said.
The latest development may make it easier for the girl, 14-year-old Rimsha, to be released on bail at her next court hearing.
Police arrested Rimsha last month after a neighbor accused her of burning pages containing texts from the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.