Chapter 2. Country Reports: Europe and Eurasia Overview
"So, the question is how - at one and the same time - we can ensure we give no quarter to terrorism and organized crime, while still advancing the liberties our society is founded upon…
The British way cannot be a head-in-the-sand approach that ignores the fact that the world has changed with the advent of terrorism, which aims for civilian casualties on a massive scale and which respects not only no law, but also no recognizable moral framework. Instead, it must be an approach that is prepared to make the difficult decisions to protect our security – not by ignoring the demands of liberty but always at the same time doing everything we can to protect the individual from unfair or arbitrary treatment."
--Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Speech on Security and Liberty
June 17, 2008
European countries improved their capabilities to counter the terrorist threat, foiled several significant terrorist plots, and prosecuted and jailed terrorist suspects. European governments were increasingly concerned and sought greater understanding of the process of "radicalization" and how to prevent it. Toward that end, European governments continued their efforts at outreach to domestic Muslim communities and made attempts to gain support from those communities to counter the appeal of violent extremist ideology.
European nations continued to work in close partnership with the United States against a terrorist threat characterized by both external and, increasingly, internal components. The contributions of European countries in sharing intelligence, arresting members of terrorist cells, interdicting terrorist financing, and logistics were vital elements in the global effort to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
The United States and European Union continued to cooperate closely to counter terrorism. At the June 2004 U.S.-EU Summit, the sides agreed on a Declaration on Combating Terrorism that renewed the transatlantic commitment to develop measures to maximize capacities to detect, investigate, and prosecute terrorists; prevent terrorist attacks; prevent access by terrorists to financial and other economic resources; enhance information sharing and cooperation among law enforcement agencies; and improve the effectiveness of border information systems. These commitments were reaffirmed at the 2008 Summit, and work continued on the implementation, and, in particular, the ratification of mutual legal assistance treaties intended to advance transatlantic cooperation.
European nations were active participants in a variety of multilateral organizations that contribute to counterterrorist efforts, including the G8, NATO, the Financial Action Task Force, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Maritime Organization, and the International Civil Aviation Organization. The United States worked with its international partners through multilateral organizations to establish and implement best practices, build the counterterrorism capabilities of "weak but willing" states, and help counter terrorism globally. OSCE members committed themselves to becoming parties to the 13 international terrorism conventions and protocols, to work together to modernize travel documents and shipping container security, to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist organizations, and to implement UNSC Resolution 1540 to counter WMD (related materials and the means of delivery) proliferation.
Terrorist activity and the presence of terrorist support networks in Europe remained a source of serious concern. Efforts to combat the threat in Europe were sometimes slowed by legal protections that made it difficult to take firm judicial action against suspected terrorists, the absence of adequate legislation, or standards of evidence that limited the use of classified information in holding terrorist suspects. Terrorists also sought to take advantage of the ease of travel among Schengen countries. At times, some European states have not been able to prosecute successfully or hold some of the suspected terrorists brought before their courts – a product, in part, of insufficient measures to use intelligence information in judicial proceedings. The EU as a whole remained reluctant to take steps to block the assets of charities associated with HAMAS and Hizballah.
No major terrorist attacks took place in Europe in 2008, but arrests in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the UK, Turkey and other countries brought home the scope of the challenge facing European governments and security forces. The level of threat in Western Europe remained high, particularly in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, and Belgium. The deaths of Swedish extremists in Somalia and Iraq and the first-ever German-born suicide bomber in Afghanistan highlighted the global nature of the threat and the ease with which extremists can travel to conflict areas.
Cooperation with and among European law enforcement agencies remained vital for counterterrorism successes, and judicial proceedings in countries across Europe resulted in the successful convictions of several terrorist suspects. France and Spain continued to cooperate effectively against Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), scoring major successes including the arrests of ETA alleged political and military chiefs. Germany and other European countries continued to maintain pressure on the militant Kurdish nationalist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which raised funds, often through illicit activity, to support violence in Turkey. Cooperation between France and Belgium led in December to the arrests to 23 persons allegedly connected to al-Qa’ida (AQ). German courts also convicted suspects for activities connected to organizations ranging from AQ and the Islamic Jihad Union, to the PKK. A Danish court convicted Hammad Khurshid, a Pakistani-born Danish citizen, and an accomplice for conspiring to commit terrorism. Italian authorities addressed similarly broad challenges, arresting, charging, and convicting suspects linked to Islamic extremism, the Tamil Tigers, and violent left and right-wing fringe groups. Recent court decisions have called into question the European Council’s regulations for implementing asset freezes against terrorists and supporters of terrorism, including those who have been designated by the UN. Trials in Belgium in the case of Bilal Soughir and five other men suspected of having recruited and trained terrorists for suicide attacks in Iraq resulted in convictions with sentences between ten and two years; all of the sentences were later reduced on appeal. There were also other appeals - an appeals court in The Netherlands acquitted the seven members of the Hofstad terrorist group of participating in a criminal and terrorist organization, though the convictions of three terrorists were upheld, and the prosecution appealed the acquittals to the Supreme Court. In Spain, the Supreme Court acquitted on appeal four of the 21 convicted defendants in the Madrid train bombings trial who had been sentenced in October 2007.
Albania pledged to increase its contribution of troops to Afghanistan, froze bank accounts related to money laundering and terrorist financing, and aggressively worked with the United States and other countries to combat terrorism. Albania made progress in identifying vulnerabilities at land and sea borders, but the government and police forces continued to face challenges to enforce border security fully and combat organized crime and corruption.
On January 14, the criminal trial began against Hamzeh Abu Rayyan, the suspected administrator for UNSCR 1267 Committee-designated terrorist financier Yassin Al-Kadi, who is charged with hiding funds used to finance terrorism. This marked the first ever criminal terrorist finance-related trial in Albania; the trial was ongoing at year’s end. A civil suit filed by al-Kadi to release his assets from seizure was dismissed, was then refiled in July, and again was dismissed by the court in September. Al-Kadi's company, Loxhall, also filed a lawsuit in April, aimed at annulling the Council of Ministers' decision as well as the two orders of the Ministry of Finance related to the administration of seized terrorism assets.
Although no new groups' assets were frozen this year under Albania's Terrorism Financing Freeze law, as of October, the Ministry of Finance claimed that it maintained asset freezes against six individuals and 14 foundations and companies on the UNSCR 1267 list. Despite this progress, the effectiveness of the government's counterterrorist financing effort was undermined by a lack of data-processing infrastructure and an inadequate capability to track and manage cases properly.
Armenia’s counterterrorism partnership with the United States included granting blanket over-flight clearance and ad hoc landing rights to U.S. military aircraft, deployment of a peacekeeping contingent to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and participation in bilateral assistance programs that strengthened the government’s capacity to monitor illicit financial flows and confront trafficking in hazardous substances. Widespread corruption, however, continued to hamper full implementation and enforcement of laws that would improve Armenia's counterterrorism posture and response capability.
In response to a Government of Iraq notice that it would not require the same level of international security assistance in 2009, the Armenian 46-man peacekeeping contingent re-deployed in October after successfully completing its assigned missions. Since then, the Armenian Ministry of Defense has expressed active interest in sending a peacekeeping contingent to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force.
Armenia was an active participant in several bilateral and multilateral assistance, security, and training initiatives targeted at strengthening its ability to combat terrorist financing and the smuggling of illicit and hazardous materials. These initiatives included: the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative, the Biological Threat Reduction Program, and related training programs sponsored by the resident offices of Export Control and Border Security and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
By December, Armenia had achieved measured progress in implementing border security and anti-trafficking measures. These measures included: the installation of Radiation Portal Alarms at all land ports of entry and at its main airport; the installation of sensors for and increased monitoring of Armenia's green border with Georgia; and the Armenian Border Guard Service expected to have full connectivity of its automated Border Management Information System (BMIS) with all points of entry, which would reduce the possibility of passport and visa fraud. (Note: The BMIS contains criminal and terrorist watchlists as updated by the Republic of Armenia's Police and National Security Service.)
In May, Armenia revised its law on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing. This revision significantly expanded the range of reporting entities required to report suspicious transactions to the Financial Monitoring Center (FMC), a specialized intelligence unit within the Central Bank that is responsible for combating money laundering and terrorism financing. The FMC continued to share information internationally with other FIUs through its membership in the Egmont Group. To date, no transactions involving watchlist designees or other suspected terrorist financing cases have been uncovered.
Armenia continued to demonstrate interest in strengthening its ties with Iran. In May, Armenia declared support for expanding joint projects in the energy and transportation sectors. This was followed by the visits of at least two cabinet-level officials to Tehran in the fall to discuss cooperation in security, political, economic, and cultural spheres. In a reciprocal visit, Armenia hosted the Deputy Secretary of Iran's Security Council in December to discuss bilateral cooperation further. As a result of the increased diplomatic activity, Armenia continued to be reluctant to participate in international efforts that criticized or placed pressure on Iran for its non-compliance on issues related to nuclear proliferation and terrorist financing.
Sympathizers of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan were believed to have been behind the October arson attacks against the Turkish consulate in Salzburg and Turkish associations in Vienna and Graz. In a separate incident, also in October, Kurdish demonstrators unsuccessfully tried to force their way onto the UN premises in Vienna. In March, a wanted PKK activist and Ocalan confidante, Ayfer Kaya, transited Austria and was subsequently arrested in Bavaria.
Austria fulfilled its obligations to freeze assets, pursuant to UN Security Council sanctions and EU Clearinghouse designations, but did not initiate any freezing actions independently. At the end of 2007, in order to implement the EU's Third Money Laundering Directive, the Austrian Parliament approved amendments to the Stock Exchange Act, the Securities Supervision Act, the Insurance Act, the Business Code, and Austrian laws governing lawyers and notaries. In the first half of 2008, it made amendments to the Gambling Act and the law governing accounting professionals. These introduced stricter regulations regarding customer identification procedures, including requiring customer identification for all transactions of more than USD 21,400 for customers without a permanent business relationship, as well as examining businesses suspected of money laundering, terrorist financing, and non-face-to-face transactions.
On August 28, Austria’s Supreme Court ordered the case of Muhammad Shawqi, to be re-tried because the prosecutor did not present arguments to the jury in as clear a language as required by law. On March 13, a Vienna court had sentenced Shawqi and his wife to prison for belonging to a terrorist organization with links to al-Qa'ida and of trying to blackmail the Austrian government. Shawqi allegedly sent email threats to the Austrian and German Governments demanding they withdraw their forces from Afghanistan or face unspecified terrorist attacks.
In November, the Vienna public prosecutor suspended criminal investigations against representatives of the Palestinian Association in Austria, an organization on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals list. The prosecutor stated that he was unable to establish proof of terrorist financing or membership in a terrorist organization. In August, a Vienna court ruled that the government should unfreeze about USD eight million from a bank account belonging to the Abu Nidal terrorist group. The court determined there was insufficient evidence that the money was connected to terrorism or would be used to support terrorism. The ruling was under appeal at year’s end.
Austria's Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism expressed concern about radicalization and singled out a handful of suspected extremist mosques in Vienna for monitoring. The Bureau also continued to monitor the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement, certain radicalized converts to Islam, and suspected Afghan extremists entering Austria as asylum seekers. Media sites monitored by the BVT include the Global Islamic Media Front and the as-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publications.
The Austrian government worked to implement the Pruem Treaty, which involves the exchange of DNA, fingerprint, and vehicle data between government agencies, and was designed, in part, to identify terrorism suspects.
The Government of Austria convened a number of international conferences under its Dialogue Between Cultures and Religions program, which were attended by government and religious leaders from around the world. In December, an international group of women activists founded Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), an antiterrorism organization headquartered in Vienna that seeks to develop a network of women who have been victims of terrorism.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Austria continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Azerbaijan and the United States have a strong record of cooperation on counterterrorism issues that predates the September 11, 2001 attacks. Azerbaijan, located on the crucial air route to Afghanistan, has granted blanket overflight clearance, engaged in information sharing and law-enforcement cooperation, and approved numerous landings and refueling operations at Baku's civilian airport in support of U.S. and Coalition military operations. Azerbaijan supported peacekeeping operations in Iraq from August 2003 to November 2008 with an infantry company of approximately 150 soldiers stationed at the Haditha dam. A platoon of Azerbaijani soldiers has served in Afghanistan since November 2002 and Azerbaijan is preparing to increase its contingent to 90 personnel, including medical and civil affairs specialists. Through tailored Export Control and Related Border Security and Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, Azerbaijan cooperates with the United States to strengthen its capacity to secure its land and maritime frontiers against terrorist exploitation for the movement of people and materiel.
Azerbaijan is a logical route for extremists with ties to terrorist organizations, including several organizations which have been “inspired” or directed by Iran. These groups have sought to move people, money, and materiel through the Caucasus, but the government has actively opposed them and has had some success in reducing their presence and hampering their activities. Azerbaijan has taken steps to combat terrorist financing and identify possible terrorist-related funding by distributing lists of suspected terrorist groups and individuals to local banks. The Council of Europe, however, has issued a negative assessment of Azerbaijan’s anti-money laundering reform effort thus far through its Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism mechanism. The government's draft law on money laundering, with the objective of creating an anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance regime, including reporting requirements, a Financial Intelligence Unit, and other components as defined by international standards, was in an advanced stage of the legislative process at year’s end. In anticipation of future adoption of this law, the USG has trained prosecutors, investigators, and judges on implementing anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing law enforcement techniques.
On August 17, an unknown assailant or assailants attacked Baku's main Sunni mosque with grenades, killing three and wounding eight. The government closed the mosque after the attack. In late October, a Baku court ordered the mosque reopened, but soon reversed itself. The government detained thirteen suspects in late August and early September in connection with the attack. In its September 2 public statement on the attack, the Ministry of National Security alleged that Ilgar Mollachiyev, an Azerbaijani citizen associated with extremist activities in Russian region of Dagestan, and his brother-in-law Samir Mehtiyev had masterminded the attack. Mollachiyev was killed by Russian security forces in Dagestan in September. The mosque remained closed and the investigation into the attack is ongoing.
Belgium continued to strengthen its capacity to respond to the threat of terrorism, developing new institutions over the past several years to coordinate the Belgian government's effort to use and share information to combat terrorism, maintain vigilance of persons and groups of concern, and actively work to prevent terrorist financing. In December, a major operation leading to the arrest of 15 suspected terrorists demonstrated the Belgian government’s will and capacity to take effective action.
In October 2007, hearings began in the case of Bilal Soughir and five other men suspected of recruiting and training terrorists for suicide attacks in Iraq, including Muriel Degauque, a Belgian national who, in 2005, blew herself up in a failed bomb attack in Iraq. Federal authorities planned ongoing reviews of court rulings to gauge what acts and groups could be prosecuted successfully under the 2003 legislation and what types of sentences could be imposed. On January 10, 2008, the verdicts ranged between 10 years for the leader, Bilal Soughir, five years for three of his accomplices, and lesser sentences for two others. All of the verdicts were later reduced on appeal to roughly half of the original sentences.
Belgian police and security agencies have used legislation enacted in recent years to improve information collection on alleged extremists and suspected terrorists. Belgium's Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM/OCAD) was on its way to becoming fully operational. OCAM operates under the joint authority of the Justice and Interior Ministers and includes representatives from the external and internal services, the Federal Police, Customs, and the Ministries of Transport, Finance, and Foreign Affairs. It facilitates the exchange of information among all governmental counterterrorism bodies and develops common threat analyses on the basis of such information exchanges.
Belgian authorities have the ability to create a national list of terrorist entities, separate from UN and EU lists, coordinated by OCAM, including financiers and suspected financiers of terrorism. This information allowed Belgian authorities to develop and apply a national capacity to freeze assets, in addition to UN- and EU-mandated asset freezes that Belgium already implements. Belgian cooperation on security programs such as the Container Security Initiative, Megaports, and export controls was excellent.
Belgian authorities reviewed and updated emergency action plans to prepare for and respond to potential attacks, including bioterrorism. On a local level, authorities instituted drills of rapid alert systems and reviewed critical infrastructure support, civil protection, and medical assistance procedures. Federal and local authorities participated in a U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Weapons of Mass Destruction Consequence Management exercise, furthering U.S.-Belgian cooperation in this area. Police and private sector working groups targeted terrorists, the financing of terrorism, and terrorist use of the Internet.
Belgium increased its significant military contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where it deployed a force of about 400 troops. The main force protected Kabul airport and some personnel were deployed at the German-led Provisional Reconstruction Team in Kunduz. Belgium contributed approximately USD 47 million toward Afghan reconstruction and promised to boost its support for reconstruction and development, totaling approximately USD 65 million to be disbursed over the next four years. Assistance to Iraq included expanded participation in the Jordan International Police Training Center in Amman (which subsequently closed in September), training for Iraqi diplomats and magistrates in Belgium, and training for Iraqi servicemen in Abu Dhabi, in cooperation with Germany.
Belgian authorities remained concerned about potential terrorist activities involving groups from Algeria and North Africa and have investigated groups such as the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group; the People’s Revolutionary Liberation Party Front (DHKP/C), a far right group with links to neo-Nazi groups; and a cell suspected of training members for attacks in Iraq. The PKK is a known presence with television production studios in Denderleeuw, Belgium. Belgium fined the studios, made several arrests, and effectively shut them down.
Belgium continued to take action in response to EU and UN Security Council actions to freeze suspected terrorist assets and examined steps to improve its ability to combat and control terrorist financing.
In December 2007, Belgian officials arrested and quickly released 15 persons who had reportedly threatened to attack unspecified Belgian targets, which led to an increased level of alert and the closing of trash cans at major tourist locations. While Belgian media and public opinion were quite critical of the perceived over-reaction, the subsequent year-long investigation led to the December 2008 arrest of 15 suspected terrorists.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Belgium continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Despite ethnic polarization and disputes among Bosnian political leaders that hindered the functioning of state government, Bosnia and Herzegovina's law enforcement organizations cooperated with the United States on international counterterrorism issues. Bosnia remained a weak, decentralized state with poor interagency communication and competing security structures. Efforts by Republika Srpska officials to undermine state-level institutions slowed efforts to improve operational capabilities to combat terrorism and terrorist financing. These factors, combined with political interference in law enforcement, resulted in Bosnia being vulnerable to exploitation as a potential staging ground for terrorist operations in Europe
The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) is the state-level Bosnian law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for counterterrorism operations, but SIPA's capacity was limited. The government filled the position of SIPA Director in December 2007 after a vacancy that lasted almost a year.
The issue of terrorism in Bosnia, including terrorism threat analysis and counterterrorism operations, continued to be politicized. Consequently, Bosnian capabilities and potential for independent action at the state level did not improve as much as hoped. However, the state-level intelligence service provided excellent cooperation and Bosnian authorities were generally responsive to U.S. counterterrorism cooperation requests.
Some former members of the mujahedin brigade1, whose citizenship was revoked by the Citizenship Review Commission, have pursued appeals of these decisions that remained unresolved. In the case of Abu Hamza al-Suri (Imad al-Husayn), the Bosnian Constitutional Court issued a ruling that upheld lower court decisions stripping him of his Bosnian citizenship. The Constitutional Court did, however, return one portion of Hamza's appeal to the State Court to consider whether deportation and possible resulting family separation would violate his human rights. The court had not adjudicated this case as of December 2008.
In March, a group of five individuals with alleged ties to extremists, led by Rijad Rustempasic, was arrested for possession of arms and explosives. For reasons that remain unknown, charges against the defendants were dropped in May and the defendants were released from custody. Investigation of this case continues.
The Bosnian organization Aktivna Islamska Omladina (Active Islamic Youth, or AIO) experienced fractures among its leaders and is no longer an officially registered organization in Bosnia. However some former members continued to spread extremist doctrine. These former members maintained links with extremists in Western Europe and the United States.
In December, Bosnia successfully concluded its mission in Iraq with the redeployment to Bosnia of its Emergency Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team and infantry platoon for fixed site security. Through eight rotations to Iraq, the EOD team reduced the threat of unexploded ordnance and excess ammunition.
In November, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers approved a National Action Plan against terrorism to prevent terrorist acts within Bulgaria and against Bulgarian citizens, against installations and contingents abroad, and to counter possible terrorist activities among the Bulgarian population. The new Counterterrorism Coordination Centre at the State Agency for National Security (DANS) will be the national hub for the suppression of international terrorism and coordinates interaction among Bulgarian ministries and with relevant counterterrorism structures of the EU and NATO.
Bulgaria’s religious leaders, including the leaders of the nation’s Muslim community, spoke out strongly against extremism and terrorism.
During the year, a total of 20 Bulgarian officials attended Department of Defense counterterrorism training in the United States or in Bulgaria’s neighboring countries through the Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation under the Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP). CTFP training focuses on counterterrorism issues taught in residential courses in the United States or through Mobile Training Teams in Europe. The officials included military officers and civilians from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, and DANS. The CTFP program total for FY 2008, including both direct allocation and EUCOM discretionary funding, amounted to $252,417.
At the request of the Government of Iraq, Bulgaria concluded its participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) on December 17. Its 2008 OIF contribution consisted of a 153-soldier contingent, initially at Camp Ashraf but transferred to Camp Cropper in April. Bulgaria also contributed two officers to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq. In Afghanistan, Bulgaria continued to increase participation in the International Security Assistance Force, where it deployed an additional 50 soldiers to take responsibility for one of the Entry Control Points to Kandahar Airfield, bringing its total, in country, to 470 with the bulk in Regional Command–South. Bulgaria had an infantry company and an infantry platoon in Kabul, an infantry company at Kandahar Airfield, one medical team in Kabul and two in Herat, and two officers serving with the Hungarian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Pol-e Khomri.
In 2008, Bulgaria signed and ratified the counter-WMD Agreement to permit the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to provide training and equipment for law enforcement entities to enhance customs and border guards’ ability to detect, interdict, identify, investigate, and respond to the illicit trafficking of WMD and related materials. The Government of Bulgaria also signed and ratified the “Second Line of Defense” Agreement to permit the U.S. Department of Energy to install radioactivity detectors at Bulgarian seaports, airports, and border crossings.
DANS came into force on January 1, 2008 and combined the National Security Service, the State Agency for Protection of Classified Information, the Military Counterintelligence organization, and the Financial Intelligence Agency (now the Financial Intelligence Directorate). In addition to its primary mandate of counterterrorism and counterintelligence, DANS is also charged with fighting organized crime, money laundering, and high-level corruption. After a promising start at the beginning of 2008, DANS’s reputation rapidly declined and hit a low in September and October following a series of scandals and the apparent politicization of high-profile disputes that led to the dismissal and resignation of several senior intelligence professionals.
The DANS law limited the Financial Intelligence Directorate’s (FID) effectiveness and autonomy of FID by changing its status from an independent agency within the Ministry of Finance to a directorate within the DANS. Some of the FID’s previous authorities were removed from the law and included only in regulations, further diminishing the FID’s status; other authority was assigned to the Director of DANS, but not expressly to the FID, thereby de facto limiting its ability to compel de jure compliance by banks. In addition, discrepancies between the Law on Measures against Money Laundering (LMML) and the law creating DANS created uncertainty regarding the FID’s inspections and sanctioning authorities, including its ability to perform anti-money laundering on-site inspections. The anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing activities of FID-DANS were suspended from January 1 to May 1 because of legislative changes in the national legal framework.
Internal reorganizations notwithstanding, FID remained vigilant against terrorist financing and continued to cooperate with the USG on identifying and investigating terrorist assets. The FID reliably distributed lists of individuals and organization linked to terrorism to all of the banks in Bulgaria, the Ministry of Interior, Customs, and the Border Police. The FID has been responsive to all mandated UNSCR-designated terrorist organizations, and has also been very supportive and cooperative on USG designated individuals and organizations. The FID has advised the banking sector to use the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) website as a reliable information resource for individuals and organizations associated with terrorism. FID also continued to provide feedback, including information on the response level of Bulgaria’s banks, to the U. S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
In December, Croatia passed a new national strategy for the prevention of terrorism which will enhance Croatia's ability to cooperate in international counterterrorism efforts. Also in December, Croatia, in its Presidency of the UN Security Council, chaired an open debate on "Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorism," which resulted in a UN Presidency Statement condemning terrorist acts and advocating the advancement of international efforts to combat terrorism.
Croatia was in the initial phases of introducing biometric passports, but border security remained a challenge. Border patrol forces were limited by a lack of personnel and training to cover a 750 mile border with Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia. Monitoring the country's 6,000 miles of coastline posed similar problems. As Croatia prepared to join the European Union it was engaged in ongoing reforms of its judiciary to enhance the government's ability to arrest and prosecute criminals of all varieties, including terrorists.
Croatian law-enforcement institutions cooperated well with U.S. counterterrorism initiatives and participated in training from the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary; the Antiterrorism Assistance program; and U.S. Marshals. The Croatian government has increased its contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from 200 to 300 soldiers. These troops serve as military police, medical support, force security, and in liaison and training roles.
Cyprus took a clear stand against international terrorism and generally supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The government continued to allow blanket overflight and landing rights to U.S. military aircraft supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cyprus was responsive to efforts to block and freeze terrorist assets, implemented Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations, and conformed to European Union counterterrorism directives. On August 9, Cypriot authorities arrested Aslan Tayfun Ozkok, a wanted People’s Revolutionary Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C, formerly Dev-Sol) member, who was transiting Cyprus from Syria. Ozkok, whom Turkey had placed on red Interpol notice for high crimes committed on behalf of DHKP-C, was subsequently sentenced to eight months in prison in Cyprus for traveling on false documentation.
Cyprus's legal framework for investigating and prosecuting terrorist-related activity remained relatively weak. The United States and Cyprus cooperated closely on terrorist financing and money laundering issues. The Cypriot Anti-Money Laundering Authority (MOKAS) implemented new UNSCR 1267 and 1373 Committee decisions immediately and informally tracked suspect names listed under U.S. executive orders.
While Cypriot agencies responsible for nonproliferation assess only a small risk of illicit materials moving through transit cargo, the United States continued to push for increased maritime cooperation. The Embassy organized and executed training programs to assist Cyprus to create a stronger export control regime and to pursue more proactive nonproliferation enforcement.
The de facto division of Cyprus since 1974 into Greek Cypriot- and Turkish Cypriot-dominated sectors has precluded counterterrorism cooperation between law enforcement authorities in both communities, and between Cyprus and Turkey. The largely porous, lightly-patrolled “green line” separating the two sides is routinely exploited for trafficking people, narcotics, and other illicit goods, and is vulnerable to penetration by terrorist groups. Regular ferry service that began in October 2007 between Latakia, Syria, and Famagusta, in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, continued to facilitate increased illegal migration into Cyprus and the wider EU.
In the Turkish Cypriot-administered area, issues of status and recognition inevitably restricted the ability of authorities to cooperate on counterterrorism. Turkish Cypriots cannot sign treaties, UN conventions, or other international agreements, and lack the legal and institutional framework necessary to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing effectively. Within these limitations, Turkish Cypriots cooperated in pursuing specific counterterrorism objectives. They regularly alerted the USG to apparent money-laundering efforts through Turkish Cypriot banks by US citizens and in June froze a wire transfer and opened an investigation into the suspect transaction.
In February, pressure from the international community culminated in the Turkish Cypriot-administered area being included as a jurisdiction susceptible to money-laundering by FATF, the global anti-money laundering (AML) body. This designation galvanized Turkish Cypriot “authorities” and bankers, who quickly passed updated AML “laws” bringing offshore banks under the authority of the “Central Bank.” A financial investigation unit-equivalent was created and began operations, and a new “law” that would better regulate casinos was pending at year’s end. Commercial bankers upgraded their systems for identifying and reporting suspicious transactions and held seminars for other industries on methods to identify possible money-laundering activities. In October, FATF welcomed “significant progress made in the northern part of Cyprus in substantially addressing identified AML deficiencies.”
Ethnic Kurdish communities exist on both sides of the island. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party has a presence in Cyprus. Its activities generally were fundraising and transit en route to third countries. Authorities on both sides believed there was little risk the group would conduct operations on the island.
Czech authorities continued to cooperate with the United States across a wide spectrum of security, law enforcement, and military matters as part of its counterterrorism efforts. Whether protecting the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other U.S. facilities, providing critical military assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, or cooperating in criminal investigations, the Czech Republic remained a steadfast U.S. ally. While intelligence services continued to do their job well, an ongoing manpower shortage in the police force raised some concern about the government's ability to effectively respond to a terrorist incident.
The Czech Republic made significant contributions in support of coalition efforts in Afghanistan: the Czechs deployed a new Provincial Reconstruction Team to Logar and a new Special Operations task force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). They also provided security to the Dutch PRT in Uruzgan, deployed an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team to work alongside the Afghanistan National Air Corps, and continued the deployment of a 100-person military field hospital based at the Kabul International Airport. The Czechs also took part in the U.S. efforts to equip the Afghanistan National Air Corps by donating 12 newly reconditioned Mi-family helicopters. The Czechs deployed over 500 soldiers to Afghanistan in support of OEF and International Security Assistance Force, which represented a 100 percent increase from 2007. In Iraq, Czech forces successfully transitioned from providing security in Basra to helping train the Iraqi Armored Corps in Tadji. In Iraq, the Czech forces completed their mission at year’s end, leaving only a small presence at the NATO Training Mission.
On the information sharing front, the Czech Interior Ministry signed a cooperative treaty with the United States on October 15, establishing the National Contact Point for Terrorism (NCPT) in Prague. The NCPT is intended as a specialized and centralized analytical and information gathering unit of the Czech police for combating terrorism. The NCPT will monitor and evaluate terrorist threats and will cooperate with other law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent terrorist acts. Within the next three years, the Police Presidium plans to establish a Passenger Information Unit within NCPT and a National Criminal Bureau that would be partner with NCPT, with a long term goal of bringing other emergency, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies under the NCPT umbrella.
A continued shortage of manpower in the police force raised some concern about the government's ability to effectively respond in the event of a terrorist incident. Since the end of 2007, the police Combating Terrorism and Organized Crime Unit has recruited 40 top level professionals and provided training, including language training for the new officers. Eighty more officers are still needed, however.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the Czech Republic continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Center for Terror Analysis of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) assessed that there is a general terrorist threat against Denmark, both from groups and individuals in Denmark as well as a threat against Danes and Danish interests abroad. The threat comes primarily from networks, groups, and individuals who adhere to various forms of militant Islamic ideology, including al-Qa’ida (AQ)-related groups and networks. The February reprinting of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed led to increased threats.
While there were no terrorist attacks in Denmark in 2008, a plot to assassinate a leading journalist was disrupted and several judicial proceedings resulted in convictions of terrorist suspects. Denmark continued to strengthen its response to the threat of terrorism, fashioning new institutions in its security services and ministries, improving internal coordination among antiterrorism offices and promulgating new regulations to deal with terrorism more aggressively.
In 2008, Denmark passed a regulation restricting the sale of hydrogen peroxide. In April, the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs created an office to address the prevention of extremism. The Cohesion and Prevention of Radicalization Office coordinated with other ministries.
Denmark worked closely with the United States on UN and other multilateral counterterrorism efforts, including the Financial Action Task Force, and in international nonproliferation groups, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Denmark cooperated closely with EU partners and institutions within the field of counter-radicalization. We note however, that Roj-TV, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)- affiliated media outlet, continued to operate in Denmark.
On February 12, the Danish police arrested two Tunisian nationals on charges of allegedly plotting to assassinate Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. One suspect remained in custody until August 21, when he voluntarily left the country after PET recommended his deportation. The second suspect was detained until October 20, when the Supreme Court decided that there was insufficient evidence to uphold his detainment. The Refugee Appeals Board blocked his deportation on grounds of possible prosecution in his home country. Danish security services continued to monitor his whereabouts. In April, the Refugee Board ruled that Denmark could not deport Muhammad Ezzedine Hamid and Amer Ihsan Namik Saeed, two Iraqis suspected of facilitating foreign fighters into Iraq, because the Iraqi government could not guarantee their safety if repatriated.
Multiple individuals were prosecuted under terrorist legislation on charges of incitement to terrorism:
- On October 21, a Danish court sentenced Hammad Khurshid, a Pakistani-born Danish citizen, to 12 years for conspiring to commit terrorism; and his accomplice, Abdoulghani Tokhi, an Afghani citizen living in Denmark, to seven years followed by deportation. Khürshid was found guilty of bringing bomb manuals to Denmark from an AQ training camp in Pakistan. Together with Abdoulghani Tokhi, he was filmed manufacturing a triacetone triperoxide bomb in 2007.
- On November 18, the Glostrup District Court found a third suspect in the so-called “Glasvej” case not guilty of allegedly inciting Muslims abroad to kidnap Danish soldiers and nationals in order to pressure Danish authorities to release Khurshid and Tokhi.
- On September 18, the Danish High Court convicted six individuals of supporting terrorism by transferring a portion of the proceeds of the sale of T-shirts to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In 2007, a Danish court acquitted the suspects in the group but the acquittal was overturned in 2008. Two suspects received six-month sentences, two received four-month suspended sentences and two received 60-day suspended sentences.
The Danish government increased its troop deployment to Afghanistan, raising its forces to more than 700 as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Most of these are engaged in NATO’s Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Denmark continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
As a member of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Estonia contributed one motorized infantry company plus staff officers (140 soldiers) to the U.K.-led provincial reconstruction team in the Helmand Province. Estonia has maintained a constant presence in Iraq since 2003, to include one infantry platoon consisting of 35 soldiers to participate in combat operations in Iraq in 2008. In addition, three staff officers served in the NATO-led training mission in Iraq.
Estonia actively enforced all EU laws regarding counterterrorism and cooperated fully with the United States in law enforcement matters.
The Government of Estonia installed radiation monitors at Narva, on its eastern border with Russia. New Estonian passports issued since May 2007 (including “alien” passports issued to stateless residents of Estonia) have the latest in biometric security features, including an embedded computer chip containing biometric information.
The Government of Estonia's antiterrorism council is responsible for its counterterrorism policy’s basic principles and action plan. The council consists of representatives from the Ministries of Defense, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs and Communication, Internal Affairs (which include Security Police and Central Criminal Police) and the State Chancery's National Security Coordination Office. The Ministry of Internal Affairs heads the council. On January 28, the new Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Prevention Act (MLTFPA) came into force. The new legislation maintains the principles of the money laundering and terrorist financing regime provided for by the 1999 Money Laundering Prevention Act (MLPA), and the amendments made to it from 2000 to 2007. The new legislation also harmonizes Estonian law with EU standards and brought Estonia’s money laundering regime into total compliance with the Financial Action Task Force recommendations.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Estonia continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Government of Finland focused on economic, social, and development aid projects aimed at addressing the conditions that terrorists exploit. Finland maintained its annual contribution of approximately $15 million in development assistance to Afghanistan, synchronizing reconstruction support in Afghanistan with other donors and announcing new Rule of Law (particularly police), governance, humanitarian, and counternarcotics assistance initiatives.
Finnish and American officials shared counterterrorism information effectively, including a wide range of information on threat assessments, terrorist networks, and government responses to both. The Finnish government continued to participate actively in ongoing EU efforts to remove institutional barriers to counterterrorism cooperation.
During Finland's 2008 OSCE Chairmanship, it supported UN activities and sought ways to intensify international co-operation in combating terrorism within the OSCE. It used legislative and regulatory mechanisms to keep a close watch over potential terrorist cells or financial support operations and to interdict their activities within the country. In May, Finland tightened its terrorism prevention law, criminalizing planning and support for terrorism. Finland upgraded port and border security to monitor more traffic. In cases when another government presented a legal request for action or when an individual or organization was suspected of having committed an offense within Finland's borders, Finland had available regulations that allowed it to freeze assets without prior UN or EU action.
Finland engaged in significant efforts to mitigate the social and economic factors that might lead members of the country's small (less than 2 percent) population of foreign-born residents to adopt extremist ideologies. It carried out programs to help immigrants find jobs and integrate into Finnish society, and it encouraged religious and ethnic tolerance through a variety of legislation, government-funded social programs, and ombudsmen's offices.
Finland provided approximately 100 troops in Afghanistan in support of ongoing NATO/International Security Assistance Force operations.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Finland continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
France was one of a number of major European countries combating terrorism at home and abroad, although it has not suffered a significant terrorist incident in recent years. Local Corsican separatists, Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) members, and ultra-left anarchist factions have been responsible for the majority of recent incidents French authorities have classified as terrorism. The number and violence of ETA and Corsican attacks in France have continued their downward trend, but France remained a target for al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which posed a considerable threat to French interests, underscored in statements made by al-Qa’ida (AQ) senior leadership or AQIM itself, and Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) affiliates. France remained on high alert and recognized its continuing status as a target of AQIM and of other extremist groups in France and abroad.
French casualties from terrorism included one citizen killed June 8 in an attack in Algeria and two French citizens killed November 26 in the Mumbai attacks. On December 16, French police recovered fives sticks of dynamite, placed without fuses, in a major department store located in central Paris. A previously unknown group, the Afghan Revolutionary Front, claimed responsibility, but French authorities have since raised doubts about the group’s authenticity and motives. Cohesion within the French counterterrorism agencies and rapid reaction to contingencies is a key strength of French counterterrorism and was a hallmark of the French approach in 2008.
On December 11, one day before the European summit in Brussels, a joint Belgian and French counterterrorism operation arrested 17 Islamic extremists with alleged ties to AQ. Fourteen suspects were arrested in Belgium and nine were arrested and held in France. French authorities arrested and extradited to Switzerland three Iranian members of the criminal extremist group Mujahedin-e-Khalq on charges of involvement in terrorist finance. In December, the French government passed legislation that allowed the Ministry of Interior to freeze terrorist assets for six-month periods that may be successively renewed in consultation with the Ministry of Justice.
French authorities detained and prosecuted a number of other people with ties to various terrorist organizations, including Corsican separatists (46 convictions), ETA members (24 convictions), Islamic terrorists (19 convictions), ultra-left anarchist factions (17 convictions), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (two convictions), and Kurds with links to the PKK (14 convictions).
The French government undertook several counterterrorism operations with other countries including the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Two prominent examples were the May and November capture, respectively, of ETA’s senior commander, Javier Lopez Pena, and ETA’s military head, Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubian, alias “Txeroki.” In addition to undertaking operations to arrest and prosecute terrorists, France continued programs to address radicalization and extremism through the use of social and economic incentives to reduce the susceptibility of at-risk populations. To further combat radicalization, France took judicial and administrative action against people who incited violence or hatred. French law allows for the expulsion from French territory of non-citizens who incite hatred or violence. The French government is very concerned about Islamic radicalization in the French prison system and has commissioned a study to identify key indicators of radicalization and to generate proposals on its prevention and suppression.
France’s most recent CT legislation was adopted in 2006. Three articles in that legislation, preemptive identification checks on cross-border trains, access to phone and internet connection data, and access to certain administrative records, were adopted as provisional measures and extended by the National Assembly on November 20 through 2012. Preliminary detention for terrorists in France is limited to six days, although the French state may thereafter place suspects under pre-trial detention for up to four years in view of compelling evidence or when the suspect is considered to present an imminent threat. In conjunction with local government, the national government has continued to increase video surveillance in major cities. French law also allows for asset seizure, video and telephone surveillance, monitoring of public transport records, and provides other broad powers for official access to connection data held by internet cafes and to various personal data. The sentence for a convicted terrorist can be up to 30 years for leading or organizing an attack and from 10 to 20 years for assisting a terrorist organization or operation. Notably, French nationality may be revoked, leading to expulsion from French territory, if the person in question was naturalized in the preceding 15 years.
On the military front, France had over 3,000 troops actively participating in operations in Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom. The French commitment included ground troops and air assets. On August 18, 10 French soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Uzbin valley. Subsequently, the prime minister announced on September 22 that France would increase its military commitments in Afghanistan, to include air mobility assets, intelligence officers, support personnel, helicopters, drones, and additional ground troops.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), France continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Georgia has granted blanket overflight clearance to all U.S. military aircraft engaged in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Georgia contributed over 2,000 troops to counterterrorism efforts in Iraq and became a contributing nation to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Georgia withdrew its troops from Iraq during the August war with Russia to provide for homeland defense.
The Georgian government continued to improve border security operations and worked to eliminate corruption at border checkpoints, focusing its efforts on stopping the smuggling of contraband, including money, illegal drugs, and weapons (chemical, nuclear, and biological) that could support terrorism. Through a combination of the Department of Energy’s Second Line of Defense Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s Georgia Border Security and Law Enforcement program, and the State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security program, there was a significant improvement in infrastructure, equipment, and enforcement training at most major border crossing checkpoints, including rail and seaport ports of entry. All three programs trained individuals in the Georgian Border Police, Georgian Coast Guard, Customs, Revenue Service, the Nuclear Radiation Safety Service, Patrol Police, and the Institute of Physics, thus enhancing the Government of Georgia’s radioactive material detection capabilities. The Department of Justice conducted a bulk cash smuggling seminar with the Office of Prosecutor General, Border Police, Ministry of Interior, and Customs.
Border crossings into Russia from the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continued, but were not under the control of the Government of Georgia. This situation allowed for the unrestricted and unidentified flow of people, goods, and other items from Russia into these regions. Since the Russian invasion in August, the Administrative Boundary Lines between Georgia and the conflict regions have been heavily militarized and movements across the boundary were controlled, although no formal customs checks or procedures existed.
Germany investigated, arrested, and prosecuted numerous terrorism suspects and disrupted terrorist-related groups within its borders with connections to international Islamist, Kurdish nationalist, and Marxist-Leninist terrorist organizations. Germany provided leadership in the areas of border and transportation security, countering terrorist financing, and international efforts in Afghanistan. Germany also strengthened programs to promote integration of the country’s Muslim communities and to counter violent extremism.
Although there were no terrorist attacks in Germany, on March 3, Cüneyt Ciftci, a German resident with Turkish citizenship, carried out a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of two U.S. soldiers. Ciftci was associated with the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), formerly known as the Islamic Jihad Group, which is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 13224.
During the year, German law enforcement authorities arrested a number of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism. Prominent new actions and arrests included:
- On February 14, Germany’s Federal Prosecutor charged German citizen Aleem Nasir with six counts of supporting al-Qa’ida (AQ). He was accused of financially supporting AQ, assisting recruiting efforts, and procuring military-relevant equipment.
- On June 19, Germany banned the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Roj TV, a Denmark-based television station with offices in Germany.
- In September, Germany banned a Kurdish youth website on grounds that it distributed PKK propaganda.
- In a series of arrests in July and August, German authorities arrested a number of Turkish citizens with Kurdish ethnicity on suspicion of holding leadership roles within the PKK in Germany.
- On September 12, authorities arrested Ömer Özdemir, a Turkish national, on suspicion of recruiting fighters, and procuring donations and equipment for AQ.
- On September 18, authorities arrested Omid Shirkhani, a German citizen of Afghan descent; and Hüseyin Özgun, a Turkish citizen; on suspicion of supporting the IJU.
On November 6, three Turkish nationals were arrested on suspicion of membership in the banned Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group that seeks to topple the Turkish government.
German courts also began trials or reached verdicts in some notable counterterrorism cases:
- The Schleswig-Holstein Higher Regional Court found three individuals guilty of founding a terrorist organization (in Sudan) and assisting terrorist organization al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI). On January 24, German-Moroccan national Redouane El-Habhab received a five year and nine month prison term; on February 21, Jordanian Thaer Alhalah was sentenced to two years in jail; and on September 24, Moroccan national Abdelali Miftah was sentenced to four years in jail.
- On June 19, the Celle Higher Regional Court found Iraqi national Ibrahim Rashid guilty of promoting membership in, and support of, AQ and AQI. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
- On July 15, the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court found three Iraqi nationals guilty of belonging to the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization and attempting to assassinate former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi during his 2004 visit to Berlin. The three received prison sentences between seven and ten years.
- On November 5, Dusseldorf's Higher Regional Court imposed a two-year suspended sentence for membership in the PKK terrorist organization on Ahmet A., a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin.
- On December 9, the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court sentenced Lebanese national Youssef Mohammad El-Hajdib to life imprisonment for attempted murder in connection with the failed terrorist bombing of two commuter trains in July 2006.
- On December 19, convicted Red Army Faction terrorist Christian Klar was released after serving 26 years in prison. Klar was convicted of involvement in a number of high-profile RAF assassinations and attacks in the late 1970s, including the failed assassination of U.S. four-star General Frederick Kroesen, who commanded the Seventh Army in Heidelberg at the time.
- On October 22, authorities arrested Turkish citizen Burhan Yilmaz, who is the brother of one of the three IJU suspects arrested in September 2007 for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks directed at U.S. interests. Yilmaz is suspected of supporting the IJU with money and equipment transfers.
- In November, Turkey extradited German citizen Attila Selek who stands accused of being an associate of the three IJU suspects and having assisted in procuring detonators for them.
Germany remained a strong advocate of the UNSCR 1267 sanctions regime.
Germany was the third largest troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with nearly 3,500 troops deployed. Germany led the ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Kunduz and Feyzabad, provided a forward support base in Mazar-e-Sharif, and commanded ISAF's northern region, which encompassed nine provinces and five PRTs. Germany is a major contributor to civilian police training efforts in Afghanistan and supported the creation of a police training academy in Mazar-e-Sharif, pledged $50 million in project funding, and agreed to participate in the U.S.-led Focused District Development police training program. Germany is the top European contributor to the EU police training mission in Afghanistan, EUPOL.
On December 19, the Bundesrat (upper parliamentary chamber) approved new legislation that broadened the powers of the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) in counterterrorism investigations. The law provided the BKA with preventative investigatory powers and gave the BKA lead responsibility in terrorism investigations where the threat extends across multiple federal states, where state-level competence is unclear, or where state officials request federal assistance.
The German government strengthened its outreach and engagement with Muslim communities to promote integration and tolerance. The Ministry of Interior continued the German Islam Conference initiative that it began in 2006. The conference is made up of several working groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss issues relevant to Muslims living in Germany such as education, religious instruction, separation of church and state, mosque construction, and strengthening relations between Muslim communities and the media and business sectors. One forum within the Conference focuses on improving cooperation between security authorities and the Muslim community in order to address radicalization and extremism.
In October, a landmark bilateral agreement was signed to enhance fingerprint and DNA information sharing to combat terrorism and serious crime. The U.S. Embassy’s Law Enforcement Working Group continued its ongoing engagement of state-level law enforcement contacts by organizing four security conferences throughout Germany in which the topic of Islamic terrorism featured prominently. Germany participated in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection's Container Security Initiative in the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven. The DHS Transportation Security Administration's presence in Frankfurt, together with U.S. and German air marshals, formed key parts of bilateral efforts to provide air transport security for the seven German airports with flights to the United States.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Germany continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Greece and the United States have a strong record of counterterrorism cooperation. Greece is increasingly an EU entry point for illegal immigrants coming from the Middle East and South Asia, and there was concern that it could be used as a transit route for terrorists traveling to Europe and the United States. The number of illegal immigrants entering Greece through the Aegean Sea increased dramatically in 2008 and about 100,000 illegal immigrants were arrested.
Greek authorities participated in the Container Security Initiative and cooperated with U.S. officials on information sharing, as well as the training of Greek security and customs officials, and judicial personnel. Greece sustained its participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan by providing engineers and other support officers. Greek forces operated in the Kabul region.
Convicted November 17 (N17) members have continued to make extremist public statements from prison, for example, Dimitrios Koufodinas released a statement in a Greek newspaper in November extolling "direct action" that would "strike blows to the capitalist system." Revolutionary Struggle (RS), a radical leftist group aligned with the ideology of N17, claimed responsibility for the December 23 shooting of a bus carrying riot police in the Athens district of Goudi and for placing a bomb, subsequently detonated by police on October 24, outside the Athens headquarters of the oil company Shell. For further information on N17, see Chapter 6, Terrorist Organizations.)
Throughout the year, self-styled "anarchists" attacked banks, police stations, and other "imperialist-capitalist targets" with tools such as firebombs and Molotov cocktails. Since these attacks usually occurred at night, few persons were seriously injured and there were no deaths. Several U.S. businesses were targeted. Police officials pursued a more proactive approach to deterring these attacks and arrested perpetrators. In December, rioting broke out following the death of a young student at the hands of the police. In the ensuing days, anarchists and students attacked and destroyed police stations and businesses. No damage to the Embassy or injuries to personnel was noted.
Hungary remained a consistent and reliable counterterrorism partner militarily, economically, and politically. The Hungarian military continued its leadership of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. The Hungarian government fully implemented legislation supporting both USG and EU efforts to counter terrorist organizations, including terrorist financing and money laundering activities.
The Hungarian government closely monitored potential extremists, including Hungarian nationals. While there were no known terrorist groups openly operating in Hungary, Hungarian officials have expressed concern regarding a recent increase in the frequency and the sophistication of violence targeting domestic political figures and minority communities.
Hungary worked to manage its role as the eastern-most border in the Schengen zone, including the increased entry of foreigners seeking asylum. The Hungarian government shifted security forces to the east to improve its ability to apprehend individuals attempting illegal entry, and intensified use of stationary nuclear material detection systems and mobile units to enhance identification and control of dangerous materials. Additionally, Hungary signed a bilateral, criminal data-sharing agreement and HSPD-6 with the U.S. in 2008. While the agreement allows Hungarian citizens the right to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program as of November 17, it will provide the USG additional information, when needed, on individuals requesting entrance into the United States. As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Hungary continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Government of Iceland worked to strengthen domestic border security and counterterrorism capabilities. The Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) strengthened ties with neighboring states and took over as Chair of the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum in October. In June, the government established the Icelandic Defense Agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The IDA has responsibility for operational ties with NATO and other allied states, including intelligence exchanges.
In July, the Minister of Justice presented a threat assessment prepared by the National Police Commissioner to the government. The assessment focused on the threat to Iceland from domestic and international terrorism and organized crime, and it was the first to be ever prepared in Iceland. It concluded that, although the likelihood of terrorist incidents in Iceland is low, the potential consequences are severe enough to merit a high level of vigilance.
In October, the ICG hosted NORTHERN CHALLENGE 2008, a NATO-supported exercise focusing on Explosive Ordnance Disposal and counterterrorism scenarios.
Also in October, the ICG and the U.S. Coast Guard signed a cooperative agreement based on the bilateral Joint Understanding from October 2006 and its provisions on increasing bilateral security cooperation between civil institutions. In May, the United States and Iceland held the second annual round of high level security dialogue talks as specified in the Joint Understanding.
The Icelandic government supported multilateral counterterrorism efforts. Iceland continued its deployment of personnel at Kabul International Airport and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Afghanistan in support of NATO operations there, and made funding contributions to several key NATO/ISAF trust funds.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Iceland continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Counterterrorism measures implemented in previous years were sustained and relations between USG and Irish law enforcement officials were positive. The Irish government permitted the transit of U.S. military personnel and material though Irish airspace and airports for deployment to theaters in Iraq and elsewhere. Ireland continued a modest troop commitment to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Ireland continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Italy aggressively investigated and prosecuted terrorism suspects, dismantled terrorist-related cells within its borders, and maintained high-level professional cooperation with its international partners. Italy's law enforcement and judicial authorities had several noteworthy cases in 2008.
In May, authorities arrested 19 foreigners (mostly Tunisians) in Milan and Pisa and filed new charges against four others already in jail for alleged drug trafficking and terrorism offenses. Prosecutors believe that the suspects may have used the proceeds from drug sales to support terrorist activity abroad and terrorist recruitment in Italy. One of the suspects is Maher Bouyahia, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment in 2007 for recruiting extremists.
In June and July, authorities arrested around three dozen suspected Tamil Tiger members (all of Sri Lankan origin), including 28 in Naples, in operations to dismantle groups allegedly dedicated to financing the Sri Lankan terrorist group. Related arrests were also made in Palermo, Bologna, Genoa, Rome, and other cities.
In August, authorities arrested five alleged Islamic fundamentalists in and near Bologna who were accused of raising funds and preparing to send individuals to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to reports. The five North Africans, four Tunisians, and one Moroccan, were under investigation for three years. They have been accused of international terrorism but have not yet been formally charged. Officials alleged the cell sent tens of thousands of dollars to Bosnian groups linked to terrorist organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also in August, police again arrested Abdelmajid Zergout, a Moroccan imam in the northern city of Varese, in response to a provisional arrest warrant from Morocco for his extradition. Zergout had already been arrested in 2005 and was tried for having raised funds and recruited for the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, but he was acquitted by a Milan court in 2007.
In November, police searched the homes and cultural meeting places of members and sympathizers of Morocco's banned Islamist group al Adl Wal Ihassan (Justice and Charity) in several regions of northern Italy and Tuscany, which resulted in eleven persons formally under investigation on terrorism and international terrorism charges.
Also in November, the Milan court of appeals confirmed the prison term of three years and eight months for Abu Imad, Egyptian Imam of a mosque in Milan, on charges of organizing and funding terrorism attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the other ten defendants in the same trial, from Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria, the court confirmed six sentences and reduced four.
In December, Italian authorities arrested two Moroccan nationals outside Milan on terrorism charges for their plans to attack targets in and around Milan. According to press reports, the alleged terrorists were planning attacks against the main cathedral in Milan, a Carabinieri station, an immigration office, and Standa department stores. The reports also indicated that they were AQ sympathizers angry about Italy's role in Afghanistan.
Domestic anarchist-inspired and extreme-left terrorist groups presented a continued (albeit small-scale) threat despite Italian authorities' continued efforts to dismantle their organizations. In April, Italian police caught domestic terrorist Roberto Sandalo attempting to set fire to a mosque near Milan. Sandalo is thought to be the leader of the Christian Combatant Front, which was linked to two 2007 attacks in February and April against Muslim institutions. In November, Sandalo was sentenced to a prison term of nine years and nine months. During the 1970s, Sandalo was the leader of the Front Line, a small anti-western, leftist terrorist group similar in ideology and tactics to the Red Brigades. It was known for robbing banks to finance terrorist attacks. It is unclear how large the Christian Combatant Front is and how many of the ten attacks on Muslim institutions in the past year were their responsibility.
The Italian government continued to make use of reinforced counterterrorism legislation enacted in 2005, which facilitated the detention of suspects, mandated arrest for crimes involving terrorism, and expedited procedures for the deportation of persons who may be involved in terrorist activities.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is reviewing the Italian government's policy of expulsions and deportations without judicial review. On February 28, the ECHR ruled against an expulsion order signed by former Minister of the Interior Giuliano Amato regarding Tunisian national Nassim Saadi, 34. The order called for Saadi to be returned to Tunisia, his country of origin. Saadi was convicted on charges of international terrorism in both Italy and Tunisia, where he was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to the ECHR, deporting Saadi would violate article three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhumane or degrading treatment even in cases of serious threat to the community. Amato's expulsion decree was based on a July 2005 law authorizing measures to combat international terrorism. In June, Italian authorities expelled Sami Ben Khemais Essid to Tunisia. Following this act, the ECHR sent the Italian government a letter reminding it of its obligation to allow the court prior to deportation to examine Ben Khemais's claim that he faced the risk of torture or prohibited ill-treatment upon return to Tunisia.
Italian authorities have stated publicly that many radical Islamist groups in Italy are inspired by or connected to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other extremist groups and use Italy as a logistical and financial base. Organizations affiliated with the Kurdish nationalist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party did not have a major presence in Italy but were thought to have links with charitable organizations that maintained Italian branches.
With respect to financial aspects of fighting terrorism, Italy aggressively identified and blocked financial resources destined for suspected terrorist individuals and groups. Italy worked closely with the United States on money laundering matters and information sharing; and cooperated with other foreign governments as an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Egmont Group. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Italy advocated multilateral cooperation in countering terrorism.
Italy was a leading financial contributor to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Counterterrorism Prevention Branch. Within the G8, Italy played an active role in the Rome-Lyon Group and the Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG), within which Italy leads an initiative to enhance counterterrorism security measures in airports in the western Balkans.
Italy is an important partner in the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Container Security Initiative. As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Italy continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. In May 2006, the U.S. and Italy signed a new treaty on extradition and mutual legal assistance, which will allow for joint investigative teams, easier asset freezing, and faster sharing of financial information. The U.S. Senate has already ratified the treaties. On the Italian side, the treaties were approved by the Council of Ministers in November 2008, but were pending a final vote of approval in Parliament at year’s end.
Italy participated in NATO's Active Endeavour naval mission against terrorism in the Mediterranean, and contributed to international military missions in, Afghanistan, where it held Regional Command-West; and Iraq, where it played a lead role in the NATO Training Mission, among others.
Italy contributed training personnel to various regional counterterrorism training centers such as the South East Asia Regional Centre on Counterterrorism in Malaysia, the Joint Centre on Law Enforcement Cooperation in Indonesia, and the African Union's Antiterrorism Centre in Algeria.
The UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) administered Kosovo under the authority of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1244 of 1999 until June 15, when Kosovo’s constitution came into effect. With the promulgation of the Kosovo constitution in June, the Kosovo Government assumed growing responsibility for the country’s civil administration and law enforcement, including counterterrorism. The EU’s Rule-of-Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) started operating on December 9 and replaced UNMIK Police throughout the country. EULEX’s primary role is to provide advice and mentoring to Kosovo rule-of-law institutions.
The Kosovo government and UNMIK continued to monitor suspected terrorist activity throughout the year. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) suspected that a few of the more than 1,000 NGOs operating in Kosovo were involved in suspicious activities and sought to prevent extremists from using non-governmental organizations to gain a foothold in Kosovo. Some NGOs used public facilities for religious gatherings but Kosovo authorities and municipalities attempted to prevent misuse of facilities for events that had no consent from the relevant religious community.
The Kosovo Police (KP) and UNMIK Police Counterterrorism Units (CTUs) were primarily responsible for Kosovo’s counterterrorism efforts but were small and lacked resources. In December, the UNMIK CTU transferred its responsibilities to EULEX. Prior to that, the UNMIK Police CTU monitored, mentored, and advised its KP CTU counterparts. While UNMIK possessed executive authority over the KP, in practice it was not exercised. The KP and UNMIK received information and analysis support from the UNMIK Central Intelligence Unit (CIU) and the KP CTU’s intelligence, surveillance, and investigations units. The KP CTU, currently manned at half its intended strength, continued to focus on building up its unit, training and equipping its officers, and collecting information on potential terrorist threats.
Porous boundaries that were easily crossed by individuals trafficking in persons, weapons, and narcotics hampered Kosovo’s counterterrorism efforts. Traffickers took advantage of numerous roads and trails leading into Kosovo that lacked border controls. Poorly paid border and customs officials were susceptible to corruption. The lack of full customs enforcement on two northern posts along the Kosovo-Serbia border hampered counterterrorism efforts further. These two posts were destroyed by Serb hardliners following Kosovo’s February 17 independence declaration. For security reasons, UNMIK and EULEX have not acted to re-establish customs enforcement at these posts.
The Kosovo Police with UNMIK’s Department of Justice continued its Witness Protection Task Force to ensure that witness intimidation did not resurface as a problem in other areas. The Task Force completed constructing its safe house, encouraged the use of video conferencing equipment in Kosovo’s district courts, and increased its efforts to secure relocation agreements with other jurisdictions.
One incident of suspected terrorism occurred during the year. On November 14, an explosive device detonated in front of the headquarters of the International Civilian Organization (ICO), the institution charged with supervising Kosovo’s independence. There were no injuries. Kosovo Police continued to investigate the incident at year’s end. There was one unverified claim of responsibility from a previously unknown group, but Kosovo authorities had insufficient evidence to bring charges against any perpetrators.
The UNMIK Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted additional terrorism investigations independent of Kosovo authorities. During the year, the UNMIK DOJ obtained two terrorism-related convictions. International prosecutors and the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office (KSPO) also initiated four terrorism-related investigations. One trial, handled by the KSPO before a panel of local judges, and two cases handled by International Prosecutors were pending trial at year’s end. The Government of Kosovo with UNMIK DOJ made no indictments in terrorism cases during 2008.
The Albanian National Army (AKSH), which UNMIK designated as a terrorist organization in 2003, continued to intimidate Kosovo citizens. On January 26, three men were arrested for shooting at a KP police officer in Pristina. After their arrest, the three claimed AKSH membership, as did a fourth, who was arrested on April 25. In a separate incident on September 17 in the town of Vushtrri/Vucitrn, a bus carrying people to work at the KEK Power Plant was stopped at a “checkpoint” manned by 12 to 13 men wearing AKSH insignia and carrying weapons. The men examined the identification of all present and then released the workers. The case remained under investigation at year’s end with no arrests made.
Latvia's Financial Intelligence Unit maintained a terrorist financing database that it shared with local banks. Since the May 2005 U.S. Treasury designation of two Latvian banks as institutions of "primary money laundering concern" under Section 311 of the Patriot Act, Latvian government and regulatory agencies have worked very closely with the United States to enhance their legislative and regulatory framework. There have been no further sanctions on Latvian banks. In 2006, Treasury lifted the proposed sanction against one bank. In the case of the second institution, the issue is specific to the bank and its ownership structure, and does not reflect Latvian regulatory efforts.
On September 4, the Counterterrorism Center of the Latvian Security Police and the Freeport of Riga Authority organized the counterterrorism exercise "RiverJack" in Riga harbor. The scenario was a hostage situation on a hijacked passenger ferry, which included a fire during the hostage release operation. Representatives from the State Police (including the Counterterrorism Unit "OMEGA' and the Mobile Team "Alfa"), State Border Guards, State Fire and Rescue Service, Center of Emergency and Disaster Medicine, Mobile Team of the National Armed Forces, Navy Coast Guard Unit, Maritime Administration and the Prosecutor's General Office participated. The exercise was part of the counterterrorism plan "Ship", developed by the Counterterrorism Center.
Latvia contributed 150 soldiers to support the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, including deploying its first ever Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT). Latvia completed its participation in Iraq; the last three officers returned in November.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Latvia continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
A new domestic law on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention came into force in January. This legislation and associated legal acts codified and amended existing Lithuanian laws to bring them in line with a number of EU directives and regulations on money laundering and terrorist financing. As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Lithuania continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
In October, an Agreement for the Prevention and Combating of Serious Crimes was signed, which will require Parliament ratification. Also in October, the Association of Lithuanian Banks and the U.S. Department of the Treasury held a two day U.S.-Baltic Banking Conference on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in Vilnius. The conference brought together government and financial sector representatives to facilitate the exchange of information and promote strong anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing practices in the region.
The Lithuanian military was an active participant in multinational operations against terrorist and insurgent elements. In Iraq, Lithuania had an infantry platoon serving in Multinational Division Center (MND-C) near Al Kut until July, and four trainers serving in the NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I). In Afghanistan, Lithuania led a provincial reconstruction team in Ghor Province. This consisted of approximately 140 Lithuanian troops and civilians responsible for maintaining a stable environment throughout the province and coordinating reconstruction efforts. Lithuania also contributed approximately 60 Special Forces troops to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Southern Afghanistan.
The Government of Macedonia continued its close coordination with the United States on counterterrorism matters, which included intelligence sharing on potential terrorist groups operating in or transiting the country. The government also cooperated with its regional and European Union partners, and worked closely with INTERPOL and other international law enforcement agencies.
Macedonia provided adequate security for weapons generally sought by terrorists with annual inventories and worked to improve security on its weapons facilities. The Macedonian Ministry of Defense provided support to the Ministry of Interior for actions against domestic and regional terrorist groups.
Macedonia passed legislation on nuclear security and terrorism, chemical weapons, and entered into bilateral law enforcement, security, and extradition agreements. Macedonia continued to provide supported troop rotations to Afghanistan and Iraq. Macedonia’s troop presence in Iraq ended in December, coinciding with the expiration of the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States. The government trained several hundred police and military personnel in counterterrorism techniques, technologies, and methods.
Macedonia continued to cooperate closely on preventing terrorist financing and money laundering through close coordination with the Embassy and in partnership with the banking sector.
Malta's location between the African and European continents and its large Search and Rescue area brought many immigrants to Malta's shores. Since 2002, some 11,646 migrants, most from East Africa, have been rescued at sea by the Armed Forces of Malta. Upon arrival in Malta, the immigrants were screened by the Maltese Immigration Police and transferred to closed centers. Most of then applied for asylum. They can be held up to 12 months pending resolution of the application, or up to 18 months if the claim is rejected. The Government of Malta engaged in dialogue with leaders of the migrant community, and provided training to detention center personnel, with the goal of checking possible extremist threats.
The Maltese government continued to freeze the assets of those organizations on the UN consolidated list of designated terrorist organizations. Malta actively participates in the EU Clearing House and cooperates with other Member States and third states to defeat terrorist activities and by extension, to prevent terrorist financing, to deny safe havens to terrorists, and to exchange information to stop the commission of terrorist acts. The Maltese government has historically supported sharing information with the USG on matters relate to terrorism, and has demonstrated a commitment to interdiction operations and compliance with international requests.
The Maltese criminal code includes several specific provisions on terrorism. The law addresses "acts of terror" and "terrorism" and enumerates the actions constituting the offense. Malta criminalized terrorist financing through the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which was expanded to include provisions for the funding of terrorism. Additionally, the Act expanded the powers of the Maltese Financial Intelligence Unit (the investigative arm) to include terrorist financing. Since 2006, the Prevention of Money Laundering Regulations have been extended to terrorist financing and include controls that require proper record keeping, specific reporting requirements, and relevant training.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Malta continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Moldovan government managed its counterterrorism strategy based on Moldova's 2003-2008 National Action Plan on Combating Terrorism and worked on implementation of its obligations under UNSCR 1373, Executive Order 13224, and other provisions related to terrorist financing. Moldova joined the Egmont Group of financial intelligence units on May 20. The Moldovan government openly welcomed information regarding terrorist financing from the USG and other bodies, as well as actively applied such information in its monitoring efforts through its Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption (CCECC). The CCECC issued a decree regarding actions to be taken to enforce the provisions of the Law on Preventing and Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism. The CCECC decree listed entities worthy of particular focus due to possible money laundering and/or terrorist financing concerns. These entities included countries that do not have legal provisions against terrorist financing, and persons, groups, and entities identified as participating in terrorist activities. The decree was developed on the basis of Moldova's national interests and from U.S. and UN lists of designated terrorists.
On December 5, the Moldovan parliament ratified a blueprint on cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) states in combating terrorism. This document was originally signed in August 2005 and provides for joint measures aimed at the prevention and countering of terrorism and extremism. The document allows for the exchange of information on combating terrorism between CIS states, and provides for the extradition of persons suspected of financing or committing terrorist actions. The Moldovan parliament also ratified the specific program on CIS member states' cooperation in combating terrorism and extremism for 2008-2010. This three-year program reflects the activities that were included in the blueprint.
The separatist-controlled Transnistria region of Moldova remained a potential area of concern. Moldovan law enforcement worked hard to track the whereabouts and activities of individuals moving in and out of Transnistria, an area where central-government police and security services are rarely able to operate. Some of the individuals moving in and out of Transnistria were foreign students who remained in Moldova illegally, as the government lacked the resources to deport them when their visas expired. Corruption was endemic, and it was not difficult to obtain false travel documents in both Transnistria and Moldova. The United States has not obtained any information about known terrorist organizations or terrorists operating from or within the Transnistrian region.
The primary investigative body in counterterrorism cases is the Information and Security Service, Moldova's intelligence service. U.S. law enforcement assistance programs aided Moldovan efforts to impede the ability of terrorists and other citizens without proper documents to cross national borders. The programs also facilitated automation at ports of entry to ensure greater security of passports and travel documents.
The Ministry of Interior, through the Police Directorate and the Agency for National Security (ANB), is primarily responsible for counterterrorism operations. In 2008, the Ministry of Interior began work on a National Counterterrorism Strategy, which will foster better counterterrorism cooperation among the different institutions. Montenegrin legislation on terrorism has been harmonized with EU standards and UN conventions. Criminal acts of terrorism are defined by Montenegrin Criminal Code Article 365 as, "anyone who, with the intention of endangering the constitutional order and security of Montenegro causes an explosion or fire or undertakes other dangerous measures or kidnaps a person, or commits another act of violence or threatens to undertake some dangerous action or to use nuclear, chemical, biological, or other dangerous substance and whereby may cause fear or feeling of insecurity of citizens shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of three to fifteen years."
In 2007, the Parliament of Montenegro passed the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, and during the same year the government’s Agency for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (also known as the Financial Intelligence Unit, or FIU) accepted the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing. The FIU also publishes an international list of terrorists and terrorist organizations established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1483.
Montenegro ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, and Convention on the Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism. In addition, Montenegro has signed bilateral agreements and memoranda on police cooperation in counterterrorism with almost all regional countries including Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Albania, as well as with Belgium, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Austria.
In September 2006, in what is known as the "Eagle's Flight" case, seventeen ethnic Albanians, four of whom are U.S. citizens, were arrested and charged with planning terrorist acts to incite an ethnic Albanian rebellion. In August 2008, after a lengthy trial, the Higher Court in Podgorica convicted the defendants of plotting to disturb the constitutional order and security of Montenegro. Sentences ranged from three months to six years and six months in prison. The defendants have filed appeals.
Although Montenegro is not a known safe haven for terrorists, the Montenegrin authorities are focused on potential threats stemming from Islamic extremists in neighboring countries and the activities of very small groups of local extremists. Montenegrin police forces, including the Special Antiterrorism Unit, have received international and U.S. training and equipment. For example, the Department of Justice ICITAP program conducted a regional international terrorism workshop and provided training for the police organized crime unit, which is responsible for conducting terrorism investigations. Despite significant training and equipment from outside donors, Montenegrin law enforcement and security agencies required additional assistance to attain international standards.
The Dutch continued their response to the global terrorist threat with leadership and energy in the areas of border and transportation security, terrorist financing, bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, and Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. The Netherlands continued operations with 1,650 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The Dutch led a Provincial Reconstruction team in Uruzgan province, took command in Kandahar of NATO's efforts in southern Afghanistan for a year beginning in November, and contributed approximately USD 100 million in development aid for Afghanistan. The Netherlands deployed eight trainers in support of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, two officials for the EU rule of law mission in Iraq, contributed USD 15 million for Iraqi programs, and made the final commercial debt relief forgiveness of USD 72 million.
In a March quarterly terrorism threat analysis, the Dutch National Counterterrorism Coordinator (NCTb) raised the domestic threat level from "limited", where it had been since April 2007 to "substantial," meaning there was a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. (The Netherlands has four threat levels: minimum, limited, substantial and critical.) The level was raised primarily because of the Netherlands' high international profile and increased activities of terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida. In the September threat assessment, the NCTb cited Dutch MP Geert Wilders' controversial film Fitna, and the increasing number of reports about Western extremists at training camps along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border as the rationale for maintaining the level at "substantial." The NCTb noted that the Netherlands was specifically mentioned on international terrorists’ websites. According to the September assessment, little activity was observed within local autonomous networks in the Netherlands, though some militants expressed a desire to join the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The NCTb also cited growing resistance among the Muslim community in the Netherlands to radicalization noting that extremists also became more wary about expressing radical views because resulting negative publicity might undermine their “cause.” The NCTb concluded that the government's integration efforts, including educating imams in the Dutch language and culture, are proving effective. According to the 2008 Trend Analysis on Polarization and Radicalization, which Interior Minister Ter Horst submitted to Parliament in December, the Netherlands has 2,500 to 3,000 potential radicals.
According to a November NCTb poll, the Dutch population worried more about the economy than about terrorism. Only 13 percent of people queried feared a terrorist attack while 85 percent did not. The NCTb attributed this to the absence of concrete threats and attacks in the Netherlands. The poll also showed that the number of Dutch worried about radicalization dropped from 21 percent in 2007 to eight percent in 2008.
The Justice Ministry's Netherlands against Terrorism campaign continued, with a particular focus on prevention of radicalization. The government's terrorist alert system, which became operational in June 2005, now includes 14 economic sectors: the financial sector, seaports, airports, drinking water, railway, natural gas, oil, electricity, nuclear, chemical, municipal and regional transport, hotels, public events, and tunnels and flood defense systems. In March, the Dutch tested the alert system for the nuclear sector. In August, the National Forensic Investigation Team staged an international exercise for forensic experts to improve international cooperation in terrorist attacks. In November, Dutch security services published a brochure warning traveling businessmen, civil servants, politicians, and other people having access to certain military, technological, or economic data, that they could be targets of espionage.
According to an October Justice Ministry progress report on the border control action plan, major steps have been taken to improve security along external borders and at Schiphol airport to counter terrorist activities, including intensified cooperation between the border police, the port police, and the customs service. In February, Schiphol closed three staff access passages and introduced 100 percent physical controls of personnel and carry-on goods.
There were two major terrorism-related appeal cases this year. In January, the appeals court in The Hague acquitted the seven members of the Hofstad terrorist group of participating in a criminal and terrorist organization, because "there was no question of a lasting and structured form of cooperation, nor of a commonly shared ideology." The appeals court upheld only the conviction of Jason Walters (a dual U.S.-Dutch national), sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for having thrown a hand grenade at police officers in November 2004, and for possession of hand grenades. However, the court did not consider the throwing of a hand grenade a terrorist act. The sentence of Walters' accomplice, Ismael Aknikh, was reduced to a 15-month prison term (from 13 years) for possession of hand grenades. In February, the public prosecutor's office in The Hague filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.
In April, six members of the Hofstad group were removed from the EU terrorist list. The Hofstad group itself, as well as "important" members of the group, remained on the list.
In December 2006, the Rotterdam district court convicted four members of the "Piranha" terrorist group of participating in a terrorist organization. One defendant was acquitted and the sentences handed down were much shorter than prosecutors had sought. The public prosecutor therefore appealed the cases and sentences to the appeals court in The Hague, and in October 2008, the four guilty verdicts were upheld and longer prison sentences were imposed. A fifth defendant originally acquitted was convicted. All of the "Piranha" terrorist group defendants were found guilty of "participating in an organization with terrorist intent." The appeals court ruled that there was sufficient evidence the group had planned to attack Dutch politicians and a building of the general intelligence service (AIVD). The court sentenced Samir Azzouz to nine years' imprisonment, Nouredine El Fatmi to eight years, Mohammed Chentouf to six and a half years, El Fatmi's former wife Soumaya Sahla to four years, and Mohammed Hamdi received three months. Defense attorneys appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.
In March, the Rotterdam court sentenced two former associates of Azzouz to three years' imprisonment for participating in a terrorist organization, preparing attacks and possessing dangerous firearms. The two had testified against Azzouz and his co-defendants and were subsequently tried separately on similar charges in the "Piranha II" case. Defense attorneys have appealed the verdict.
In May, the public prosecutor's office in Rotterdam dropped charges against three Rotterdam terrorist suspects arrested in late 2007 for lack of evidence that they were planning a terrorist attack. In October, the Maastricht district court threw out the public prosecutor's case against 16 alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighters arrested in late 2004 on charges of participating in a criminal organization with terrorist intent. The case was dismissed because the Turkish Justice Minister rejected a legal assistance request allowing Dutch attorneys to hear witnesses in Turkey. The court ruled that, as a result of this rejection, there could not be a fair trial. In April, the Netherlands extradited a Pakistani terrorist suspect to Spain. The man, who was arrested in March, is believed to be a member of a terrorist organization that was planning attacks on Spain and other European countries. In November, the National Crime Squad arrested a man in The Hague who may have been involved in preparing terrorist attacks. Following the arrest of a Dutch woman in the UK in October, on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities, the AIVD put the woman's two brothers on the watch list.
The Dutch government remained committed to active cooperation with the United States in designating known terrorist organizations, and interdicting and freezing their assets, and supported the continued exchange of information on financial transactions. Dutch officials continued to play a constructive role within the Financial Action Task force to combat terrorist financing. In August, the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act became effective. The Act incorporated the EU's third Money Laundering Directive into Dutch national law. The Dutch government worked with the United States to emphasize the importance of balancing security and the effectiveness of the financial system.
No new counterterrorism laws were adopted in 2008. A bill making participation and cooperation in a terrorist training camp a serious punishable offense, even if the training takes place outside the Netherlands, was awaiting action by the lower house of Parliament at year's end. The Bill on Administrative National Security Measures, which allows the Interior Minister to issue restraining orders to prohibit a terrorist suspect's physical proximity to specific locations or persons, was still awaiting action by the upper house of Parliament at year's end.
In July, the government set up a committee, which is to provide the Cabinet with recommendations concerning issues warranting special attention, for example, the compatibility and consistency of various antiterrorism laws, and the identification of remaining gaps in the Dutch counterterrorism legal regime. The committee's recommendations should contribute to the ongoing assessment of counterterrorism legislation.
In May, the Netherlands and the United States signed a joint statement enabling the start of the International Expedited Traveler Initiative between Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and JFK in New York. In July, the Dutch Parliament ratified the U.S.-EU Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance treaties. In November, the Dutch National Police hosted a bilateral "experts meeting" on terrorism with FBI officials, fulfilling one of the action items agreed at the 2007 U.S.-Dutch bilateral law enforcement "Next Steps" consultations.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the Netherlands continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Norwegian authorities considered the threat of terrorist attacks in Norway low and the widespread belief among the general public was that Norway was not in danger of attack. In December, the parliament revised its counterterrorism laws in order to be able to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. These revisions allowed incitement, recruiting, and training for terrorist acts to become punishable offenses independent of whether an attack is actually carried out. They also, however, require specific "intent" to commit an act that causes terrorism, whereas the prior standard had been "willfulness" to commit the act.
In February, Norwegian police arrested three suspects of Somali descent for financing terrorism by collecting money for al-Shabaab. (Three others were arrested in Sweden.) Charges against five were eventually dropped; only one suspect remained under investigation in Norway, although he is not in custody and retained his passport. Members of the Norwegian press criticized Norway's failure to maintain a separate terrorist organization list, on the grounds that, absent such a list, people cannot know which organizations are illegal to contribute to.
In May a court convicted Afran Bhatti of conspiracy to commit "serious vandalism" in connection with gunshots fired at the Oslo synagogue in 2006, but acquitted Bhatti of the charge of terrorism in connection with the shooting and plots to attack the United States and Israeli embassies. The court sentenced Bhatti to eight years' imprisonment for attempted murder and threatening behavior, separate charges unrelated to the synagogue shooting and embassy plots, with the possibility of additional detention based upon review of his danger to society. Bhatti remained in custody pending his appeal of the attempted murder conviction.
Norway contributed more than 500 troops to International Security Assistance Force efforts in Afghanistan.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Norway continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Poland continued to support international counterterrorism efforts with heightened participation in Afghanistan. Poland increased its contribution to the International Security Assistance Force to 1,600 troops. Poland also took independent military responsibility for Ghazni Province and began planning for its own associated Provincial Reconstruction Team. Poland turned over command of the Multinational Division Center-South to Iraqi authorities and withdrew the last of its combat forces. Poland maintained about 20 soldiers as part of the NATO Training Mission Iraq.
Through participation in initiatives including the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, Poland remained an active participant in various international undertakings to combat terrorist threats. One year after integration into the Schengen zone, Poland maintained a close and growing collaboration with its European neighbors on counterterrorism. During the year, Poland also established an inter-agency 24-7 Counterterrorism Center to coordinate terrorist threat assessments.
The bilateral Counterterrorism Working Group (CTWG), formed in 2005 to further U.S.-Polish collaboration on counterterrorism by synchronizing counterterrorism policy and training counterterrorism specialists, continued to hold regular meetings. The CTWG identified specific areas of mutual interest, including critical infrastructure and terrorist financing, and developed further plans for training and cooperation. The Polish and U.S. militaries reached consensus on a Bilateral Agreement on cooperation in combating cyberterrorism. In 2008, the Illinois State Partnership Program initiated a five-year program to expand cooperation between the Illinois National Guard and various Polish ministries on consequence management.
Portugal worked proactively with other nations on programs to combat terrorism and disrupt funding for terrorist groups. Portugal does not have any indigenous terrorist groups, therefore the legal system and law enforcement focus is on dissuading international groups from establishing operations on its soil.
Portuguese and American officials shared counterterrorism information effectively, including information on threat assessments and terrorist operative activities. In cooperation with other European Union partners, the Portuguese government continued to participate actively in ongoing EU efforts to remove institutional barriers to cooperation on counterterrorism.
In September, the Government of Portugal created a new Secretary General for Internal Security, a move designed to facilitate communication between the Judicial Police (FBI-equivalent), Public Security Police (national uniformed police), and the National Republican Guard (paramilitary police force). As a result, the distinct law enforcement agencies were able to share information about terrorism investigations more effectively.
Portugal contributed approximately 130 Portuguese troops that were deployed in Afghanistan in support of ongoing International Security Assistance Force and NATO operations, and maintained its annual contribution of 6.6 million Euros (USD 8.4 million) in development assistance to Afghanistan.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Portugal continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Romanian Government had strong comprehensive internal mechanisms to combat terrorism, including a National Antiterrorism Strategy and guidelines to prevent the use of Romanian financial institutions, including its banking system, to finance terrorist-related activities. In 2008, the Supreme Council for National Defense updated the General Protocol for the National System for Preventing and Countering Terrorism.2
Romania made its airspace, ground infrastructure, and naval facilities available to U.S. and NATO forces. Approximately 500 Romanian troops were serving in Iraq and 820 in Afghanistan as part of coalition and NATO Alliance efforts to combat terrorism and promote peace and stability. The Romanian troops in Afghanistan represented a 300-plus increase over 2007. In June, the Supreme Council for National Defense confirmed Romania's commitment of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2009.
Romanian also ratified the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, the Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, and the Council of Europe Convention on laundering, search, seizure, and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and on the financing of terrorism.
The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) operated as the technical coordinator for 11 Ministries of the Romanian Government; three other special Services (the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Protection and Guard Service, and Special Telecommunications Service); three other governmental agencies (the National Agency for Export Controls, the National Committee for Control of Nuclear Activities, and the National Office for Prevention and Control of Money Laundering); the National Bank of Romania; and the Prosecutor's Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice. There were 54 prosecutors assigned to the Directorate to Investigate International Criminal Organizations and Terrorism.
Bucharest is also the headquarters for the Southeast European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime (SECI Center), a regional center that provided law enforcement training and intelligence sharing on transborder criminal activities, including terrorist-related activities, for the 12 member countries in South Eastern and Central Europe, including Romania. Romania participated in the SECI Center's Antiterrorism task force, which Turkey chaired.
In February, the High Court of Cassation of Justice reconfirmed the 20-year prison sentence for Omar Hayssam who was convicted of terrorism in the 2004 kidnapping case of four Romanian journalists in Iraq (the Syrian-born Romanian citizen Hayssam fled Romania following his conviction and remained at large).
On May 15, Romania ratified the September 2007 Bucharest Protocol to the May 1999 U.S.- Romania Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. The Protocol enhanced mutual assistance on the identification of banking information regarding money laundering and terrorism activities, as well as other criminal activities on which the United States and Romania subsequently agree. Notable cases of U.S.-Romania law enforcement cooperation in this area included the extradition of Tareq Al Ghazi and Luis Moreno to the United States to stand trial on terrorism and money laundering charges related to their efforts to sell weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); significant assistance related to Viktor Bout, the renowned international arms trafficker known as the "Merchant of Death" who agreed to sell weapons to the FARC; and the case of Yeyha Ali Zeiter, who was arrested on drug-related terrorism charges.
On June 4, the government issued Executive Order 594/2008 which approved the rules to enforce the provisions of the law 656/2002 in conformity with EU regulations on preventing and sanctioning money laundering, as well as on establishing some measures to prevent and counter the financing of terrorist activities.
On June 25, the National Securities Commission issued Order 83/2008, to institute measures to prevent and fight money laundering and terrorism financing via the capital market. The order was published in the Official Gazette 525 on July 11.
The National Bank of Romania issued its own internal regulations regarding customer due diligence procedures in order to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. The regulations were published in the Official Gazette on July 14.
The Financial Intelligence Unit submitted a restructuring program in order to implement more effectively the provisions of the Governmental Emergency Ordinance no. 53/2008 and the Governmental Decision no. 594/2008, to check against possible terrorist-related financing activities, including a new cooperation protocol for the National Office for Prevention and Combating of Money Laundering and the National Agency of Exports Control, as well as law enforcement and intelligence services, which enhances intra-governmental cooperation within the National System for Prevention and Combating of Terrorism.
The Romanian Government's Emergency Decision no. 202/2008, which was published in the Official Gazette on December 8, provides a mechanism for the implementation of international sanctions to prevent and counter terrorism, including empowering the National Office for Prevention and Control of Money Laundering, reporting on suspicious transactions, blocking funds, and obliging institutions to conduct due diligence in establishing the bona fides of clients.
December 31marked the official implementation of the new electronic passport protocols under Government Decision no. 557/2006 and in accordance with the provisions of the EC Regulation no. 2252/2004 on the standards for integrating security and biometric elements in passports and travel documents.
Violence and terrorism continued to roil the North Caucasus, where the decline in incidents in Chechnya was replaced by an increase in terrorism in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia. Other violent acts took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but did not match the level of terrorist violence in Russia’s south and were difficult to differentiate from criminal acts. The Russian government continued to view counterterrorism as a top priority, and considered cooperation in this field with the United States a pillar of bilateral relations. Russia did not pass significant new counterterrorism legislation in 2008, but President Medvedev signed a decree reorganizing the Ministry of the Interior’s counterterrorism efforts by combining assets from counter-narcotics and anti-organized crime sections into new units to counter extremism. Russia did not offer safe haven to terrorists, but there was evidence of a foreign terrorist presence in the North Caucasus with international financial and ideological ties. As in 2007, there were no high-profile terrorist incidents in Russia involving a large number of civilian casualties.
In October, Director of Federal Security Services (FSB) Aleksandr Bortnikov announced that Russia had disrupted 69 terrorist acts planned by terrorist cells in the Volga region, the Urals, the North Caucasus, and Siberia. Among them, the FSB claimed to have disrupted a plot to bomb tourist sites in Sochi in July and August using improvised explosive devices.
Throughout the North Caucasus, groups have moved away from mass attacks on civilians in favor of targeted attacks on policemen, local interior ministry officials, and departments responsible for fighting the insurgency. As violence has declined in Chechnya, it has increased substantially in the surrounding region, although it was often difficult to characterize whether it was the result of terrorism, political violence, or criminal activities. In 2008, terrorists killed three colonels heading the Anti-organized Crime Units (UBOPs) in North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia. These units lead antiterrorist operations within their regions for the Interior Ministry. In one of the deadliest attacks in Russia since the September 2004 school seizure in Beslan, a female suicide bomber struck a minibus in the North Ossetian regional capital of Vladikavkaz on November 6. The attack killed 12 and injured as many as 41 civilians, most of whom were students at local colleges.
The 1998 federal law “On Fighting Terrorism" and the 2006 federal law “On Countering Terrorism” remained the main counterterrorism legal authorities. The National Antiterrorism Committee, organized in 2006, is the main government body coordinating the Russian government’s response to the terrorist threat. On September 6, President Medvedev signed a decree reorganizing the federal and regional Ministry of Interior organized crime units, which were increasingly handling counterterrorism duties, into new units tasked with fighting extremism.
The United States and Russian Counterterrorism Coordinators met in June to advance cooperation within the context of the United States-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group. Cooperation continued on a broad range of counterterrorism issues. Russian law enforcement agencies also cooperated closely with U.S. agencies, including participation in the September 2008 Counterterrorism Working Group-Intelligence Sub Group meeting in Washington, D.C. with representatives from the CIA, FBI, Russian Federal Security Service, and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The U.S. and Russian law enforcement agencies shared substantive, concrete terrorism intelligence at this meeting. Past cooperation led to the release of a hostage victim and the conviction of a U.S.-based subject attempting to purchase shoulder-to-air missiles.
Regulating and investigating terrorist websites was a major concern with numerous requests to the United States for assistance from both the Federal Security Service and the Cybercrime Directorate. At the St. Petersburg G8 Summit in July 2006, the United States and Russia jointly announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and invited other nations to join. The Initiative demonstrated Russia's effort to take a leadership role in establishing a partnership among nations to accelerate efforts to combat nuclear terrorism. The fourth meeting of the Initiative took place in Spain in June. (See Chapter 4, The Global Challenge of Nuclear Terrorism, for further information on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.)
In March, Russia hosted the Seventh International Meeting of the Heads of special services, security agencies, and law-enforcement organizations, which FBI, CIA, DOE, and NCTC attended. Russia continued to work with regional groups to address terrorism. It sent representatives to September’s OSCE Public-Private Partnership Counterterrorism Conference, which focused on partnerships between state authorities, civil society, and the business community in combating terrorism. Russia joined with other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), at its annual summit, in a commitment to work with the UN to develop a Comprehensive Counterterrorism Charter and to continue to conduct exercises like “Peace Mission 2007,” which Russia hosted. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) elected not to hold its annual International Antiterrorism Forum.
Russia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (FATF) and is a leading member, chair, and primary funding source of the FATF-style body known as The Eurasian Group on Money Laundering (EAG). EAG members include Russia, China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Russia, through EAG, provided technical assistance and funding towards establishing legislative and regulatory frameworks and operational capabilities.
Serbia's law enforcement and security agencies, particularly the Customs Administration, Criminal Police, Border Police, Security Information Agency, and other security services, greatly increased bilateral counterterrorism cooperation since the July formation of the new government. Intra-governmental cooperation between these agencies also improved, increasing their effectiveness. Serbia had two police organizations that operated as counterterrorism tactical response units, the Special Antiterrorist Unit and the Counterterrorist Unit. In addition, the government created a Criminal Investigative Unit for Counterterrorist Investigation within the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Directorate.
The United States provided counterterrorism training and assistance to the Serbian government. In May, the Department of Justice International Criminal Investigative Assistance Training Program’s Organized Crime Advisor (ICITAP) conducted a counterterrorism workshop for Serbian and Montenegrin police officers in Montenegro. The workshop covered trends in international terrorism, the formation of a Joint Terrorist Task Force, investigative techniques, vulnerability assessments, crime scene management, case studies, and practical exercise problems. ICITAP also conducted two informant development courses for Serbian counterterrorism police officers in January and November. In January, ICITAP donated a special forces boat to the Special Antiterrorism Unit. In June and November, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency conducted two multi-agency counterterrorism courses. The Export Control and Border Security Program (EXBS) provided weapons of mass destruction detection equipment and training, as well as training in detecting illicit radioactive materials and chemical trafficking, to the Border Police, Customs, and prosecutorial and licensing authority
agencies. In conjunction with the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, EXBS provided other courses in undercover operations, export control, and dual use commodity identification to Border Police, Customs, and police investigative, prosecutorial, and licensing authority agencies.
A bill on terrorist financing, now pending Parliamentary approval, will apply all provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering Law to terrorist financing. It will require reporting of transactions suspected to be terrorist financing and will create mechanisms for freezing, seizing, and confiscating suspected terrorist assets.
A trial of 14 Islamic fundamentalists charged with conspiracy to commit unconstitutional activity, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, and attempted murder commenced in April. Authorities found evidence that the group was planning attacks on infrastructure in the city of Novi Pazar, a local religious leader, and several sites in Belgrade, including the U.S. Embassy. Authorities charged an additional four persons with planning an attack on Novi Pazar police in March.
The primary police unit responsible for investigating criminal offenses related to terrorism is the Counterterrorism Unit (CTU) of the Organized Crime Bureau. The CTU is authorized to carry out criminal investigations and make arrests of suspected terrorist or extremists within the country. It also has the mandate to develop Slovakia's counterterrorism strategy. The most recent version, approved in October 2007, focuses on developing the legislative and institutional framework to combat terrorism, as well as strengthening the coordination, collaboration, and exchange of information among key institutional actors. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Organized Crime Bureau and the Slovak Information Service also have counterterrorism responsibilities.
One suspected terrorist, Mustapha Labsi, has been held in Slovak custody since May 2007. In November 2007, the Bratislava Regional Court approved a Slovak government request to extradite him to Algeria where he has been convicted in absentia to life in prison. In January 2008, the Supreme Court confirmed this decision. In June, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Supreme Court must verify that Labsi will not face torture upon extradition. In December, the Migration Office again denied Labsi's request for asylum in Slovakia, which he appealed.
Slovakia cooperated closely with a range of international partners in numerous fora. For example, Slovak police participated in the Police Working Group on Terrorism, a consortium of EU member states, Norway, and Switzerland. The Slovak Information Service is engaged in the Club de Berne, which facilitates exchange of police and intelligence information on terrorism. It also participated in the EU's Joint Situation Center.
Cooperative ties with other EU member states, as well as with the United States, have strengthened as a result of Slovakia's accession to Europe’s border-free Schengen zone on December 21, 2007, and entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program on November 17, 2008. As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Slovakia continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
In August, at the request of the Slovak Customs, U.S. Customs and Border protection held a five-day anti-corruption and integrity enhancement course in Bratislava. Thirty-two Slovak participants, including investigators, prosecutors, and analysts in the Customs Service, Alien and Border Police, Police Presidium, Ministries of Interior and Justice, and Special Court, took part in the five-day course taught by four trainers from Washington D.C.
In 2008, Slovakia increased the level of its permanent deployment to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to 176, more than doubling its contingent.
In January 2008, Slovenia’s 2007-enacted Act on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism became applicable. During Slovenia's Presidency of the EU Council, Slovenia chaired an EU troika meeting with the United States on the external aspects of fighting against terrorism, as well as international terrorist financing. Slovenia also chaired an EU-U.S. workshop on financial sanctions. In September, Slovenia's Ministry of Defense held a regional counterterrorism conference, sponsored by the Counterterrorism Fellowship Program. The Conference included 90 military and civilian personnel from Slovenia and six western Balkan countries. Slovenia continued to provide two instructors as part of the NATO training mission in Iraq and 15 support personnel to the NATO mission in Chad. Slovenia also contributed 66 troops to International Security Assistance Force efforts in Afghanistan. As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Slovenia continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Government of Spain and its citizens were concerned that their country remained a principal target of domestic terrorism and Islamic extremism. On the international front, al-Qa'ida (AQ) deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leaders of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) routinely called for the recapture of the former Muslim-controlled region in the Iberian Peninsula they still call al-Andalus. As the fifth anniversary of the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings approached, the Spanish government remained in a constant state of heightened alert and took pride in the fact that there have been no further deaths in Spain at the hands of international terrorists since 2004. Spain cooperated closely with the United States to investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism and to prevent future attacks, and worked hard to disrupt terrorist acts that possibly were directed against U.S. interests.
Spain remained an important transit and logistical base for terrorist organizations operating in Western Europe. Its geographical location, large population of immigrants from North Africa, and the ease of travel to other countries in Europe, made Spain a strategic crossroads for international terrorist groups.
Spain continued to aggressively target terrorist recruiters and facilitators. The Ministry of Interior detained 65 suspected Islamist terrorists. Many of these individuals were believed to be supporters of terrorist groups such as AQ, AQIM, and the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (GICM).
The Spanish government began 2008 with the January 19 arrest of 14 suspected radical Islamists, primarily Pakistanis, in Barcelona, who allegedly were plotting to attack the city's transportation system. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorist group, which has links to AQ, claimed that those arrested were part of its organization and that the attacks had been planned to retaliate against the Spanish military presence in Afghanistan. In June, Spanish police arrested eight Algerian nationals on charges of suspicious activities with links to terrorist cells, including recruiting and indoctrination, as well as providing financial and logistical support to Islamic terrorist organizations. In October, security services arrested a dozen radical Islamist suspects, all Moroccan nationals, accused of financing terrorism and of sending recruits to Iraq. Some members of the cell were also accused of helping some of the suspects in the Madrid train bombings flee the country. All were subsequently set free, except for four individuals already in prison on other charges.
The domestic terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), whose aim is to create an independent Basque state, waged its deadliest year since 2004:
- On March 7, on the eve of Spain's national election, ETA gunmen murdered a former town councilman in Mondragon
- On May 14, an ETA truck bomb detonated at a barracks in Legutiano killed a Civil Guard
- On September 22, a car bomb detonated at a military academy in Santona, killing a corporal in the Spanish army.
- On December 3, the fourth victim, a Basque businessman, was shot by ETA gunmen.
Nevertheless, Spain's intensified cooperation with the French government put considerable pressure on ETA. Joint operations in France resulted in, among other successes, the detention of ETA's alleged political leader in May, and its alleged military chief who reportedly was also the number-one authority in ETA, in November. On December 9, a joint operation resulted in the arrest of the alleged replacement military chief. All three arrests occurred in France with the participation of Spanish security forces. As of mid December, security services had arrested 158 alleged ETA members or associates, including 33 in France.
In the judicial arena, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the convictions of several radical Islamists from two previous, high-profile cases.
- In July the Spanish Supreme Court announced the acquittal on appeal of four of the 21 convicted defendants in the Madrid train bombings trial who had been sentenced in October 2007. The four had been sentenced to between five and 12 years for smuggling explosives and membership in a terrorist organization.
- The Supreme Court also upheld the lower court's acquittal of the suspected mastermind of the attacks, agreeing with the lower court's decision that he be acquitted of belonging to a terrorist organization because he had already been sentenced in Italy and could not be tried for the same crime twice.
- In October, the Supreme Court overturned 14 of the 20 convictions of a cell sentenced in February for plotting to truck bomb the National Court and reduced the sentences of another four of those convicted in the plot.
Spain participated in the Megaports and Container Security Initiatives, and worked hard to deny terrorists access to Spanish financial institutions. Spain maintained a robust law enforcement and intelligence posture against terrorist financing. Spain was a member of the G8 Counterterrorism Action Group and provided technical assistance to other countries to help build their institutions to counter terrorist financing. Spain is a longtime member of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force and its efforts to combat money laundering were considered comprehensive and effective. However, Spain has not frozen the assets of or designated as a terrorist Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, the convicted and jailed leader of the Madrid-based AQ-affiliated cell who was detained shortly after 9/11.
Spain played an active role in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; it hosted a table-top exercise in May, a plenary meeting in June, and a field training exercise in October. These events developed Spain's own expertise in disaster preparedness and contingency planning and served to build the capacity of fellow Global Initiative partner nations.
Spain also signed numerous multilateral agreements to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation on a political level. In May, the Ministers of Interior from Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia agreed to strengthen their exchange of information to prevent anybody accused of a terrorist crime from finding shelter in those countries.
On a bilateral level, Spain signed agreements with Morocco and Algeria. In June, the Spanish and Moroccan General Prosecutors Offices signed an International Protocol of Cooperation to fight terrorism and organized crime. Also in June, Spain and Algeria signed a bilateral Agreement on Security to Fight Terrorism, Illegal Immigration, and Organized Crime, which includes the exchange of information.
Spain contributed more than 750 troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Spain continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The Government of Sweden placed a high priority on increasing international cooperation against terrorism. Swedish authorities considered the threat of terrorist attacks inside Sweden to be low, but they monitored a number of known terrorists and terrorist organizations within their borders, including al-Qa’ida (AQ), Al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Islam/Sunna, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hizb Al-Tahrir, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). These groups provided logistical and financial support to their respective organizations abroad.
The Government of Sweden did not provide safe haven to terrorists or terrorist organizations. Terrorist organizations exploited Sweden's considerable legal protections of personal freedoms and civil liberties to maintain a presence in the country, however. Sweden’s political asylum policy attracted individuals from areas of conflict.
According to Swedish terrorism experts, members of terrorist groups, such as Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Sunna, and Hizballah, used funds earned in Sweden to finance terrorist activities elsewhere. In 2007, the Swedish government shut down the al-Aqsa Foundation in Malmo when it was suspected of facilitating such activity for Hizballah. On December 22, its deputy chairman, Khaled al-Yousef, was charged with financing terrorism in Israel; he has not been sentenced.
Swedish law does not provide the government independent national authority to freeze or seize assets, unless in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. However, once the EU takes action, the government can and does freeze assets of entities and persons listed on the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee list. This procedure is managed through the Sanctions Act (1995). Sweden can also take action against entities designated by the EU clearinghouse process, although Sweden has not yet proposed individuals or entities for inclusion on such lists.
Sweden played an active role in EU deliberations to develop legal instruments for the listing and de-listing of terrorist organizations and an appeals process after the freezing of financial assets. Without a designation by the UN or EU, Swedish authorities only have the right to seize assets once a criminal investigation has been initiated. Efforts to create a national authority and address existing shortcomings are underway.
Terrorism-related cases in Sweden included:
- On May 8, Ahmad Hamad, a Swedish resident born in Iraq, was arrested and placed in detention by U.S. forces in Iraq. Hamad remained in detention.
- In the spring, three Swedish residents of Somali origin were released from prison after being held for three months on suspicion of funneling funds to terrorist organizations in Somalia. (Three others were arrested in Norway.)
- On October 5, Abu Qaswarah, a Swedish citizen, died in a firefight with Iraqi and U.S. forces in Iraq. He allegedly was the second in command of AQ and was the senior leader of AQ in northern Iraq. A Moroccan native, Qaswarah had historic ties to AQ in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and senior AQ leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the Swedish Security Service, Qaswarah was known for his activities in violent Islamist circles in Sweden and was listed on the UN and EU terrorist lists in December 2006.
- In 2005, the Swedish Court of Appeal found Ali Berzengi and Ferman Abdullah, Iraqi citizens with Swedish residency permits, guilty of financially supporting Ansar al-Sunna terrorist actions in Irbil, Iraq. They remained in custody awaiting a government decision on deportation.
- On August 4, a Moroccan, Abderazzak Jabri, was extradited from Sweden to Morocco. He first arrived in Sweden via Spain in 2002 and applied for asylum. He moved into the mosque in Brandbergen, where he shared rooms with Abu Qaswarah (see above). The mosque was under surveillance by Swedish authorities, who in March 2004 arrested several suspects, including Jabri. Afterwards Jabri was seen as a “security threat," resulting in the rejection of his asylum case. Jabri disappeared but turned up in Vienna two years later (2006) with a fake passport and tickets to Syria. Jabri claimed he was on his way to Spain to apply for amnesty as an illegal immigrant. He was then held by Swedish authorities until his extradition to Morocco in August 2008.
The Swedish government also agreed to pay damages to two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed Alzery/al-Zari. The men claimed they had been deported by Sweden to Egypt, where they had been tortured. An asylum request to return to Sweden was subsequently denied by Swedish authorities; both men have appealed and remained in Egypt, where Agiza is incarcerated.
Through the European Common Foreign and Security Policy, Sweden continued to contribute to capacity-building projects in Morocco, Algeria, and Indonesia. Sweden participated in EUROPOL and EUROJUST, European law enforcement institutions that coordinated member states’ counterterrorism cooperation and activities. Additionally, it participated in the Nordic Council of Ministers Regional Forum for Nordic Governmental Cooperation. Sweden contributed over USD 1,000,000 to the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. In December, Sweden's Parliament voted to raise its troop contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from 350 to 500.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Sweden continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
The United States worked closely with the Swiss government, the Swiss Bankers' Association, the Swiss Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force, and cantonal law enforcement authorities. Swiss security services continued to monitor activities of terrorist groups with a presence in Switzerland and to coordinate with appropriate USG officials, though the scope of the coordination was limited. Swiss law severely restricted the level of information-sharing possible on banking issues.
On December 5, the Government of Switzerland extended, for the second time, its ban against al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its associate organizations for three years. The ban includes not only all activities by the organization itself, but also all activities in support of the organization. Approximately $16.6 million (SFr 20 million) in AQ and Taliban assets in 35 separate accounts remained frozen.
The Swiss government maintained a list of individuals and organizations connected with international terrorism or terrorist financing, in accordance with UN lists. On December 4, 2007, Switzerland proposed to the UN General Assembly a new process intended to enable better coordination in global counterterrorism efforts. Pursuant to this initiative, Switzerland and the other four countries have held a series of workshops and made recommendations for better coordinating the activities of the various UN bodies involved in the fight against terrorism. The recommendations were included in a resolution that the General Assembly adopted during the review of the UN counterterrorism strategy on September 4-5.
Along with the U.S. and UN lists, the Swiss Economic and Finance Ministries have drawn up their own internal list of individuals and entities connected with international terrorism or its financing. Swiss authorities have thus far blocked about 48 accounts totaling approximately USD 20.6 million from individuals or companies linked to individuals or entities listed pursuant to relevant UN resolutions. The Swiss Attorney General also separately froze 41 accounts representing about approximately USD 23 million on the grounds that they were related to terrorist financing, but the extent to which these funds overlap with the UN consolidated list has yet to be determined. As far as Taliban and AQ assets are concerned, on October 24, SECO wrote that 35 bank accounts totaling approximately USD 19 million were still frozen.
Counterterrorism activities were carried out by several police units: The Federal Criminal Police's Counterterrorism Unit focuses on AQ-related cases and employed 21 officials -- 11 working on terrorism, nine working on terrorist financing, and a unit chief. Of the 130 employees who work in the Department for Analysis and Prevention in the Federal Office for Police, approximately twelve concentrate on counterterrorism matters, in addition to the roughly 85 cantonal policemen focusing on counterterrorism activities.
In practice, the Swiss government does not compile lists of prohibited organizations. The sole recent exception has been AQ, which is banned on the basis of UN Security Council decisions.
Due in part to increased antiterrorism activities in neighboring EU countries, several terrorist organizations, including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have a presence in Switzerland. Existing Swiss law and practice prevent the government from listing these entities as terrorist organizations.
The Government of Switzerland estimated there are 4,000 well-organized sympathizers of the PKK, in Switzerland and approximately 100 individuals in the PKK's central coordinating cadre. PKK's headquarters is located in Basel, but their activities also covered the Zurich area. Most of its activities in Switzerland consisted of media relations, training of management staff, and fundraising. In 2007, a group of about twenty Kurdish people raided the premises of various newspapers, radio and television stations in Basel, Bern, Biel, and Zurich, and an Amnesty International office. One year later, in October 2008, other Kurdish activists were strongly suspected by the Federal Office of Police (FEDPOL) of raiding a dozen Turkish cafes, travel agencies and other buildings in several Swiss-German cantons. FEDPOL managed to track several PKK-related messages claiming responsibility that were sent to Switzerland and abroad. Judicial investigations were ongoing at year’s end. The Government banned fundraising events during Kurdish celebrations in November, such as the 30th anniversary of the founding of the PKK. It also applied a more restrictive policy on permits, including demonstration permits, residence permits, and Swiss citizenship applications.
In late September, French and Swiss police forces reportedly arrested twelve people belonging to the Mujahadin-e Khalq. They were involved in the financing of a terrorist organization linked to money laundering. Several persons were detained for judgment.
In addition to not designating the FARC as a terrorist organization, Switzerland designated Jean-Pierre Gontard, a Swiss professor, to act as Switzerland's designated mediator for the FARC over the past several years. Colombia expressed strong criticism against Jean-Pierre Gontard following Columbia's successful military operation on July 2, 2008, which released 15 hostages including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors. Colombian officials accused Jean-Pierre Gontard of exceeding his authority and of being a money courier for FARC based on documents found at the FARC camp and have since cut off all Swiss mediation efforts. The Swiss government defended Gontard, stating that his work was "strictly humanitarian.”
In practice, Switzerland does not extradite persons based solely on their membership in a "terrorist" organization. However, terrorism and membership in a terrorist organization are illegal and subject to criminal penalties. Article 260 of the Swiss penal code defines a terrorist as someone who takes part in an organization that keeps its structure and membership secret and that has the purpose of committing violent crimes or of enriching itself by criminal means. Anyone who supports such an organization or participates in its criminal activities can be punished with up to five years in prison. The penal code also provides for punishment of those who commit criminal acts outside of Switzerland if their organization conducts its criminal activities partly within Swiss boundaries or plans to do so.
Switzerland, in conjunction with Liechtenstein, commissioned a study in November on the financing of terrorism.
In late June 2007, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put Credit Suisse (CS), ABB, and Syngenta on its "black list" of companies suspected of indirectly sponsoring terrorist countries. Credit Suisse said that it was conducting a controlled withdrawal of its business from Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Sudan. ABB said that it no longer had dealings with North Korea, Burma, or Sudan and would review its business dealings with Iran if the U.S. sanction procedures changed.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Switzerland continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Counterterrorism cooperation is a key element of our strategic partnership with Turkey. Domestic and transnational terrorist groups have targeted Turkish nationals and foreigners in Turkey, including, on occasion, USG personnel, for more than 40 years. Terrorist groups that operated in Turkey have included Kurdish nationalists, al-Qa’ida (AQ), Marxist-Leninist, and pro-Chechen groups.
Turkish terrorism law defines terrorism as attacks against Turkish citizens and the Turkish state; this definition may hamper Turkey’s ability to interdict, arrest, and prosecute those who plan and facilitate terrorist acts to be committed outside of Turkey.
AQ-inspired terrorists continued to target U.S. and foreign personnel in Turkey. On July 9, three gunmen attacked the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, killing three police officers. The Turkish government arrested four alleged associates of the attackers in the following days and believe that the gunmen were AQ-inspired terrorists. Earlier in the year, the Turkish National Police (TNP) and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) conducted a successful series of raids against suspected AQ-affiliated terrorists. In January, police raids in Gaziantep against an alleged AQ cell ended in firefights, leading to the deaths of four suspects and the arrests of another 18. Follow-on raids in April led to the detention of an additional 35 people; 24 were indicted for various offenses. In mid-December, the Turks arrested another 60 suspected Islamic extremists in Istanbul, Izmir, and Manisa.
Most prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Composed primarily of Kurds with a nationalist agenda, the PKK operated from bases in northern Iraq and directed its forces to target mainly Turkish security forces. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, PKK violence claimed hundreds of Turkish lives. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a group designated under E.O. 13224, is affiliated with the PKK and has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in Turkish cities in recent years.
On February 19, TAK announced it would engage in a renewed campaign of violence in Turkey. On July 27, two bombs exploded in the Istanbul working-class neighborhood Gungoren, killing 17 and injuring more than 150. No group claimed responsibility, but Turkish authorities blamed the PKK. On August 19, both TAK and the PKK claimed responsibility for an August 19 car bomb at a Mersin police checkpoint and for an August 23 car bomb in a residential area of Izmir. The PKK also claimed responsibility for a car bomb in Diyarbakir on January 3, which killed six civilians and wounded 70; it apologized for this attack, claiming that the attackers were PKK members acting independently of orders.
The Turkish military and the PKK engaged in constant skirmishes in the Southeast throughout the year, the largest of which was an October 4 attack against a military outpost at Aktutun, in which 15 soldiers were reported killed. On October 17, 2007, in the midst of weeks of violence, during which PKK attacks claimed scores of killed or wounded Turkish soldiers and citizens, the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion authorizing cross-border military operations against PKK targets in northern Iraq, which it renewed in October 2008. U.S. information sharing, begun in November 2007, helps ensure these Turkish actions hit terrorist rather than civilian targets. Turkish forces carried out extensive operations along the Turkey-Iraq border in the latter part of the year and continued to carry out strikes along the Turkey-Iraq border throughout 2008. In February, the Turks launched ground operations into northern Iraq, targeting PKK locations, and then disengaged by the end of the month. The Turkish government claimed that 657 PKK members were killed, 161 were captured, and 161 had surrendered in skirmishes throughout the year. In addition, 120 PKK members turned themselves over to Turkish authorities under the terms of a repentance law passed in 2005.
Other prominent terrorist groups in Turkey included the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, a militant Marxist-Leninist group with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state; and Turkish Hizballah (not affiliated with Lebanese Hizballah), an organization of Sunni Kurds with a violent history. The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front is a decentralized Islamic revivalist group that was particularly active in the 1990s; it claimed ties with al-Qa’ida (AQ). A previously unknown terrorist organization, Revolutionary Headquarters (Devrimci Karargah), an apparently Marxist organization espousing an anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist agenda, claimed responsibility for two attacks in Istanbul against political and military targets. Investigations into an organization named Ergenekon, allegedly composed of former military officials, bureaucrats, politicians, journalists, and underworld figures, began in 2007, leading to arrests in the summer of 2008. Alleged members of Ergenekon were on trial for a number of crimes including terrorism charges; the details of the case were murky, however, and Ergenekon’s status as a terrorist organization remained under debate at year’s end.
In November 2008, Turkish customs officials at the Port of Mersin seized a suspicious Iranian shipment bound for Venezuela which contained 22 shipping containers of barrels of nitrate and sulfite chemicals, commonly used for bombs, along with dismantled laboratory equipment. Customs officials detected the equipment during a search of 22 containers manifested as "tractor parts." They were being transshipped to Port of Mersin by trucks from Iran. In December, customs officials asked Turkish Atomic Energy Authority and military experts to examine the seized material. At year’s end, disposition of the shipment remained undecided.
The Turkish government has proposed a number of reforms to its counterterrorism and intelligence structure including increasing civilian control of counterterrorism operations and improving civil-military cooperation in CT efforts. The reform proposals predated 2008, but were given a sharper focus following the October 4 Aktutun attack. The proposals were still in the formative stage at year’s end.
Turkey has consistently supported Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. Turkey has over 800 troops as well as a military training team in Kabul, a civilian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Wardak Province, and has undertaken training of Afghan police officials, politicians, and bureaucrats in Turkey. It has pledged a total of $200 million to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Turkey has provided significant logistical support to Coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, authorizing the use of Incirlik Air Base as an air-refueling hub for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as a cargo hub to transport non-lethal cargo to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Almost 60 percent of air cargo for U.S. troops in Iraq transits Incirlik. Establishment of this hub allows six C-17 aircraft to transport the amount of goods it took nine to ten aircraft to move from Germany, and saves the United States almost $160 million per year. Between one-third and two-thirds of the fuel destined for the Iraqi people and more than 25 percent of fuel for Coalition Forces transits from Turkey into Iraq via the Habur Gate border crossing. Turkey was active in reconstruction efforts, including providing electricity to Iraq. Turkey contributed headquarters personnel to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I) and completed military leadership training in Turkey for 89 Iraqi officers as a further contribution to the NATO NTM-I.
Pursuant to its obligations under UNSCR 1267 and subsequent resolutions, Turkish officials continued to circulate UN and U.S.-designated names of terrorists to all law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and to financial institutions. Only UN-listed names, however, were subjected to asset freezes enforced through a Council of Ministers decree. This legal mechanism for enforcing sanctions under UNSCR 1267 was challenged in Turkish courts by UN-designated terrorist financier Yasin al-Kadi, whose assets had been frozen by the state. Following a series of legal actions, the decree freezing his assets has been successfully challenged but was still in effect pending appeal.
Ukraine suffered no domestic terrorism incidents, although law enforcement authorities sometimes labeled ordinary criminal activity as terrorist acts. The Ukrainian State Committee for Financial Monitoring (SCFM) and the Professional Association of Managers of Financial Companies signed an agreement to include real estate financial transactions in data reported to the SCFM. The agreement was intended to counteract the ability of criminal and terrorist organizations to launder money through real estate transactions.
From October 30-31, the SBU hosted a seminar on "The Prevention of Terrorism: International Experience and its Relevance for Ukraine" in Kyiv that brought together senior government officials with international experts to discuss how Ukraine can learn from the experience of its European counterparts. On November 13-14, government counterterrorism officials also participated in OSCE-sponsored training on incorporating international counterterrorism laws into Ukrainian legislation. Ukraine continued to contribute to stabilization efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In December, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court in south London convicted Bilal Abdulla, a doctor who had been practicing medicine in Scotland, of conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause explosions in the June 30, 2007 car bomb attack at Glasgow International Airport and in failed car bomb attacks in London a day earlier. He was sentenced to life in prison and is expected to serve at least 32 years before being eligible for release. Abdulla was accused of planning two attacks in London and Glasgow3 just days after Prime Minister Gordon Brown took office.
In December, Manchester Crown Court convicted Rangzieb Ahmed of being a member of al-Qa'ida (AQ) and directing a terrorist organization in Britain. He was sentenced to life in prison and is expected to serve a minimum of ten years. A co-defendant, Habib Ahmed, was also found guilty of belonging to AQ. Rangzieb was accused of leading a three-man terrorist cell that was planning a terrorist attack overseas, and his conviction marked the first of its kind in the United Kingdom since directing terrorism became an offense under the Terrorism Act of 2000. The prosecution presented evidence that Rangzieb was in contact with senior AQ members. Both men's arrest and the disruption of their cell was the result of a three-year international investigation by police.
In November, Parliament passed the Counterterrorism Act 2008. The act lays out and refines government powers to pursue and prosecute suspected terrorists, and focuses mainly on rules of evidence and information gathering, search and seizure, terrorist finance, jurisdiction, questioning suspects, and forfeiture of assets. The government was forced to throw out one provision of the Act which would have extended the detention period for terrorist suspects before being charged to 42 days. A heavy defeat in the House of Lords voted down the controversial measure 309 to 118 in October. In the wake of defeat in the House of Lords, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith indicated that new legislation would be brought forward to allow the director of public prosecutions to apply to the courts for the right to question terrorist suspects for up to 42 days if necessary.
On November 8, police re-arrested radical cleric and terrorist suspect Abu Qatada at his home in west London after a Special Immigration Appeals Commission revoked his bail over concerns that he was a flight risk and was in danger of breaching his bail conditions. Suspected of being Osama bin Ladin's "right-hand man in the UK" and an AQ recruiter in Europe, Qatada had been released from prison to house arrest in June after successfully contesting UK plans to deport him to Jordan where he was convicted in absentia of planning terrorist attacks. Between his release in June and his re-arrest in November, Qatada had been living under strict bail conditions, including a 22-hour per day curfew and a ban from using mobile telephones or the Internet. The Home Office continued attempts to secure his deportation to Jordan.
Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, a Libyan citizen, continued to pursue a second appeal of his conviction by a Scottish court in connection with the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. Following his diagnosis of incurable cancer by doctors in Scotland in September, Megrahi applied for bail (he qualified to make the bail application because of his pending appeal). The Scottish High Court of Justiciary denied Megrahi's bail request on November 14, indicating that Meghrai's declining health had not reached a stage at which early release would be appropriate. Megrahi is serving a life sentence in Scottish prison.
The government continued to hone its response to terrorism under its "CONTEST" Counterterrorism Strategy. The CONTEST strategy divides government resources under four thematic response areas: Prevent, Pursue, Protect, and Prepare. In December the government hosted its second annual "Prevent" conference, drawing together over 700 participants from national and local government, community and civil society organizations, law enforcement agencies, and social service providers to review progress in the government's counter-radicalization efforts at the local level. The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to take stock of efforts to develop and implement local government-funded programs aimed at countering extremism in communities throughout the United Kingdom. Participants shared information on best practices and discussed programs as varied as cultural and sports workshops, discussion forums, and joint police-social service partnerships focused on identifying young people vulnerable to messages of extremism. The Home Secretary opened the conference by calling on participants to confront radical ideology that contends that being British and being Muslim are incompatible.
In October, the Home Secretary announced new measures aimed at strengthening the government's power to exclude foreign extremists from entering Britain. The so-called "preachers of hate" rules are expected to extend to anyone suspected of advocating illegal activity to stir tensions in the UK. The new rules will give the Home Office new powers to "name and shame" extremists blocked from entering Britain and to share their details with other countries. The rules, which could apply equally to radical clerics as well as animal-rights protesters and far-right groups, are expected to see an increase in the number of people banned from entering Britain and will shift the burden of proof from the government to suspected individuals, by demanding that they refute accusations made against them by publicly denouncing or retracting their reported views. By year's end, it was not clear whether the measures had been applied to anyone, nor was it clear whether the measures would survive a court challenge.
In testimony to the House of Commons Defense Committee in October, government Security Minister Lord West warned that Britain faced a 30-year struggle to counter radicalization among extremist elements of the country's young Muslims. West praised the government's efforts to open dialogue with young British Muslims, insisting that engagement was beginning to pay dividends, but cautioned that there was still a long way to go, and that it would take decades to win the battle of ideas against terrorism and extremism. Lord West's testimony before the committee investigating Britain's preparedness to defend itself against terrorism drew strong reaction when West, a former Royal Navy admiral and First Sea Lord, raised concern over the UK's ability to monitor all the vessels entering British waters and to patrol the 11,000 miles of British coast effectively. UK media reported that committee members expressed concern that management of the UK's national security apparatus remained fragmented between various ministries and Whitehall departments.
In October, the Secretary of State for Schools announced plans to issue guidance to UK primary and secondary schools requiring teachers and school administrators to play a key role in getting young people to reject extremism. The goal was to empower young people to expose and refute extremist ideology through classroom discussions, short courses, and anti-hate seminars. The guidance would require teachers to report students to the police if there is suspicion of them being drawn to violent extremism. Similarly, in November, the Home Office requested in November that universities monitor the attendance and movements of international students in an attempt to counter student visa scams.
In early 2008, UK authorities also detained and expelled a PKK representative in Britain, and in December they conducted raids against a group of individuals suspected of providing support to the PKK.
As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the United Kingdom continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Since May 2007, Northern Ireland has been governed by a power-sharing agreement led by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. Activities by dissident republican groups opposed to Sinn Fein's participation in the peace process and the current power sharing government were the main source of concern. In June, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward stated that dissident republican activity was at its highest level in five years. Later in the year, police raised concerns that a five-month impasse between Sinn Fein and the DUP over devolution of policing and justice could embolden dissident groups. The impasse was resolved in November, however, and the parties were working together toward devolution. Unionists raised concerns about devolution occurring while the IRA Army Council was still active. At the request of the British and Irish governments, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) looked into the Army Council's operations and determined there was no evidence that it was operational.
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), a four-person body established by the Irish and British governments in 2004, regularly releases reports on paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland and Ireland. In a 2008 report, the IMC stated that it had not observed a material increase in the number of dissident activists or an increase in their access to weapons. The IMC did note that the targeting by dissident groups of Northern Ireland police officers remained a serious concern. Various dissident republican groups, including the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA, were involved in attacks on police throughout the year.
In December, the British government announced that loyalist paramilitary groups had until February 2010 to decommission their weapons or face prosecution for illegal possession of illegal arms. The International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) continued to work with the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to complete this process.
1 Bosnian mujahedin brigade were foreign Muslim volunteers who fought on the Bosnian government side during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
2 The General Protocol for the National System for Preventing and Countering Terrorism (NSPCT) was adapted in 2002. The Protocol empowered the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) as the national authority in the counter-terrorist field and the technical coordinator of the NSPCT.
3 A paramedic became suspicious of the contents of one of the vehicles, (the other had already been towed away for parking illegally), which led to the discovery of the plot. Neither vehicle detonated as police managed to defuse them. The following day, two terrorist suspects, Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed, believed to have fled from London, attempted to drive a vehicle filled with gas cylinders into an entrance of Glasgow airport. The vehicle caught fire and did limited damage to the building. The driver, Ahmed, died later as a result of injuries sustained at the scene, while an airport employee apprehended Abdulla as he exited the vehicle. Abdulla, who is of Iraqi origin, had associated with a Sunni terrorist cell in Baghdad before returning to Britain to plan the 2007 attacks.