Chapter 2. Country Reports: Europe Overview
Europe continu ed to face terrorist threats from a variety of sources throughout 2015, including from foreign terrorist organizations operating out of Iraq and Syria, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusrah Front (ANF), and from foreign terrorist fighters who returned home to Europe to plot and carry out attacks. Significant numbers of foreign terrorist fighters came from Western European and Balkan countries. At the same time, violent extremist groups espousing left-wing and nationalist ideologies, such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, continued to operate in Europe.
France experienced multiple attacks in 2015. The January 7 and 9 attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Parisian kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher killed 17 civilians. Ten months later, on November 13, at least eight ISIL members, some of whom were returning foreign terrorist fighters, launched a deadly series of simultaneous attacks around Paris – at a concert, a sporting event, and at restaurants – leaving 130 dead and 350 injured. Turkey was also the site of numerous terrorist attacks, attributed variously to ISIL, the PKK, and the DHKP/C. Terrorist incidents were reported in a number of other European countries, including ISIL-inspired attacks in Denmark and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A Russian passenger jet flying over the Sinai Peninsula was brought down by a bomb likely placed by a member of an ISIL affiliate.
The attacks in Paris and elsewhere galvanized the EU to increase traveler information sharing and agree to an EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) system before the end of 2015. In December, EU interior ministers approved a compromise with the European Parliament on the use of PNR data for the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of terrorist offenses and serious crimes. The directive was awaiting a final vote of approval by the European Parliament at the end of 2015. The attacks in Paris led a number of EU member states to call for the imposition of stricter border security controls or to do so unilaterally. In November, EU member states agreed to implement systematic checks at external borders immediately, including of EU citizens.
By virtue of its location, the presence of international transport hubs on its territory, and its long difficult-to-control border with Syria and Iraq, Turkey remained the main transit route for foreign terrorist fighters. Turkey continued to increase its cooperation with foreign terrorist fighter source countries to counter the threat. It developed and implemented an extensive banned-from-entry list of known or suspected terrorists; established additional “risk analysis units” to detect suspected foreign terrorist fighters at airports, seaports, bus terminals, and border cities; deployed additional military units to the border; and made physical improvements to the security infrastructure along the border. Turkey also reintroduced visa requirements for Libyans wishing to travel to Turkey.
European countries continued to formulate, implement, and hone counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) strategies. Sweden outlined a comprehensive plan entitled “Prevent, Preempt and Protect – the Swedish Counter-Terrorism Strategy.” Focusing sharply on prevention, the UK published a “Counter-Extremism Strategy.” Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo also adopted national CVE strategies. Community groups and religious leaders played key parts in these efforts.
European countries contributed extensively to worldwide counterterrorism efforts in 2015. Thirty-nine European countries and the European Union itself cooperated multilaterally within the force-multiplying framework of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. European countries continued to promote counterterrorism and counter violent extremism programs and policies in multilateral and regional fora such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum (co-chaired by the Netherlands and Turkey), UN, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. At the same time, European nations, both bilaterally and through the EU, helped build capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremism throughout the globe.
A European Counter Terrorist Centre at Europol, and mechanisms to expand information sharing on the travel of foreign terrorist fighters, were established in 2015 to take effect on January 1, 2016. In December, the European Commission (EC) proposed deepening efforts to exchange information, intelligence, and cooperation to combat terrorism by revising outdated Council frameworks. In 2015, European countries faced a significant influx of refugees from Syria. The screening and resettlement of these refugees stretched the law enforcement and security resources of many European nations. In December, the EC proposed creation of an EU Border and Coast Guard (Frontex, with an expanded mandate) that will monitor migratory flows and assist member states with border management. These checks will be conducted against the Schengen Information System, the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents Database, and relevant national systems to verify identity and screen for threats. Beyond its borders, the EU will provide US $55,535,000 to support troops from African countries who have signed up to fight Boko Haram. By November 2015, 14 EU Member States had connected their counterterrorism authorities to the Secure Information Exchange Network Application hosted by Europol, a key enabling platform for information exchange with the United States. Also in November, the EU Council called for greater use by Member States of INTERPOL and Europol databases of known foreign terrorist fighters as well as lost or stolen travel documents. Since December 2014 there has been a strong increase of the use of the Europol Information System (EIS).
Overview: Albania was a strong supporter of counterterrorism efforts in 2015 and continued its participation in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), making significant donations of weapons and ammunition for Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts; financing of terrorism; collection, transfer and concealment of funds that finance terrorism; conducting transactions with persons on the UN sanctions lists; recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts; incitement of terrorist acts; and establishing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations.
In 2014, Parliament added three statutes to Albania’s Criminal Code aimed primarily at strengthening the government’s ability to address the problem of Albanian nationals who travel to fight in the Syrian conflict. The changes made it illegal to participate in; organize the participation of; or call for participation in military action in a foreign country.
While Albanian law enforcement actively detects and deters illicit activities related to drugs and smuggling, it also increased efforts to counter potential terrorist threats. With concern about terrorism increasing in connection with foreign terrorist fighters, the Albanian State Police expanded its Anti-Terrorism Unit from seven to 76 and, in collaboration with Albania’s international partners, is developing plans and programs for the equipping, training, and further development of this unit. Significant efforts will be necessary before the ATU develops capacity to counter terrorism effectively.
Albania lacks the capacity to collect biometric data other than that contained on biometric identity cards and passports presented at border crossing points. DOJ’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), funded by the Department of State, provided information technology training to the Albanian government to help it incorporate online fingerprint identification functions, and fingerprint scanning equipment for all 26 border crossing points. This initiative will improve Albania’s ability to collect entry and exit information of international travelers. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program supported Albanian participation in a series of border security-related courses aimed at addressing foreign terrorist fighter travel.
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program (OPDAT), funded by the Department of State, also provided mentorship, assistance, and training to prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and judges from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia, that work on foreign terrorist fighter and terrorism-related cases through its Balkan Regional Counterterrorism program located in Tirana.
Corruption, combined with a poorly functioning judicial system, continued to hinder Albania’s law enforcement efforts at all levels.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The General Directorate for the Prevention on Money Laundering, Albanian’s financial intelligence unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.
In February, the FATF removed Albania from its list of High Risk and Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions. Since June 2012, Albania has been working with the FATF and MONEYVAL to address the identified weaknesses in its anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. In 2013, Albania adopted a new law against financing terrorism to comply with the FATF and MONEYVAL recommendations and focused on implementation in 2015.
Albania has established a preventive AML/CFT system that includes extended due diligence and the obligation to file suspicious transaction reports and currency transaction reports. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Albania provided financial support to the Albanian Islamic Community, the official administrative body of the Albanian Sunni Muslim community, and actively engaged it to develop strategies and programs to address radicalization to violence and terrorist recruitment. The government also drafted and officially adopted a national strategy to combat violent extremism (CVE), and has been a committed participant in the White House Initiative to Combat Violent Extremism, which included hosting a regional CVE conference in May in Tirana. Prime Minister Rama spoke at the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York; during his speech, Rama announced plans for a Regional Center Against Violent Extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Albania is a member of the UN, OSCE, NATO, Council of Europe, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Albanian criminal justice actors participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other counterterrorism information-sharing exchanges. For example, Albania sent representatives to a U.S.-funded program on the role of the criminal justice system in the implementation of preventive and repressive strategies against foreign terrorist fighters, which was executed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Terrorism Prevention Branch.
Overview: Austria was vigilant in its counterterrorism efforts, and U.S.-Austrian law enforcement cooperation was generally strong. Austria’s Office for State Protection and Counterterrorism (BVT), the key counterterrorism agency within the Ministry of the Interior, reported that while no specific climate for fostering terrorist attacks existed within Austria, radicalization within violent Islamist extremist groups increased in 2015. The country’s traditional, broad perception that Austria is safe from terrorist attacks was challenged by the number of foreign terrorist fighters from Austria headed to Syria and Iraq. The BVT charged or monitored those returning from Syria, as well as other potentially violent radicalized individuals. Continued concerns over data privacy protection, amplified by public debate about suspected U.S. NSA activities in Austria, slowed the implementation of counterterrorism agreements, in some cases.
Austria is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as the Counter-ISIL Working Groups on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Stabilization. Throughout the year, the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Foreign Affairs increased enforcement and engagement to counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and combat the problem of foreign terrorist fighters, with law enforcement agencies focusing on intelligence gathering and investigations, and integration officials (within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) focusing on public outreach and engagement to prevent radicalization to violence.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Austria has a broad legal framework to combat terrorism. Relevant statutes criminalize training in terrorist camps abroad. The Austrian Parliament passed additional counterterrorism legislation in December 2014 (effective January 1, 2015) to enhance existing counterterrorism laws. The counterterrorism legislation amended an existing law on the use of symbols and prohibits the use and distribution of symbols attributable to ISIL, al-Qa’ida, and any organization linked to these groups. Limited exemptions from these restrictions apply to media coverage, films, theater, and exhibits, provided that they do not serve to propagate the ideology of a terrorist organization.
As part of the same legislative package, an amendment to the border control law allowed border authorities to confirm that minors have received parental permission to leave Austria when there is a suspicion that the minors are traveling to participate in fighting activities abroad. Border authorities are empowered to deny departure to a minor and withhold his or her passport until an investigation is complete. An amendment to the Austrian citizenship law allowed authorities to withdraw citizenship from an Austrian who voluntarily and actively participates in fighting in an armed conflict if the individual holds a second citizenship.
In November, Austria’s governing coalition parties agreed on a draft State Protection Law to provide enhanced legal tools against terrorist and extremist threats, espionage, cyber-attacks, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to provide a firm legal basis for counterterrorism, counter-espionage, and related law enforcement actions by the BVT.
Austrian law enforcement and BVT officials routinely cooperated in investigative areas with U.S. law enforcement, from the informal sharing of preliminary investigative information to joint, multilateral investigative projects and enforcement operations. Border security forces make effective use of security measures, including biographic and biometric screening capabilities at airport ports of entry; Austria does not maintain ports of entry on its land borders as Austria is surrounded by Schengen zone member states; however, Austria has established facilities at several border crossings to manage and assist refugees. Border security forces also share information internally and with other EU countries. Border security officials at ports of entry have discretion when determining those documents and passengers subject to screening on arrival.
Austria has taken a whole-of-government approach to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, and 2199, as well as the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF)’s Hague-Marrakech Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the Foreign Terrorist Fighters phenomenon. The BVT estimated the number of Austrians fighting in Syria and Iraq at approximately 260, predominantly of Chechen, Turkish, and Balkan origin. Forty are suspected to have been killed in Syria, while an estimated 70 have returned to Austria. Law enforcement officials have arrested violent extremists and suspected terrorists and prosecuted and sentenced ISIL sympathizers and would-be foreign terrorist fighters. Formal criminal investigations have been launched against 192 suspects, resulting in 50 criminal charges and 27 convictions.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Austria is an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has developed comprehensive anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation, including the enactment of a new Sanctions Act; undertaken reforms of the financial intelligence unit operational procedures and supervisory framework; and developed and published secondary legislation (regulations), thematic and sectorial guidelines, and explanatory notes. Austria’s financial intelligence unit (the Bundeskriminalamt) is a member of the Egmont Group.
Financing of terrorism is criminalised in Article 278d of the Austrian Penal Code in line with Article 2 of the Terrorism Financing Convention and other international standards. Austria has successfully prosecuted terrorism financing cases, including sentencing a Chechen terrorism suspect to a four-year prison term in October on charges of terrorism financing and participation in a terrorist organization. The defendant was charged with collecting US $438,200 for the Caucasus Emirate.
Austria implements the collection of Know Your Customer-data for wire transfers through EU Regulation 1781/2006/EC. This EU Regulation does not include requirements regarding information on the beneficiary of a wire transfer, and there is no respective national law in place.
Austria and the United States implemented the 2014 bilateral agreement on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Under the agreement, Austrian banks require U.S. citizens resident in Austria to waive bank secrecy and allow the exchange of account information with the United States.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Austria continued efforts to counter violent extremism, largely in response to the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon. In addition, the Austrian government undertook or continued several other initiatives.
In cooperation with the Islamic Faith Community, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued an information campaign in mosques, Islamic organizations, and community centers that included education outreach to the majority population to differentiate between Islam and violent extremism. In an effort to improve integration in the newly arrived refugee population, the Integration Office within the Foreign Ministry has developed an educational program that focuses on German language acquisition and education on Austrian ‘values’ such as gender equality and democratic principles. The Austrian government maintains a counseling center and a de-radicalization hotline, aimed at friends and family members of potential violent extremists.
The Austrian government passed a new Law on Islam, updating the previous 1912 Law on Islam. This law updated the rights and responsibilities of Islamic communities and further formalized Islam’s place within Austria. It contains provisions related to religious education, pastoral care in hospitals and prisons, recognizes Islamic holidays, and formalizes some Islamic traditions. The law also limits financing of mosques and imams from foreign sources, in an effort to constrain foreign influence.
International and Regional Cooperation: Austria is a member of various regional platforms, including the OSCE, the Salzburg Forum, and the Central European Initiative. Austria regularly leads law enforcement training programs with Salzburg Forum countries and the Balkan states. In March, Austria hosted a regional conference on foreign terrorist fighters, entitled "Tackling Jihadism Together: Shaping, Preventing, Reacting." The conference was attended by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, and included discussions on enhanced border security training and increased cooperation among Europol, the EU border protection agency Frontex, and the western Balkan states.
Overview: Azerbaijan maintained its strong counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and actively opposed terrorist organizations seeking to move people, money, and materiel through the Caucasus. The country remained focused on counterterrorism efforts that included prosecuting numerous individuals under statutes related to terrorism; confiscating sizeable quantities of illegal arms and munitions; and arresting foreign terrorist fighters returning to Azerbaijan from conflicts abroad.
Azerbaijan indicated its strong willingness to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by sharing information, working to disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and Syria, and countering illicit funding of terrorist groups there. Senior leaders, including the heads of the Caucasus Muslim Board and the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations, took steps to counter ISIL and al-Qa’ida ideology publicly. In mid-December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Azerbaijan was considering joining the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Coalition Against Terror. Azerbaijan participated in the September President’s Summit on Violent Extremism, which the White House organized on the margins of the 2015 UN General Assembly.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Azerbaijan continued to use counterterrorism legislation, first adopted in 1999, that governs the investigation and prosecution of individuals who have committed or plan to commit terrorist acts. The Ministry of National Security (MNS) leads counterterrorism efforts, working closely with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Among its various duties, MNS is charged with the task of identifying and preventing the criminal activities of terrorist groups, and combatting international terrorism and transnational crimes. MNS underwent major personnel and organizational changes in 2015. In mid-December, the President of Azerbaijan signed a decree splitting MNS into two organizations – the State Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service. At the end of 2015, it was unclear how the counterterrorism roles of the new services would be defined and how their efforts would be integrated.
As the country’s primary law enforcement agency, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has key responsibilities for fighting terrorism. Specific counterterrorism actions are taken through the Ministry’s Organized Crime Unit. The Prosecutor General’s Office maintains responsibility for prosecuting individuals for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to aid terrorism, and other terrorism-related crimes.
The Azerbaijani government has effectively demonstrated the ability to detect and deter terrorist activities, as well as prosecute foreign terrorist fighters returning to Azerbaijan. Authorities effectively use terrorist and criminal watchlists and biographic/biometric information to screen travelers at ports of entry. Information sharing within the host government and with other countries was strong. Collection of Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Records on commercial flights occurred on some flights.
On December 4, the parliament adopted a Law on Fighting Religious Extremism. The 15-provision law clarifies the legal bases for identifying and prosecuting cases of religious extremism and fanaticism that lead to terrorism, and links criminal, administrative, and civil responsibilities for violations. At the same time, a new amendment to the Criminal Code was introduced, which triggered harsher punishments for violating procedures for Islamic religious ceremonies, particularly by citizens who received religious education abroad, with up to one year imprisonment or fines from US $600 up to US $3,000. In cases of “religious propaganda” by foreigners and stateless persons, the punishment was newly set at one to two years in prison.
On December 5, the president signed into law new amendments to the Law on Religious Freedom. The new amendments expanded restrictions on the use of religious symbols and slogans, which may only be used inside places of worship.
A new amendment introduced on December 5, 2015, to the Law on Citizenship, first adopted in 1998, specifies new grounds of losing citizenships, including: participating in terrorist actions, participating in religious extremist actions or military trainings abroad under the guise of receiving religious education, proselytizing religious doctrines on grounds of animosity, and participating in religious conflicts in a foreign country under the guise of religious rituals.
Throughout the year, there were reports of terrorist acts being prevented in Azerbaijan. However, it is unclear whether some of these preventative actions were taken against bona fide terrorist threats or were designed to curb the activities of heretofore non-violent independent religious activists. In November, for example, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement that Taleh Bagirov (Bagirzade), a former political prisoner and religious activist, was planning, with his followers, to overthrow the government. The government alleged he had stored ammunition and explosives in the village of Nardaran, about 24 km north of the capital. The Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor General’s Office conducted special operations in the area during which authorities arrested more than a dozen people and claimed to find significant caches of weapons and ammunition. During the operation, five people suspected of violent religious extremism were killed, along with two police officers. Criminal cases were opened against the detained suspects, which were ongoing at the end of 2015. Some democracy and human rights advocates believe the charges were fabricated.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its Financial Monitoring Service is a member of the Egmont Group. Azerbaijan has increased its professionalism in anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) efforts since 2009, when it adopted AML/CFT legislation. This legislation created a financial intelligence unit, the Financial Monitoring Service (FMS), under Azerbaijan’s Central Bank, and imposed requirements on financial institutions to conduct customer due diligence and report suspicious transactions to the FMS. Monetary Institutions operating outside the formal financial sector are often not required to report transactions, which is a vulnerability in the system.
In 2015, in a decree signed by the President regarding terrorism financing, the Cabinet of Ministers was charged with making suggestions for changes to the Civil Procedure Code. Changes may include expanding existing laws for use in the fight against terrorism and the financing of terrorism. The Cabinet was also charged with developing additional regulations to freeze the assets of both physical and legal entities.
To bring Azerbaijan’s legislation into conformity with international standards, including those of the UN, the EU, and the FATF, Azerbaijan continued to implement MONEYVAL recommendations to address AML/CFT issues. The U.S. government has been one of the FMS’ leading partners since its formation, and currently works through Treasury and the FDIC to provide technical assistance and training to the Azerbaijani prosecutors to improve enforcement capabilities. USAID has also supported these efforts.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, together with the Azerbaijan-based Caucasus Muslims Office, took steps to monitor religious sermons in some mosques in order to counter any calls to violence.
International and Regional Cooperation: Azerbaijan remained an active member of the OSCE, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other regional organizations. Azerbaijan also continued to work with NATO on counterterrorism initiatives. In December, Azerbaijan indicated it was considering joining the new Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Coalition Against Terror.
Overview: Belgium’s counterterrorism apparatus was overseen by the Ministries of Interior and Justice. Belgian officials continued to investigate, arrest, and prosecute terrorism suspects and worked closely with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism matters. The Belgian government formed a task force in 2015 focused on countering radicalization and developed a national strategy to address the issue. Major terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016 have further galvanized the Belgian government’s efforts to address counterterrorism shortfalls.
The coalition government, which assumed power in 2014, announced a number of new measures aimed at disrupting the significant number of Belgian foreign terrorist fighters who have traveled to Iraq and Syria. These include strengthening and enforcing legislation that would prohibit traveling abroad to participate in armed groups, and stripping naturalized dual nationals of their Belgian citizenship if they are convicted of violating these or other terrorism laws. Belgian officials announced they intend to more strictly enforce regulations revoking or prohibiting the issuance of passports to suspected foreign terrorist fighters to prohibit travel. Countering violent extremism (CVE) remained a high priority for the Belgian government, at both the national and sub-national levels. Following the January 2015 police raids in Verviers and the participation of several Belgian citizens in the November 13 attacks in Paris, the government established two plans to help combat violent extremism: a 12-point action plan in January and an 18-point action plan in November.
Belgium is an active Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) partner, contributing six F-16 aircraft and 120 support personnel to the Counter ISIL campaign in Iraq. Belgium also contributed approximately 30 military trainers near Baghdad Airport. In 2015, Belgium allocated US $56 million in humanitarian support for Iraq and Syria.
As one of the leading countries of origin for foreign terrorist fighters in Europe, Belgium has focused efforts on identifying, disrupting, and decreasing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. According to the Minister of Interior, 272 individuals have left to fight with ISIL, 80 of those are presumed dead, and 134 have returned to Belgium.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In January 2015, the Belgian federal government announced a 12-item action plan against terrorism. On June 29, the government released a report about the full implementation of the first tranche of the plan which included the creation of a new National Security Council chaired by the Prime Minister, the domestic deployment of the army when the threat level is raised, and the development of better de-radicalization programs in prisons. An additional five points were addressed by legislation passed by the federal parliament in July to strengthen the existing legal framework against foreign fighters. The legislation expanded the list of offenses that can be considered terrorism, made traveling abroad for terrorist purposes a crime, and expanded the ability of security services to use wiretaps to collect information. The new laws also allow the government to temporarily withdraw the identity cards or seize the passports of potential foreign terrorist fighters seeking to travel to Syria or Iraq and to revoke the citizenship of naturalized Belgian citizens convicted of terrorist offenses. The government is in the process of finalizing the remaining four points, which include mechanisms to identify providers of terrorism financing; improving information exchange between security, police and judicial authorities; revision of the Foreign Fighters Circular (concerns information management and monitoring measures for foreign terrorist fighters resident in Belgium); and revision of Belgium’s counter-radicalization strategy.
The government has been working to implement the necessary legislative changes to complete these measures. After the November 13 Paris attacks, the federal government announced an additional set of 18 preventive and counterterrorism measures. Promising additional funds to counterterrorism efforts, and creating a new ad-hoc parliamentary committee, the Belgian government renewed its commitment to European counter-radicalization efforts. This new counterterrorism strategy rests on four pillars: addressing hate speech, minimizing the threat of potentially dangerous individuals, augmenting security services, and encouraging international action. Measures that did not require legislative changes (the reinforcement of police controls at the borders, the deployment of additional troops to reinforce security) were implemented in 2015. The government continued its ongoing efforts to eliminate hate speech, targeting websites that incite hate, expelling hate preachers, and closing unsanctioned radical mosques.
The primary actors in Belgian law enforcement are the Belgian Federal Police and its multiple counterterrorism units, the Civilian and Military Intelligence Services, Office of the Federal Prosecutor, and the Crisis Unit. The inter-ministerial Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis plays a coordinating role, particularly with regard to the foreign terrorist fighter issue. As noted previously, the National Security Council now plays a significant role in the intelligence and security structure.
In 2015, Belgium worked closely with other Schengen zone states and Turkey to improve efforts to share information and interdict prospective foreign fighters traveling to Syria, including increasing border checks aimed at disrupting and decreasing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. All new Belgian passports now contain biometric data. Belgian officials remain concerned that Brussels Airport is used by French, Dutch, and German foreign terrorist fighters to conceal their travel. Belgium has advocated for more systematic screening by partners at Schengen borders.
Following the Paris attacks, the Minister of Interior strengthened the controls at the French border. He also announced the installation of additional Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras throughout Belgium. In August, commenting on the failed attack on a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, Prime Minister Michel claimed that, “we will have to, more and more, seek a new balance between freedom of movement and rights to privacy, but at the same time it will be necessary to accept some constraints.”
Belgian law enforcement and justice authorities have arrested and prosecuted numerous individuals suspected of recruiting fighters to go to Syria and Iraq. On November 19, media reported that federal prosecutors launched 275 terrorist cases in 2015; there were 84 such cases in 2011.
On November 9, prosecutors opened a new terrorism case in the Brussels Court against 15 suspects accused of inciting youth to go fight in Syria. The defendants in the case include Jean-Louis Denis, aka “the submissive,” Mohamed Khemir, Mickael Devredt, and Khalid Zerkani.
On February 11, the Antwerp Court handed down a ruling in the largest counterterrorism court case in Belgian history; the case involved 46 suspects, including 45 members of the now-disbanded extremist Salafist organization Sharia4Belgium. The Court ruled that Sharia4Belgium was indeed a terrorist organization that played an active role in the recruitment of would-be terrorists to fight in Syria and Iraq. Former leader Fouad Belkacem, also known as Abu Imran, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while other leaders in the organization received 15-year sentences. Of the 46 suspects, only eight were present in the court; the remaining were reportedly missing, in Syria, or dead, and were convicted in absentia, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was the ringleader of the November 13 Paris attacks. The 45 Sharia4Belgium members were all found guilty of membership in a terrorist organization and of playing an active role in its terrorist activities; they received sentences ranging from three to 15 years.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Belgium’s financial intelligence unit, the Cellule de Traitement des Informations Financieres (CTIF), is tasked with tracking and investigating reports of financial crimes, including money laundering and terrorism financing, and has broad authorities under Belgian legislation to conduct inquiries and refer criminal cases to federal prosecutors. The unit is a member of the Egmont Group. According to the latest 2015 CTIF annual report (which covers 2014), of the 1,131 financial crimes cases that CTIF referred to prosecutors, 37 (3.27 percent) were connected to possible terrorist and/or proliferation financing, a slight increase from the previous year (2.14 percent). For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, both the Ministry of the Interior and the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM) continued their implementation of new CVE strategies to address the foreign terrorist fighter problem. The number of foreign terrorist fighters leaving Belgium decreased in 2015, but the government remained concerned about and engaged on this issue.
In addition to its ongoing CVE programs, the federal government identified 10 pilot cities facing particular radicalization threats, and funded specific countering violent extremism initiatives. Four of those cities are located in the Brussels Capital Region (Anderlecht, the City of Brussels, Molenbeek, and Schaerbeek), four in Flanders (Antwerp, Maaseik, Mechelen, Vilvoorde), and two in Wallonia (Liege, Verviers). The government originally allocated US $435,000 (later increased to US $ 650,000), to fund these counter-radicalization programs. In November, the government added a one-time US $1,089,055 grant to share between these 10 cities to strengthen their CVE efforts. Also in November, the federal government granted US $462,850 to be spread amongst five cities to fund local CVE efforts; the five cities are Charleroi, Genk, Kortrijk, Menen, and Saint-Gilles (Brussels region). In 2014, the Belgian government also supported a city pair project between Vilvoorde and Columbus, Ohio that is designed to facilitate positive community engagement between the government, the police force, and the Muslim community.
Among the components of the government’s strategy on preventing radicalization is an effort to counter extremist messaging on the internet. The Ministry of Interior is working to increase cooperation with the internet industry in Belgium, working with the big five providers to suppress violent extremist content. The government reiterated its dedication to combating online hate messages in its November counterterrorism measures.
The government’s counter-radicalization strategy includes an interagency effort to support local government actors who work with returnees from Syria to monitor their reintegration into society and provide them with guidance and support. In light of Belgian foreign terrorist fighter involvement in ISIL’s November 13 attack on Paris, the Belgian government has proposed imprisoning Belgian foreign terrorist fighters upon their return to Belgium, prior to implementing rehabilitation efforts.
International and Regional Cooperation: Belgium participates in EU, NATO, OSCE, and Council of Europe counterterrorism efforts, and is a member of the advisory board of the UN Counterterrorism Center. As an EU member state, Belgium has contributed trainers and capacity building expertise to EU counterterrorism assistance programs in Sahel countries, including the Collège Sahélien de Sécurité; and the Belgian Federal Police have provided training to counterparts in the Maghreb. Belgium has participated in GCTF workshops.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Overview: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remained a cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to make progress in increasing its counterterrorism capacity in 2015. BiH law enforcement agencies generally keep close track of foreign terrorist fighter suspects in BiH and carried out several operations against them. BiH’s ministerial-level Joint Terrorism Task Force, tasked with improving coordination between BiH’s many security and police agencies, continued to falter, and there were calls to restore a former operations-level counterterrorism task force that ceased operations three years ago due to funding constraints. Islamist extremist ideology and regional nationalist extremist groups both remained potential sources of violent extremism in BiH.
A significant number of Bosnians have traveled to Syria and Iraq to support ISIL and other terrorist groups. Legal and societal efforts to prevent violent extremism were credited with having reduced the outflow of foreign terrorist fighters compared to previous years. BiH officials and media sources estimate that since 2013, approximately 300 BiH citizens have left for Iraq and Syria to become foreign terrorist fighters. Fifty of these people have returned to the country. BiH sent a representative to the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York on the margins of the 2015 UN General Assembly, during which the Chairman of the BiH Presidency stressed BiH support for full implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: Two terrorism-related incidents occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015. In April, a 24-year-old Bosnian man from the Republika Srpska (RS) attacked a police station in Zvornik, killing one and injuring two police officers. The assailant was killed in a subsequent firefight with the police, who recovered two assault rifles, a pistol, and ammunition. In November, a reportedly radicalized 34-year-old male with a history of drug abuse and petty crime shot and killed two uniformed members of the BiH Armed Forces in a betting parlor in Rajlovac, a suburb of Sarajevo. The attacker then fired his assault rifle at another uniformed solider in a passing bus while fleeing the scene, injuring several more people. He was cornered by police at home soon after, where he committed suicide by detonating a hand grenade. In both instances, the lone offenders were suspected of having been radicalized in the months prior by individuals with known connections to violent Islamist extremists. Police claimed to have found ISIL propaganda in the home of the deceased Rajlovac assailant, including a crudely fashioned ISIL flag.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2015, BiH produced the Balkan region’s first comprehensive Strategy for Preventing and Combating Terrorism (2015-2020). The strategy augments its “foreign terrorist fighter” law passed in July 2014 and discourages BiH citizens from participating in foreign paramilitary groups by imposing both imprisonment and monetary fines. It also places special emphasis on addressing challenges posed by “new dynamics of terrorism and terrorism-related phenomena,” including foreign terrorist fighters, violent extremism and hate speech, and use of the internet for terrorist purposes.
The majority of BiH’s coordination and cooperation problems are caused by overlapping law enforcement jurisdictions. The problems are also the result of personal, political, and institutional rivalries that exist among most police agencies and the BiH Prosecutor’s Office and BiH Court. Many of these rivalries are deeply ingrained and difficult to overcome.
In February, BiH authorities completed the last of three counterterrorism operations initiated in November 2014, which targeted BiH citizens who traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq, and those who supported or aided them in their efforts. As a result of these operations, 34 BiH citizens have been arrested, of which 18 were prosecuted. On November 5, BiH courts convicted and sentenced Bilal Bosnic to seven years in prison for his role in recruiting and funding foreign terrorist fighters. In addition to Bosnic, four other BiH citizens were tried and convicted in 2015 for their roles in either recruiting or facilitating foreign terrorist fighters.
To track traveler entries into BiH, the BiH Border Police (BP) uses a computerized database and software system to support immigration and passenger information collection. The system links all 55 border crossings and all four airport locations (Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo, and Tuzla) via the State Police Information Network (SPIN), a network developed and donated by the Department of State via the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). Both the BP and the Foreigners Affairs Service (FAS) field offices are connected to this system that was first implemented in 2005 and completed in 2012. To address connectivity problems, the Department of State via ICITAP is funding a maintenance program to ensure all field offices are fully operational. SPIN provides the BP and FAS with immediate access to other supporting databases (including INTERPOL) to run appropriate checks and cross-checks. All law enforcement agencies in BiH have the capability to add data into this system.
Separately, ICITAP is working with the FAS to establish a biometrics system that will permit more effective monitoring of individuals entering and leaving BiH. The BiH biometrics program is fully compatible with EU systems.
Embassy Sarajevo’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program is also actively engaged in conducting training courses and equipment donations for BiH Customs and Border Police to address border security. EXBS donated 55 computers and a computer server to BiH Border Police to support ICITAP’s donation of software for the border security database mentioned above. Additionally, EXBS recently donated “Secure Video Link” technology to the BiH, Serbian, and Croatian Customs and Border Police. In the event of a terrorist incident, or other emergency, this electronic networking platform facilitates immediate communication among each agency’s operations centers. BIH participated in multiple regional and bilateral programs aimed at building investigative and prosecutorial capacity to successfully address terrorism-related cases. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program supported BiH participation in a series of border security-related courses aimed at countering foreign terrorist fighter travel.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: BiH belongs to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. In April, MONEYVAL referred Bosnia to the FATF International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) process citing lack of progress rectifying core anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies, including the criminalization of terrorist financing, thereby placing BiH on its “grey list.” ICRG review has accelerated BiH efforts to amend its criminal code according to international AML/CFT standards. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The main religious communities in BiH (Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, and Orthodox) continued to work together through the Interreligious Council to promote tolerance and confront acts of bigotry or violent extremism directed at any of the communities. Among public figures, the leader of the Islamic Community in BiH, Reis Kavazovic, continued to speak out against “misinterpretations of Islam” that lead to violent extremism. On December 4, more than 37 political, religious, and cultural representatives of the Bosniak people attended a meeting with Kavazovic in Sarajevo to condemn violent radicalism and terrorism worldwide. The attendees issued a joint statement calling on Bosniak Muslims to follow “a middle way in Islam” and to confront radical Islamism and terrorism.
International and Regional Cooperation: BiH’s criminal code and related legal framework are generally harmonized with UN and EU counterterrorism standards. The BiH government participated in the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism in September on the margins of the UNGA, and sent representatives to the Regional Summit on Countering Violent Extremism organized by the Department of State in Albania in May.
BiH law enforcement agencies regularly interacted with their U.S. and European counterparts on counterterrorism investigations. INTERPOL has a Sarajevo branch office that has good cooperation with all law enforcement agencies throughout the country, all of which have direct access to INTERPOL’s databases. Regional cooperation amongst professional law enforcement with Croatia and Serbia improved in 2015. BiH participated in a range of counterterrorism and CVE programs sponsored by UN entities and regional organizations, including the OSCE.
Overview: The Government of Bulgaria continued to deport people it considered national security risks, and increased extradition of suspected foreign terrorist fighters from Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government has worked to enhance its terrorism prevention and enforcement tools by criminalizing foreign terrorist fighters, developing a new counterterrorism strategy, enhancing operations of its National Counterterrorism Center, and announcing plans to draft a comprehensive law on measures against terrorism.
The United States and Bulgaria launched a new Bilateral Counterterrorism Working Group to bolster bilateral cooperation. The group members represented different agencies in the Bulgarian government and include the Deputy Minister of Interior, who co-chairs the group, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Counterterrorism Coordinator and representatives of the information services.
Bulgaria is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and has repeatedly responded to requests for assistance, including in March, when the Ministry of Defense provided weapons and munitions to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bulgaria prosecutes terrorism under several general provisions of the Penal Code, which has been amended multiple times since it was first enacted in 1968. In 2015, the National Assembly adopted amendments to the Penal Code that provide for the prosecution of individuals, including foreign terrorist fighters, who support, plan, and facilitate the commission of terrorist acts in Bulgaria and abroad.
The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has operational units responsible for deterring, detecting, and responding to terrorist incidents, including the Specialized Unit for Combating Terrorism, Security Police, and Special Police Forces. The State Agency for National Security (DANS) has intelligence-gathering units responsible for counterterrorism. DANS also houses the National Counterterrorism Center, an interagency coordination body responsible for building a common operating picture of terrorist threats. Specialized law enforcement units are generally well-equipped and supported with relevant training, but the focus has been primarily in Sofia, and they lack resources in other regional centers. As of July, the specialized court for organized crime and its prosecutors’ office received jurisdiction to prosecute and try all terrorist cases in the country. The court personnel do not have expertise in handling these types of cases, however.
After the November terrorist attacks in Paris, Bulgaria tightened its border control rules and screened all travelers at the border crossings. Within the EU, Bulgaria shares Advanced Passenger Information appearing on the biographical data page of passports. Based on bilateral police cooperation agreements, Bulgaria also shares this type of information with non-EU countries for law enforcement purposes on an as-needed basis. Bulgaria was in the process of establishing a Passenger Information Unit (PIU) that will collect and share the data an airline receives from a traveler to book and manage travel. At year’s end, legislation was pending in the National Assembly that would require air carriers to provide data to the PIU. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program supported Bulgarian participation in a series of border security-related courses aimed at addressing foreign terrorist fighter travel.
Law enforcement cooperation between U.S. agencies and their Bulgarian counterparts has been historically strong. However, consecutive structural changes and reorganization of key police units, and the resulting reassignment of personnel and imposition of new rules, slowed joint casework and harmed law enforcement morale.
U.S. government agencies continued to work closely with Bulgarian counterparts through a variety of counterterrorism programs aimed at enhancing Bulgaria’s capacity and capabilities. The Department of State partnered with Bulgaria to implement key programs in the areas of border security, aviation security, and interagency cooperation. In October and December, Bulgarian legal and investigative experts participated in workshops on countering Hizballah’s terrorist and criminal activities.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bulgaria belongs to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Task Force-style regional body. Bulgaria’s Financial Intelligence Directorate (FID) of DANS has primary responsibility for anti-money laundering measures for all reporting entities and is a member of the Egmont Group. The Bulgarian National Bank also has a Special Supervision Directorate to investigate banks for compliance with money laundering and terrorism financing requirements.
The government did not freeze, seize, or forfeit any terrorism-related assets in 2015. However, it did identify some funds as potentially terrorism-related and further investigation is underway.
Bulgaria criminalizes terrorism financing in accordance with international standards. Since there is no publicly available information on terrorist-related assets frozen or seized, it is hard to assess the effectiveness of Bulgaria’s process. Thirty-one reporting entities, including banks, real estate brokers, and financial and exchange houses, are required to file regularly with FID currency transaction reports for all transactions valued at more than US $17,000. There are penalties for non-compliance (administrative sanctions), and enforcement is generally good. Bulgaria requires the collection of Know Your Customer data for wire transfers. All NGOs are obliged to report suspicious transactions.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: On December 30, a new government strategy and action plan on countering radicalization to violence and terrorism were approved by the Council of Ministers. The strategy aims to strengthen existing government counterterrorism efforts by involving all possible agencies and by optimizing interagency coordination. The strategy spells out mechanisms for improved cooperation with civil society, business organizations, local communities, and religious leaders.
The Grand Mufti of Bulgaria issued a statement with the National Council of Religious Communities in Bulgaria condemning the Paris attacks in January and November. The Grand Mufti has been a voice of tolerance and moderation, and has stressed that government efforts must complement community CVE efforts.
According to Bulgaria’s draft action plan on the strategy on countering radicalization and terrorism, the government will have a national program by 2020 for members of violent extremist groups to disengage, de-radicalize, and be rehabilitated.
International and Regional Cooperation: Bulgaria is a member of and active contributor to counterterrorism initiatives at the UN, EU, NATO, Council of Europe, OSCE, and Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
Overview: The Republic of Cyprus collaborated closely with the United States, the EU, and other countries – bilaterally and multilaterally – in international counterterrorism efforts in 2015. Cyprus' counterterrorism partnership with the United States included participation in the Department of State’s Regional Strategic Initiative programs and Department of Justice’s Regional Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training program, which strengthened the government's capacity to counter terrorism.
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided de facto into the Republic of Cyprus government-controlled area, composed of the southern two-thirds of the island, and a northern third, administered by the Turkish Cypriots. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots declared the northern part to be the independent “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).” The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus government does not exercise effective control over the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots. The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus patrols the buffer zone separating the two sides, which is largely open to civilian traffic and remains a significant route for the illicit transit of people, narcotics, and other illicit goods.
The division of the island between the Republic of Cyprus government-controlled area and the northern area administered by the Turkish Cypriots has impeded counterterrorism cooperation between the two communities and between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, which do not have diplomatic relations. Turkish Cypriots lack the legal and institutional framework necessary to counter the financing of terrorism effectively. Despite these limitations, Turkish Cypriots cooperated in pursuing specific counterterrorism objectives.
In 2015, the United States and the Republic of Cyprus finalized arrangements to exchange biographic and biometric information of suspected terrorists with the goal of improving traveler screening and deterring terrorist travel.
Cyprus is a partner in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Republic of Cyprus enacted a National Law on Combating Terrorism in 2010 that incorporates EU Council Framework Decisions. Cypriot authorities continued to develop capabilities under the supervision of the National Counterterrorism Coordinator and a specialized counterterrorist squad in the Cypriot National Police's (CNP) Emergency Response Unit.
In May, the CNP arrested Hussein Bassam Abdallah, a dual Lebanese-Canadian national, after Cypriot authorities found 8.2 tons of liquid ammonium nitrate in the basement of his residence in Larnaca. Abdallah admitted to Cypriot authorities he was a member of Hizballah. The Republic of Cyprus charged Abdallah with five offenses, including participation in a terrorist organization and providing support to a terrorist organization. After pleading guilty to all charges, he was sentenced to six years in prison on June 29. The Abdallah case marked the first time the 2010 counterterrorism law was used to prosecute a terrorism case. A prior Hizballah-related arrest in 2012 was tried under standard criminal laws.
In response to multiple terrorist attacks in Europe, Cyprus enhanced its security cooperation and law enforcement measures. These activities included increased patrols around critical infrastructure and soft targets, strengthened passport control at airports and seaports, and increased security measures and surveillance at border crossing points and along the “Green Line” and Cypriot coast.
Cyprus continued to participate in regional and international workshops on Hizballah, aimed at improving the use of law enforcement tools to counter terrorist threats.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Cyprus’ financial intelligence unit, the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS), is a member of the Egmont Group.
In 2015, Cypriot authorities were currently conducting a national risk assessment on money laundering and terrorism financing, covering the entire anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) system, including charities. This document will build on a set of AML/CFT reforms, focussing on financial sector transparency that Cyprus implemented in 2013-2015 in accordance with its IMF assistance program. In calendar year 2015, Cyprus did not identify or freeze any assets pursuant to relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), including 1373 (2001) or the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and al-Qa’ida sanctions.
Cyprus has implemented the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime and informally tracked individuals and entities listed under U.S. Executive Orders, including E.O. 13224. The Combating of Terrorism Law of 2010 provides a comprehensive legal framework on terrorism including adequate provisions regarding terrorism financing. In particular, Section 8 of the 2010 law criminalizes support and financing to any terrorist group, associated parties, and entities designated by EU and UN authorities. Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs circulates updates of UN and EU lists to competent authorities, including MOKAS, Central Bank of Cyprus, Chief of Police, various ministries, Central Intelligence Service, Cyprus Ports Authority, Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, the Cyprus Bar Association, and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus. However, the December 2015 FATF Terrorist Finance Fact Finding Initiative identified Cyprus for not having legal powers in place to apply targeted financial sanctions pursuant to UNSCR 1373 to EU internals.
The Central Bank of Cyprus is the supervisory authority for the banking sector including cooperative societies, electronic money institutions and payment institutions. Cyprus does not have a significant unregulated informal banking and money transfer system.
Countering Violent Extremism: Cyprus attended the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York and continued its participation in the European Commission’s Radicalization Awareness Network. The government exchanged best practices with partners on addressing terrorists’ internet recruitment efforts. Police and prison officers also received training on countering radicalization to violence by the CNP’s Counterterrorism Office.
International and Regional Cooperation: Members of the CNP’s Counterterrorism Office participate in the Working Group on Terrorism (CWP) at the Council of the EU. Cyprus regularly participates on the Police Working Group on Terrorism, the “Dumas” Working Group, and the European Expert Network on Terrorism, as well as meetings convened under Europol and INTERPOL. Cyprus has contributed to the Council of Europe’s efforts to establish and adopt the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Combating Terrorism, which addresses foreign terrorist fighters within the framework of UNSCR 2178 (2014). Cyprus also participated in regional and international conferences on foreign terrorist fighters and countering Hizballah.
Overview: The Kingdom of Denmark (Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands) devotes significant assets to counterterrorism programs and initiatives to counter violent extremism domestically and abroad. Denmark cooperates closely with the United States, the United Nations (UN), and the EU on specific counterterrorism initiatives, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).
On February 14-15, terrorist attacks on a free speech forum and synagogue in Copenhagen demonstrated that Denmark remains a prominent target for terrorists. The 2005 publication (and reprinting in 2010) of political cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and the country’s continued involvement in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), make Denmark a target for violent Islamist extremists.
According to the Danish Police Intelligence Service (PET), at least 125 Danish citizens and residents have voluntarily left Denmark to fight in Syria and Iraq. A significant number have likely fought on behalf of ISIL and other violent extremist groups. Danish security services monitor individuals who have left and track those who return to Denmark. PET remains concerned that Danish fighters returning to Denmark with terrorist training will seek to radicalize others.
Danish security agencies worked together to counter ISIL’s attempts to recruit foreign terrorist fighters and prevent terrorist attacks in Denmark. Denmark has contributed strike and support aircraft, support personnel, and military trainers to the Counter-ISIL Coalition. Also, Denmark authorized the deployment of further combat support assets and 30 uniformed personnel during 2015.
2015 Terrorist Attacks: On February 14 and 15, 2015, Omar Abdel Hamid opened fire at a public event called “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” which featured debate over images of the Prophet Mohammed. One person was killed and three police officers were wounded. Later, Hamid shot and killed a security guard outside Copenhagen’s Main Synagogue during a bat mitzvah celebration and wounded two police officers at the same site. Hamid was killed a few hours later in a shoot-out with police in the Nørrebro community.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Denmark continued to use its 2006 terrorism legislation that allows enhanced information sharing between Denmark’s two intelligence services, PET and the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS). The legislation also permits official surveillance and wiretapping of terrorist suspects with a valid warrant. Danish security and law enforcement organizations engage in information sharing through the Center for Terror Analysis (CTA), the Danish government’s intelligence fusion center, which merges reporting from PET, DDIS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Danish Emergency Management Agency.
The Danish National Police and the Police Intelligence Service are responsible for the country’s counterterrorism mission. These two divisions of the MOJ coordinate their response with the Ministry of Defense’s (MOD) Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS) and the Danish Commission on Counterterrorism and Foreign Terrorist Fighters.
Denmark’s national police force is organized into 12 districts. During 2015, the government increased its focus on improving police capabilities, particularly their ability to protect Danish citizens. The February 14-15 terrorist attacks in Copenhagen led to the introduction of a new policing bill that increased the funding for the Danish national police force by US $286 million. The bill also reallocated staffing throughout Denmark and increased class sizes at the Danish national police academy.
Denmark instituted heightened border security protocols via document checks for travel to countries outside the Schengen area. Denmark revokes passports, but not citizenship, of individuals found attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq. Individuals who participate in terrorist activities may be stripped of Danish citizenship if the loss of nationality does not render the individual stateless. Denmark possesses biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry and readily shares information within its own government and with other countries, as appropriate. Security forces patrol and control Denmark’s land and maritime borders. Denmark is a member of the Schengen Agreement. However, as a consequence of the ongoing refugee and humanitarian crisis in Europe, in late 2015, officials began discussions on imposing temporary border controls with Germany. There were no passport controls at land borders or airport terminals servicing Schengen area flights in 2015.
Counterterrorism-related law enforcement actions included:
- Omar Abdel Hamid opened fire at public events on February 14-15, and was subsequently killed a few hours later in a shoot-out with police in the Nørrebro community.
- In November, Danish police and the Danish Emergency Management Agency hosted a counterterrorism simulation; 36 government ministries were tested in a real-time crisis management simulation. The exercise focused on the police response to an armed terrorist attack in the capital. The live exercise was conducted to improve police performance and readiness in case of further terrorist attacks.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Denmark is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Its Money Laundering Secretariat is a member of the Egmont Group, and cooperates closely with other Nordic financial intelligence units. Danish authorities can freeze assets within hours or days with a valid court order, however, the confiscation process requires a full trial which may take months to years depending on the appeals process.
The Danish government continued an initiative focused on combating money laundering and terrorism financing in East Africa and Yemen. Denmark continued its efforts to build partnerships that teach anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance techniques to the governments of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Yemen.
Countering Violent Extremism: In January 2015, the Danish Parliament agreed to implement the national CVE action plan, a $10 million program that includes increased funding for prevention efforts, a de-radicalization exit program, mentoring for at-risk youth, and increased monitoring of internet-based messages and propaganda by groups that advocate terrorism or violent extremism. The Danish CVE action plan focuses on early prevention, with a network of trained mentors and youth-to-youth dialogues, as well as preventing online radicalization by educating youth to identify terrorist propaganda on the internet. Denmark has allocated law enforcement resources to monitor the internet for propaganda messaging by groups that espouse terrorism or violent extremism.
The action plan created a national rapid response team to prevent Danish youth from traveling abroad to join armed conflicts. It also funds a new facility that will house a de-radicalization center. The plan expands local officials’ authority to use social services for helping de-radicalized young adults between the age of 18 and 25, a change that is expected to improve cooperation between social workers, law enforcement, schools, and national counterterrorism agencies. Finally, the plan funds training for municipal-level employees on how to spot and counter radicalization.
Following the February 14 and 15 terrorist attacks, the Danish government initiated efforts to prevent radicalization and extremism in the country's prisons (Omar Abdel Hamid, the attacker in the February attacks in Copenhagen, is believed to have become radicalized while serving one of his prison sentences prior to the attack). The reforms allocated additional funds for training of staff on radicalization, and the development of a mentoring program that focused on inmates convicted of terrorism or deemed to be vulnerable to radicalization.
In November, the Danish city of Aarhus hosted the 2015 European Forum for Urban Security. The location was chosen for the city’s exemplary efforts in countering violent extremism and radicalization. The "Aarhus model" focuses on preventing radicalization by working with at-risk citizens to improve their possibilities for inclusion in society helping them to develop better life skills and thus counter the marginalization often experienced by immigrants in Denmark. The conference was broadly attended by security and development experts from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Also in November, Aarhus hosted an international conference entitled “Building Resilience to Radicalization and Violent Extremism,” which attracted more than 300 people from 36 countries. The conference was co-branded as a Strong Cities Network event.
The Danish government launched a new counter-radicalization initiative in 2015, led by the NGO ActionAid Denmark. The initiative trains Jordanian imams to spot and counter radicalization within their communities. The imams are taught strategies to make their community members more resilient against radicalization and to raise awareness of the dangers of radicalization. The Danish government allocated US $54 million in support of this program.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Danish government is committed to working within the UN framework, through the EU, and with other international and regional organizations. Denmark actively participates in the UN, GCTF, EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, NATO, INTERPOL, Europol, the Bern Club, and the EU Counterterrorism Group.
Overview: France confronted serious terrorism threats in 2015, including the mounting challenge of foreign terrorist fighters. France worked closely with the United States on counterterrorism efforts. French government agencies collaborated with their U.S. counterparts to exchange and evaluate terrorist-related information and strove to foster closer regional and international security cooperation. France’s security apparatus and legislation provide broad authorities to security services to prevent terrorist attacks. France’s military leads or participates in counterterrorism operations worldwide, such as Operation Barkhane (headquartered in Chad), with special emphasis on the Francophone countries in the Sahel and their neighbors, most notably Mali.
France experienced multiple attacks in 2015, the most serious being the coordinated November 13 attacks in and around Paris that killed 130 victims and injured 413, according to official accounts. Earlier in the year, the January 7 to 9 attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and the Hyper Cacher (Jewish kosher grocery), and related murder of a policewoman, killed 17 victims.
The Government of France remained on high alert during 2015 for attacks against its interests in France and worldwide, and has taken steps to counter the potential threat posed by its nationals traveling abroad to engage in terrorist activity. The return of French nationals who joined groups fighting in Syria and Iraq is a major and increasing threat. On December 15, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve estimated that 1,800 French citizens or French residents were linked to fighting among violent extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of them, Cazeneuve estimated 600 were in Iraq and Syria, 144 had died, 250 returned to France, more than 500 were preparing to depart, and the remainder were in transit.
France is a leading member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); participates fully in multilateral counterterrorism fora; and has taken decisive domestic action to restrict terrorism financing and to limit the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. France has also conducted Counter ISIL air strikes in Iraq and in Syria, and has provided training and capacity-building assistance to security forces in Iraq. France deployed its lone aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf to conduct Counter ISIL operations air strikes.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: France experienced multiple attacks in 2015:
- On January 7-9, three French attackers killed a total of 17 people in three attacks in and around Paris. On January 7, brothers Saïd and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper. On January 8, Amedy Coulibaly killed a traffic policewoman in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge. On January 9, Coulibaly took hostages at Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris, killing four before being killed by French police. After a nationwide manhunt, French police killed the Kouachi brothers in a standoff in a factory in Dammartin-en-Goële, north of Paris, on January 9.
- On April 19, Algerian student Sid Ahmed Glam, known to French security services for radical views, was plotting to attack a church in Villejuif, a Paris suburb. He shot and wounded himself before executing his plan. Glam is accused of having killed another person around this time.
- On June 26, Frenchman Yassin Salhi beheaded his supervisor in what French prosecutors said was an ISIL-inspired attack at an industrial site in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon. Salhi committed suicide in his prison cell December 22, according to a French deputy prosecutor.
- On August 21, heavily armed Moroccan national Ayoub el-Khazzani opened fire on the carriage of a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris. Passengers on board the train foiled his attack. Two American citizens (one a dual French-American citizen) were seriously injured during the incident.
- On November 13, French and Belgian nationals launched a series of attacks that killed 130 victims in and around Paris. Terrorists working in three coordinated teams attacked the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, and restaurant terraces in four locations in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris. Seven of the attackers died in clashes with police or by detonating suicide vests during the attacks. On November 18, police stormed a safe house in Saint-Denis, killing three, including the alleged attack planner Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen. Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen and brother of November 13 suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam, remained at large at the end of 2015; he was apprehended in March 2016.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: France has a system of non-jury courts for terrorism trials and a broad definition of what is considered a terrorist offense – the so-called “association of wrongdoers” offense – which allows it to cast a wide net and imprison a broad range of suspects. Under French law, foreigners can be deported if they are believed to pose a serious threat to public order. After the November 13 attacks, the French Parliament voted to extend a national state of emergency (including, among other measures, reducing judicial and procedural restraints on arrests and other police actions for counterterrorism purposes).
A law enacted on July 24, 2015, codified and expanded government surveillance measures aimed at terrorism and other criminal offenses. A 2014 law took steps to counter the threat of foreign terrorist fighters with three key objectives: to prevent people from leaving the territory when there are reasons to believe that they intend to engage in illicit terrorist activities abroad; to counter online propaganda by blocking websites advocating terrorism (the law calls that blocking be carried out under judicial supervision to avoid infringement on the freedom of speech); and to criminalize individual preparation of acts of terrorism.
France’s main counterterrorism apparatus is its Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI) tasked with counter-espionage, counterterrorism, and the surveillance of potential threats on French territory, along with economic protection issues including organized crime and corporate espionage.
France has two national security forces: the General Directorate of National Police (DGPN) and the Directorate General of the National Gendarmerie (DGGN), both subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. (The DGGN is part of the Defense Ministry but the Interior Ministry manages its policing functions.) The DGPN is responsible for civil law enforcement and criminal investigations in cities and large towns and is staffed with approximately 150,000 personnel. The DGSI combines law enforcement capabilities with domestic intelligence gathering.
In general, France has advanced law enforcement capacity to combat terrorism and sufficient information sharing at the domestic level. In the aftermath of the November 13 attacks, Interior Minister Cazeneuve renewed French commitments to push for establishment of French and European Passenger Name Record databases for travelers, to facilitate better EU-wide information sharing and Schengen-wide border security, and to combat arms trafficking in the Balkans.
On December 1, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government had foiled or disrupted “five or six” other terrorist attacks during the year: for example, in early June French police disrupted a four-person cell of French individuals with links to Syria plotting to attack military installations in southern France.
On December 15, Interior Minister Cazeneuve said police had carried out 2,700 counterterrorism raids across the country under emergency powers following the November 13 attacks. A total of 334 people were arrested, of whom 287 were placed in custody for questioning. The raids led to the seizure of 431 weapons, including 41 heavy weapons.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: France is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). France also participates as a Cooperating and Supporting Nation (COSUN) to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, and an Observer to the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Task Force, all of which are FATF-style regional bodies. France’s financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group and member of the Anti-Money Laundering Liaison Committee of the Franc Zone.
Following the January 2015 attacks in Paris, the French government announced eight new measures to combat terrorism financing, some of which have since been implemented (a limit on cash payments went into effect on September 1) and others go into effect in early 2016. Some of the measures transpose into French law the Fourth European Directive on Anti-Money Laundering (e.g., tighter regulations on prepaid cards). The objectives of the measures are to improve domestic information sharing, limit the size and availability of anonymous transactions, improve the tracking of suspicious transactions, enhance due diligence checks on certain transactions, and bolster the capacity to freeze assets (e.g., by extending covered assets to include vehicles).
Countering Violent Extremism: The French Council of Ministers promulgated a four-point plan to counter violent extremism and a national action plan on “de-radicalization” in 2014. A national-level appointed official, a prefect, is charged with managing national efforts to counter violent extremism. France considers its integration programs for all French citizens and residents a major tool in countering radicalization and violent extremism. Many of these programs target disenfranchised communities and new immigrants.
The Ministry of Education works to instill "universal values" in all French pupils, regardless of ethnic origin or country of birth. Ministry regulations mandate that all French public schools teach civic education, and that all students attend school until age 16. On January 22, the Education Ministry announced a new effort to improve civic education and integrative efforts in the wake of the January 7-9 terrorist attacks. The government also offers adult vocational training for older immigrants and minorities who have never attended French schools. The Interior Ministry plays a significant role in countering radicalization to violence by increased police presence in disenfranchised areas, neighborhoods, and regions with high criminality and juvenile delinquency rates. The Prime Minister’s office managed an anti-violent extremism counter-messaging campaign. In September, the French and Moroccan governments announced that as many as 50 French imams per year would study the “values of openness and tolerance’ at the King Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat.
The Ministry of Justice implements rehabilitation and reintegration programs for former criminals. Prison radicalization was a major concern and subject of independent and state-sponsored research and reporting in 2015, with many calls to increase the number of Muslim chaplains employed by the French penitentiary system, currently around 195, according to civic leaders.
According to the Interior Ministry, a toll-free hotline implemented in 2014 for families of radicalized citizens has received more than 3,000 calls since its inception.
International and Regional Cooperation: France is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, which is a GCTF-inspired institution devoted to rule of law-based training. Sworn in in 2013, France’s Jean Paul Laborde remained the Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. France played a strong role on the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee.
In an effort to increase its engagement on CVE issues, France provided funding to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, a public-private partnership to provide community-based organizations with grants to implement CVE projects at the local level. In regional organizations, France participated in the drafting of the European Council’s Counterterrorism Strategy action plan, and helped create and implement NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the Lisbon Summit Declaration, both of which include major counterterrorism measures for member states. Through the OSCE, France engaged in new measures to counter transnational threats, including terrorism. France participated in the G-7’s Roma-Lyon Group, and pursued practical projects in counterterrorism and other areas.
The Government of France undertook joint counterterrorism operations with countries including the Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. France also played an active role in both bilateral and EU efforts to support counterterrorism capacity building in other countries.
Overview: In 2015, Georgia, a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), continued its strong engagement with the United States across a range of counterterrorism-related issues and remained a solid U.S. security partner. Following the passage of strengthened counterterrorism legislation in June, the Georgian authorities carried out multiple arrests of individuals on terrorism-related charges, including an alleged ISIL facilitator. In addition, Georgia took steps to improve border security and counter the financing of terrorism. Georgia participated in the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, hosted by President Obama in New York in September.
The Georgian government estimates 50 to 100 Georgian nationals from the Muslim-majority regions of Adjara and the Pankisi Gorge are fighting in Syria and Iraq for either al-Qa’ida affiliates or ISIL. Violent extremists in Georgia increased their use of social media in 2015. In a November 2015 video, Georgians fighting in Syria called on Georgian Muslims to attack “infidels” in their homeland, a shift from previous appeals to either join the fight in Syria and Iraq or attack Russia.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Georgia continued to strengthen its counterterrorism legislation in 2015, and has a substantial legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related offenses. In line with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178, the Georgian government in June changed its Criminal Code and other relevant legislation to criminalize foreign terrorist fighters and the incitement of terrorist acts. These amendments built on the 2014 changes to the Criminal Code that criminalized participation in international terrorism, recruitment for membership in a terrorist organization, and failing to hinder a terrorist incident.
Counterterrorism units within Georgia’s State Security Service (SSG) have the lead in handling terrorism-related incidents, and are generally well equipped and well trained. Overall, the Georgian government is largely capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorism incidents, despite challenges to cooperation, communication, and information sharing posed by the split between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SSG in August.
Georgia has improved its overall border security, in part due to its goal of attaining visa-free travel to the EU. However, Tbilisi’s lack of control over its Russian-occupied territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia limits the country’s ability to secure the administrative boundary lines with its breakaway regions. Georgia has taken steps to strengthen document security, and Georgian law enforcement uses cameras, terrorist watchlists, and Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Records to help detect potential terrorist movement at ports of entry. However, more comprehensive screening and the implementation of standard operating procedures would enhance this capability. With significant U.S. support, the Georgian Coast Guard is better equipped to patrol the country’s maritime borders, with the exception of the Russian-occupied Abkhazia’s coastline. Georgia shares cross-border terrorism-related information with its southern neighbors – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey – through police attachés and working-level interaction at border crossings.
In June, Georgian authorities arrested suspected ISIL facilitator Ayub Borchashvili of the Pankisi Gorge, along with three individuals who were en route to Syria via Turkey. Another Pankisi native, Davit Borchashvili, was arrested in November for fighting with ISIL after returning from Syria. In late November, the SSG arrested four individuals in the Adjara and Guria regions of western Georgia on suspicion of links with ISIL. Weapons, explosive devices, and ISIL flags were found in their homes, according to press reports.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Georgia’s amendments to terrorism financing legislation to address shortcomings highlighted in MONEYVAL’s 2012 evaluation came into force in 2015, and the Georgian government was in the process of implementing an action plan for combating money laundering and terrorism financing to further improve regulations and build capacity. In response to recommendations from MONEYVAL and the FATF, the government established the Interagency Commission on Implementation of UNSC Resolutions to coordinate the government’s immediate compliance with UNSCR 1373 and obligations under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, the Georgian government primarily directed its efforts at youth in the Pankisi Gorge. The Ministry of Education worked with local schools to improve Georgian language instruction, civic education, and science classes; and the Ministry of Sport has improved gym facilities and set up after-school programs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is reviewing international best practices to determine those that Georgia could adopt for implementation.
International and Regional Cooperation: In addition to its close cooperation with the United States, Georgia is engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. The country also participates in regional organizations such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its amending protocol, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and the GUAM (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.
Overview: The threat from violent extremism increased in 2015 in connection with the threat posed by domestic radical groups as well as foreign terrorist fighters. Germany investigated, arrested, and prosecuted a sharply increased number of terrorist suspects and disrupted terrorist-related groups within its borders, many of whom were connected to al-Qa’ida (AQ), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), other violent Islamist extremists, Kurdish nationalists, and neo-Nazi terrorist organizations. Security officials estimated more than 760 residents of Germany have departed the country to participate in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the majority of which joined violent Islamist extremist groups in the fighting there. One hundred are estimated to have died there. A third of the group, roughly 250, has returned to Germany. German officials actively investigated these returnees for any terrorist threat resulting from their experience abroad and possible desire to continue to support violent extremist causes. Bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the United States remained excellent.
Germany is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has provided arms, material support, and training to Kurdish security forces; reconnaissance aircraft, satellite data, and refueling aircraft to support Coalition air operations; and a frigate to defend a French aircraft carrier from which Coalition air operations are launched. Germany implemented UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 and 2199, and obligations under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, through legislative amendments to specifically criminalize terrorism finance and foreign terrorist fighter travel, sharpening previous antiterrorism legislation. Germany is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and supported the GCTF good practices on foreign terrorist fighters. Domestically, the German government has increased enforcement efforts to prevent, interdict, and counter foreign terrorist fighter travel and has voiced support for strengthening EU and Schengen measures to do so. German security officials actively made use of existing provisions allowing them to seize passports of those deemed to pose a security risk and implemented similar legislation for national identification cards. In November, the Bundestag (parliament) approved a 2015 budget that included increased spending on law enforcement and domestic intelligence efforts in counterterrorism, including new counterterrorism police response units and increased investigative, prosecutorial, and analytical resources.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The German government continued to apply its comprehensive counterterrorism legislation, which criminalizes membership in or support for domestic and foreign terrorist organizations. The Criminal Code also makes a range of terrorism-related preparatory actions illegal, such as participating in terrorist training or acquiring weapons or explosives with the intent to commit attacks that endanger the German state. In June, legislation entered into force amending the Criminal Code in two areas to implement UNSCR 2178: (1) Departing (or attempting to do so) from Germany with the intention to commit grave acts of violence abroad or to seek training for such acts is now a criminal offense; and (2) The Criminal Code now contains a new separate section specifically criminalizing terrorism financing.
In October, a man was arrested on suspicion of planning to travel to the Syrian-Turkish border to attend a terrorist training camp. This was the first arrest of its kind under the new revisions to the Criminal Code. An additional new law to allow authorities to revoke the national identification (ID) cards of suspected terrorists entered into force on June 30. The amendments to the national ID card law allow cards to be denied or revoked, and substitute ID documents are issued for a maximum of three years that does not permit foreign travel. In December, a new law entered into force requiring telecommunications providers to retain data for the purpose of investigating terrorism and other serious crimes.
Germany generally does not collect entry/exit data and is working towards systematic border checks of arriving and departing EU citizens. Non-EU citizens are systematically checked. At the end of 2015, all arriving/departing passengers’ passports will be checked manually against the INTERPOL Lost and Stolen Data Base. Biometric data is not screened at entry, although Germany participates in the EU Smart Border entry/exit and biometric data collection pilot. Data on suspected terrorists is shared between federal and state law enforcement agencies. The German passport and other identity documents incorporate strong security features. Collection and retention of Advance Passenger Information for traveler screening is limited and Passenger Name Record (PNR) analysis is not used. Following the approval of a new EU-wide PNR Directive, Germany began development of a PNR system. Concerns over data privacy played a role in limiting German willingness to expand travel analysis systems.
There were numerous arrests, prosecutions, and trials throughout 2015; the Federal Ministry of Justice estimated at year’s end that there were 300 terrorist suspects under active investigation or prosecution. The most prominent cases included:
- In March, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that it had banned the organization “Tawhid Germany” and the associated “Team Tawhid Media” as extremist anti-constitutional organizations. Police and security services in the states of Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Schleswig-Holstein carried out a number of raids and investigative operations on the night of March 25-26 to implement the order.
- Also in March, the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court sentenced Ismail Issa to four years, six months imprisonment for membership in a foreign terrorist organization "Jaish al-Muhajarin wal-Ansar” (JAMWA). Co-defendants Ezzedine Issa (Ismail’s brother) and Mohammad Sobhan A. were sentenced to three years and two years, nine months imprisonment, respectively, for supporting a terrorist group. The court found Ismail Issa guilty of traveling to Syria and participating in combat action in 2013.
- In June, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court sentenced German-Polish dual national Karolina Rafalska to three years and nine months in prison and German Ahmed-Sadiq Munye to one year and nine months parole for providing monetary and material support to ISIL. Rafalska raised a total of US $5,580 to help her husband Fared Saal, a prominent member of ISIL in Syria and a close associate of German-born ISIL fighter Dennis Cuspert. She also sent him video equipment which was used to produce propaganda videos. Munye was sentenced for transferring US $2,400 to Saal.
- In July, the Berlin Superior Court sentenced Fatih I. (28) to three years and six months imprisonment on two counts of supporting a foreign terrorist organization as well as fraud. The court found he was guilty of having defrauded a bank of US $27,350, of which he transferred US $7,650 to Junud Al Sham in Syria and supplied the group with a four-wheel drive vehicle in 2013. In March 2014, he transferred US $41.695 to ISIK, an ISIL-predecessor organization.
- In September, the Berlin Superior Court sentenced German citizen Fatih K. to six years imprisonment for membership in the terrorist group “Junud al-Sham.” The court found him guilty of traveling to Syria for training and preparing propaganda videos. The court found no evidence that he had participated in combat. He had previously been incarcerated for 22 months for membership in the German Taliban Mujahedin.
- In October, the trial against eight violent Islamist extremists accused of stealing US $20,758 in a wave of robberies to finance terrorist groups in Syria began in Cologne. The men were arrested in November 2014 after having been active from 2011 to 2014. The men were believed to have received training with ISIL.
- In October, the Frankfurt Prosecutor’s Office indicted an unnamed 35-year-old Turkish-German citizen for planning a bomb attack on charges of preparing an act of violence, forging documents, and violating weapons and explosives laws. He was arrested in April together with his wife, who has since been released, on suspicion they were plotting to carry out an attack at a large scale public event. The couple had bought three liters of hydrogen-peroxide at a hardware store under false identities on March 30. The man also kept a ready-assembled pipe bomb and other weapons and ammunitions in his basement.
- In December, two returned ISIL fighters Ayoub B. (27) and Ebrahim H. B. (26) were sentenced by the Higher Regional Court of Celle, Lower Saxony, to four years and three months and three years in prison, respectively for membership in a terrorist organization. According to the court, Ayoub and Ebrahim were members of ISIL in Syria between June and August 2014. Ayoub and Ebrahim were able to convince the court that they broke with ISIL, thus receiving a lower sentence. In July 2015, Ebrahim participated in an investigative TV documentary, warning people against joining ISIL.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and is an observer to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism financing, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, all of which are FATF-style regional bodies. Germany’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group. In June, based on improvements reflected in the most recent FATF Mutual Evaluation Follow-Up Report, the FATF removed Germany from the Follow-Up process. German agencies filed 25,054 (compared to 19,095 in 2013) suspicious transaction reports in 2014 (the latest figures available). This was the largest annual increase in suspicious transaction reports since 2002, when Germany’s FIU was created. Agencies designated 323 entities for suspected terrorism financing, a significant decrease as a share of reports. Germany remained a strong advocate of the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
The June amendments to the German Criminal Code implementing UNSCR 2178 also explicitly outlaw terrorism finance in all forms, including the financing of terrorist travel, per the FATF Recommendations.
Countering Violent Extremism: Germany has numerous programs to counter violent extremism at the state and federal levels. The Federal Ministries of Interior and Family Affairs, as well as their state-level counterparts, have formed a working group to ensure coordination and more effective support for efforts to analyze and counter the appeal of violent extremism, which meets regularly to compile and disseminate information and best practices. In November, the Federal Family Ministry increased funding for its “Live Democracy” project, which sponsors a wide range of CVE-related projects at state and local governments as well as via NGOs. Funding from 2015-2018 will total US $54.6 million, of which US $21.8 million is earmarked for CVE projects.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior continued its counter-radicalization assistance center for concerned parents and friends of violent extremists, operated by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, or BAMF). The center was established in January 2012 and has expanded to include a nationwide telephone hotline with clients referred to a region-specific advising partner. In June, the fifth BAMF-funded local anti-radicalization counseling center opened in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia. The center, offering counseling for parents and friends of young people who are feared to be radicalizing, is operated by the organization Hayat, which has been a BAMF implementing partner since the program’s launch in 2012.
The Federal States of Hesse, Bavaria, and Berlin operated state-level counseling and de-radicalization programs implemented by the NGO “Violence Prevention Network,” focused on counseling to families of radicalizing or radicalized individuals and to the individuals themselves. Violence Prevention Network also implemented CVE programs in prisons in these states.
In August, Federal Family Minister Manuela Schwesig and Dilek Kolat, Berlin Senator for Integration, Labor and Women opened a new counseling center “BAHIRA”, a cooperative project of the NGO “Violence Prevention Network,” the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and the DITIB-Sehitlik Turkish-Islam Community in Berlin-Neukölln. The center is located at the Sehitlik mosque and aims to carry out events in the mosque to sensitize community members on the issue of violent Islamist extremism, and training employees and community members on how to deal with radicalized persons.
In July, a new de-radicalization program for religious extremism began in Hamburg. The program plans to confront religiously motivated extremism and Salafism in Hamburg, and is aimed at teenagers and young adults who are already religiously radicalized or who may be undergoing radicalization. The Hamburg project is part of a broader, multi-authority initiative to fight the spread of religious extremism in Germany. The Hamburg Ministry for Social Affairs will provide up to US $ 328,000 per year through the end of May 2017.
International and Regional Cooperation: Germany is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), supported GCTF capacity-building projects, and continued to participate in various multilateral counterterrorism initiatives. German cooperation with regional and international organizations on counterterrorism includes the UN and UN Security Council, EU, OECD, OSCE, NATO, Council of Europe, G-7, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and INTERPOL. Germany is a founding member of the GCTF-inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law. Germany advocated strongly within the EU for improved counterterrorism and border security efforts. During its G-7 Presidency in 2015, Germany supported coordinated counterterrorism efforts through the Roma-Lyon Group and at the Foreign Ministerial and Leaders’ Summit, with a particular focus on the foreign terrorist fighter problem.
Overview: In 2015, Greece experienced intermittent small-scale attacks such as targeted package bombs or IED detonations by domestic anarchist groups, although slightly fewer than in 2014. Generally, these attacks did not appear aimed to inflict bodily harm but rather sought to make a political statement. Greek government cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism remained strong. Senior Greek government leaders have emphasized that counterterrorism is one of their top priorities. The MFA quickly condemned foreign acts of terrorism, has strongly condemned the actions of ISIL as abhorrent, and has called on all states to actively and effectively confront this threat. Greece is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and is implementing UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178, 2199, and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: Greece’s two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, experienced occasional, relatively small-scale anarchist attacks that used inexpensive and unsophisticated incendiary devices against the properties of political figures, party offices, private bank ATMs, ministries and tax offices, and privately-owned vehicles.
On October 26, Hellenic Police charged five members of the right-wing group “Epsilon – Greek Fighters’ Faction” with planting IEDs outside the Bank of Greece in Kalamata and at the statue of Byzantine Emperor Constantine Palaiologos in Mystras on October 23. The suspects reportedly told police that they believe in Zeus and are against Christianity.
On November 24, a three-kilogram gelatin dynamite IED exploded outside the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises’ (SEV) downtown Athens headquarters, situated approximately three blocks from the Greek Parliament in the heart of the popular tourist area of Syntagma Square, and across the street from the Cypriot embassy, which sustained significant damage. Media reported that SEV has been targeted multiple times since 1976, as some in the anarchist community view it as a symbol of globalization. Advance warning was given and there were no injuries.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Article 187A of the Greek Penal Code codifies the terrorism statute. In addition, Article 28 (1) of the Greek Constitution subjects Greek citizens to applicable international laws, to include those related to terrorism. Article 28 (2) and (3) subjects Greek citizens to applicable EU Laws, including the EU law against terrorism. The Police Directorate for Countering Special Violent Crimes (DAEEV) is responsible for counterterrorism in Greece. DAEEV attracts highly motivated and educated young police officers. This unit has demonstrated a high capacity to collect information, but it lacks capacity to use the volume of data it collects and to share with other services within the Greek police and Coast Guard.
Greece’s national ID card is extremely vulnerable to alteration and photo substitution, and it has not incorporated any new security features such as digitized photo and biometrics. To mitigate this vulnerability, police authorities instituted a system for conducting electronic checks of civil registry databases to confirm documents submitted as part of the application for ID issuance, and checks of national ID databases for passport issuance. The government has further committed to address this vulnerability through the eventual introduction of a biometric national ID.
Christodoulos Xiros, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and hit-man for the radical leftist group Revolutionary Organization 17 November, was recaptured in January 2015 after he disappeared in January 2014 while on furlough from prison. Hellenic Police uncovered evidence at the time of his arrest that he was plotting an attack on Korydallos Prison to release imprisoned members of terrorist group Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei. Xiros was put on trial on November 16 along with 27 other individuals, many of whom are alleged or known members of Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei.
Nikolaos Maziotis, a lead member of the terrorist organization Revolutionary Struggle, was put on trial October 16, 2015 for terrorist acts committed before his recapture in July 2014. In May, Hellenic Police arrested Spyros Christodoulou and Grigoris Tsironis, known associates of Maziotis. Georgios Petrakakos, another known associate of Maziotis, was arrested in late September and charged with membership in a terrorist organization. At the time of Petrakakos’ arrest, police discovered weapons and evidence of kidnapping plots.
While the Hellenic Police DAEEV directorate arrested 16 suspected members of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), including senior leader Hussein Tekin, in two raids in summer 2013 and February 2014, 13 of the suspects were tried in January 2015. Charges were dropped against two of the suspects while 11 were given prison sentences ranging from three to seven years. Six of the 11 sentences were commuted to monetary fines.
The porous nature of Greece’s borders remained of serious concern. To help address vulnerabilities, in June, the Hellenic Coast Guard, with U.S. support, sponsored a regional conference on Transnational Maritime Security Threats to enhance capabilities and coordination between maritime security organizations across the Mediterranean through an exchange of best practices. More than 70 participants from 15 countries around the Mediterranean and the Balkans attended. This was followed by a senior-level seminar in September that the U.S. Embassy in Athens helped coordinate at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center in Crete. The three-day executive seminar included more than 60 maritime law enforcement, defense, and other security service officials, as well as representatives and experts from more than 17 countries and organizations.
Also in September, more than 60 law enforcement officials from DHS and the Hellenic Customs Authority (HCA) participated in a program to enhance HCA's border interdictions and anti-smuggling investigations. Training included instruction on developing successful investigations against transnational criminal organizations that play key roles in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and human smuggling, all potentially supporting terrorism. In November, the Department of State supported a DHS-led Maritime and Land Border Security Training for operational units from the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard designed to improve interdiction and investigative measures to enhance counterterrorism operations.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Greece is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, and its financial intelligence unit, the Hellenic Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Commission (HAMLC), is a member of the Egmont Group. The Foreign Ministry’s Sanctions Monitoring Unit is tasked with ensuring that Greece meets its commitments to enforce international sanctions, including terrorism-related sanctions. The HAMLC, which is essentially an autonomous institution, although nominally under the oversight of the Ministry of Finance, inspected 5,198 suspicious transactions through November 11, 2015, but did not report evidence of terrorism financing in Greece.
Terrorist assets remain frozen until the completion of judicial proceedings when a court decision is rendered. Non-profit organizations are not obliged to file suspicious transaction reports. However, all banks – through which these organizations conduct transactions – are legally obliged to report suspicious transactions of any kind, regardless of the type of entity (for- or not-for-profit), and the government may directly monitor such entities if necessary.
Countering Violent Extremism: Greek Foreign Minister Kotzias has steadily and publicly voiced support for countering ISIL and condemned its actions. Greece is sensitive to the dangers of radicalization and engages regional partners on the matter. In October, Kotzias hosted a widely-attended International Conference in Athens on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East.”
International and Regional Cooperation: Greece engaged constructively on counterterrorism initiatives in international fora and regularly participated in regional information exchange and seminars through such bodies as the UN, the EU, the OSCE, the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center for Combating Trans-Border Crime, and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Greece participated in international and regional trainings geared to bolster criminal justice efforts to prevent and respond to terrorism. For example, Greece hosted a week-long training conducted by OSCE that was centered on several of the criminal justice good practices contained in the GCTF’s Rabat Memorandum Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism in the Criminal Justice Sector.
Overview: The United States and Ireland worked reasonably well in bilateral and regional counterterrorism, law enforcement, and information sharing efforts. An Garda Síochána (the local and national police service of Ireland, referred to as Garda in this report) has comprehensive law enforcement, immigration, investigative, intelligence, and counterterrorism responsibilities.
In 2015, there were incidents carried out in Ireland by dissident republican groups (sometimes referred to as criminal terrorist groups by the Irish Department of Justice). Some violent actions committed in neighboring Northern Ireland by members of dissident groups were traced back to support provided by persons living in Ireland. Attacks were often directed at Northern Ireland’s law enforcement personnel and security structures to disrupt ongoing post-peace process community rehabilitation efforts. Irish authorities worked to address these legacy issues stemming from “The Troubles,” and were actively involved in dealing with transnational terrorism issues. The targets for other attacks by dissident republican groups in Ireland have been other republican factions, and the incidents often involved organized criminal activity.
Major Garda successes in disrupting the activities of such groups and infighting between dissident factions appeared to have lessened the threat of terrorism. In 2015, the Irish government committed with the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive to reinforce efforts to tackle organized crime associated with the legacy of para-militarism. A Joint Agency Task Force was established in December to identify strategic priorities for combating cross-border organized crime and to oversee operational law enforcement coordination, after a trilateral cross-border Ministerial meeting between the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and counterparts in the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
Ireland is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Enacted June 1, 2015, the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offenses) (Amendment) Act 2015 created three new offenses relating to preparatory terrorist activities: public provocation to commit a terrorist offense, recruitment for terrorism, and training for terrorism. The bill transposed into Irish law an EU Council Framework Decision on counterterrorism. The Act specifically recognizes that terrorist-linked activities may be committed by electronic means. The new offenses would carry sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction.
Law enforcement units have effectively demonstrated their capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. The Garda Special Branch provides specialized law enforcement capability and has primary responsibility for counterterrorism response, with the military performing specific functions when requested by the civil authorities. The Irish Defense Ministry launched the 2015 “White Paper on Defence” in August outlining Ireland’s defense policy framework for the next decade, aimed at addressing increased security challenges. It featured a streamlined response to terrorism with the Government Taskforce on Emergency Planning reviewing terrorism threat assessments received from Garda. In October, the Minister for Justice announced plans to establish a second Special Criminal Court (SCC) with seven judges to try terrorist and criminal gang offenses.
In 2004, the Irish government established a second non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC); nearly 11 years later, in October 2015, the government appointed seven serving judges to its bench. Through those appointments, the second SCC officially came into existence. [Irish law provides for a non-jury SCC when the director of public prosecutions certifies a case to be beyond the capabilities of an ordinary court. The Irish Council on Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, and the UN Human Rights Committee have expressed concern that, inter alia, SCCs use a lowered evidence admissibility standard.]
While no significant terrorist attacks occurred in 2015, the bomb squad mobilized 141 times due to possible IED incidents, 40 of which involved viable IEDs that Irish Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians rendered safe. The list below details terrorism-related law enforcement actions reported in the public domain.
- In March, police found firearms, ammunition, and IEDs while investigating dissident republican activity in Ireland. Police made the discovery during a planned search in County Louth. In a similar operation in the Raskeagh and Kilcurry area, close to the border with Northern Ireland, police found firearms and firearm components that were stored underground.
- In May, Army EOD technicians rendered safe four IEDs during a major investigation into dissident republican activity. Police conducted a total of 20 searches throughout Counties Dublin, Louth, and Wexford, arresting six men and seizing pipe bombs, explosives, a firearm, and ammunition. In County Louth, EOD technicians conducted a controlled detonation. In County Wexford, EOD technicians rendered safe component parts of bomb-making equipment. Separately, in County Leitrim, EOD technicians rendered safe two viable IEDs. Beyond that, police found a suspicious device while conducting a vehicle search.
- In June, Garda in County Longford arrested four men they suspected of dissident republican activity after suspicious activity and the discovery of a suspect explosive device. The Army Bomb Disposal Team attended the scene and rendered the device safe.
Ireland worked closely with the UK on border security, including sharing biographic and biometric information. The Irish Naturalization and Immigration Services recently commenced a six-month trial of automated border control gates for some flights at Dublin Airport. These electronic gates allow certain categories of arriving passengers holding a passport with an electronic chip, which contains the holder’s facial image, to clear immigration controls through electronic self-service means. The trial results will be evaluated before determining whether the method provides a more secure and efficient means to clear immigration controls. The Government of Ireland was active in highlighting the need for the sharing of Passenger Name Records on flights in the EU.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Ireland is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and its financial intelligence unit, the Bureau of Fraud Investigation, is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2014, the Criminal Justice Act 2013 (CJA) went into effect, amending the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorism financing) Act 2010 by providing for the cessation of mobile communications services where necessary for the aversion of terrorist threats. Additionally, the CJA consolidated all of Ireland’s existing anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws. Ireland has yet to transpose the fourth EU Money Laundering Directive into Irish law.
Law enforcement authorities monitor non-profit organizations for purposes of monitoring breaches of criminal law, but Ireland has yet to fully implement the Charities Act of 2009, which regulates the activities of charities and non-profit organizations in Ireland.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Ireland’s efforts to counter violent extremism focused on integrating minority groups into Irish society. These measures included providing social benefits, language training, health care, and the proactive advocacy work of an Ombudsman’s office in the affairs of immigrants. The Garda Racial Intercultural and Diversity Office coordinates, monitors, and advises on all aspects of policing in the area of ethnic and cultural diversity with a view towards building trust with communities. Through this office, police officers are provided with special training to assist at-risk populations.
The Irish government pursued its CVE strategy primarily through the Ethnic Liaison Officer program of the Garda. These officers liaise with representatives of the various minority communities in an area, and establish communication links with each of these communities. They support integration by involving members of ethnic minority communities in Garda and community social events.
International and Regional Cooperation: Ireland works closely with the UK in securing the Common Travel Area (CTA). The introduction of the British-Irish visa required the sharing of biometric and other information. The net result was a more integrated system for checking travelers. Ireland actively participates in a range of meetings and actions at the EU to address counterterrorism. In addition to counterterrorism capacity building overseas, Ireland also cooperated on counterterrorism efforts with Northern Ireland.
Overview: Italy aggressively investigated terrorist suspects, dismantled suspected terrorist-related cells within its borders, and maintained a high level of professional cooperation with U.S. and international partners in all areas, including Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) efforts. Terrorist and criminal activity by domestic anarchists and other violent extremists remained a threat.
On February 20, Italy adopted new counterterrorism legislation, implementing its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178 to identify, decrease, and disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. The law criminalized participation in a conflict in a foreign territory in support of a terrorist organization, and allows the government to seize suspects’ passports. The law also gave the government the authority to instruct internet service providers to block access to websites identified by authorities as being used for terrorist recruitment activities, increased government authority to collect personal data related to the perpetration of terrorist crimes, and extended the scope of power of the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor – renamed the National Anti-Mafia and Corruption Prosecutor – to also pursue anti-terrorism prosecutions.
Italy has remained a leading partner in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, contributing to coalition military support, humanitarian assistance to the crises in Iraq and Syria, continuous official statements and engagement with foreign leaders – including Middle East partners – in support of the coalition, and enhanced efforts to identify, decrease, and disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Italy leads the Iraqi police training mission within the Counter ISIL Coalition and co-leads, with UAE, the Coalition Finance Working Group. Italy is the leading non-U.S. Counter ISIL troop contributor of trainers and advisors on the ground inside Iraq, and leads the international effort to train Iraqi police.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Italian government continued to make use of reinforced counterterrorism legislation enacted in 2005 that facilitates detention of suspects, mandates arrest for crimes involving terrorism, and expedites procedures for expelling persons suspected of terrorist activities. On February 20, new legislation came into force that amended the Criminal Code with respect to fighting terrorism. On April 17, Parliament subsequently upheld the law, officially known as, Decree Law No. 7 of February 18, 2015, “Urgent Measures for the Fight against Terrorism, Including International Terrorism.”
The new law’s purposes are described in its preamble, which notes the urgency, in light of recent incidents abroad, to improve the existing legislative and regulatory instruments available to the Italian police and armed forces for anticipating, preventing, and combating acts of terrorism. It states that a key aspect of the new legislation is strengthening police surveillance powers and the handling of personal data.
Persons recruited by others to commit acts of terrorism are subject to an increased prison term of a minimum of three and a maximum of six years upon conviction. The legislation punishes those who organize, finance, or promote travel for the purpose of performing acts of terrorism. It also imposes punishment on lone offenders – persons found guilty of training themselves in terrorist methods on their own and carrying out terrorist acts. Penalties are increased when the acts are performed through digital or telecommunications instruments. The law punishes those who, without legal authority, introduce or provide within the national territory substances or mixtures that serve as precursors of explosives. The failure to provide notice to the authorities about the theft or disappearance of such substances or mixtures is also punishable. The bill also authorized the government to make members of the Italian armed forces qualify as agents of public security to enable them to exercise preventative police functions in connection with acts of terrorism.
The law makes it a crime to take part in a conflict in a foreign territory in support of a terrorist organization, implementing in part UNSCR 2178. During criminal proceedings, prosecuting authorities are now granted the power to temporarily withdraw suspects’ passports. Such action must be communicated immediately to the General Attorney of the Republic, who must obtain validation of the measure by the president of the provincial court in the jurisdiction where the accused resides. The law also authorizes the President of the Council of Ministers, through the General Director of the Department for Security Information, to permit the directors of Italian security agencies to interview detainees for the sole purpose of acquiring information to prevent terrorist crimes of an international character.
The Ministry of the Interior is empowered under the law to maintain a list of websites that are used for terrorist recruiting activities; authorities may instruct internet service providers to immediately block access to such websites identified by the authorities. The new legislation amends the current Code for the Protection of Personal Data by extending the scope of police powers to gather personal data that is directly related to preventing the perpetration of terrorist crimes.
Italy’s long history of combating both organized crime and radicalized ideological movements has given it a strong legacy in fighting internal threats to security, and authorities are leveraging those capabilities to combat terrorist recruitment, radicalization, and networking. The Police, ROS Carabinieri (gendarmerie), Guardia di Finanza, other specialized law enforcement agencies, and the intelligence services coordinate their counterterrorism efforts and meet on a regular and systematic basis. The Ministry of Interior has the authority to swiftly expel non-citizens for “seriously disturbing public order, endangering national security, or religious discrimination,” even if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute the individual. The Government of Italy used this authority more than 60 times in 2015.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) continued to implement a Memorandum of Cooperation with the United States, allowing the Transportation Security Administration to conduct aviation security assessments at Italian commercial airports.
EU data privacy concerns prevented the United States and Italy from sharing biometric data, though Italy strongly supports the passage of an EU Passenger Name Records Directive that includes sharing data for internal EU flights.
Significant law enforcement actions included:
- On March 18, Carabinieri arrested a Pakistani, Ahmed Riaz, accused of having ties with terrorist networks in Brescia. The Minister of Interior ordered Riaz to be expelled, which followed the Interior Ministry’s previous expulsion order against Riaz in February due to a Carabinieri request.
- On March 27, Abdel Mounime Halda, a 33-year-old Moroccan citizen, resident in Italy, who was an Imam in Capannori, a small town near Lucca, was expelled for using radical and contemptuous speech against the West in his sermons at a local prayer center. Although the Imam’s home was searched, and nothing deemed relevant to any ongoing investigation was found, the Interior Ministry maintained that the Imam constituted a threat to the security of the state.
- On April 4, Khalid Smina, a Moroccan citizen resident in Imola, in the province of Bologna, was expelled from Italy on charges of having allegedly joined the network of Jarraya Khalil, a Tunisian national arrested in 2008 in Bologna for affiliation with Islamic terrorist networks.
- On April 21, Yahar Ahmed, a 27-year-old Pakistani resident in Prato, was expelled from Italy. He worked as a porter for a shipping company in Calenzano, in the Florence area. The expulsion order referred to suspicious activities and having acquaintances linked to Islamic terrorism.
- On April 22, police detained Noussair Louati, a Tunisian national living in Ravenna, who had been under investigation. Louati planned to move to Syria after a first failed attempt to reach the Middle East to join ISIL. Louati also posted messages in favor of jihad on his Facebook profile and claimed that he had been thrown out of a Milan mosque by the local Imam because he asked him for help in obtaining a flight ticket to reach Syria and join ISIL.
- On April 30, the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction of Alfredo Cospito and Nicola Gai for the 2012 domestic terrorist attack against Roberto Adinolfi, chief executive officer of the nuclear engineering company, Ansaldo, who had been knee-capped. The sentences were reduced, respectively, to nine years, five months, and 10 days and eight years, six months, and 20 days in prison. The Informal Anarchist Federation (IAF) claimed responsibility for the incident.
- On October 4, Italian authorities caught Ben Nasr Mehdi, a Tunisian who was first arrested in Italy in 2007 and sentenced to seven years in prison for plotting terrorist attacks with an Islamic State-linked group, trying to re-enter the country in Sicily (Lampedusa) on a migrant vessel. He was expelled from Italy 10 days later. He was identified by a biometric match after he filed for refugee status using a false identity.
- On October 8, the Court of Cassation confirmed the conviction of an Egyptian, Abu Omar, in absentia to six years in prison for international terrorism. Abu Omar was Imam of a Milan mosque in 2000 when he established a terrorist organization with the aim to conduct terrorist attacks in Italy and abroad.
- On October 27, a Bari Court of Appeal sentenced Hosni Hachemi Ben Hassem, former imam of Andria, along with Faez Elkhaldey, Ifauoi Nour, Khairredine Romdhane, Ben Chedli, and Chamari Hamdi to prison terms of between five years, two months and two years, eight months for having founded a subversive association supporting Islamic international terrorism.
- On November 16, Milan prosecutors requested the indictment of 11 persons charged with international terrorism and the organization of travel to join fighters abroad. Among them there was an Italian woman, Maria Giulia Sergio, who moved to Syria; her Albanian husband, Aldo Said Kobuzi; her parents, Sergio and Assunta Buonfiglio; her sister, Marianna Sergio; her mother in law, Donika Coku; and two uncles of her husband. Investigators believe that she received training to conduct suicide attacks.
- On November 23, the Ministry of Interior expelled four Moroccans, long-term residents of Bologna suspected of promoting jihadism. They had been found sharing messages and files regarding the training of foreign terrorist fighters, radical ideology, and use of weapons.
- On November 24, authorities announced the expulsion of a Tunisian man living in Brianza. The man was wiretapped expressing hatred against the West and possibly intended to carry out a terrorist attack.
- On December 1, police disrupted a cell of terrorists from Kosovo in Brescia, arresting three of them in Lombardy (a fourth was arrested in Kosovo). The group had posted photos of themselves with weapons and videos containing terrorist propaganda and threats against the Pope.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a FATF-style regional body (FSRB). Italy also holds observer status within the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, an FSRB. Italy’s financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Italy also implemented the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime in 2015.
Decree Law No. 7 of February 18, 2015, discussed above, provides for a sentence of five to eight years for those found guilty of organizing, financing, or advocating travel abroad for the purposes of carrying out terrorist acts. It also seeks to ensure greater communication on such cases between financial institutions, law enforcement, and the judicial system. The Italian judiciary and financial police (Guardia di Finanza) continued to identify and freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals and organizations and to prosecute terrorism financing cases. In addition, Italy carried out several counterterrorism operations and prevented international money transfers to terrorist groups. Italy co-leads, with the United States and Saudi Arabia, the Counter-ISIL Coalition Finance Working Group. Judicial and law enforcement efforts to combat terrorism financing include monitoring financial transactions (including financial services companies specializing in wire transfers), bank transfers, pre-paid electronic cards, payments on fraudulent invoices, and cash-in-transit. In the first three quarters of 2015, a total of 74 suspicious transaction reports (STRs) were filed due to concerns that the funds would be used to finance terrorism (compared to 93 STRs for all of 2014). In 2015, Italy was among the first countries to undergo a mutual evaluation of the level of effectiveness of its AML/CFT system and its level of compliance with the FATF Recommendations. This evaluation was conducted by the IMF and had not been published by the end of 2015.
Italy does not require that non-profit organizations send suspicious transaction reports. However, reporting entities are required to consider the specific money laundering and terrorism financing risks when entering in a relationship or carrying out transactions that involve non-profit organizations.
The Italian financial intelligence unit at the Bank of Italy publishes the UN, EU, and OFAC designations lists and any subsequent amendments on its website.
Countering Violent Extremism: Italy has a long history of countering organized crime and radical ideological movements. Italy’s toolkit includes an anti-radicalization program in its prison system. The Ministry of Justice reported the establishment of informal places of worship in 52 prisons where approximately 190 imams were active. Monitoring of detainees at risk of radicalization was enhanced after the November 13 Paris attacks. Twenty cultural mediators and 60 volunteers conducted de-radicalization initiatives within prisons.
To the extent domestic recruitment of violent Islamist extremists occurred, it appeared largely concentrated in the more industrialized North and Tuscany, though there were unconfirmed media reports of some alleged foreign terrorist fighters emerging from Rome and Naples. The government has sought to address this vulnerability with its recent announcement that every euro of increased defense spending to protect Italy from terrorism would be matched by a euro of “cultural” spending, primarily focused on improving education and social conditions in underdeveloped areas and peripheral neighborhoods.
The government has been a committed participant in the White House Initiative to Combat Violent Extremism, which included hosting a CVE senior officials’ meeting in Rome in July.
International and Regional Cooperation: Italy is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and actively participates in the GCTF’s work. It is also a founding member of the Institute for International Justice and the Rule of Law and is a member of its governing board. Italy supported counterterrorism efforts through the G-7 Roma-Lyon Group, the OSCE, NATO, the UN, the Council of Europe, and the EU. As noted, Italy supports the swift passage of the EU Passenger Name Record Directive. Italy also promoted EUROPOL as a venue for EU-level coordination of law enforcement and intelligence cooperation across national borders. Italy is particularly active in international efforts to prevent and to condemn the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria by ISIL, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects.
Overview: The threat of violent Islamist extremism has been slowly growing in Kosovo since its 1999 conflict, assisted in part by funding from foreign organizations that preach extremist ideologies. Approximately 250 to 300 foreign terrorist fighters from Kosovo have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or al-Nusrah Front, of which approximately 50 have been killed. Violent extremist groups actively used social media to spread propaganda and recruit followers. No terrorist incidents took place inside Kosovo in 2015, although police have arrested suspects for planning such attacks. In September, the Government of Kosovo approved a comprehensive strategy and action plan for countering violent extremism (CVE). The CVE strategy and action plan provide a five-year roadmap for stemming the growing threat of violent extremism through a whole-of-government approach, emphasizing the critical role of local stakeholders and civil society. While relevant governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders have expressed the willingness and commitment to implement their respective action items, lack of capacity and sufficient budget remained challenges. CVE funding made available through Kosovo’s recent designation as a pilot country for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) could significantly bolster the government’s capacity to implement its CVE action plan, but the process will require close U.S. engagement to ensure the government meets the strict deadlines and standards required to maximize its allotment of available GCERF funds. The Kosovo Police (KP) Counterterrorism Directorate is enhancing its investigative capacities by increasing personnel and developing a cyber-counterterrorism unit.
The Kosovo government continued counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. The United States has mentored and assisted law enforcement and judicial institutions on active counterterrorism cases. Through the Export Control and Related Border Security program (EXBS), International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training program (OPDAT), and Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), the United States has provided training opportunities on various aspects of counterterrorism and CVE.
Because the security and political situation in northern Kosovo continued to limit the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that region, the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) and EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) worked with the KP to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders. Kosovo’s ability to exercise its authority in the north has improved since the signing of the 2013 Brussels Agreement to normalize relations with Serbia, but the two countries have yet to fully implement the agreement. Although Kosovo and neighboring Serbia do not usually cooperate on counterterrorism issues, the governments have had an Integrated Border Management (IBM) plan since 2013 and have participated in joint U.S.-sponsored training.
Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has taken steps to support the various lines of effort within the limits of its capabilities. It has primarily focused on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as tracking and restricting financing for terrorist groups. Kosovo is not a member of the UN; however, the Government of Kosovo has pledged to implement UNSCRs 2170 and 2178 unilaterally.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: The KP arrested five Kosovo-Albanians on July 11 for attempting to poison Pristina’s primary water source, Lake Badovc. Police arrested three of the men after officers patrolling the reservoir spotted them behaving suspiciously at the banks of the lake. The KP subsequently arrested two additional suspects. Two of the suspects had fought for ISIL in Syria. All five were charged with terrorism offenses.\
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is sufficient to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or supporting terrorist activities, but prosecutors lack experience in trying such cases. Kosovo officials recognize the need to improve interagency cooperation.
Kosovo has a comprehensive legal framework that covers all criminal aspects related to terrorism. The Criminal Code of Kosovo preserves the UN model on counterterrorism criminal legislation and criminalizes all forms of terrorism, including commission, assistance, facilitation, recruitment, training, and incitement to commit terrorism. It also criminalizes concealment or failure to report terrorists or terrorist groups, organization and participation in terrorist groups, and preparation of terrorist offenses against the constitutional order and the security of the state of Kosovo. It defines a terrorist group as a structured group of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorism. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code provides authorities with all the necessary powers to investigate and prosecute such cases, including sanctioning the use of covert measures such as wiretapping, undercover agents, disclosure of financial data, and interception of computer communications. It further gives authorities flexibility to investigate criminal activity during the planning stage to prevent crimes and terrorist acts. The Procedural Code also allows Kosovo courts to admit evidence from other countries, thus allowing prosecution of international terrorism in Kosovo. This framework provides the relevant authorities with the tools necessary to fight any form of terrorism. Kosovo law also criminalizes joining a foreign army, police, or paramilitary formation in armed conflicts outside the territory of Kosovo and related propaganda. A conviction on these charges carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment.
The Kosovo Assembly adopted the Law on the Prohibition on Joining Foreign Conflicts March 12, and it became effective April 18. No arrests had been made under the statute at year’s end.
Authorities were inexperienced in dealing with terrorism cases, and communications and information sharing across agencies remained a challenge. The KP Counterterrorism Directorate, which is responsible for counterterrorism investigations, has resource constraints that inhibit its ability to track suspects. The law provides the Special Prosecution Office (SPRK), which is composed of local and international staff, with exclusive jurisdiction over terrorism cases. Prosecutors have made considerable improvements in the past year in dealing with terrorism-related cases.
The Department of State supported programs with the Department of Justice to mentor Kosovo law enforcement and prosecutors. Kosovo is a member of the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Centre (RACVIAC), a South Eastern European organization that focuses on security-related issues, including terrorism. Representatives from Kosovo attended training activities and conferences on counterterrorism-related topics sponsored by the EU and the United States.
Kosovo has issued biometric travel and identity documents since 2013. All major border crossing points, including Pristina International Airport, are equipped with computerized fraudulent/altered document identification equipment, for which a database is updated regularly with information from other countries. The Kosovo Border Police’s (KBP) regularly-updated STOP/WATCH list of persons suspected of connections to terrorism or criminal activities had more than 1,700 hits in 2015. However, the electronic Border Management System does not interface with INTERPOL and does not always function properly. Kosovo is not a member of the UN, INTERPOL or EUROPOL; the UN Mission in Kosovo and EULEX serve as Kosovo’s intermediaries with these organizations, slowing down cooperation and preventing Kosovo from having access to their watchlists. Kosovo has applied for INTERPOL membership, but faces opposition from Serbia and other non-recognizing states. The KBP and Directorate against Terrorism use biometric equipment to enroll suspicious foreigners entering or applying for benefits in Kosovo, as well as locals who may be affiliated with terrorism. The Law on Border Control obliges airlines to submit Advance Passenger Information Airline Passenger Name Record data to Kosovo; the KBP has been using this information.
The KBP applies specific profiling techniques to identify persons attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL. In 2015, the KBP, in cooperation with regional countries and Turkey, identified and blocked at least 10 such persons from leaving Kosovo and turned them over to the KP Counterterrorism Directorate. With U.S. assistance, KBP is revising its curricula used to train border officers to focus more on early identification of persons affiliated with terrorism. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program supported Kosovo participation in a series of border security-related courses aimed at addressing foreign terrorist fighter travel.
Trials are ongoing for several of the 59 suspects arrested in August 2014 during the government of Kosovo’s largest counterterrorism operation to date. Three indictments against 33 individuals have been filed. Many of the defendants pled guilty to the charges. Kosovo prosecutors indicted six other individuals in 2015 who were arrested by EULEX in June 2014 in connection with a separate case. Investigations are ongoing against a dozen other individuals, including several imams. During 2015, Kosovo authorities opened 20 new cases against 45 suspects. Police arrested 14 of these suspects. On July 11, 2015, the KP arrested five individuals near Pristina on terrorism-related charges. On December 1, Italian Police arrested and extradited two Kosovo Albanians and the KP arrested a third individual in Kosovo suspected of being members of a terrorist cell that had threatened the Pope and the former U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo.
In October 2015, Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs issued an executive order revoking the licenses of 16 NGOs on suspicion of recruiting for ISIL and disseminating extremist propaganda.
Kosovo demonstrated political will to address threats related to terrorism, and the state possesses the legal framework to do so. However, national institutions – including investigative and prosecutorial elements –have limited capacity, resources, and experience to handle terrorism cases effectively.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kosovo is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Kosovo financial intelligence unit (FIU) worked towards becoming a member of the Egmont Group. Kosovo has a Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism financing, which allows it to comply with international anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance standards. This law also established enforcement mechanisms for the examination of reporting entities and narrowly defines terrorism financing. However, it lacks an appropriate registration and monitoring system to track NGOs that receive funding from suspicious entities. Other legislation, amendments, and directives are pending on counterterrorism financing, and its indicators. Kosovo has not yet successfully prosecuted a terrorism financing case or identified and frozen assets of sanctioned individuals and organizations. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: One of the four strategic objectives in the government’s CVE strategy is the prevention of violent extremism and radicalism, which the government began implementing in November. This includes raising awareness of radicalization among community stakeholders and building their capacity to fight it, increasing support for young people, counter-messaging, incorporating CVE into existing community initiatives, undertaking regional CVE activities, and establishing a strategic communications plan. Kosovo’s CVE strategy also includes the preparation and promotion of counter-narratives to weaken the legitimacy of violent extremist messages.
Kosovo’s CVE strategy includes a section on de-radicalization and the reintegration of radicalized persons. The goals include helping radicalized individuals abandon violent extremist ideology, assessing risks posed by individuals returning from foreign conflicts (to include alternatives to detention when appropriate and psychological support), raising awareness within the correctional system on the risks posed by imprisoned terrorists, and building capacities for their rehabilitation. The government began work on this objective in November.
International and Regional Cooperation: The OSCE and the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime provided training to Kosovo law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on terrorism-related topics. Kosovo's membership in many regional and international organizations, including the UN, has been blocked by countries that do not recognize its independence. Lack of membership and non-recognition impedes cooperation on many issues, including counterterrorism. Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s non-recognition of Kosovo hinders participation in many regional counterterrorism initiatives.
Several Kosovo officials attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February, and the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September, and a regional CVE summit in Tirana, Albania, in May. Kosovo was selected as a beneficiary country for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), which will fund community-level initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of radicalization to violence.
Overview: Macedonia recognizes the threat of global terrorism and is a solid U.S. counterterrorism ally. In 2015, Macedonia’s major counterterrorism efforts included a counterterrorism operation that resulted in the indictment of 37 and the arrest of 13 individuals under the recently-passed law on foreign terrorist fighters. Dozens of Macedonian citizens have traveled to the Middle East as foreign terrorist fighters, although there are indications that the recent arrests have had a deterrent effect.
Macedonia has shown a strong commitment to the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Macedonia is a member of the foreign terrorist fighter working group within the Coalition, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski attended the White House’s Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism in September in New York.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On April 21 an armed group of approximately 40 people seized weapons, ammunition, and radio communication supplies from a border police station in Goshince near the border with Kosovo. On May 9-10, the Macedonian police authorities carried out a police action in Kumanovo, ostensibly to recover the stolen equipment. This action resulted in the deaths of eight Macedonian police officers and 10 members of the armed group. Although the motives of the armed group remain unclear, the Public Prosecutor’s Office classified the incident as an act of terrorism and charged three suspects with leading a terrorist organization and 26 with participating in a terrorist organization.
In addition, there were several minor incidents that could be classified as terrorist acts:
- On February 18, unknown perpetrators placed an IED at a government building housing the main court on February 18. The device failed to detonate properly and caused minimal property damage.
- Small explosions caused minor property damage next to the Macedonian government headquarters building in Skopje (April), near ethnic Albanian political party DUI’s headquarters in Tetovo (May), in a parking garage in Kumanovo (July), at the Skopje City Police Station (July), and in a residential neighborhood of Skopje (October). The police have not identified suspects for any of these incidents, which remained under investigation at the end of 2015. In a letter released to the media signed by “Commander Kushtrimi,” the National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the April explosion that occurred outside of the Macedonian government headquarters building in Skopje.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Macedonia’s criminal code, criminal procedure code, and law on prevention of money laundering and terrorism finance contain comprehensive counterterrorism provisions. Domestic and international acts of terrorism are proscribed, and in September 2014, the country’s counterterrorism law was modified to include a provision criminalizing participation as a foreign terrorist fighter. During an August 6 operation, dubbed “Operation Cell,” the Ministry of Interior (MOI) carried out simultaneous search warrants at 26 sites in five municipalities and arrested nine individuals, charging them under the revised counterterrorism laws. Authorities arrested additional individuals in later months, bringing the total number arrested under the operation to 13.
Macedonia participated in capacity-building programs to strengthen criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law, which included 12 training sessions on strategic planning, leadership, and management skills for the MOI Public Security Bureau. The United States donated 20 computers to the police to be used in support of the Criminal Intelligence Analysis Sector; trained 163 students about the principles of Intelligence-Led Policing; delivered two crime analysis training classes; sponsored multiple events promoting more effective relationships between the Balkans national law enforcement agencies; provided 14 customs- and border control-related training events for 140 government officials as well as equipment valued at more than US $148,000, including surveillance, inspection, and detection equipment. The Department of State supported Macedonian participation in a variety of bilateral and regional trainings for law enforcement officials, investigators, prosecutors, and judges to increase capacity to address foreign terrorist fighter-related cases and threats.
Macedonia’s security sector is equipped and disposed to deal effectively with terrorism within its borders. The police action in Kumanovo revealed command and control, tactical, casualty care, and messaging as areas for improvement. Primary responsibility for detecting and investigating terrorism falls to the Department for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK) within the MOI. Interdiction and arrest capabilities lie primarily with the Special Units, namely the Rapid Deployment Unit and the Special Task Unit, also within the MOI. The “Alpha” units of the Skopje Police Department (also MOI) respond to kinetic activity within Skopje (approximately half of Macedonia’s citizens live in Skopje); however, this unit is also deployed outside of Skopje.
Macedonia is taking steps to improve its counterterrorism-related law enforcement capacity. It recently nominated a counterterrorism coordinator who is responsible for developing a counterterrorism action plan. Additionally, the government is establishing an interagency coordinative body that will address counterterrorism issues.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. MONEYVAL completed its fourth evaluation of Macedonia and issued recommendations for improving its terrorism financing laws. In line with MONEYVAL’s recommendations, the government submitted to Parliament draft amendments to the Criminal Code’s terrorism and terrorism financing laws, which underwent a second reading in Parliament on December 10, and were pending final adoption at year’s end. In 2015, the Macedonian financial intelligence unit received 15 suspicious transaction reports for terrorism financing, which were adequately processed and were under investigation. In 2015, there were no criminal charges for terrorism financing.
Banks and money-transfer agents were well regulated and supervised and there were no indications that they were used for terrorism-financing activities. Banks do not allow opening of anonymous bank accounts, and bearer shares are not permitted. All financial institutions in the country have programs in place that comply with anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations. Exchange offices and money transfer agents who operate outside of the banking sector as well as other reporting entities such as notaries, lawyers, and casinos need further improvements in their AML/CFT programs, practices, and training.
An overly-complicated confiscation regime that remains conviction-based hindered effective freezing and confiscation of terrorist assets. Macedonia has an agency for the management of seized and forfeited assets, but the agency has limited capacity and requires additional training.
With the latest changes to the AML/CFT law from September 2014, non-profit organizations were taken out of the list of obliged reporting entities. Previously, when they were on the list, none of them had filed reports on suspicious transactions.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Macedonia has appointed a national coordinator to focus on CVE. Existing ethnic and religious tensions between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians complicated effective CVE programming. There were no significant efforts by the government to create strategic communication or counter narratives, and there were no programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society. Macedonia participated in regional and international discussions on these issues, and the government has a good understanding of the issue. Both the United States and OSCE coordinated efforts in 2015 to start CVE programs in Macedonia. The Islamic Community of Macedonia has spoken out against radicalization and violent extremism.
Regional and Internal Cooperation: Macedonia is an enthusiastic partner both regionally and internationally on counterterrorism, although Greece’s unwillingness to recognize Macedonia’s name sometimes limits Macedonia’s ability to fully participate in multilateral fora. Macedonia is a NATO- and EU-candidate country; disagreements over the constitutional name of the country have prohibited its entry. On December 30, 2014, Kosovo’s and Macedonia’s state prosecutors signed a memorandum of understanding in Pristina to coordinate activities against transnational organized crime and terrorism. In January, Macedonia and Kosovo formally opened a Common Center for Police Cooperation, located at the Blace/Hani I Elezit border crossing point, which serves as an information-sharing center and will manage the flow of information and intelligence between the respective police agencies. In April, the Public Prosecutors of Macedonia and Bulgaria signed a cooperation agreement that will allow them to work together better to counter organized crime, corruption, human trafficking, and illegal trade of weapons and narcotics.
Macedonia is a member of the OSCE and hosted an OSCE-implemented workshop for criminal justice that focused on several of the good practices showcased in the GCTF’s Rabat Memorandum Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practices in the Criminal Justice Sector.
Overview: The Netherlands continued to respond effectively to the global terrorist threat in the areas of border and transportation security, counterterrorism financing, countering violent extremism, and bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. In its March 2013 quarterly terrorism threat assessment, the Office of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) raised the national threat level from “limited” to “substantial” (the second highest rank), where it remained through 2015. The main factor for elevating the threat level was the uptick in the number of Dutch nationals travelling to conflict areas, especially Syria, as foreign terrorist fighters. In 2014, the Dutch government released a Comprehensive Action Program to Combat Jihadism that included both existing and proposed measures to halt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and elsewhere. The plan focused on risk reduction, travel intervention, disruption of recruiters, countering radicalization, addressing the use of social media, and information exchange and cooperation. The government announced on February 27, 2015, an additional investment of nearly US $144 million annually for the fight against terrorism.
The Netherlands is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, and has a liaison embedded in CENTCOM, which coordinates the mission. The Netherlands has conducted air strikes and contributed military personnel and trainers in Iraq. The Netherlands and Turkey co-chair the Coalition’s Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Netherlands continued to use counterterrorism legislation and legislation that supplements the criminal code to address terrorism. On November 27, the government submitted four pieces of draft counterterrorism legislation to Parliament: 1) A law revoking citizenship, without a court ruling, of dual national foreign terrorist fighters who have joined a designated terrorist organization; 2) A set of administrative penalties, including a travel ban and a contact ban, that the government can impose on persons suspected of terrorist activities; 3) A law resulting in automatic expiration of a person’s passport and identity card when a travel ban is issued; and 4) A law governing cybersecurity, including online counterterrorism.
Draft legislation regarding the revocation of Dutch citizenship for dual citizens after a conviction for preparing to commit a terrorist act was awaiting further deliberation in the First Chamber (Senate) at year’s end.
Government agencies countering terrorism include the national police; the prosecutor’s office; local governments (the mayor being responsible for public order); the National Coordinator Counterterrorism and Security (which coordinates all counterterrorism policy); the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD); and the Ministries of Security & Justice, Interior and Kingdom Relations, Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs and Employment; and Defense. Since 2013, the national police organization has been undergoing a nationwide restructuring, which is expected to improve police’s operational capacity and effectiveness. This operation has suffered significant setbacks, however, and in August 2015, the government extended the program deadline to 2018 and doubled the appropriated funding. High priority is placed on community policing and the first-line role of local police officers. Within the national police organization, the Central Criminal Investigations Service is the specialized counterterrorism unit. The National Prosecutor’s Office also has dedicated counterterrorism prosecutors.
The Netherlands has continued to strengthen its border security. Dutch ports of entry have biographic and biometric screening capabilities, and the government maintains a national terrorist watchlist of persons and organizations that are under economic sanctions. The government coordinates and freely shares information related to foreign terrorist fighters with INTERPOL and EUROPOL. The Netherlands collects Advance Passenger Information (API) data for flights coming from selected points of embarkation outside the EU.
The Netherlands remained strongly committed to effective cooperation with the United States on border security. The Port of Rotterdam was the first European port to participate in the Container Security Initiative (CSI); in 2014 the two governments held discussions to have CSI go from a WMD-focused initiative to incorporate all threats.
Significant law enforcement actions related to counterterrorism included:
- On February 9, a district court acquitted two men of preparing to commit terrorist acts, conspiring to commit terrorist acts, and preparing to commit violent acts (such as murder and arson). The two men were arrested while traveling to Turkey and Syria in 2014. The prosecutor argued they planned to join the conflict in Syria, but the suspects claimed they wanted to vacation in Turkey and provide humanitarian assistance in Syria. Both men had a brother fighting in Syria. The prosecutor has filed an appeal.
- On March 20, authorities in Tilburg arrested a 30-year-old man for trying to recruit young asylum seekers to join ISIL. The prosecutor doesn’t believe he successfully enticed any new fighters. The suspect was also charged with money laundering and was arrested in 2014 at Schiphol airport carrying US $65,165 in cash and army clothing traveling to Yemen. His case was pending trial at the end of 2015.
- On April 30, a Court of Appeals sentenced five members of the Dutch chapter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. The five persons (aged between 43 and 60) were convicted of participation in a terrorist organization, having a leadership position in the Dutch chapter of LTTE, and raising funds for LTTE (often through coercion). The suspects were acquitted of recruitment, extortion, and incitement. The prosecutor appealed the incitement ruling. The prison sentences range from nineteen months to six years and three months, slightly higher than the 2011 district court ruling.
- On June 8, a district court convicted a returned foreign terrorist fighter of preparing to commit crimes with terrorist intent and possession of weapons. He was arrested as he was on his way to commit a robbery, the proceeds of which were intended for foreign terrorist fighters in Syria. The sentence was four years in prison.
- On July 27, a district court sentenced a woman to six months in prison for financially supporting the Islamic Jihad Union (totaling US $2,172). The court acquitted her of the charges of participation in a terrorist organization and membership in a terrorist organization. Her conviction remained under appeal through the end of 2015.
- On September 8, a district court acquitted a man for preparing to commit an ISIL-inspired attack against Amsterdam police officers and/or the U.S. Embassy. The court ruled that the man, a Moroccan national who was in the country illegally, would not have followed through on his threats. The prosecutor filed for an appeal.
- On November 30, authorities in The Hague arrested an 18-year-old man from Syria for involvement with a terrorist organization. The man had arrived in the Netherlands in October as a migrant.
- On December 10, a district court convicted nine persons for various levels of participation in a criminal organization with terrorist intent and/or incitement to violence. Some suspects were also convicted of other charges. The sentences ranged from seven days to six years in prison. One suspect had returned from Syria, while two were still in the conflict zone and tried in absentia. A tenth suspect reportedly died in Syria; his case was pending trial at year’s end.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Netherlands has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 1990, and is one of the Cooperating and Supporting Nations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. A legislative proposal to simplify the termination of social security payments, social subsidies, and government student loans for suspected foreign terrorist fighters was undergoing consultations at year’s end. Under the proposed law, payments can be stopped as soon as a person is discovered to have joined a terrorist organization. The European Commission sets many rules for countering terrorism finance in directives that EU member states then implement via national legislation. At the end of 2015, The Netherlands was working to implement the Fourth Money Laundering Directive, presented on May 20. The Netherlands cooperated with the United States in designating terrorist organizations and individuals as well as interdicting and freezing assets. The Netherlands participated in the counterterrorism financing working group of the Counter-ISIL Coalition.
Dutch authorities monitor financial transactions and freeze the assets of persons on terrorist watchlists. Assets are frozen immediately when an individual or entity receives a UN designation. The Netherlands also uses EU listings and its own national designations in determining whether to freeze assets. The list of individuals or entities is made public, but information on the amount of assets frozen or seized is not. As of December 2015, the assets of 37 individuals and three organizations were frozen. Of the 37 individuals, 19 were added in 2015. In July, a district court convicted a woman for financially supporting a terrorist organization.
Non-profit organizations may choose to apply to a private entity for a “seal of approval” certification for their financial transactions. Law enforcement can access this entity’s data based on court order. The FATF concluded that the requirements that have to be met in order to obtain this “seal of approval” are stringent. These requirements include knowing donors and beneficiaries and having safeguards to make sure directors and employees do not have a conflict of interests.
Countering Violent Extremism: CVE is integrated into the Dutch government’s approach to terrorism. The government’s strategy on CVE is the August 2014 Comprehensive Action Program to Combat Jihadism, which contains eight existing and proposed measures specifically focused on detecting radicalization and preventing new people from becoming foreign terrorist fighters. These include increased cooperation with Muslim communities, strengthening existing networks of local and national key figures, providing support to concerned citizens, supporting education institutions, setting up expert centers on social tensions and radicalization, directing actions at high-risk areas, mobilizing societal opposition and enhancing resilience against radicalization and tensions, and stimulating social debate about the values of democracy such as rule of law. The Comprehensive Action Program also addresses combating pro-violent extremist content on social media and the internet.
Local governments are responsible for countering radicalization with support, such as tools and training, provided by the NCTV. Many major cities are investing heavily in training local professionals. On September 8, the national government announced its intent to invest more than US $4,345,200 in nine local governments that face a disproportionately large population of potential violent extremists. Furthermore, in 2015, the government created a Social Stability Experts Unit, which assists local governments and communities in CVE, a Family Support Point for Radicalization, which assists parents and family members of radicalizing individuals, and an Exit Facility, which offers a “way out” for radicals who want to re-integrate.
The Netherlands creates tailored programs for violent extremist individuals and focuses on identification, de-radicalization, and prosecution. Returned foreign terrorist fighters undergo a threat assessment by the government; some returnees are prosecuted. The Netherlands also attempts to rehabilitate and reintegrate some returned foreign terrorist fighters into mainstream society. The government works with partners which include, but are not limited to: police, the public prosecutor’s office, youth care, and child protection services. Various local governments work with NGOs to develop and implement CVE policy. Interventions on radicalizing individuals remain case-specific and vary in intensity and design.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Netherlands continued to seek bilateral, regional, multilateral, and international opportunities for exchanging information and experience on security, counterterrorism, and foreign terrorist fighter issues. In 2015, the Netherlands succeeded the United States as co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and took over as host of the GCTF Administrative Unit. With Morocco, the Netherlands chairs the GCTF Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The Netherlands is on the governing board of the three GCTF-inspired institutions; the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism “Hedayah” in Abu Dhabi, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund in Switzerland.
The Dutch participated in an informal EU core group of 11 member states that focused on foreign terrorist fighters. Within this group, the Netherlands chaired a working group that aims to develop and harmonize methods to ban extremist imams from entering the EU. The Dutch have taken a lead role in the EU to establish protocols to combat terrorism finance and provide funds to the IMF for assistance to countries that lack the resources to implement these measures expeditiously. The Dutch cooperated with EU and OSCE counterterrorism efforts and contributed to the counterterrorism work of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The government supported projects carried out by the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. The Netherlands participates in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
The Netherlands continued to finance a wide variety of counterterrorism capacity building projects such as the organization Free Press Unlimited and the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation’s program on rule of law and criminal justice capacity and cooperation in North Africa. The Dutch government continued to work with the International Centre for Counterterrorism – an independent think tank on counterterrorism issues, established in The Hague in 2010 with Dutch government encouragement.
Overview: Norway’s internal security service continued to assess that Islamist terrorism remained the primary threat to the security of Norway. A small but outspoken group of violent Islamist extremists in and around Oslo recruited new members and remained active in online fora although they did not conduct any attacks. In 2015, authorities convicted four Norwegians for supporting or aiding the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). According to media reports, the Police Security Service (PST) publicly stated that more than 80 Norwegian citizens or residents had traveled to Syria to fight in the conflict there. Norway and the United States maintained good collaboration on counterterrorism.
Norway is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and is contributing to five lines of effort: supporting military operations, capacity building, and training; stopping the flow of foreign terrorist fighters; cutting off ISIL’s access to financing and funding; addressing associated humanitarian relief and crises; and exposing ISIL’s true nature (ideological de-legitimization). In 2015, Norway had approximately 50 trainers in a capacity-building mission for Iraqi security forces in Erbil. Norway provided approximately US $150 million to address the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Terrorism is a criminal offense in Norway. In 2013, Norway changed its laws to make it easier to prosecute cases of material support for terrorism. In addition to increasing maximum prison sentences to 30 years for serious terrorism offenses, the 2013 laws make it illegal to conduct or plan to conduct a terrorist attack; receive terrorism-related training; or provide material support to a terrorist organization with money, materials, recruitment, fighting, and related crimes. At the end of 2015, Norway was preparing to give prosecutors another weapon to crack down on foreign terrorist fighters with a bill that will criminalize fighting on behalf of a non-state actor. That legislation is expected to be approved by Parliament in the spring of 2016.
The PST is responsible for domestic security, including counterterrorism activities. A joint analytical cell composed of personnel from the PST and the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) became fully operational in 2014. Each agency has devoted significant resources to identify, track, and act against Norwegian citizens. Both the PST and the NIS have devoted significant resources to identifying, tracking, and taking action against Norwegian citizens who wish to travel to and from Syria and Iraq to engage in fighting. The PST and NIS maintain an evolving list of those who have traveled to Syria and Iraq, those who have returned, and those who have expressed an interest in traveling to the two countries.
Ratification of the Pruem Convention, a data-sharing agreement with the EU, was stalled during 2015. Norway continued to explore an agreement on sharing Passenger Name Record (PNR) data with the EU, and was simultaneously developing a national PNR system. In November, Norwegian police piloted an automated biometric identification system (ABIS). Immigration to Norway is facilitated and regulated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), which processes all applications for asylum, visas, family immigration, work and study permits, citizenship, permanent residence, and travel documents.
Norwegian authorities faced certain legal and technical barriers to stemming the foreign terrorist fighter flow. By law, Norway cannot revoke or permanently hold a citizen’s passport for expressing support for a terrorist group (or expressing an interest to travel to Syria or Iraq), nor return an asylum-seeker who expresses support for a terrorist group to an area with ongoing conflict, such as Syria or Iraq. In December, the government introduced a bill to Parliament that would criminalize fighting on behalf of non-state groups and traveling to participate in such fighting.
Since enacting the 2013 counterterrorism laws, the Norwegian authorities have convicted four Norwegian individuals, which would not have been possible prior to the adoption of the new laws. Nine additional individuals have been charged under the same laws.
There was significant law enforcement cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of international terrorism. Law enforcement officials worked closely with U.S. counterparts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Norway is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Government of Norway adopted and incorporated the FATF standards and recommendations, including the special recommendations on terrorism financing, into Norwegian law. Norway is increasing its efforts to counter terrorism financing. In response to UNSCR 2178, the government established an interagency group to combat money laundering and terrorism finance, which includes representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Finance, and Foreign Affairs. Non-Profit Organizations are subject to strict accounting and regulatory requirements, and the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime is charged with monitoring and the periodic testing of these requirements. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: In June 2015, Norway hosted the European Conference on Countering Violent Extremism and an accompanying Youth Summit on CVE. Prime Minister Solberg attended the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September, and delivered remarks in the same session as the President. Norway continued to implement its National Action Plan against Radicalization and Violent Extremism (CVE), published in June 2014, which is a whole-of-government approach to CVE. Priorities include strengthening research on CVE, improving national and local cooperation on counter-radicalization efforts, helping to promote reintegration of former violent extremists, and preventing online recruitment and radicalization. The Prime Minister encouraged municipal authorities to implement CVE efforts at the local level. Several municipalities in the Oslo fjord area, which PST assesses are the most vulnerable to radicalization, have increased their CVE efforts, including passing CVE action plans and increasing budgets for CVE and counter-radicalization activities. Demonstrating its leadership on CVE, the city of Oslo helped launch the Strong Cities Network (SCN), by hosting a Strong Cities event on the margins of the UN General Assembly meetings in September. Oslo is an SCN steering committee member, while the city of Kristiansand is also an SCN committee member.
International and Regional Cooperation: Norway is active in multilateral fora in efforts to combat terrorism, including NATO, the OSCE, and the EU's Radicalization Awareness Network. Though not a member, Norway has been an active participant in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Norway has implemented several new projects in the areas of counterterrorism and CVE. Together with Turkey, Norway is supporting the development of a CVE Action Plan for the Horn of Africa. It has provided support to Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and US $150,000 to the African Center for the Study and Research on Terrorism, located in Algiers, for the project to strengthen controls over the cross-border movement of terrorists in spaces between official border posts. Norway continued its support to the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). Norway also provided US $80,300 to a joint project led by the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and the Global Center on Cooperative Security to promote regional counterterrorism cooperation in South Asia.
Norway continued to implement its agreement with the University of Pretoria’s Institute for Strategic Studies to build counterterrorism capacity in the police and judiciary systems of African countries, totaling US $1.1 million from 2013 – 2015. Norway supported a youth civil activism network (YouthCAN), administered by the UK-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Overview: The Russian Federation continued to make counterterrorism efforts a priority during 2015. These efforts intensified after an explosive device downed a Russian passenger jet flying over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31.
The Russian government has expressed a willingness to work with the United States and multilaterally on counterterrorism issues, although some bilateral counterterrorism joint activities were suspended in the wake of Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea in 2014. The Russian government continued to cooperate with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) investigation of subjects associated with the Boston Marathon bombing.
Continued high profile attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015 prompted increased concern among Russian officials that ISIL could affect Russian security interests by destabilizing the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Russia’s military involvement in Syria caused increased concern among Russian authorities about retaliatory terrorist attacks in Russia. Members of both ISIL and al-Nusrah Front made numerous threats of retaliation, including publishing a video in November threatening that soon “blood will spill like an ocean” in Russia, and beheading a Russian citizen from Chechnya in December. Authorities believed the main terrorist threats were related to the activities of armed groups in the North Caucasus and were concerned about ISIL’s ability to influence domestic insurgent groups; Imarat Kavkaz, the largest terrorist group in Russia, pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2015. Separatists and violent Islamist extremists calling for a pan-Islamic Caliphate in the North Caucasus continued attacks against Russian authorities, but the government did not label any as a “terrorist attack.” Russian authorities avoided labeling attacks as “terrorist attacks” in order to maintain the narrative that they are defeating terrorism, and that Russia, especially the North Caucasus, is stable.
On December 29, 2014, Russia’s Supreme Court issued a ruling recognizing ISIL as a terrorist organization, and banned its domestic activity. With the ruling, participation in ISIL activities became a criminal offense under Russian legislation. In 2015, authorities convicted at least 80 and prosecuted more than 100 Russian citizens of participation in foreign terrorist activity, namely fighting with ISIL in Syria.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On October 31, a Russian charter plane exploded in mid-air over Egypt due to an explosive on board. All 224 people on board died; 219 were Russian nationals. Russian authorities determined the incident was an act of terrorism, likely carried out by ISIL’s Sinai branch.
On December 29, gunmen shot 11 tourists, killing one, while they visited the Citadel of Naryn-Kala in Derbent, Dagestan. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Caucasus Province claimed responsibility.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported no “terrorist attacks” within the Russian Federation in 2015. However, in the North Caucasus, authorities detained more than 770 suspected terrorists and accomplices, killed 156, and prevented 30 out of 84 “terrorism crimes,” according to FSB Head Alexander Bortnikov. Most terrorist groups in the North Caucasus are allied with ISIL. On December 29, gunmen proclaiming affiliation with ISIL shot at civilians in a historical fortress in Derbent, Dagestan, killing one and injuring eleven. Russian authorities have not labeled the crime an act of “terrorism.”
According to the Russian General Prosecutor’s statistics portal, registered crimes of “terrorist character” throughout Russia increased over the previous year from 1,127 to 1,531 incidents. The General Prosecutor defines crimes of a “terrorist character” as crimes against public security, including acts of terrorism, planning a terrorist attack, making a public call for a terrorist act, taking hostages, and organizing or participating in an illegal armed formation. The Russian government does not maintain an open, detailed, and centralized depository of crimes, nor do its agencies share a single legal definition of what constitutes terrorism or a terrorist-related act.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Russia has a comprehensive counterterrorism legal framework that includes the provisions of the Criminal Code and various federal laws to include, “On Countering Terrorism,” “On Money Laundering and Terrorism financing,” “On Countering Extremist Activity,” “On Security on Transport,” and “On Security in the Fuel and Energy Complex.”
The Russian government adopted two decrees in 2015 that allowed security forces to create a more secure environment in crowded urban areas, including sports and transportation facilities.
The Russian government continued to use its “anti-extremism” legislation to prosecute peaceful individuals and organizations, including the political opposition, independent media, and certain religious minorities. Despite having counterterrorism as its ostensible primary purpose, the law criminalizes a broad spectrum of activities, including incitement to “religious discord” and “assistance to extremism,” and does not precisely define what is meant by “extremism.” The law includes no stipulation that threats of violence or acts of violence must accompany incitement to religious discord, for example.
The threat of prosecution under Russia’s “anti-extremism” legislation has an intimidating effect that results in restriction of freedom of speech and religious freedom under the guise of countering terrorism.
The FSB remains the primary agency responsible for counterterrorism activities within Russia. To a lesser extent, the Ministry of Interior (MVD) also has a role in counterterrorism matters. The FSB International Cooperation Directorate, through a joint relationship with the National Antiterrorism Committee (NAC), has developed the “International Counterterrorism Database” (Russian acronym: MBD), which holds both an unclassified and a restricted section. The FSB exclusively maintains and controls this database, but has invited international intelligence and law enforcement agencies to contribute information on events, subjects, organizations, and methods. The FSB promotes this as the only international database that adheres to UNSCR 2178.
Immediately following the October terrorist attack that downed the Russian passenger jet flying over the Sinai Peninsula, the FSB instructed airport staff and airline agencies to screen their employees in order to prevent a similar act of terrorism.
Border guards are responsible for air, land, and sea arrivals, although with more than 12,000 miles of land border and more than 23,000 miles of coast, the extent to which they are able to patrol all land and maritime crossings is unclear. Border crossings, particularly on the frontiers between Russia and some former Soviet republics, may not be registered. Border guards have the capability of collecting biometrics at ports of entry. While they do not do so regularly, on December 10, 2014, a Presidential Executive Order went into effect requiring biometrics collection for visas issued at Russian embassies in Burma, Denmark, Namibia, and the UK, in addition to requiring passenger fingerprint scanning at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport (one of three international airports in Moscow). This initial collection was reportedly a pilot program for an envisioned worldwide rollout, but collection was not done regularly in 2015, nor was the list of countries expanded by the end of 2015.
Standard operating procedures exist for information sharing within the Russian government, but it is unclear how often these procedures are followed. A traveler to Russia must receive a visa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (via an embassy or consulate abroad), be permitted entry by the FSB (through the Border Guard Service), and then be registered with the Federal Migration Service (until 2012 a part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but now an autonomous organization). Russia has visa-free travel regimes with numerous countries, which limited the amount of screening given to travelers before arriving in Russia.
Terrorism-related prosecutions concerning incidents occurring before 2015 continued, in addition to charges being brought against more than 100 persons for allegedly fighting with ISIL in Syria in 2015. Law enforcement actions/prosecutions in 2015 included:
- On July 13, the Volgograd oblast court rejected the appeal of four Dagestanis convicted of aiding and abetting the 2013 terrorist bombings of a trolley bus and railway station in Volgograd.
- On July 14, the North Caucasus District Military Court convicted six individuals of conducting a terrorist act at a police station in Stavropol Krai in 2013, killing three people. Murad Ataev and Shamil Abulazizov were sentenced to life. The other sentences were: Ramazan Halizov, 23 years; Vladimir Halizov, 18 years; Magomed Ibragimov, 19 years; and Shamil Gazimagomedov, 17 years. The terrorists used a cellphone timer to detonate an explosive-laden car parked at the Pyatigorsk police station. Three bystanders were killed.
- On November 6, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Dagestan sentenced Magomed Gadjiev to 12 years in prison for participation in the “Balahinsk” terrorist organization.
- On August 6, the Nizhny Novgorod District Military Court convicted Ilya Romanov of an attempted terrorist attack in Nizhny Novgorod in 2013.
Russian media reported that federal and local security organs continued counterterrorism operations in the North Caucasus. These operations occurred throughout the region, but predominately were in Dagestan, Chechnya, and Kabardino-Balkaria. Operations included roadblocks and larger-scale military-style operations, especially in rural areas. On December 15, FSB-Director Bortinkov announced authorities had killed 20 of the 26 known leaders of ISIL-affiliated groups in Russia.
- On April 15, law enforcement officials killed two alleged terrorists in Kabardino-Balkaria. One of the terrorists was later identified as Zalim Shebzukhov, the leader of the local underground and a member of Imarat Kavkaz. He reportedly was recruiting and transporting young men to Syria and preparing a terrorist attack for May.
- On October 24, the FSB killed three members of a local terrorist group: Ruslan Ibragimov, Ahmed Abdurahmanov, and Shamil Shamilov. One FSB officer was killed during the operation. The terrorists belonged to a local group known for attempting to kill law enforcement officials and extort businessmen.
- On October 10, authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria killed Robert Zankishev. Authorities believed Zankishev was the head of a local ISIL cell.
- In late November in Kabardino-Balkaria, authorities killed the leader and two members of a local ISIL cell.
- On November 29, authorities killed three Russian citizens in Dagestan, all recently returned from fighting for ISIL in Syria: Mahmud Mahmudov, the leader of "Tabasaran;” Robert Melikov, leader of "Suleiman Stalski;” and Hasan Mamedyarov.
- In early December, the FSB detained the treasurer of an ISIL cell in Dagestan, Islam Hajiyev, in a Moscow mall.
At the end of 2015, the Russian government estimated 2,900 Russian citizens were fighting with ISIL in Syria and Iraq. During the year, authorities convicted at least 80 individuals for fighting with ISIL or the “opposition” against the Syrian government, according to open sources. Authorities held 41 more in detention while investigating alleged terrorist links. In August, Tural Ragimov became the first Russian sentenced for fighting with ISIL in Syria. Ragimov was sentenced to four years under Article 208 of the Russian Criminal Code for involvement in an illegal armed unit in the territory of a foreign state.
Despite the tensions in the overall bilateral relationship with the United States, the FSB has engaged in a limited amount of cooperation on counterterrorism matters. Russia continued to disseminate threat information and responded to requests for information on counterterrorism matters, although its responses were often not substantive or timely. Both the FSB and Investigative Committee requested information from the FBI pertaining to the downing of the Russian charter plane in Egypt. The FSB requested the FBI’s assistance regarding security preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
While there were no known legal constraints to effective Russian law enforcement and border security related to counterterrorism, attempts at judicial reforms have had little success due to a lack of political will and institutionalized corruption within law enforcement entities. Ethnic or clan ties in certain regions can make policing and prosecutions difficult. Important cases are often moved to Moscow or other regions to ensure a judge is not influenced by a clan.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Russia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and belongs to two FATF-style regional bodies: the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), in which it is a leading member and primary funding source. Through the EAG, Russia provides technical assistance and other resources towards improving legislative and regulatory frameworks and operational capabilities.
The highest levels of government support anti-terrorist funding initiatives, and in November 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order to establish an interagency commission on preventing the financing of terrorism. Russia’s financial intelligence body, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), was moving forward on a draft bill to ratify the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (aka the “Warsaw Convention”). Rosfinmonitoring is a member of the Egmont Group whose head reports directly to the President of Russia.
The most current data on investigations and convictions of terrorism financing is from 2014. In that year, the Russian government conducted more than 6,000 counterterrorism/extremist financial investigations, resulting in the filing of 62 criminal charges, and 15 convictions. The authorities froze approximately 3,500 accounts belonging to 1,527 people for a value of around US $475,000. In the period of 2008 to 2013, there were 80 total investigations and 21 convictions. In the same period, the government suspended 32 transactions totaling US $106,172.
In order to reduce persistently high capital outflows and fictitious transactions, Russia has increased oversight of the financial sector, putting pressure on smaller financial institutions that are most likely to engage in money laundering and terrorism financing. The primary regulator is the Central Bank of Russia, which has revoked a large number banking licenses over the past few years, often citing the presence of dubious transactions.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Russian Government adopted a countering violent extremism strategy in November 2014, but there were no significant developments in 2015. Russian efforts to counter violent extremism focus on enforcement mechanisms and program administration through governmental agencies, or organizations controlled by the government. The Russian government is reluctant to work with independent NGOs, including Russian-based NGOs, in this area.
International and Regional Cooperation: Russia continued to work in regional and multilateral groups to address terrorism. Russia is a member of and participated in UN and Global Counterterrorism Forum activities. Russia is a member of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Overview: The Government of Serbia continued its efforts to counter international terrorism in 2015. The Government of Serbia hosted a regional counterterrorism conference focused on foreign terrorist fighters and sent representatives to countering violent extremism (CVE) conferences hosted in Albania, Italy, and Slovenia. Serbia’s law enforcement and security agencies, the Ministry of Interior (MUP)’s Directorate of Police, and the Security Information Agency (BIA), continued bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. During the year, the migrant crisis overwhelmed Government of Serbia resources, with many of the more than 500,000 migrants and refugees who passed through Serbia having done so with minimal vetting and processing. As a result of the significant uptick in refugee/migrant arrivals during the latter half of the year, the Government of Serbia sought assistance from the United States and other strategic partners for more advanced screening methods. Despite Serbian political leaders’ public support for counterterrorism measures and some initial steps during the year to better coordinate the government’s counterterrorism activities, the Government of Serbia lacked a national Counterterrorism Strategy at year’s end and had no infrastructure or strategy for state-sponsored CVE programs.
The Government of Serbia continued its public condemnation of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) activities and voiced support for ongoing efforts to disrupt and counter the group. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Interior, among others, publicly stressed the importance of cooperation in the global effort to counter ISIL. Already a member of the Counter ISIL Coalition, the Government of Serbia joined the Coalition’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group. A lack of resources and limited capacity prevented the Government of Serbia from pursuing membership in other Coalition working groups. The difficult economic situation in Serbia continued to limit the likelihood of substantial financial or material contributions to the Coalition.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Serbia made some strides on the counterterrorism front in 2015 following the development of counterterrorism programs and passage of foreign fighter legislation in 2014.
The Government of Serbia lacked a strategic, interagency approach to handling terrorism-related matters. Efforts to create a national Counterterrorism Strategy began in July, but there is no timeline for completing it. A lack of clarity regarding primacy between law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities, as well as jockeying between agencies competing for primacy in the field of counterterrorism, has hampered interagency cooperation. The Serbian security sector, including MUP’s Special Anti-Terrorism Unit and the Counter-Terrorist Unit, participated in training courses offered by DOJ’s Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training Program; and the International Criminal Investigative Training Program.
Transnational terrorism concerns within Serbia were similar to those facing other Western Balkan states which are located on a historical transit route between the Middle East and Western Europe. Serbian authorities were alert to efforts by international terrorists to establish a presence in, or transit, the country. The Government of Serbia continued to cooperate with neighboring countries to improve border security and information sharing. The migrant crisis exposed numerous vulnerabilities in Serbia’s border security, which was matched by vulnerabilities in aspects of the border security of neighboring countries. In response to the migrant crisis, the Government of Serbia contacted multiple international partners to seek advice and assistance related to the implementation of screening tools to better identify and prevent potential terrorist travel to Western Europe via Serbia. Embassy Belgrade’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program continued to conduct training courses for and donate equipment to Serbian Customs and Border Police to help address border security matters. For example, EXBS donated a Secure Video Link network to the Customs and Border Police of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia to provide immediate and secure video communications among the countries’ operations centers in the event of a terrorist incident. However, long sections of Serbia’s borders remained porous, particularly those borders shared with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program supported Serbian participation in a series of border security-related courses aimed at addressing the travel of foreign terrorist fighters.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, and has observer status in the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (EAG), both Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional bodies. Serbia’s financial intelligence unit, the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, has been a member of the Egmont Group since 2003.
On December 31, 2014, the Serbian government adopted the National Strategy for the Fight against Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding, which covers strategic planning, coordination, and cooperation of all concerned government agencies and departments. The National Strategy covers the period until 2018 and envisages the constitution of expert teams to coordinate government actions involved with anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
As the end of 2015, the adoption of amendments to Serbia’s 2014 Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing was on hold pending the EU’s adoption of new money laundering directives. The planned amendments would harmonize the Serbian law with expected EU rules and with the set of 40 recommendations adopted in 2012 by the FATF on Money Laundering.
In March 2015, the Serbian Parliament passed the Law on Freezing of Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism. In March, the Anti-Money Laundering Directorate (AMLD) published an amended list of indicators for recognizing suspicious transactions related to terrorism financing. As a result, relevant state institutions are required to include them in the list of indicators they develop pursuant to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing. In September, the AMLD issued a new set of indicators for recognizing money laundering and terrorism financing for banks, brokers, insurance companies, and real estate agents. These indicators entered into force on October 1.
Consistent with the new Law on Freezing Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism, in July, the Government of Serbia issued a list of designated persons and entities. Serbian authorities have an ability to seize and confiscate terrorist assets pursuant to asset forfeiture mechanisms. The asset freezing mechanism was created with the adoption of the Law on Freezing Assets in March.
Serbian authorities routinely distribute the UN sanctions lists to financial institution through the AMLD. As of July, Serbia has a list of designated terrorists or terrorist entities, which includes persons designated by the UN.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Serbia neither has a comprehensive national strategy nor programs in place for countering violent extremism (CVE). In 2015, the Government of Serbia appointed State Secretary (Deputy Foreign Minister-equivalent) Roksanda Nincic as the point of contact for CVE-related matters. Additionally, the Government of Serbia sent representatives to regional CVE conferences in Albania, Italy, and Slovenia.
International and Regional Cooperation: Serbian cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism issues is generally strong. U.S. law enforcement and justice sector authorities have provided assistance to Serbian counterparts in Serbian terrorism cases.
The Government of Serbia is engaged in limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. In January, the Government of Serbia offered counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria following attacks there by Boko Haram. Elements of the Government of Serbia, including MUP and BIA, cooperated with INTERPOL and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watchlists. Regarding regional border security, Serbia’s level of cooperation is strongest with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. Cooperation with Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is less developed. Because of the sensitive issue of Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not recognize, cooperation on border security is least developed between Serbia and Kosovo. However, advances were made on this front in 2015, including such steps as the inclusion of Kosovo’s Minister of Interior in a regional counterterrorism/CVE conference co-hosted by the Serbian and U.S. government in Belgrade in April. Serbia held the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2015 and supported the organization’s engagement in CVE and counterterrorism issues.
Overview: Spain was an active partner with the United States in efforts to track and disrupt transnational terrorism in 2015. In addition, Spain continued its deep cooperation with Algeria and Morocco, with a focus on the threat posed by instability in Libya. The domestic terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) has not launched any attacks since it announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity” in October 2011, and although the group had not formally disbanded or given up its weapons arsenal, its coherence was further eroded by the arrest of more members of its vestigial leadership, often through cooperative Spain-France law enforcement efforts.
Spain has been an active member and its government an outspoken supporter of the Global Coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since its inception. Spain has a 300-strong military training mission in Iraq, co-located with the United States at Besmaya, south of Baghdad.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Spanish Criminal Code specifically punishes any act of collaboration with the activities or purposes of a terrorist organization. In July, an update to Spain’s criminal code came into effect to improve its legal framework to more effectively counter the movement of foreign terrorist fighters from Spain to conflict zones, better pursue suspected terrorists without clear affiliation to a known criminal organization, and curtail terrorist preparatory activities online. In terms of terrorism prosecution, Spain already boasts a mature legal framework as a result of its long fight against the indigenous terrorist group ETA.
Spain’s counterterrorism capabilities, coordinated by the national Center for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Intelligence (CITCO), have proven effective. The National Police and Civil Guard share responsibility for counterterrorism and cooperate well, with strong information sharing and joint threat assessments. Though still developing, Spain is working to implement its cybersecurity strategy to safeguard its critical information systems under the direction of the Cyber Defense Committee, charged with coordinating cybersecurity across the various government departments.
Spain continued to focus on improved security and the detection of false documents at its borders. Spain participated in the U.S. Immigration Advisory Program, which maintains staff at Madrid-Barajas International Airport, and allows for coordination between Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, airline security personnel, and police regarding high risk passengers traveling to the United States. Spain finished implementation of an automated system to read EU passports with biometric data, and explosive trace detection equipment was also deployed at Spain's five largest airports at passenger checkpoints. Spain continued to use a network of radar stations, known as the Integrated External Surveillance System, along its maritime borders.
As a founding member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Spain has increased its already proactive efforts to identify and disband terrorist recruitment and foreign terrorist fighter facilitation networks. Spanish law enforcement generally has been proactive in pursuing terrorism-related investigations, arresting about 100 individuals suspected of terrorist recruitment or travel facilitation. Spain is an exceptionally cooperative and capable partner on efforts to apprehend, convict, and punish terrorists, working closely with the United States, and European and regional partners.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Spain is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Its financial intelligence unit, the Executive Service of the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Infractions, is a member of the Egmont Group. Spain continued to demonstrate leadership in the area of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. Spain enacted its current law on Preventing Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism in 2010; the law entered into force immediately. The related regulations greatly enhance authorities' capacity to counter terrorism financing by placing greater requirements, with stiffer penalties for non-compliance, on financial institutions and other businesses, and by strengthening monitoring and oversight. The government diligently implemented relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and had the legal authority to impose autonomous designations. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: //2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Spain passed a National Counter Radicalization Strategy on January 30, managed by the Ministry of Interior's CITCO. The whole-of-government effort has established a national level working group, named local level leaders, and is in the implementation phase. Spain claimed success in preventing prison radicalization, and intends to use the kind of victim-centered messaging model that helped turn public opinion against domestic terrorist group ETA in its efforts to counter violent Islamist extremism. In December, police launched a telephone hotline, email, and mobile application to receive tips on potential radicalization. Security forces also announced the launch of a new ISIL counter-messaging campaign on police websites. With respect to rehabilitation and reintegration, most of Spain's 25 returned foreign terrorist fighters remained in detention.
International and Regional Cooperation: Since 2004, Spain has been part of the informal working group on violent Islamist extremism known as the 5 + 5. The group brings together defense ministers or their designees from five European countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Malta) and five Maghreb countries (Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya). Its mission is to exchange information and discuss the operational implications of the threat from violent Islamist extremists in the European theater, including that posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters. In July, Spain hosted a Ministerial Level Special Meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. It is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and is also a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
Spain’s participation in the G-4 with Portugal, France, and Morocco also has an operational objective. The four countries freely exchange tactics and intelligence on counter-narcotics, counterterrorism and organized crime/illegal immigration. Spain continued its work with the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
Spain cites the lingering effects of its economic crisis as an impediment to further regional and international counterterrorism cooperation. All efforts are made to not reduce operational capacity according to the Ministry of the Interior, but resource constraints reduced Spain’s ability to take part in international training exercises. Spain believes the EU should supplement the country in terms of counterterrorism and border issues, especially given the uniqueness of Spain’s North African exclaves forming the southern border of the EU.
Overview: The United States and Sweden maintained good cooperation on counterterrorism and law enforcement issues. U.S. agencies worked with their Swedish counterparts in 2015 to improve information sharing and the evaluation of terrorist-related information. Sweden is also active within the EU, UN, and Council of Europe on countering violent extremism and the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters.
The Swedish Security Services (SAPO) is concerned with the number of foreign terrorist fighters who have left Sweden to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of the 280 individuals who traveled, some 40 were killed in action, 125 remained in the country, and 115 have returned to Sweden. Thirty-five of the foreign terrorist fighters were females.
Foreign terrorist fighters in Sweden have been recruited mainly through word of mouth or online by friends and/or family members. Foreign terrorist fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq from Sweden were usually young males of immigrant background, but generally not of Syrian descent. Females who traveled to Syria and Iraq either traveled alone or with male companions or husbands.
SAPO views the returnees with specific concern as they could potentially plan an attack in Sweden or could radicalize and recruit others for travel. SAPO reported to Swedish media that it was conducting several “pre-investigations” related to individuals who have returned from conflict areas with fighting experience.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency continuously reached out to various agencies and communities to develop awareness of the foreign terrorist fighter threat. The Counterterrorism Cooperative Council, consisting of 13 government agencies, coordinated Sweden’s interagency counterterrorism cooperation. The National Center for Terrorism Threat Assessment produced long- and short-term strategic assessments of the terrorist threat against Sweden and Swedish interests. SAPO monitored returned foreign terrorist fighters to evaluate their condition.
On November 18, SAPO raised the national alert level to “four” (or “high”), just below the highest level of five (“very high”), indicating a real threat from a serious perpetrator with means to carry out an attack. This was the first time in modern history that Sweden had a level four alert.
Sweden is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and has made generous humanitarian contributions to ISIL-impacted populations in Iraq.
Johan Gustafsson, a Swedish citizen who was kidnapped by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) when visiting Mali in November 2011, remained in AQIM’s detention at the end of 2015. Gustafsson was last seen in an AQIM-released video allegedly made on October 20.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Sweden’s legislation criminalizes inciting terrorist acts, recruiting to terrorist organizations, and providing terrorism training. While five people have been convicted under these laws, only two convictions have been stayed following appeals. In all of the dismissed cases, the courts deemed that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the defendants would have carried out their terrorist plots had they not been intercepted by law enforcement officials.
In 2015, Swedish law enforcement reorganized to unite the country’s current 21 separate county police departments into one national agency with seven regions. This reorganization aimed to streamline police work through clearer guidance and centralization of law enforcement efforts.
In order to implement UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178, 2199 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, the Swedish government proposed new legislation in December with new counterterrorism provisions, including measures to criminalize travel to support terrorist organizations and the financing of terrorism, and measures to increase information exchange within Swedish intelligence channels and with partner countries. Within the EU Commission, Sweden continued to strongly advocate for a targeted revision of the Schengen Borders Code to provide for more thorough checks of EU nationals on entry into Schengen, including mandatory verification of biometric information.
Sweden also participated in the EU Schengen working group and used the Schengen Information System II for information sharing, port of entry screening, lost and stolen passport information, and watchlisting. Under the auspices of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement between the EU and the United States, Sweden collects and shares PNR information from commercial flights.
In response to UNSCR 2199, the Nordic culture ministers met in May and adopted a declaration to curb the illegal trade of cultural objects from Iraq and Syria. The Nordic Council also decided to host a conference on the illegal trade of cultural objects in Oslo in December.
With the aim of improving border checks, Sweden has introduced provisions that allow the Swedish Police Authority to request passenger information to perform identity checks (Advance Passenger Information, from any carrier that transports passengers to Sweden by air from a state outside the Schengen zone. This information provides greater opportunities to identify travelers with links to terrorism at an early stage. Sweden thereby complies with the undertakings set out in Directive 2004/82/EC on the obligation of carriers to communicate passenger data.
On November 12, the Government of Sweden announced that temporary internal border controls would be instituted due to the massive influx of asylum seekers into the country. The border controls consisted of spot checks at the Öresund Bridge to Denmark and at ports connecting Sweden to Germany via ferries. Such temporary border controls are permitted under the Schengen Border Code if a “serious threat to public policy or internal security” exists, which the Swedish government determined to be the case after consulting with the police and the Migration Agency.
On December 14, the Gothenburg District Court sentenced Hassan Al-Mandlawi (32-year-old from Iraq) and Al Amin Sultan (30-year-old from Ethiopia) to life in prison for “the crime of terrorism through murder” after it ruled that graphic video evidence showed the pair taking part in the beheadings of two people in Syria. The verdicts marked the first time foreign terrorist fighters were convicted in Sweden of crimes committed in Syria, and the first time individuals were convicted specifically for the crime of terrorism as opposed to the secondary charges of crimes against humanity and murder.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sweden has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 1990. A new penal provision for terrorism financing was proposed in 2015. The new provision will penalize those who collect, provide, or receive funds or other property in the knowledge that it is intended for a person or group of people who commit, attempt to commit, prepare, or participate in a particularly serious crime. Criminal culpability in these cases does not require that the funds or property be intended to be used for a particularly serious crime, but instead focus on the recipient of the financing and the individual’s intent to prepare or commit serious crimes. The proposed scale of penalties for ordinary offenses is imprisonment for a maximum of two years.
In 2015, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority and the Prosecution Development Centre prepared a memorandum to provide prosecutors with knowledge and guidance on how to apply the new legislation.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Swedish government appointed its first ever National Coordinator for Safeguarding Democracy from Violent Extremism in 2014. The Swedish government has described its approach to countering violent extremism (CVE) as attempting to address underlying factors behind radicalization. The government seeks to de-polarize Swedish society as a necessary step to counter violent extremism, believing that people who do not feel welcome and integrated in Swedish society might turn to violent extremism. An additional US $1 million was allocated for the setup of a support hotline.
The Swedish government has instructed authorities to strengthen efforts to work against radicalization and has been active on issues related to countering violent extremism within the EU. Sweden belongs to the EU-9, a group within the EU that focuses on the foreign terrorist fighter issue.
National Coordinator against Violent Extremism, Mona Sahlin, announced a CVE pilot program to open Knowledge Centers in January 2016 to aid the cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Örebro, and Borlänge. The Knowledge Centers will provide information about violent extremism and advice on how to prevent it. Concerned relatives of individuals who are on the brink of being radicalized and those who seek to leave such an environment will be able to turn to the centers to seek support and will not be shuffled between different authorities and agencies.
International and Regional Cooperation: Sweden is a member of the EU and participated in an ad hoc group consisting of several member states to focus on foreign terrorist fighter issues. In May 2015, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted an action plan entitled “The Fight Against Violent Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism.” The action plan contained measures regarding the international legal framework for combating terrorism and violent extremism and measures for preventive work. Sweden has been active in ensuring that the action plan focused on areas where the Council of Europe added value, primarily in preventive initiatives.
In 2015, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden established a working group to share expertise to prevent violent extremism. The ministers adopted a joint, non-binding declaration of intent in Oslo in January 2015.
Sweden participated in the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection. The goal was to improve the protection of critical infrastructure in the EU network and information security across the EU (the NIS Directive). All member states were required to provide a national network and information security strategy and ensure there was an agency structure to tackle information security issues. The member states were also asked to identify public and individual subjects (“operators”) that could provide critical services on electronic networks and information systems. The Government of Sweden stated that it would act to ensure that the NIS Directive is adopted.
Sweden continued to contribute to counterterrorism capacity-building projects through its development aid work carried out by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and also via funding to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime-Terrorism Prevention Branch and the OSCE. Sweden supported the EU’s work with capacity-building projects in prioritized countries and regions, such as Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, the Maghreb, and the Sahel. Sweden provided trainers to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
Sweden is a member of a number of multinational forums and collaborative groups, including the Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG). The Group comprises security and intelligence services from all the EU Member States, Norway, and Switzerland. EUROPOL is tasked with helping its Member States to prevent and combat serious cross-border crime and terrorism in Europe. EUROPOL has started work to combine its various areas of expertise in counterterrorism into one department (the European Counterterrorism Centre) to further support Member States.
Overview: Turkey has voiced increasing concern about terrorist groups near its border, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusrah Front. In 2015, Turkey continued to face significant internal terrorist threats – including the deadliest attack in Turkey’s history on October 10 – attributed to ISIL – and took strong action in response. Turkey is a source and transit country for foreign terrorist fighters wishing to join these and other groups in Syria and Iraq. The Government of Turkey intensified efforts to interdict the travel of suspected foreign terrorist fighters through Turkey to and from Syria and Iraq. These efforts included the development and implementation of a “banned from entry list;” standing up additional “Risk Analysis Units” to detect suspected foreign terrorist fighters at airports, seaports, bus terminals, and border cities; deploying additional military units to the border; and undertaking physical improvements to the security infrastructure along the border. Cooperation with other source countries increased during the year in response to the foreign terrorist fighter threat, with both Turkey and source countries seeking to improve information sharing. The United States and Turkey also improved their sharing of counterterrorism information. Turkey deported 2,337 suspected foreign terrorist fighters from 85 countries in 2015.
Turkey is an active member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. It served as a co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), with the United States and later with the Netherlands, and also co-chaired the Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (WGFTF) with the Netherlands. The WGFTF held three meetings in 2015, in Istanbul April 7, in The Hague June 9, and in Ankara November 23. Turkey opened Incirlik Air Base to Coalition partners in July and formally joined the Coalition’s air operations against ISIL in August.
Prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Following three decades of conflict with the PKK, in late 2012 the Government of Turkey and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan began talks for a peace process. The PKK called for a ceasefire in March of 2013, which both sides largely observed until July 2015. From January to mid-July 2015, the PKK carried out small-scale armed attacks against Turkey’s security forces and military bases, which killed at least two security personnel. From mid-July to the end of 2015, more than 180 security personnel died from PKK-attributed attacks. On July 24, Turkish security forces launched large-scale operations against the PKK, as well as operations against ISIL-affiliated targets. Turkish military airstrikes against PKK camps, shelters, underground bunkers and weapon emplacements in Turkey’s southeast and Northern Iraq continued through year’s end.
In 2015, Turkey continued to face significant internal terrorist threats and took strong action in response. Activity by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a terrorist Marxist-Leninist group with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state, threatened the security of both U.S. and Turkish interests. So too did the actions of the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons/Hawks (TAK).
Another terrorist group in Turkey is Turkish (Kurdish) Hizballah (unrelated to the similarly-named Hizballah that operates in Lebanon). The Government of Turkey considers the Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), although largely inactive, to be threats. Turkey also considers the Syria-based Democratic Union Party and its military wing, The People’s Protection Units, to be terrorist organizations. The Government of Turkey continued to engage diplomatically with Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshaal.
According to Turkey’s semi-official news agency, the Anadolu Agency, from July 24 to November 20, the Turkish National Police (TNP) carried out counterterrorism operations against 7,303 suspects belonging to PKK, ISIL, and other terrorist organizations. Of the 5,624 PKK suspects detained and officially questioned, 1,602 were arrested, while 2,908 were released by judicial order and 1,114 were released under judicial control. Of the 1,132 ISIL suspects detained, 346, including 63 non-Turkish foreign nationals were arrested, while 588 were released by judicial order and 198 were released on judicial control. Of the 386 DHKP/C, MLKP, and other terrorist suspects detained, 122 suspects were arrested, while 167 were released by judicial order and 97 were released on judicial control.
Turkey is a long-standing counterterrorism partner of the United States. It continued to receive U.S. assistance to address the terrorist threat posed by the PKK in 2015. The ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government ended in July. In October and November, the PKK issued a unilateral declaration of inaction, but small-scale incidents continued.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: Representative attacks included:
- On January 6, a female suicide bomber detonated her vest at a police station in Istanbul's central Sultanahmet district. The attack killed one police officer and injured another. The assailant was identified as a Russian citizen from Dagestan, who had links to ISIL.
- On June 5, four civilians were killed and more than 100 were injured in two bomb blasts at an election rally of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir. The assailant was subsequently identified as an ISIL member and arrested on charges of intentional homicide and membership in a terrorist organization.
- On July 20, 32 civilians were killed and 104 were injured in a suicide bombing at the Amara Culture Center in the Suruc district of Sanliurfa province. Victims were mostly members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) youth wing and the Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF). The assailant, an ethnic Kurd from Adiyaman, was tied to ISIL.
- On July 23, ISIL opened fire on Turkish border elements in Kilis, which killed one noncommissioned officer. The incident prompted Turkey to launch “Operation Martyr Yalcin,” a series of airstrikes against ISIL positions in Northern Syria. Four Turkish security personnel died as a result of ISIL attacks since July 20.
- On August 10, two individuals fired weapons at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. One assailant escaped, and the other was captured and subsequently identified as a member of the DHKP/C.
- On October 10, 102 people died and more than 400 were injured in twin suicide bombings outside Ankara’s central railway station. The bombs targeted a "Labor, Peace and Democracy" rally organized by the Peoples' Democratic Party, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, the Turkish Medical Association and the Confederation of Public Workers' Unions. One of the two suicide bombers was identified as the younger brother of the perpetrator of the July 20 Suruc bombing. Both brothers had suspected links to ISIL and the ISIL-affiliated “Dokumacilar” group based in Turkey’s Adiyaman province.
- On December 23, TAK conducted a mortar attack against Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. One person was killed, another wounded, and several passenger planes were damaged in the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Counterterrorism law enforcement efforts in Turkey remained focused on the domestic threat posed by several terrorist groups, including the PKK. Although resources have also been devoted towards countering threats posed by international terrorist organizations, Turkey’s methodology and legislation are geared towards confronting this internal threat. Efforts to counter international terrorism are hampered by legislation that defines terrorism narrowly as a crime targeting the Turkish state or Turkish citizens, although courts have begun to interpret the term more broadly to include all activities associated with foreign terrorist fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIL, including facilitation networks. Turkey’s definition of terrorism can be an impediment to operational and legal cooperation against global terrorist networks.
On August 31, the Ministry of Interior instituted a program providing monetary rewards to individuals who volunteer information to the government about suspected terrorists and terrorist-related activities. A seven-member interagency commission representing the police and gendarmerie may award up to approximately US $69,000 to an individual should the information lead to the apprehension of a terrorist or of an individual who provides information about a terrorist’s identity or location. Information pertaining to the capture of a high-level terrorist or preventing significant criminal acts against society may be awarded up to approximately US $1.38 million upon the approval of the Interior Minister. Members of law enforcement, the military and employees of the Turkish government assigned to counterterrorism tasks are not eligible to benefit from the program.
On October 8, in support of these initiatives, the government launched a website (http://www.terorarananlar.pol.tr) that provides information on the identity of wanted terrorists categorized in order of importance, and the corresponding monetary award for information leading to their capture.
Due to amendments made in 2013, Turkey’s counterterrorism legislation conforms more closely to EU freedom of expression standards, has a narrower definition of terrorist propaganda, and criminalizes propagation of the declarations of an illegal organization only if the content legitimizes or encourages acts of violence, threats or force. Nevertheless, the legislation remains broad-reaching and is still being widely applied. In 2015, Turkish authorities continued to use it to detain and prosecute politicians, reporters, and activists.
While Turkey’s law enforcement capacity is advanced, criminal procedure secrecy rules continued to prevent Turkish National Police (TNP) authorities from sharing investigative information once a prosecutor is assigned to the case, which occurs almost immediately.
The Government of Turkey compiled a “banned from entry list” with a view to prevent travel into Turkey by individuals identified by foreign governments and internal security units as potential foreign terrorist fighters. Although the Turkish government does not have an automated Advanced Passenger Information/Passenger Name Record system, it has approached the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for technical assistance in developing its own automated system. Risk Analysis Units operated at major international and domestic airports, land border crossings, interior transit terminals, and border cities to identify and interdict potential foreign terrorist fighters. Border forces increased their ability to patrol and interdict persons and contraband from crossing the border. According to government statistics, during the April to November timeframe, Turkish military units along the Syria-Turkey border apprehended more than 110,000 individuals, mostly refugees, attempting to illegally cross the border.
The TNP has highly developed counterterrorism capabilities in a number of areas and is planning to expand its law enforcement training for other countries in the region. Notwithstanding police capacity, Turkey’s criminal justice system is only beginning to show success in prosecuting and dismantling terrorist or organized crime organizations.
The Department of State provided select bilateral and regional trainings in the areas of border security, aviation security, and investigations, in partnership with Turkish law enforcement authorities and counterparts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkey is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and an observer of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a FATF-style regional group. In October 2014, the FATF cited improvements in Turkey’s counterterrorism finance (CFT) regime and approved Turkey’s exit from the targeted follow-up process of the third round of mutual evaluations. No terrorism finance cases were prosecuted in 2015.
While the Government of Turkey has issued freezing orders without delay (three to five days), it remains unknown whether any assets have actually been frozen. Freezing orders are published in the official Gazette. The nonprofit sector is not audited on a regular basis for CFT vulnerabilities and does not receive adequate anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism outreach or guidance from the Turkish government. The General Director of Foundations issues licenses for charitable foundations and oversees them, but there are a limited number of auditors to cover the more than 70,000 institutions.
The Department of State supported a Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) from the Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Assistance Training, based in-country. The RLA partnered with Turkish counterparts on programs to enhance legal frameworks and the investigative skillsets of law enforcement officials to effectively counter the financing of terrorism.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Turkish government has two significant programs to counter violent extremism. The first, administered by the Turkish National Police, is a broad-based outreach program to affected communities, similar to anti-gang activities in the United States. Police work to reach vulnerable populations (before terrorists do) to alter the prevailing group dynamics and to prevent recruitment. Police use social science research to undertake social projects, activities with parents, and in-service training for officers and teachers. Programs prepare trainers, psychologists, coaches, and religious leaders to intervene to undermine violent extremist messages and to prevent recruitment.
The second program, administered by the Turkish government’s Religious Affairs Office (Diyanet), works to undercut violent extremist messaging. In Turkey, all Sunni imams are employees of the Diyanet. In support of its message of traditional religious values, more than 140,000 Diyanet religious officials throughout Turkey conducted individualized outreach to their congregations. The Diyanet similarly worked with religious associations among the Turkish diaspora to provide them with access to instruction and to assist them in establishing umbrella organizations. The Diyanet supported in-service training for religious officials and lay-workers via a network of 20 centers throughout Turkey.
On August 10, Diyanet released a report “DAESH’s Basic Philosophy and Religious References” which provided a Quran-based refutation of ISIL’s interpretation of Islam.
International and Regional Cooperation: Turkey is an active member of the UN, NATO, and the Committee of Experts on Terrorism. Turkey is a founding member of the GCTF and is co-chair with the Netherlands (previously with the United States); as co-chair, Turkey provided extensive secretariat support. It is also a co-chair for the GCTF’s Horn of Africa Working Group. Turkey also participated in OSCE expert meetings on the Prevention of Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism organized by the OSCE/Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Secretariat. It is also a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law and seconded a judicial expert to the Institute to assist with trainings for judges and prosecutors who are handling terrorism cases.
The Government of Turkey is considering effective means to implement UNSCR 2178. As GCTF co-chair, it is developing policies in line with the framework of The Hague – Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the "Foreign Terrorist Fighters" Phenomenon.
Turkey increased its cooperation with European countries regarding the activities of members of the DHKP/C. It also worked with countries from Asia, Europe, North Africa, North America and the Middle East to interdict the travel of potential foreign terrorist fighters planning to travel through Turkey to Syria.
Overview: In 2015, the UK significantly increased its efforts to fight terrorism at home and abroad. The UK expanded its military efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to include airstrikes in Syria. Following ISIL attacks on tourists in Tunisia and Egypt, the UK increased efforts to enhance the counterterrorism capabilities of partner nations. Domestically, Prime Minister Cameron launched a new counter-extremism strategy and introduced legislation to revamp his government’s electronic surveillance collection. UK law enforcement agencies announced that they prevented seven terrorist attacks during 2015, illustrating the continued threat posed by both international and homegrown “lone offender” terrorism.
The threat level in Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland-related terrorism remained severe on the UK’s threat scale. In October, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland published an assessment of paramilitary groups. The report indicated that the most serious terrorist threat is posed by dissident republican groups who oppose the peace process. Dissident republicans continued to target police officers primarily, but prison officers and members of the armed forces have also been targeted. The Northern Ireland Executive is developing a strategy to disband paramilitary groups and establish a monitoring and implementation body to end para-militarism. Tension and in-fighting within republican and loyalist organizations persisted.
Following ISIL’s simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, British air strikes were extended beyond Iraq into Syria. The UK also plays a key role in coordinating the strategic communications lines of effort within the Counter-ISIL Coalition and participates actively in the Coalition’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: In 2015, the UK government reported preventing seven ISIL-inspired or directed attacks in the UK. The majority of domestic terrorist attacks occurred in Northern Ireland. As of December, the UK’s Northern Ireland Office recorded 16 national security attacks by dissident republicans.
- On May 4, police discovered two cylinder-type bombs near an Army Reserve center in Derry/Londonderry. The Police Service of Northern Ireland believed dissident republicans placed the devices.
- In May and July, two radio-controlled explosive devices were deployed in Belfast and Lurgan in an attempt to target security force personnel.
- In June, an under-vehicle IED was deployed against two off-duty police officers in County Londonderry.
- On June 26, a Tunisian gunman killed 38 people, including 30 British citizens, at a beach resort near Sousse, Tunisia. Although it occurred outside of the UK, the Sousse attack was the most significant terrorist attack against UK citizens in 2015.
- In August, an explosive device initiated inside a postal van while it was parked in Palace Barracks in County Down.
- In October, a viable IED was recovered from the grounds of a Derry/Londonderry hotel that was due to host a police recruitment event, and several days later an under-vehicle device was planted in Belfast.
- On December 5, a British citizen stabbed two commuters in an east London Tube station. During the attack, the perpetrator yelled “This is for Syria, my Muslim brothers.” Police apprehended the suspect, who was facing trial on murder charges at year’s end.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: UK counterterrorism efforts enjoyed the support of a broad statutory foundation. UK law enforcement officials continued to make use of reinforced counterterrorism legislation permitting the government to surveil, interdict, and control the movements of suspected terrorists. In November, the government delivered to Parliament a draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will reframe the statutory basis for the collection of electronic communications, including bulk data, by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The draft bill increases oversight mechanisms while expanding the investigative tools available to UK authorities.
The Metropolitan (Met) police lead the UK’s national counterterrorism law enforcement effort. The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command operates against the threat of terrorism at a local, national, and international level and supports the national Counter Terrorism Network and the Senior National Coordinator of Counter Terrorism. The Met works closely with other UK police constabularies, MI5, and other agencies in all matters related to terrorism, to include investigation, prosecution, prevention, and protection. UK counterterrorism agencies conducted advanced international investigations, managed crisis response, and provided border security.
The UK is committed to implementing fully UN Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, and 2199, and is an important partner in urging other nations to do the same, especially within the EU. The UK issues machine readable passports with an imbedded electronic chip. The last non-electronic passports issued by the UK in 2006 will age out in early 2016. UK travel documents and visas contain a number of security features to prevent tampering and fraud. The UK has advanced biometric screening capabilities at some points of entry, but at others, such as ferry ports, there is no screening at all. The UK requires international airlines to collect Advance Passenger Information and pressured the EU to collect intra-Schengen Passenger Name Record data.
The U.S. and UK law enforcement communities have excellent information sharing and collaboration in the counterterrorism realm. Several UK and U.S. law enforcement agencies embed personnel in each other’s organizations to improve communication, information sharing, and joint response. U.S. law enforcement agencies routinely coordinate their investigations with their UK counterparts, resulting in numerous arrests and convictions.
In Northern Ireland, the Crime Operations Department is responsible for conducting terrorism investigations and works closely with MI5 and An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s police force) on a range of issues. The Police Service of Northern Ireland reported an increase in bombing incidents and paramilitary style assaults in 2015, but a decrease in terrorism-related arrests, shooting incidents, and confiscation of explosives and firearms. Major 2015 law enforcement actions in Northern Ireland included:
- As part of an investigation into dissident republican activity in September, police confiscated more than half a kilogram of Semtex explosives, two handguns, more than 200 rounds of ammunition and two detonators in west Belfast. This led to the arrest of an individual in England days later in connection with terrorism offenses.
- In October, police conducted a series of separate arrests of individuals allegedly involved in dissident republican terrorism.
The United States and UK cooperated closely in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of suspected terrorists. In 2015, the UK continued to assist with several U.S. terrorism prosecutions.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UK is an active member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and has observer or cooperating status in five regional bodies: the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism; Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group; Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering; and Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. New counterterrorism finance legislation in the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 amended the Terrorism Act 2000 to make it an offense for an insurer to reimburse a kidnap or ransom payment made in response to a demand made wholly or partly for the purposes of terrorism. The Charities and Social Investment Bill, which will enable the Charity Commission to more effectively deal with abuse of the charitable sector – including for terrorist and violent extremist purposes – was before Parliament at year’s end.
The UK prosecutes those involved in terrorism finance. Since 2001, 49 individuals have been charged under sections 15-19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (‘fundraising’); of these, 21 individuals were convicted. In the period between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, three individuals were convicted where the principal charge was funding terrorism. Additionally, individuals suspected of funding terrorism were convicted of related offenses (fraud, money laundering, etc.). The UK electronically distributes a consolidated list of all UK designated terrorists and terrorist entities (to include UN targets, EU targets, and UK domestic targets under TAFA) to 16,000 subscribers, mainly in the UK and its overseas territories.
The UK freezes assets in accordance with UNSCR 1373 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Like other members of the EU, the UK currently implements UN listings by way of EU Regulation, which involves a delay between UN adoption and listings taking legal effect. Asset freezes under UN obligations are made as soon as corresponding EU regulations come into force. If aware of assets held in the UK, the government proactively notifies financial institutions, to compensate for any delay in legal effect of the UN decision. While work is underway by the European Commission to streamline that process and speed up implementation, the UK government has decided to bring forward domestic legislation to bridge the gap. On December 17, 2015, the UK announced that it would legislate to remove the delay between the adoption of UN sanctions decisions and their implementation in the UK. This would apply to both existing and new UN regimes, and would mean that designations will take legal effect in the UK immediately following UN adoption. For domestic asset freezes under UNSCR 1373, action is taken immediately. As of September 2015, the UK held approximately US $151,290 in frozen assets: US $59,003 under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010, US $16,642 under the EU terrorist asset freezing regime, and US $75,645 related to the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Her Majesty’s Treasury licenses funds to individuals subject to asset freezes for daily living expenses and legal costs; therefore the amount frozen fluctuates over time.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regulates money transfer and remittance services. HMRC requires remitters to understand to whom they are sending money, and collect originator and recipient information. UK charities have a duty to report suspicions or beliefs of terrorism financing offenses under section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000; it is an offense to fail to make such a report. Such reports are filed directly with the police or with the National Crime Agency. Charities with an annual income of US $40,500 per year are obliged to file with the Charity Commission serious incident reports of fraud, theft, or other criminal behavior to include support for proscribed organizations or individuals. Charities with annual income under US $40,500 per year “should” report such incidents to the Commission, but failure to do so does not result in a criminal offense. This is separate from the legal requirement to make a report under section 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Countering Violent Extremism: The UK continued to be an important partner in the effort to counter violent extremism. In October 2015, the UK announced a new domestic strategy to counter extremist ideologies in all of their forms as well as violent extremism. The strategy provides an official definition of extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” Through the strategy, the UK government seeks to combat all forms of extremism and not just violent extremism. The strategy laid out a four-fold approach to countering extremism: countering extremist ideology; building partnerships with civil society; disrupting extremists; and building more cohesive communities. The UK government also announced US $7 million in new funding to provide direct and in-kind practical support to domestic counter-extremist groups to expand the reach and scale of their counter-messaging efforts.
International and Regional Cooperation: The UK robustly supported counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations in 2015. In response to terrorist attacks targeting Western tourists in North Africa, such as in Tunisia, the UK expanded its protective and aviation capacity building efforts in third countries through regional and multilateral organizations. The UK led the call for an EU Directive on Passenger Name Record information for people travelling within the Schengen Area. In addition, the UK exercised leadership in the EU to amend the EU Firearms Directive, resulting in the tightening of controls on the acquisition and possession of firearms. The UK also supported stronger external border controls through the better use of information sharing and border checks. In April, the UK adopted the Schengen Information System, which facilitates cooperation among European law enforcement, immigration, and border control agencies. In September, Prime Minister Cameron and Home Secretary May spoke on counterterrorism and CVE at the UN. The UK is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and along with the United Arab Emirates, co-chaired the Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. It is also a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law and seconded a law enforcement advisor to the Institute who helped develop and deliver counterterrorism-related trainings for police officers.