Chapter 2. Country Reports: South and Central Asia Overview
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
South Asia remained a front-line region in the battle against terrorism. Although al-Qa’ida (AQ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, AQ’s global leadership continued to operate from remote locations in the region that the group has historically exploited for safe haven. International, Afghan, and Pakistani forces continued to contest AQ’s presence in the region, and Pakistan’s offensive in North Waziristan Agency further degraded the group’s freedom to operate. Pressure on AQ’s traditional safe havens has constrained the leadership’s ability to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside of South Asia.
Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan. Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) assumed full responsibility for security in Afghanistan in January 2015, and maintained control of the majority of districts in the country. The ANDSF and Coalition Forces, in partnership, took aggressive action against terrorist elements across Afghanistan.
While terrorist-related violence in Pakistan declined in 2015, the country continued to suffer significant terrorist attacks, particularly against vulnerable targets such as schools. The Pakistani military and security forces undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten U.S. interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan has also not taken sufficient action against other externally-focused groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which continued to operate, train, organize, and fundraise in Pakistan.
In January 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced the establishment of its formal branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K). The group primarily comprises disenfranchised members of the Afghan Taliban and TTP. At year’s end, the majority of the group’s attacks were against Afghan government, Taliban, and civilian targets, although the group also claimed a small number of attacks in Pakistan’s settled areas. Over the course of the year, ISIL-K gained a small foothold in eastern Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, but was significantly challenged by the Afghan government, Coalition Forces, and the Taliban, and had little support among the region’s population.
India continued to experience terrorist attacks, including operations launched by Maoist insurgents and transnational groups based in Pakistan. Indian authorities continued to blame Pakistan for cross-border attacks in Kashmir and Jammu. In July, India experienced a terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab; the first in India’s Punjab Province since the 1990s. Over the course of 2015, the Government of India sought to deepen counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. President Obama and Prime Minister Modi continued to prioritize counterterrorism cooperation during President Obama’s visit to India in January and Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington in September. The Indian government closely monitored the domestic threat from ISIL and other terrorist organizations.
Bangladesh experienced a significant increase in terrorist attacks in 2015 compared to 2014. Transnational groups such as ISIL and AQ in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have claimed several attacks targeting foreigners, religious minorities, police, secular bloggers, and publishers. The Government of Bangladesh has attributed these attacks to the political opposition and local terrorists.
In 2015, the threat from foreign terrorist fighters remained a concern for Central Asian leaders due to ISIL activities in the Middle East and the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Afghanistan after the drawdown of U.S. and Coalition Forces.
Overview: With the conclusion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission on December 31, 2014, Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) assumed full responsibility for the security and defense of Afghanistan. The United States remained committed to sustained political, diplomatic, and economic engagement in Afghanistan and retained the capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan; however, the majority of these operations were carried out in conjunction with, or solely by, Afghan units. The United States also continued to support the professionalization and modernization of the ANDSF. The military component of U.S. assistance to the ANDSF transitioned to NATO’s non-combat Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on January 1, 2015. RSM focused on building the capabilities of the Afghan forces at the regional (Corps) level and above through its train, advise, and assist mission and USFOR-A retained U.S. counterterrorism functions, as outlined in the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Governments of Afghanistan and the United States, also known as the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
In 2015, the ANDSF faced a challenging first year of fighting without the support of internationally-led combat operations. ANDSF operations centered on the provinces of Kunduz, Badakhshan, Zabul, Ghazni, and Helmand. Taliban insurgents amassed in larger numbers and attacked multiple district centers throughout the country, particularly in the provinces of Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kunduz. Several districts remained contested at year’s end although all major population centers and critical infrastructure remained under government control. The Haqqani Network (HQN), a semi-autonomous faction of the Taliban, continued to plan and conduct high profile attacks and assassinations against U.S., Coalition, and Afghan interests, particularly in Kabul and other key government centers. While al-Qa’ida (AQ) has been severely degraded in the region, its regional affiliate, al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate in Afghanistan. Notably, AQIS members were active at a large training camp in a remote area of Kandahar Province. On October 11, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a coordinated joint operation that successfully destroyed the AQIS training camp and a related facility, and killed dozens of AQ-linked trainees.
President Ghani identified establishing a peace process as a top priority of his administration and pursued engagement with the Taliban. The Afghan government had its first direct meeting with the Taliban on July 7 in Murree, Pakistan; however, these talks were suspended shortly after the revelation in late July that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died in 2013. On December 9, following meetings on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia summit, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the United States committed to seeking the resumption of talks as soon as possible.
On January 26, 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) publicly announced the establishment of an affiliate, ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K), in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since its inception, ISIL-K has been mostly active in the eastern parts of Afghanistan. By the end of 2015, the group had established a foothold in the southern districts of Nangarhar Province, where ISIL-K fighters had reportedly shut down schools. In 2015, the ANDSF conducted several successful operations against ISIL-K bases in southern Nangarhar. Repeated heavy fighting between the Taliban and ISIL-K was reported in the province as well.
In early December 2015, local media reported that a new ISIL-K radio station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” began operating out of Nangarhar Province, making evening broadcasts in the Pashto language via a mobile transmitter. The Afghan government shut down the radio station on December 23, taking action under the Afghan Law on Fighting Crimes Against Internal and External Threats. On December 26, however, local media reported that ISIL-K radio was back on the air after changing frequencies. At the close of the year, the Afghan government was considering a range of options to shut down the station’s operations.
ISIL-K’s Salafist ideology may resonate with fringe elements of terrorist groups in Afghanistan, but the majority of Afghanistan-based terrorists resisted fully aligning themselves with the group and the Taliban were overtly hostile to the ISIL affiliate. One exception was the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which publicly announced termination of its long-time alliance with the Taliban to align with ISIL-K.
Based on Afghan media commentary, it appears that the Afghan people have developed a deep disdain for ISIL-K’s extreme violence. Some Afghans have responded to ISIL-K atrocities through grassroots, civilian-organized militias that have emerged to combat ISIL-K. At times, these militias have partnered with Afghan security forces.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: In 2015, Afghanistan remained an area of active hostilities, and various groups used terrorist tactics to pursue their goals. Methods used included suicide bombers, vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings, beheadings, and targeted assassinations.
Anti-government groups across Afghanistan aimed to expand their territorial influence, disrupt civil governance, and create a public perception of instability, as ISAF combat operations ended and Afghan forces assumed full responsibility for the security of their country. Attacks diverged from the historic seasonal pattern of higher activity in the spring and summer as terrorist groups – the Taliban in particular – conducted attacks on the ANDSF throughout the fall and early winter of 2015, especially in the less weather-affected southern province of Helmand. Attackers continued to use large VBIEDs and complex attacks involving multiple attackers laden with suicide vests working in teams. These incidents increasingly targeted ANDSF, Afghan government buildings, and soft foreign civilian targets, as the overall number of potential foreign military targets decreased due to a drawdown in the international military presence. Terrorist activity expanded from areas in the south and east of Afghanistan to areas in the north; Helmand and Kunduz were the main focus of attacks at the end of 2015. Helmand, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Kunar, and Kunduz represented the most violent provinces for ANDSF and civilians.
The following list details only a small fraction of the hundreds of incidents that occurred during 2015:
- On March 19, the Taliban carried out a suicide attack targeting and killing the provincial chief of police (PCoP) of Uruzgan Province. The suicide bomber was wearing a burqa and detonated his vest as he approached the PCoP on the streets of Kabul.
- On June 9, in an insider attack, five Afghan policemen were shot and killed by fellow policemen in southern Kandahar Province. The incident took place at a security check point in Khakriz District. The provincial governor’s spokesperson confirmed the insider attack.
- On June 22, a Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Parliament building in Kabul as lawmakers met to consider the appointment of a new defense minister. A Taliban fighter detonated a car loaded with explosives outside the Parliament gates, and six gunmen attempted to enter the building. One civilian was killed and approximately 30 civilians were wounded in the attack.
- On July 22, a suicide motorcyclist detonated his explosives in the middle of a market in the Alamar District of Faryab Province. Twenty people were killed in the attack, including an Afghan National Army soldier, and more than 30 people, including two ANDSF personnel, were injured.
- On August 7, terrorists launched three attacks in Kabul. In the first attack at 1:00 a.m., a massive VBIED in a truck driven by a suicide attacker detonated in the center of Kabul, killing 15 people and wounding more than 240 civilians. In the second attack, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 26 police cadets and wounded another 27 when he blew himself up outside the gates of a police academy. The bomber was dressed in police uniform and detonated his explosive vest after approaching a group of cadets who were standing outside the academy. In a separate Taliban attack, one RSM service member and eight Afghan contractors were killed.
- On August 8, at least 22 members of a reportedly pro-government militia were killed in an explosion in northern Kunduz Province.
- On August 10, ISIL-K released a video of the executions of 10 village elders in Nangarhar Province. ISIL-K forced the men to sit on IEDs and detonated them.
- On September 28, in a complex coordinated attack, Taliban insurgents captured Kunduz City, Afghanistan’s sixth largest city. Following several days of fighting, the ANDSF recaptured the city. As a result of the attacks, an estimated 50 individuals were killed and 600 were injured.
- On December 8, a Taliban assault near Kandahar Airfield resulted in the deaths of 36 civilians and 15 Afghan soldiers. Another 35 were injured, including 21 ANDSF personnel and 14 civilians. During the attack, Taliban fighters temporarily occupied a neighborhood bazaar, school, and an apartment complex.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Afghan Attorney General's Office (AGO) investigates and prosecutes violations of the laws on Crimes against the Internal and External Security of the State (1976 and 1987), the Law on Combat Against Terrorist Offenses (2008), and the Law of Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives (2005). The AGO also investigates and prosecutes violations of laws that prohibit membership in terrorist or insurgent groups, as well as laws that forbid violent acts committed against the state, hostage-taking, murder, and the use of explosives against military forces and state infrastructure. The Law on the Structure and Jurisdiction of the Attorney General's Office, enacted in October 2013, codified the structure and funding of the existing Anti-Terrorism Protection Directorate (ATPD) in the AGO. The ATPD permits the investigation and prosecution of terrorist and national security cases in accordance with internationally accepted methods and evidentiary rules.
The Justice Center in Parwan (JCIP), adjacent to Bagram Air Field, continued to adjudicate cases of individuals detained by Afghan security forces and accused of terrorism and other national security threat crimes. In July, the Office of the National Security Council issued a directive ordering any person detained on one of seven specified criteria be sent to the JCIP for prosecution. Those seven criteria include suspects captured on the field of battle; individuals accused of terrorist crimes; influential and prominent members of the Taliban; and commanders of terrorist groups. In September, President Ghani issued by presidential decree Annex 1 to the Afghan Criminal Procedure Code that expanded the AGO’s authority to investigate and prosecute terrorist crimes; prohibited persons sentenced for terrorist crimes from receiving a parole or pardon; and designated the JCIP as the country’s counterterrorism court with nationwide jurisdiction. Its docket regularly includes cases against those implicated in terrorist attacks on U.S. military personnel and U.S. military and civilian installations in Afghanistan. Between January and October of 2015, the JCIP adjudicated 214 primary court cases (compared to 533 in 2014), and 451 appellate court cases (compared to 1,153 in 2014).
Because of its operational structure and the continuous support and assistance it received from the international community, the ANDSF demonstrated the capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations in 2015. The Afghan and U.S. governments investigated a variety of criminal acts, including kidnappings and conspiracies to commit terrorist acts. Occasionally, U.S. law enforcement bodies assisted the Ministry of Interior, the National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan authorities to take action to disrupt and dismantle terrorist operations and prosecute terrorist suspects. The ANDSF continued to receive train, advise, and assist (TAA) support from the international community in 2015. The Department of State continued to deliver Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) training to Afghan security forces in 2015, with a focus on building security force capacity to engage in effective tactical counterterrorism operations.
Afghanistan continued to process traveler arrivals and departures at major points of entry using the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES). In 2015, the PISCES program was expanded to new Points of Entry to meet Afghanistan’s border security requirements. Moreover, Afghan Border Police (ABP) officers completed more in-depth training on developing and maintaining a national screening list and efforts were under way at year’s end to leverage PISCES reporting capabilities for use in counterterrorism and criminal investigations.
Despite advances in capability, the ANDSF continued to face significant challenges in successfully securing the country’s porous land borders, particularly those with Pakistan and Iran. The ABP, part of the policing wing of the ANDSF, numbers more than 23,000 officers and has the lead on border security. Its numbers and weaponry are insufficient to successfully execute its mission, particularly in the border areas where border police face difficult terrain, resupply, and coordination issues with the Afghan National Army, and heavily armed anti-government groups that attack them in force.
The Afghan government faces several significant obstacles to more effective law enforcement and border security. After decades of war and poor or fragmented governance in many rural areas, the ANDSF is working with international actors to build capacity. While Afghanistan has made progress since 2001, complex organizational structures, weak inter-ministerial coordination, rampant corruption, lack of territorial control (particularly in the border regions with Pakistan), and de facto safe havens for terrorist groups operating on its soil remained ongoing challenges.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Since April 2006, Afghanistan has been a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA), is a member of the Egmont Group. In June 2014, the FATF strongly warned Afghanistan to comply with the government’s June 2012 commitment to implement an action plan agreed upon with FATF to address identified deficiencies by October 2014, or run the risk of being placed on the list of “high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions.” The FATF action plan outlined a number of areas that the government needed to address to bring Afghanistan into compliance with international standards, including enactment of amended anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation. In 2014, the Afghan government took initial steps to address deficiencies in its AML/CFT regime, including publishing its since-enacted AML and CFT statutes. In March 2015, Afghanistan amended its AML and CFT laws to become more compliant with the FATF recommendations. Since June, Afghanistan has taken further steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, which included issuing an appropriate regulation for the financial sector and cross-border declaration regulations for the physical transportation of cash and of negotiable instruments. However, questions persist regarding UNSCR implementation and the FATF has determined that certain strategic deficiencies remain and recommended that Afghanistan address its remaining deficiencies and continue the process of implementing its action plan.
Afghan officials indicated that because AQ, the Taliban, and terrorist organizations related to the Central Asian Republics transfer their assets from person to person or through informal banking systems, it is very difficult to track, freeze, and confiscate their assets. When transactions have come to the Afghan government’s attention, either via FinTRACA or reports from the Afghan security agencies, the government has reportedly acted promptly not only to freeze but also to confiscate those assets.
Money Service Providers (MSP) in Afghanistan are required to register with and provide currency transaction reports to FinTRACA. These reports include monthly data on volumes and numbers of transactions, detailing whether transactions are inbound or outbound, foreign or domestic, and in local or foreign currency. Oversight is weak but improving, with the period between 2014 and April 2015 seeing an increase in the number of on-site inspections of money service providers; a total of 149 MSPs were fined approximately $51,724 for non-compliance during that time period. Capacity issues at the FIU due to personnel shortages and lack of training continued to hamper full oversight of this sector.
The amended CFT law considers non-profit organizations as legal entities and requires them to file suspicious transaction reports. The Afghan government distributed UN sanctions lists to financial institutions via secure e-mail.
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 Afghan government does not have a comprehensive formal national countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy, but has begun the process to develop one. The Office of the National Security Council has designated a team to take the lead in coordinating the government’s CVE engagement. Various ministries and offices have CVE issues incorporated in their portfolios. The government continued to support activities designed to prevent radicalization, including through curricula development, messaging through registered mosques, and support of the Moderation Center of Afghanistan.
Through engagement with religious communities, Afghan government officials promoted religious moderation, encouraged tolerance, and condemned violence. There are approximately 120,000 mosques in Afghanistan, of which 3,700 are registered with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MoHRA) and the Ministry of Education. Registration is not compulsory, and unregistered mosques, many of which have associated madrassas, operated independently of government oversight. Some religious leaders at unregistered mosques and madrassas promoted violent extremism. The National Ulema Council is a quasi-governmental body of religious scholars established by former President Karzai in 2002. Since taking office in September 2014, President Ghani has engaged actively on CVE efforts, requesting that the Ulema Council condemn insurgent attacks and issue a call for peace in mosques throughout the country.
In the second half of 2015, the Presidential Palace boosted efforts to coordinate messaging on security and other issues, including strategic messaging to weaken the appeal of violent extremism. During that period, the Presidential Palace was in the process of conducting a strategic review under the auspices of a strategic communications advisor to enhance the Afghan government’s strategic communications efforts. Under the plan, the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC) would be used as the hub for proactive governmental messaging and communication within the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson. Government spokespersons regularly participated in coordination meetings at GMIC and exchanged views on how to defuse the negative rhetoric promoted by terrorist groups.
In media appearances, Afghan political leaders often emphasized the important role of the Ulema Council (religious leaders) in preaching peace and denouncing terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Taliban, ISIL, HQN, and others. The Council issued media statements to condemn violence by anti-government groups on only a few occasions.
In 2015, mainstream Afghan media continued to play the lead role in reflecting the public anger at and condemnation of terrorist attacks. Media played a major role in countering extremist messaging, which remains critical for the marginalization of these anti-government elements in the minds of the public. During the fall and subsequent recapture of Kunduz City in September, Afghanistan’s two leading TV stations (Tolo News and 1TV) covered extrajudicial killings of civilians and other human rights abuses by the Taliban, including reporting that university students had been raped. The Taliban subsequently threatened to target Tolo News and 1TV after the public outcry against the atrocities. The Afghan government, however, at times criticized Afghan media as serving the interests of the Taliban and other terrorist and opposition groups by broadcasting their claims and statements. On the other hand, some of these media outlets and journalists were threatened by the Taliban for their pro-government coverage. Media outlets, such as Tolo, devoted considerable resources to public service messages calling for national unity, respect for human rights, and other themes related to countering violent extremism.
Afghan religious leaders, civil society members, and government officials attended conferences at the Hedayah Center (an international center headquartered in Abu Dhabi focused on countering violent extremism), the February 2015 White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, regional CVE summits, and UNGA side events where they participated in discussions about approaches to countering violent extremism. Afghan religious leaders received training on tolerance programming in the United Arab Emirates and scholars from other countries visited Afghanistan to speak on issues of tolerance and peace.
The High Peace Council oversees the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) program, which pays for and provides the institutional mechanism to implement the Afghan government’s peace activities including the reintegration of former militants at the local level, provincial-level peace outreach, and Ulema engagement on countering violent extremism. The APRP maintained a field presence in 33 provinces. Individual fighters who join the program make the commitment to renounce violence and sever all ties with AQ, and to abide by the Constitution of Afghanistan. Since its inception in 2010, the APRP has successfully reintegrated more than 10,700 former combatants across Afghanistan.
International and Regional Cooperation: Afghanistan consistently emphasized the need to strengthen joint cooperation to fight terrorism and violent extremism in a variety of bilateral and multilateral fora. Notable among such meetings were the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process, the UN Regional Center for Preventative Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Afghanistan shares the lead on the Counterterrorism Confidence Building Measures (CT-CBM) of the Istanbul Process, working closely with Turkey and the UAE. Under the CT-CBM framework, Afghanistan participated in a regional technical group meeting in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss CT-CBM implementation. In December, Afghanistan participated in a Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, and hosted the 31st Tripartite (United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) Counter-IED Working Group meeting in Kabul. In collaboration with Tajikistan and the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, Afghanistan organized a workshop entitled “Sharing of Experiences on Implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia for Heart of Asia Countries” in May 2015. In August-September, the ABP participated in a “Border Security and Management for Countering Terrorism” Regional Workshop in Tajikistan.
Overview: The Government of Bangladesh has articulated a “zero-tolerance” policy towards terrorism and remained committed to counterterrorism cooperation. Bangladesh experienced a significant increase in violent extremist activity in 2015 compared to 2014. Notably, attacks in 2015 were claimed both in the names of al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whereas in past years violent extremist activity was associated with local groups. Despite these claims, the Government of Bangladesh attributed recent extremist violence to the political opposition and local terrorists.
Terrorist organizations used social media to spread their radical ideologies and solicit followers from Bangladesh. An article titled “The Revival of Jihad in Bengal” appeared in the November 2015 edition of the ISIL online magazine Dabiq, outlining ISIL activities in Bangladesh and plans for future attacks. Bangladesh participated in the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism in February and follow-on summits. It also joined the Saudi-led Islamic counterterrorism alliance announced in December.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: In 2015, Bangladesh experienced an increase in terrorist attacks against religious minorities and government installations and for the first time, transnational groups have claimed responsibility for these attacks.
AQIS claimed attacks on February 26, March 30, May 12, August 7, and October 31 that resulted in the murders of four bloggers and a publisher, including an American citizen. ISIL also claimed nine attacks, including the murder of an Italian NGO worker (September 28): a Japanese aid worker (October 3), and an attack on an Italian priest (November 18). ISIL reportedly was behind an attack on a Shia Ashura procession (October 24) that killed one person and injured nearly 100; an attack on a police checkpoint (November 4) killing a police officer; and a December 25 suicide attack on an Ahmadiyya Muslim Community mosque. The attacker died in the December 25 attack and the press reported 10 to 12 injuries. The Government of Bangladesh insisted that ISIL did not have an operational presence in the country and attributed the ISIL-claimed attacks to domestic elements.
Additionally, there was an unclaimed December 18 attack using crude explosives at two mosques on a naval base in Chittagong (injuring between six and 25 according to press reports), as well as threats and small scale attacks against Christians, Hindus, and minority Muslim groups. In each of the terrorist incidents claimed by AQIS, attackers used machetes. The attacks claimed in the name of ISIL involved a variety of weapons: machetes, pistols, and crude explosives. In the case of the attack on the Ahmadiyya mosque, a suicide vest was used.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bangladesh’s criminal justice system continued to make progress in fully implementing the Antiterrorism Act of 2009 (ATA) as amended in 2012 and 2013. Although Bangladesh’s ATA does not outlaw recruitment and travel in furtherance of terrorism, the broad language of the law provides several mechanisms by which Bangladesh can implement UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014), related to addressing the foreign terrorist fighter threat. Government forces reportedly arrested numerous members of ISIL and of domestic terrorist groups, including suspected supporters of Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). On December 24, police arrested three suspected JMB terrorists in a raid, recovering crude explosive devices and a suicide vest.
Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. Bangladesh continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program and received counterterrorism training for law enforcement officers in such areas as crisis response, explosive ordnance disposal, and aviation security. Bangladesh also received Department of State-funded prosecutorial skills training and community oriented-policing training in targeted areas of the country. U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) continued security and stability training with a number of Bangladesh security forces – including the Bangladesh Coast Guard, Bangladesh Navy Special Warfare and Diving Salvage unit, and the Bangladesh Army 1st Para Commando Battalion. Although the Bangladesh military does not have a clear counterterrorism mandate, SOCPAC will continue to maintain strong partnerships with these forces to develop their special operations capabilities.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bangladesh is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Bangladesh Bank (the central bank) and its financial intelligence unit/anti-money laundering section, Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), lead the government’s efforts to comply with international standards on countering the financing of terrorism. The BFIU is a member of the Egmont Group. The APG Mutual Evaluation Team conducted a country assessment in October 2015. In addition to signing 10 Memorandums of Understanding with financial intelligence unit counterparts in other countries, the BFIU has continued its effort to increase capacity with various training programs for its own officials and of officials of other stakeholders.
The terrorism finance provisions of Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism act (ATA) prohibit the provision, receipt, and collection of money, services, and material support where “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the same has been used or may be used for any purpose by a terrorist entity.” The Act prohibits membership in and support of prohibited organizations, i.e., organizations engaged or involved in terrorist activities, including the organizations listed in the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. The ATA includes a broad provision authorizing mutual legal cooperation on terrorism matters with other nations and a comprehensive forfeiture provision for assets involved in terrorism activities. However, at year’s end, successful implementation of existing laws remained a significant issue. From July 2014 to June 2015, charges were filed in 64 money laundering cases with one conviction recorded. A Banking Dialogue was held in London sponsored by the Department of Justice in the fall of 2015 for members of the Bangladesh Bank, BFIU, and senior local bank officials, and the Department of State continued to support technical training and mentorship for Bangladeshi investigators and prosecutors in handling counterterrorism finance and anti-money laundering cases. The Dialogue included discussion on counterterrorism finance and money laundering.
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, Bangladesh formed the Community Support Mechanism (CSM) under the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience (GCERF), a public-private global fund to support local, grassroots efforts to counter violent extremism. The CSM identified five local organizations to be potential recipients of GCERF funds, and submitted a national application to the GCERF Board of Directors which was approved with Independent Review Panel recommendations in December. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention worked with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism. In 2015, the police began developing a plan to engage religious leaders in the fight against violent extremism by helping to counter terrorist propaganda with appropriate scripture-based messages.
International and Regional Cooperation: Bangladesh is active in several international fora. Bangladesh is party to various counterterrorism protocols under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and is bringing the country’s counterterrorism efforts in line with the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In 2015, the government demonstrated strong interest in cooperating with India on counterterrorism. It has signed memoranda of understanding with a number of countries to share evidence regarding criminal investigations, including investigations related to financial crimes and terrorism financing.
Overview: Indian counterterrorism cooperation with the United States continued to increase in 2015. In January 2015, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi committed to deepening bilateral cooperation on the full spectrum of terrorism threats. Both leaders reaffirmed concerns over threats posed by groups such as al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and called for the United States and India to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movement of terrorists. They also noted the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities operating in South Asia, including LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Haqqani Network, and called for Pakistan to bring perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attack to justice.
In January 2015, the U.S. Department of Treasury and India’s Ministry of Finance signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation against money laundering and terrorism financing via the U.S.-India anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) Dialogue. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security agreed with Indian counterparts to enhance cooperation in countering IED threats pursuant to a Joint Work Plan. Indian officials participated in the February White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the June Central and South Asia Regional CVE Summit, and the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York. In June, U.S. and Indian police officials held a community policing consultation. The U.S.-India Megacity Policing Exchange continued to deepen collaboration on training and community policing between local and state law enforcement. In July, interagency officials participated in the inaugural U.S.-India Terrorist Designations Exchange, to strengthen cooperation on domestic terrorist designations, including implementation of UNSCR 1373 (2001), and on international designations pursuant to the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. In August, officials participating in the U.S-India Cyber Dialogue agreed to continue close cooperation on cyber security and information sharing.
The September U.S.-India Joint Declaration on Combatting Terrorism reaffirmed U.S. and Indian commitments to combat terrorism in all its forms and to uphold shared values of democracy, justice, and rule of law. The declaration condemned the July 27 terrorist attack in Gurdaspur, Punjab, and the August 5 attack in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, described below. While India did not join the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL in 2015, the Joint Declaration recognized the serious threat posed by ISIL to global security and affirmed efforts to degrade and defeat this threat in accordance with the provisions of UNSCRs 2170, 2178, and 2199.
Indian officials emphasized that the government takes threats posed by ISIL seriously, even though media reported that less than 30 Indians have been recruited into the organization and less than 200 have considered joining. In some instances, clerics and family members supported de-radicalization efforts by government officials, although sympathy for ISIL appeared to increase online. On December 18, Prime Minister Modi attended a senior-level police conference on de-radicalization and countering ISIL propaganda.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: The following representative incidents occurred:
- On January 10, CPI-Maoists in Chhattisgarh killed a constable and seriously injured three others.
- On June 4, tribal guerrillas in Manipur used rocket-propelled grenade IEDs to attack a military convoy headed for Imphal, killing twenty Indian soldiers and injuring 11.
- On July 27, three LeT terrorists in army fatigues fired on a bus and attacked a police station in Gurdaspur, Punjab, killing four police officers and three civilians, and injuring 15. Five bombs were found on the Amritsar-Pathankot railway line bridge, five kilometers from the site of the attack, the first major strike in Punjab since Sikh militants were active there in the 1980s and 1990s.
- On August 5, two LeT terrorists attacked a Border Security Force (BSF) convoy in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, killing two. One of the two attackers, both identified as Pakistani nationals, was captured alive and the other was killed. National Investigation Agency efforts led to the arrest of six additional LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists. The alleged planner behind the attack, Abdul Qasim, was subsequently killed during an October police encounter in Kashmir.
- In November, an Indian Army colonel was killed in a firefight with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In December 2014, India banned ISIL under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (1967). During 2015, it also undertook efforts to implement UNSCRs 2178 and 2199, and sanctions under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. India continued to address terrorism-related activities through existing statutes, including the UAPA, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on Suppression of Terrorism Act (1993), and various state-level laws. The UAPA presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce certain incriminating evidence indicating the possession of arms or explosives or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether criminal intent is demonstrated. State governments held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA. Other state-level counterterrorism laws reduce evidentiary standards for certain charges and increase police powers to detain a person and his or her associates without charges and without bail for extended periods.
Since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, India has sought to enhance its counterterrorism capabilities. Interagency coordination and information sharing remained challenging, and local police forces suffered from poor training and equipment. India launched initiatives to address some of these challenges, including through a Multi-Agency Centre for enhancing intelligence gathering and sharing.
Indian officials participated in U.S.-sponsored law enforcement and security training at the central government and state levels to enhance India’s capabilities in critical incident management, infrastructure security, community-oriented policing, crime scene investigations, explosive ordnance detection and countermeasures, forensics, cyber security, mega city policing, and other areas. Indian police and security officials at both the state and federal levels received training under the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program in technical areas related to counterterrorism and law enforcement. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security, through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Attaché office, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, conducted training programs and exchanges with Indian law enforcement personnel.
On September 10, police in Assam killed two Dima Halam Daogah (DHD-A) militant leaders. On December 17, media reported that Indian officials identified former Uttar Pradesh resident Sanaul Haq (aka Maulana Asim Umar) as the head of al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Haq, who reportedly lives in Pakistan, had been appointed to his position by Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: In January 2015, the inaugural U.S.-India Anti-Money Laundering/Counterterrorism Finance (AML/CFT) dialogue was held. India is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and two FATF-style regional bodies, the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. India’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU-IND) is also a member of the Egmont Group. Indian officials monitored and regulated money transfers, required the collection of data for wire transfers, obliged non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports, and regulated and monitored these entities to prevent misuse and terrorism financing.
Although the Government of India aligned its domestic AML/CFT laws with international standards by enacting amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in November 2012, the government has yet to implement the legislation effectively, especially with regard to criminal convictions. Law enforcement agencies typically open criminal investigations reactively and seldom initiate proactive analysis and long-term investigations. While the Indian government has taken action against certain hawala financing activities, prosecutions have generally focused on non-financial businesses that conduct hawala transactions as a secondary activity. Additionally, the government has not taken adequate steps to ensure all relevant industries are complying with AML/CFT regulations. The reporting of suspicious transaction Reports (STRs) relating specifically to terrorism financing increased significantly. From July 2014 to April 2015, FIU-IND received 76,149 STRs and disseminated 52,485 STRs to various intelligence and law enforcement authorities.
The degree of training and expertise in financial investigations involving transnational crime or terrorism-affiliated groups varied widely among the federal, state, and local levels and depends on the financial resources and individual policies of various jurisdictions. More than 300 personnel from various zonal/sub-zonal offices of India’s Enforcement Directorate participated in training programs on financial investigation, money laundering, foreign exchange contraventions, effective prosecutions, and cybercrimes as part of an effort to build capacity. U.S. investigators have had limited success in coordinating the seizure of illicit proceeds with their Indian counterparts. While intelligence and investigative information supplied by U.S. law enforcement authorities led to numerous seizures of terrorism-related funds, a lack of follow-through on investigational leads has prevented a more comprehensive approach.
The Government of India took steps to increase financial inclusion through expanding access to the banking sector and issuing biometric-enabled universal identification numbers.
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: During 2015, India’s central government expanded its role in global efforts to counter radicalization and violent extremism. Indian officials participated in the February 2015 White House CVE Summit and in follow-on meetings. Mumbai participated in the Strong Cities Network, a forum to build sub-national resiliency against violent extremism.
In June, the Government of India appointed a Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Extremism. India has taken steps to implement UNSCR 2178 related to foreign terrorist fighters and to advance efforts on CVE. In August, the Ministry of Home Affairs reportedly convened a meeting to discuss steps for countering radicalization and recruitment with officials representing 12 states and union territories. The government implemented new initiatives to provide “quality and modern education” in madrassas. In addition, the government continued to operate programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate former terrorists and insurgents into mainstream society. These programs target disaffected sectors of Indian society that have been sources of separatism and violent insurgency.
Indian government officials have raised concerns over the use of social media and the internet to recruit, radicalize, and foment inter-religious tensions. In particular, officials expressed concern about the ability of ISIL to recruit online, following prominent incidents in which Indians were attracted to join or support the group.
International and Regional Cooperation: India is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and participated in GCTF and other UN forums on counterterrorism in 2015. In May 2015, India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) hosted a U.S.-sponsored regional dialogue predicated upon the GCTF Marrakech Memorandum on Foreign Terrorist Fighters, which focused on best practices for countering the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon.
In addition, India’s counterterrorism cooperation with neighbors continued to develop. The October 2014 blasts in the Burdwan district of West Bengal generated counterterrorism cooperation between India and Bangladesh, including visits by Indian officials to Dhaka. During 2015, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments continued their cooperation under their bilateral Coordinated Border Management Plan to control illegal cross-border activities and announced the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the field of security and border management. Also during 2015, India and Nepal continued counterterrorism cooperation along their shared border. India is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Overview: The Government of Kazakhstan remained eager to increase counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and countering violent extremism (CVE). The Kazakhstani government is concerned about the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and by insecurity in Afghanistan. In June, Kazakhstan hosted a regional CVE conference in Astana and President Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke at the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September.
The Government of Kazakhstan views ISIL as a dangerous terrorist organization and appreciates Global Coalition to Counter ISIL efforts, but has not joined the Coalition. The Kazakhstani government does not have an official estimate of the number of Kazakhstanis that are fighting alongside ISIL. Media reports suggest that Kazakhstanis in Syria may fight with a host of armed groups, not just ISIL. Kazakhstani Security Council Secretary Nurlan Yermekbayev stated in July that 400 Kazakhstanis are fighting abroad, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan. National Security Committee (KNB) Chair Nurtai Abykaev publicly estimated in April that 350 Kazakhstanis are in Syria, but only 150 are fighting; the other 200 are family members.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kazakhstan has a comprehensive counterterrorism legal framework which includes laws on countering extremism and terrorism, and relevant bylaws and chapters in the Criminal Code, Procedural Code, and the Law on National Security. It is illegal for Kazakhstani citizens to fight in foreign wars. The government has taken a two-pronged approach to the few returning ISIL fighters, pursuing a rehabilitation program while arresting and prosecuting others.
President Nazarbayev approved amendments to several laws on local policing aimed at creating a local police service more accountable to the local representative bodies and communities. Kazakhstani courts designated ISIL as a terrorist organization on October 15.
Kazakhstan’s legal counterterrorism framework came under criticism in 2015 due to the arrest and prosecution of individuals and groups for committing offenses that would not be considered terrorism by international standards. For example, authorities arrested members of locally-banned religious groups, such as Tablighi Jamaat, which eschews violence.
The government’s counterterrorism plan allows for enhanced domestic interagency cooperation, coordination, and information-sharing, but the extent to which this occurred in 2015 is unclear. In the past, law enforcement bodies were criticized for killing rather than capturing members of suspected terrorist groups, but during the years leading up to and including 2015, they showed a greater tendency to arrest, detain, and question these suspects. There are four special counterterrorism detachments under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and one under the KNB.
Law enforcement units demonstrated an increased capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents, and Kazakhstani security forces continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.
Kazakhstan’s Border Guard Service (BGS) uses specialized passport control equipment at each passport control station, allowing officers to check for fraudulent documents. Every officer working at border crossing points must be a graduate of the BGS Academy’s four-year program, where they study passport control using passport samples from around the world. BGS officers receive regular instructions and refresher training, including additional training by the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program. Additionally, the Department of State provided behavioral profiling training to identify traffickers and terrorists and K-9 training for counterterrorism operations.
In recent years, Kazakhstan has strengthened security on its southern border by adding radar systems, inspection equipment and vehicles, and specialized mobile inspection groups. To combat nuclear smuggling, EXBS supported training programs for Central Asian border guard cadets on how to prevent nuclear trafficking and terrorism, and initiated construction on a border crossing training facility for the Border Guard Service Academy in June.
Kazakhstani courts delivered numerous sentences in 2015 for promotion of extremism and terrorism, terrorist activities in Syria, and recruitment and plotting terrorist acts. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) announced 280 cases involving extremism and terrorism in Kazakhstan in 2015. Most of those arrested were recruiters. Very few cases addressed intent to commit terrorist acts or depart for foreign conflict zones. In 2015, 71 people were convicted in terrorism-related cases, 13 were charged with participating in foreign armed conflicts. Media reports on detainment or conviction on such charges appeared more frequently in 2015.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kazakhstan belongs to the Eurasian Group; a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Kazakhstan’s unregulated financial sector is relatively small. In 2015, Kazakhstan passed amendments to its laws on countering the financing of terrorism to comply with international standards. The amendments seek to ensure conformity with updated FATF money laundering requirements and the legal assessment made by the Eurasian Group for Countering Legalization of Criminal Proceeds and Terrorism Financing. With these amendments, Kazakhstan is now in compliance with more than half of the FATF requirements, and Parliament is working toward greater compliance. Despite these efforts, in November the Eurasian Group downgraded Kazakhstan to “enhanced monitoring procedures” for its non-compliance with criminalization of money laundering, requiring Kazakhstan to report biannually on its progress in improving procedures for anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Kazakhstan’s countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts focused on preventing radicalization, with efforts to educate and provide alternatives to youth through social programs and economic opportunities. Building on the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February, Kazakhstan hosted a regional CVE Summit in Astana in June, where regional and international officials and subject matter experts discussed regional CVE challenges and opportunities for cooperation.
The Government of Kazakhstan focused its prevention efforts on detainment and prosecution of recruiters and proselytizers deemed by the government as sharing extremist ideas. Most convicted recruiters are placed in general regime penal colonies for three to six years. Human rights groups say the government exercises excessive vigilance in some cases. For example, one convict challenged his prison sentence claiming he was only discussing general religious topics online and sharing publicly available videos. The courts have blocked more than 700 websites for sharing extremist materials. In October, the website Vimeo was blocked by court order until the site removed videos that showed ISIL atrocities. Critics say Kazakhstan’s anti-radicalization efforts are unnecessarily heavy-handed, and could actually encourage radicalization of members of otherwise peaceful religious groups.
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sport conducted outreach to youth who studied abroad at religious schools suspected of indoctrinating youth in extremist ideology. Religious experts from the Committee for Religious Affairs reached out to at-risk youth via websites such as E-Islam, which was created to increase religious literacy and to counter radical ideas. Religious experts created groups on social networks such as Facebook and VKontakte, where they posted information and answered users’questions about religious extremism. Officials from the Committee for Religious Affairs provided training and awareness events for local imams, NGOs and media.
The government and NGOs continued rehabilitation and reintegration work with convicts and their relatives. The PGO claimed to have made progress in persuading convicted radicals to take less radical views.
International and Regional Cooperation: Kazakhstan participates in counterterrorism and CVE activities through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has established a joint task force for preventing the propagation of terrorist and extremist ideas via the internet. Kazakhstan is a member of the Community of Independent States’ (CIS) Anti-Terrorism Center that hosts a data bank of terrorist and extremist organizations banned in CIS that is made accessible to law enforcement and financial intelligence bodies of the member-states. The PGO cooperates with the OSCE on countering violent extremism and terrorism through joint workshops. Kazakhstan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has a limited counterterrorism role. From September 2015 to September 2016, Kazakhstan chaired the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure for coordination of joint antiterrorist exercises for its member states.
Overview: In 2015, the Kyrgyz Republic’s counterterrorism efforts focused on countering violent extremism (CVE), rooting out extremists, monitoring the flow of Kyrgyz national foreign terrorist fighters, and preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities. The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) conducted several operations targeting individuals suspected of affiliation with banned religious groups or extremist recruitment activities. GKNB and MVD officials conducted two counterterrorism operations that resulted in the deaths of several suspected terrorists. In 2015, the MVD estimated that 400 Kyrgyz citizen fighters were in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq, though the number could be higher. The government estimated that 70 percent of Kyrgyz citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria were ethnic Uzbeks. Kyrgyzstan restricts public information on national security issues, making it difficult to assess the efficacy of its counterterrorism operations and the wider extent of the threat.
The Kyrgyz Republic remained vulnerable to transnational threats, especially in southern areas. People and illicit goods continued to move relatively freely into and out of the country. The recession in Russia increased unemployment among Kyrgyz migrant laborers and had significant ripple effects on the Kyrgyz economy, potentially leaving the population more vulnerable to terrorist recruitment. The lack of opportunities for Kyrgyz youth also increased the vulnerability of young people. The MVD’s Tenth Directorate, which is responsible for counterterrorism operations, reported that in 2015, ISIL recruiters expanded their search for recruits to include more women and children, individuals with higher education and with professional skills such as doctors and computer technicians, which remain in short supply in ISIL-controlled territory. The government is concerned about the potential for an influx of terrorist elements from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and for instability to spread into Central Asia.
In 2015, the United States continued its programming to train customs and border security agencies to help detect and deter terrorist threats and combat corruption within various police organizations. The Kyrgyz State Border Guards and Customs Service cooperated closely with the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program. In 2015, EXBS funded a portion of the construction of two Border Service Horse Stables for improved interdiction along the border and additional interdiction and commodity identification training for Border and Customs Service officers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Kyrgyz Republic has two primary laws that govern counterterrorism operations. The first law, the “Law on Countering Terroristic Acts” (last revised in 2005), defines terrorism and provides the MVD and GKNB the authority to identify terrorist threats and prevent attacks. The second law, the “Law on Countering Money Laundering,” which was revised in 2006, addresses terrorism financing. Kyrgyz law criminalizes all activities in support of terrorism, extremism, and radicalization if the activities instigate a public security threat, recruit individuals, or include children. The GKNB leads the country’s Counterterrorism Center, which is comprised of representatives at the deputy minister level of relevant government ministries.
In July, the Kyrgyz parliament introduced and approved amendments to its counterterrorism legislation that increased the penalty for convictions for recruitment, training, and participating in military operations abroad to up to 15 years with confiscation of property. According to the office of the Prosecutor General, these stricter penalties will help law enforcement by deterring both prospective terrorists and those who wish to return to Kyrgyzstan. The government delivered statements indicating the need to reform the judiciary and strengthen rule of law, but made no concrete progress in 2015 as the judicial system remained vulnerable to corruption and political bias.
At the request of law enforcement agencies, the Kyrgyz parliament passed legislation increasing the legal penalties for returning fighters from Syria and Iraq, in an effort to dissuade them from returning to the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the MVD, it arrested all of the 20 to 30 foreign terrorist fighters known to have returned to the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2015, Kyrgyz President Atambaev expressed support for proposed new legislation that would strip Kyrgyz foreign terrorist fighters of their citizenship.
Although the GKNB’s Counterterrorism Center has demonstrated the ability to quickly react to bomb scares or other potential terrorist threats, it lacks specialized training and equipment. Interagency cooperation, coordination, and information sharing is sporadic. For example, the Prosecutor General’s office receives the results of GKNB and MVD investigations, including information to use in its prosecutions, but it has no mechanism to seek additional information after the investigation is complete. Kyrgyz security services face capacity issues, are overly bureaucratic, and struggle with corruption. Law enforcement agencies continued to lack equipment, manpower, and funding to effectively detect and deter criminal and potential terrorist operations in remote and mountainous areas of the south.
The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program continued to offer assistance to Kyrgyz security forces during much of 2015, including training focused on border control.
The government does not maintain a terrorist screening watchlist. It also does not have biographic or biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. Information sharing with other countries occurs rarely and usually only by request in the context of corruption or organized crime investigations. Information sharing and cooperation with counterterrorism officials in Turkey continued to increase in 2015, including information on the travel of Kyrgyz citizens to Turkey. The government does not collect advance passenger records on commercial flights.
According to open source reporting, in 2015 there were numerous counterterrorism operations in the Kyrgyz Republic. Most were small operations that resulted in the arrests of suspected extremists due to their possession of extremist materials.
There were two major law enforcement operations targeting suspected terrorists in Bishkek. On July 16, a counterterrorism operation closed down streets in central Bishkek for more than five hours. By the end of the operation, GKNB reported that it had “liquidated” four suspects – Kazakh nationals – who had been radicalized in prison, become members of ISIL, and planned a terrorist attack on the main square in Bishkek during the mass prayer event marking the end of Ramadan. GKNB also reported that these suspects planned to attack the Russian military base in Kant. On December 10, the GKNB killed two suspected terrorists in an effort to arrest them. The two suspects reportedly had ties to a terrorist cell led by a violent extremist that died in the July 16 operation.
In November, two men attacked Kadyr Malikov, Director of the Religion, Law, and Politics Analytical Center. According to the GKNB, the suspects were supporters of ISIL and fled to Turkey after the attack. Both suspects were detained in Turkey pending extradition to the Kyrgyz Republic to face charges in connection with the attack.
Law enforcement claimed to have found extremist materials in the homes of all of the suspects. At year’s end, the Kyrgyz government had released few additional details on the operations.
Impediments to more effective counterterrorism law enforcement activity included interagency rivalries, a lack of coordination between the GKNB and MVD, and budgetary constraints. Inefficient Soviet-era bureaucratic structures, corruption, low salaries, and frequent personnel turnover also hampered law enforcement efforts. Counterterrorism police units were still largely untested in real-life situations.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kyrgyzstan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Service of the Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2012, the government established a Commission on Combating the Financing of Terrorism; the Commission was largely inactive in 2015. The Kyrgyz Republic did not pursue any terrorism finance cases and did not identify or freeze any terrorist assets.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Kyrgyz Republic showed political support for CVE programs, but did not adopt any new strategies, policies, or initiatives in 2015. The government sent high-level representatives to the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the regional CVE conference in Kazakhstan in June, and the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, but did not implement new initiatives from the resulting action agendas in 2015.
The Ministry of Education took steps to develop a new curriculum for high school-aged students on moderate Islam and identifying terrorist recruitment tactics. The government also worked with the State Committee on Religious Affairs and Muslim leaders to develop a new national religious strategy to include counter-extremism measures. In 2015, the government cooperated with the OSCE and other international organizations and foreign governments to facilitate counter-extremism assistance programs. The government typically does not discourage or interfere with non-governmental programs that work with religious communities vulnerable to radicalization.
The GKNB continued its public awareness campaign in the Kyrgyz language press to discredit the efforts of ISIL recruiters. The Tenth Department of the MVD, together with local religious leaders in the southern provinces of Batken, Jalalabad, and Osh, conducted meetings with schoolchildren and their parents to explain the recruitment tactics of violent extremists and the legal consequences for foreign terrorist fighters from the Kyrgyz Republic if they choose to return.
International and Regional Cooperation: In 2015, the Kyrgyz government continued to seek training and technical assistance from international organizations and foreign governments to bolster its capacity to prevent terrorist attacks. During the reporting period, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in counterterrorism activities and studies organized by the OSCE, CIS Antiterrorism Center, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Antiterrorism Center, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In 2015, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in three CSTO military exercises, which took place in Russia, Armenia, and on the Tajik border with Afghanistan. The exercises were aimed at strengthening the capacity of CSTO members to quickly deploy counterterrorism operations. The Kyrgyz Republic Special Forces are actively involved with the SCO’s Regional Antiterrorism Center and, in 2015, participated in a joint two-day counterterrorism training operation. Terrorist threats were also a matter of frequent discussion in meetings of the CIS.
Beginning in 2010, the OSCE, through its Community Security Initiative (CSI), embedded an international police advisor with law enforcement agencies in each region of the Kyrgyz Republic. Along with community policing, the advisor trained local law enforcement officials on how to counter violent extremism and identify terrorist threats. The program concluded in December 2015. In November, the Counterterrorism Center agreed to a 2015 training plan developed through funding by the OSCE to increase its capacity to share information on terrorist threats between law enforcement agencies at all levels of government.
The OSCE facilitated cooperation between the GKNB and the National Police of Turkey, based on an agreement of cooperation signed in 2014, to provide training and study tours for special staff of the GKNB, MVD, and Kyrgyz Border Service on countering terrorism and extremism. Also, with the support of the OSCE and the National Police of Turkey, the GKNB held public hearings on counterterrorism and trained law enforcement in the provinces outside of Bishkek.
Throughout 2015, the Counterterrorism Center partnered with the UK-funded NGO Search for Common Ground to create community leadership groups in each region of the Kyrgyz Republic to deter potential fighters from traveling to Syria. The groups were led by local religious leaders who are trained in methods to prevent violent extremism. Parliament worked with the OSCE to host public hearings in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad (from where many fighters originated) to increase local awareness of ISIL recruitment methods.
Overview: Since 2010, concerns about a small number of local extremists, who support violence and are involved with transnational terrorist groups, have increased. Young Maldivians, especially those within the penal system and otherwise marginalized members of society, are at risk of becoming radicalized and some have already joined violent extremist groups. Media reports from January 2015 cited then Maldivian Police Service (MPS) Chief Hussein Waheed, who estimated that at least 50 Maldivians had opted to become foreign terrorist fighters, while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party placed the figure as high as 200. Waheed’s comments followed reports in early January of at least 13 Maldivians traveling abroad with the intent of becoming foreign terrorist fighters. In late January, four Maldivians reputed to be members of Male’s Kuda Henveiru gang were arrested in Malaysia under suspicion of attempting to travel to Syria to fight with terrorist groups. The incident illustrated a pattern of Maldivian nationals having the intent of becoming foreign terrorist fighters transiting through third countries.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: President Yameen Abdul Gayoom signed a new “Prevention of Terrorism Act” (PTA), which repealed the Anti-terrorism Act of 1990, on October 28. The PTA defined acts of terrorism and set forth penalties of between seven to 25 years imprisonment for those convicted of these acts or inciting others to do so. The Act’s other provisions extended the state’s writ to hold accountable those who may have perpetrated such acts outside Maldivian territory; called upon the president to publish a list of proscribed terrorist organizations or persons; granted the government permission to suspend certain constitutionally guaranteed rights for persons detained or arrested on suspicion of committing acts of terrorism; established legal procedures for handling terrorism-related cases; and granted permission for the issuance of a monitoring and control order by court order upon reasonable suspicion, which was defined as the Minister’s belief based on logical or reasonable evidence or reasoning that one or many of the acts transpire or may occur. A monitoring and control order would permit the government to determine a suspect’s place of residence; search him/her and his/her residence; disclose, inspect, and seize a suspect’s assets; monitor his or her telecommunications; and impose a travel ban. As of the end of the year, President Yameen had not yet published the mandatory list of terrorist entities, as required by the legislation.
The government also used the PTA to arrest political opponents and restrict political and media activity unrelated to terrorism. The government’s Human Rights Commission issued a statement on October 29 calling for the PTA to be reviewed due to its narrowing constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.
The Maldivian Parliament (Majlis) passed a new penal code in April 2014, which was implemented in April 2015. Neither Maldivian law nor the penal code permitted restrictions on the travel of would-be foreign terrorist fighters or the detention of those who have been turned back on suspicion that they were headed to a war zone, both of which were gaps the PTA was designed to address.
Maldives uses the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) to provide traveler screening and screening list capability.
Maldives continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provided training to the MPS, Maldivian Coast Guard, and port and border control officers. The Department of State also supported capacity building for Maldivian investigators and prosecutors, improving their understanding of techniques to handle counterterrorism cases. Training in all aspects of police work related to counterterrorism was also provided to officers by numerous other Western countries. The leadership of the MPS recognized the need for improvement and continuously sought assistance to bring its abilities up to international standards.
Responsibility for Maldivian counterterrorism efforts is divided among the MPS and National Defense Force (MNDF), the latter of which has Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard branches. Information sharing among the agencies is limited. In April, the MPS began randomly questioning Maldivian citizens traveling by air to Turkey as to their reasons for flying and planned dates of return. This effort represented the government’s attempt to stem the number of citizens traveling to Iraq and Syria with the goal of joining violent extremist groups to fight.
Maldives participated in a regional conference (May 26-29) in New Delhi, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT); the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Department of State in cooperation with the Government of India’s National Investigation Agency. The program invited police, prosecutors, members of the judiciary and civil society to share expertise and experience on how best to address issues generated by foreign terrorist fighters including on the effectiveness of terrorism and border security legislation.
Personnel from the Financial Intelligence Unit, MNDF, MPS, and the Prosecutor General’s Office participated in a series of trainings led by DOJ/OPDAT from May 31 to June 4. Topics included the effective investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases, terrorism financing, and money laundering.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Maldives is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Maldivian authorities believe funds were being raised in Maldives to support terrorism abroad, but lacked reliable information regarding amounts involved. The Maldivian Central Bank believes criminal proceeds mainly come from domestic sources, since a large percentage of suspicious transaction reports the Central Bank receives are connected to Maldivians. The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) reported informal money transfer networks (hawala) are used to transfer funds between the islands, although the extent to which these systems are employed to launder money is unclear. While the new PTA legislation passed in October did not contain provisions specifically targeting terrorism financing, the Maldivian Prosecutor General’s Office was confident it would enable police and prosecutors to better identify links between suspected extremists and their finance networks based upon the very wide investigatory powers authorized by the PTA.
The Maldivian government monitors banks, the insurance sector, money remittance institutions, and finance companies, and requires the collection of data for wire transfers. Financial institutions other than banks and intermediaries in the securities sector, however, are not subject to current anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations. Insurance companies and intermediaries, finance companies, money remittance service providers, foreign exchange businesses, and credit card companies therefore operate outside the AML/CFT framework. The MMA had earlier established an FIU, which lacked the technical capacity to analyze vast amounts of new data flowing in on financial transactions. The FIU’s director position was vacant as of June; it is operating under an interim director deputed by the MMA until a new one is appointed. For the period of October 2014 to April 2015, the FIU reported receiving six STRs, of which five were analyzed and closed. Insurance companies and intermediaries, finance companies, money remittance service providers, foreign exchange businesses, and credit card companies therefore operate outside the AML/CFT framework.
The Maldivian government implements relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, and monitors and regulates alternative remittance services, despite the fact that they lie outside the AML/CFT framework. The Maldivian government did not report any efforts to seize terrorist assets in 2015.
According to the Maldivian government, capacity building of relevant supervisory and regulatory authorities such as the MMA and the Capital Market Development Authority, the MMA’s FIU, law enforcement authorities (the Anti-Corruption Commission, Department of Immigration and Emigration, Maldives Customs Service, and MPS), and the judiciary is needed to properly counter money laundering and terrorism financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Maldivian government continued to recognize that counter-radicalization efforts are a critical component to long-term success against violent extremism. Since 2011, the government has sought to counter the influence of extremist ideology by actively intervening in religious life. These interventions include mandating persons wanting to serve as mosque leaders (imams) to undergo a six-month state-approved training, as well as disseminating government-approved sermons, which the imams are required to use for Friday prayers. A government-sponsored Islamic university in the capital city of Male opened in the last quarter of 2015. The university’s key objective will be to promote the academic study of religion and “moderate Islam” as a counterweight to extremist discourses and messaging. The Fiqh Academy, a group of religious scholars under the government’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, issued a fatwa on August 25 which proclaimed participation in foreign wars is not a religious obligation for all adult Muslims.
International and Regional Cooperation: Maldives is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and is a party of the SAARC regional convention on the suppression of terrorism. Topics discussed included security force capacity building and increasing cooperation in maritime domain awareness. The MNDF and Indian military completed an annual joint training exercise in August and September designed to improve cooperation and inter-operability between the two countries’ armed forces.
Overview: Nepal’s open border with India and weak security controls at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport continued to underpin concerns that international terrorist groups could use Nepal as a transit and possible staging point.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Nepal lacks a law specifically criminalizing terrorism or material support to terrorist networks. In response to an act of terrorism, Nepali courts would prosecute the perpetrators on the basis of laws pertaining to murder or arson, for example. Most Nepali officials view Nepal as being at no or low risk for an international terrorist incident on Nepali soil. Accordingly, there is little impetus to introduce new laws.
While Nepal has specialized units to respond to terrorist incidents in the Nepal Police Special Bureau, law enforcement units have limited capacity to effectively detect, deter, and identify terrorist suspects. An open border with India and relatively weak airport security increased the risk that international terrorists could use Nepal as a transit or staging point.
Nepal had limited ability to process modern forms of evidence (e.g., cyber, DNA, explosives); however, law enforcement in Nepal has demonstrated interest in receiving outside technical assistance and training. Nepal cooperated with other South Asian countries in their requests to investigate terrorists, mainly through identification and tracking.
Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport lacked state of the art baggage screening technology and relies on physical pat-downs alone for passengers. There were weak controls for restricting access of airport employees throughout the facility, and initial and recurrent background checks on employees were not sufficiently rigorous.
Nepali police officers participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program; ATA assistance included courses focused on building the capacity of civilian security forces to secure the country’s borders – including both land and air points of entry – from terrorist transit into and out of Nepal.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Nepal belongs to the Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. While the Government of Nepal made progress in 2015 in constructing an anti-money laundering/ countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime, additional work is required to develop expertise in financial crimes investigations, case management, interagency and departmental coordination, and border control. Government corruption, a large and open border with weak border enforcement, limited financial sector regulations, and a large informal economy continued to make the country vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism financing.
Nepal hosted the APG Typologies Meeting in November 2015, and Nepali judges, prosecutors, and officials from Nepal’s financial intelligence unit (FIU-Nepal), which is a member of the Egmont Group, participated in regional counterterrorism conferences. FIU-Nepal and the Department of Money Laundering Investigations lacked access to relevant data that would detect nefarious activity in informal money transfer systems such as hundi and hawala, which are illegal in Nepal.
Government and banking industry officials reported that the majority of remittances flow through formal banking channels, but a significant portion – 40 percent, according to one official estimate – moved through informal channels such as hundi and hawala. Additionally, the government has limited ability to determine whether the source of money ostensibly sent as remittances from abroad is licit or illicit. The open border with India and inadequate security screening made it difficult to detect smuggling of currency, gold, and counterfeit notes.
Nepali authorities announced plans to install computer systems to help law enforcement agencies share financial data, trace suspected terrorist assets, and freeze them. As of late 2015, however, the computer system was not functional and government agencies involved in countering financial crimes lacked the ability to electronically share information.
Nepal’s Central Bank’s FIU directives do not cover non-profit organizations, unless there is specific information that they are involved in money laundering and terrorism financing. The Parliament passed a statute that obligates banks and financial institutions to check the websites of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to obtain such information.
International and Regional Cooperation: Nepal is a signatory of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.
Overview: Pakistan remained a critical counterterrorism partner in 2015. Numerous violent extremist groups, many of which target Pakistani civilians, officials, or members of other religious sects, operated in the country. In 2015, terrorists used both stationary and vehicle-borne remote-controlled IEDs (VBIEDs); suicide bombings; targeted assassinations; rocket-propelled grenades; and other combat tactics to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions, mosques, and other places of worship. Attacks by sectarian groups against minorities continued. Despite the government’s massive security preparations, its interception of numerous planned attacks, and the prevention of attacks in major urban areas, the commemoration of the Ashura holiday during the Islamic month of Muharram (October 2015) was marked by two major attacks that killed at least 30 people.
In November, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Agency (PEMRA) reportedly banned media coverage of U.S.- and UN-designated terrorist organizations such as Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF), both of which are aliases of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), but the government did not otherwise constrain those groups’ fundraising activities. Pakistan took steps to support political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but it did not take sufficient action to constrain the ability of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network (HQN) to threaten U.S. and Afghan interests in Afghanistan.
Pakistan officially designated the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a terrorist organization on July 15. Senior military officials and provincial security forces publicly warned of scattered Pakistani terrorist allegiance to ISIL and its threat to Pakistani military targets. Law enforcement agencies arrested individuals suspected of participating in ISIL-allied attacks, disseminating ISIL propaganda, and having declared allegiance to ISIL. Pakistan did not join the multilateral Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, but Pakistani officials participated in a senior level meeting of the coalition in September.
Following the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) December 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which more than 150 children and staff were killed, the government formed a committee of political, military, and intelligence representatives to produce a 20-point, whole-of-government National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism. The NAP is a mixture of judicial, law enforcement, military, and administrative goals that seek to punish established terrorists, eliminate support for terrorism, and promote the non-violent coexistence of the country’s various religious sects, all to prevent future terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil. The NAP is not, in and of itself, legally binding; each component depends on existing, revised, or new legislation. The government did not formally articulate the metrics by which it measured the NAP’s overall success. Most official assessments of its implementation reached the public via the media. These media reports most often followed closed door meetings of senior federal or provincial civilian and military leadership. The Minister of Interior briefed the Pakistani National Assembly on NAP implementation progress on December 17 and 18. The Minister cited a statistical reduction in terrorist attacks over 2015, but acknowledged that terrorism had not been completely eliminated from the country. Throughout 2015, the media frequently reported parliamentary criticism of the government’s NAP implementation progress, as well as accusations of blame from within the federal government and the Pakistani military for implementation shortcomings. Also throughout 2015, the Pakistani military continued ground and air operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency to eliminate terrorist safe havens and recover illegal weapons caches. Paramilitary and civilian security force counterterrorism efforts included countering terrorism in urban areas and conducting preemptive raids to arrest suspected terrorists or interrupt terrorist plots, and confronting terrorists that attacked Pakistani civilians, law enforcement agencies, and military and paramilitary troops.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist attacks occurred in every month of 2015. A few representative examples include:
- On January 30, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in the northern Sindh district of Shikarpur. According to Dunya News, at least 61 people were killed and provincial government officials claimed that suspects arrested in the case were affiliated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist groups.
- On March 15, suicide bombers struck two churches in Lahore’s majority-Christian Youhanabad neighborhood, killing 17 people according to government figures reported in the media. Following the attack, a mob killed two bystanders whom they believed to have been involved in the bombing.
- On April 16, private U.S. citizen Deborah Lobo was shot on her way to work in Karachi. According to unnamed authorities quoted in the media, authorities found ISIL leaflets at the attack scene.
- On May 13, eight gunmen attacked a bus traveling in Safoora Goth, Karachi. The shooting left at least 46 Ismaili Shia dead. Media reported that the attackers were allegedly ISIL adherents.
- Attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, Balochistan remained common. For example, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, five Hazaras were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them on a Quetta street on June 7.
- On August 16, a suicide bomber killed 17 people, including Punjab provincial Home Secretary Shuja Khanzada in Attock (near Lahore), and injured at least 23 others. According to media, multiple violent sectarian groups claimed responsibility.
- On September 18, a group of armed terrorists entered Pakistan’s Badaber Air Base (outside of Peshawar) and killed at least 29 civilians and military personnel, including an Army captain. Media reported that TTP claimed responsibility.
- On October 24, a suicide bomber killed approximately 22 people, and injured at least 40 more Shia Muslim worshippers commemorating the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain during the Ashura period of the Islamic Month of Muharram in Jacobabad (Sindh). A second suicide bomber killed approximately 10 people, and injured 12 more, in an attack on a Shia mosque on October 22 in Bolan (Balochistan). Media reported that violent anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for both attacks.
- On December 29, a vehicle-borne IED attack orchestrated by TTP splinter group Jamaat-ur-Ahrar killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50 at a federal government office in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Pakistan continued to implement the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997, and other laws, which empowered the government to counter terrorism with enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers. The country is in various stages of implementation of the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the 2013 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, the 2014 amendments to the ATA, and the 2014 Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA). The PPA has a sunset clause of July 2016. The government continued to make use of reinforced counterterrorism legislation. However, the judiciary moved slowly in processing terrorism and other criminal cases, likely due in part to the overly broad definition of terrorism offenses listed in the ATA. The majority of courts face long backlogs. In addition, law enforcement personnel and judicial officers involved in terrorism cases can face threats and intimidation from terrorist groups. In some provinces, Anti-Terrorism Courts have introduced reforms to reduce the backlogs, including transferring “non-true” terrorism cases to the regular District and Sessions courts, freeing the courts to conduct continuous trials within the timeframe required by the ATA.
The PPA, passed in July of 2014, sought to create a specialized system for adjudicating terrorism cases by establishing a federally empowered infrastructure with special federal courts, prosecutors, police stations, and investigation teams for the enforcement of 20 specially-delineated categories of offenses. Human rights advocates and other legal experts criticized the PPA for provisions granting broad immunity to security forces in the use of lethal force, expanding the power of arrest without a warrant, and eliminating the presumption of innocence. The provisions of the PPA, including the creation of new judicial infrastructure, have been only sporadically implemented in 2015 and the Act is set to expire in July 2016.
In response to the December 2014 Army Public School attack, Pakistan promulgated new legislation in 2015 designed to enable the prompt prosecution and adjudication of terrorism offenses. In January, the Assembly passed the 21st Amendment of the Pakistani Constitution and amended the Pakistan Army Act to allow military courts to try civilians for “offenses relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan, and prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by any terrorist group using the name of religion or a sect and members of such armed groups, wings, and militia.” In February, the government issued a presidential ordinance that amended the Pakistan Army Act to allow military courts to hold in-camera trials of terrorism suspects and to conceal the names of court officials involved in those trials, as part of a move toward “faceless justice” for “the protection of witnesses, defending officers, and other persons concerned in court proceedings.” The National Assembly subsequently passed a bill codifying this presidential ordinance in November. After a series of legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 21st Amendment in August. Both the 21st Amendment and the Amendment to the Pakistan Army Act contain sunset clauses, which provide for their expiration two years from the date of enactment.
At the federal level, Pakistan’s law enforcement and national security structures need improvement. Although the various security agencies attempted to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents, the government’s institutional framework is not conducive to interagency cooperation and coordination. There was only sporadic interagency information sharing, no comprehensive integrated database capability, and specialized law enforcement units lacked the technical equipment and training needed to implement the enhanced investigative powers provided in the 2012 Investigation for Fair Trial Act. Prosecutors have a limited role during the investigation phases of terrorism cases. Jurisdictional divisions among and between military and civilian security agencies continued to hamper effective investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases. Intimidation by terrorists against witnesses, police, victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges, as well as insufficient evidence gathering in investigations, contributed to the high acquittal rate in cases filed in the Anti-Terrorism Courts.
Devolution of law enforcement authority to the provincial level resulted in mixed assessments of law enforcement cooperation across the country. Counterterrorism operations were most often the result of varying degrees of cooperation between provincial Counterterrorism Departments (which reported to their respective Inspectors General for Police), assorted paramilitary entities (e.g., Frontier Corps, Rangers, Levies, etc.), the Pakistani military, and intelligence agencies. Some provinces demonstrated greater training, equipment, and interagency information sharing to find suspected terrorists, but needed improvement in their prosecution of suspected terrorists once apprehended. For others, the reverse applied. In Sindh, a “law-and-order” operation against terrorists and organized crime syndicates, carried out by the paramilitary Sindh Rangers and the civilian Sindh Police, continued throughout 2015. Many analysts attributed to that operation the significant reduction in violence over 2015 that the provincial capital has witnessed. Media reported allegations that operations focused disproportionately on certain political parties with a political rather than counterterrorism focus. The government denied those allegations. In December, the Sindh provincial government extended the mandate of the Sindh Rangers for 60 days, but the limits of their authority remain under discussion between the federal and provincial government.
Pakistan continued to work toward structural reforms on counterterrorism designed to centralize coordination and information sharing. The National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) received new leadership in August. Its new National Coordinator was concurrently the Director General of the National Police Bureau at the end of 2015. In November, NACTA was reportedly allocated an operational budget with which to hire additional staff for the first time since the NAP called for the organization to be “strengthened and activated.” The Intelligence Bureau has nationwide jurisdiction as a civilian agency, is empowered to coordinate with provincial and territorial counterterrorism units, and seemed to take a more active role in counterterrorism operations throughout 2015. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has broad intelligence powers and fulfilled a de facto border security role along with tribal militias, provincial police, and the Frontier Corps. The Ministry of Interior has more than 10 law enforcement-related entities under its administration, though many of those agencies are under the operational control of the military.
Pakistan collected biometric information in national databases and screened travelers at border land crossings with its International Border Management Security System. The National Automated Database Registration Authority maintained a national biometric database of citizens, residents, and overseas Pakistanis, and is continually subject to upgrades. Pakistan’s ability to detect and deter cross-border smuggling via air travel continued to pose a challenge, but also continued to improve as a result of regional and international training. The Federal Board of Revenue’s Customs Service attempted to enforce anti-money laundering laws and foreign exchange regulations at all major airports with some coordination with the Airport Security Force and/or the Federal Investigation Agency. Pakistan’s cross-border enforcement can be further improved through advanced passenger targeting strategies, improved scanning equipment, more effective officer accountability practices, additional staff, improved interagency coordination at the airports, and enforcement of existing legislation. Pakistan Customs’ End Use Verification project facilitated the entry of dual-use chemicals for legitimate purposes, while also investigating and preventing the entry of chemicals intended for use in IEDs. In 2015, the U.S. government had little visibility into the results of the project, and was thus unable to gauge its effectiveness.
The military continued to conduct significant counterterrorism operations in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies in the tribal areas, and a combination of military, paramilitary, and civilian forces conducted operations in Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. Security forces intercepted large stockpiles of weapons and explosives, and discovered bomb-making facilities and sophisticated telecommunication networks. Pakistan continued to arrest terrorists and initiate prosecutions throughout 2015. However, the enhanced tools provided by the Investigation for Fair Trial Act of 2012 and the NACTA law were still in the process of being implemented by the government at year’s end. These laws are designed to equip intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors with the necessary legal tools to detect, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist activities and organizations. The U.S. government had limited visibility into the NACTA law’s implementation.
Anti-Terrorism Courts had limited procedures for obtaining or admitting foreign evidence. The trial of seven suspects accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack was ongoing at year’s end, with many witnesses for the prosecution remaining to be called by the court. Security concerns and procedural issues resulted in a slow pace of trial proceedings. In December 2014, the court granted bail to the lead defendant, alleged Mumbai attack planner and LeT operational commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. Lakhvi was released from prison on bail in April 2015 and the Government of Pakistan reports he remained under house arrest at the end of 2015.
Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on information sharing and law enforcement continued. Law enforcement cooperation continued with respect to terrorist attacks and plots against U.S. personnel, and the Embassy and Consulates General in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar. Pakistani law-enforcement officials pledged to assist in the apprehension of U.S. citizen fugitives in Pakistan, but practical implementation of this pledge has been lacking. Delays in obtaining Pakistani visas for training personnel were obstacles to counterterrorism assistance for security forces and prosecutors in 2015, though a limited number of visas of varying duration were eventually approved for some Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance program instructors to facilitate delivery of a number of ATA courses. However, other agency trainings were required to take place in third countries due to non-issuances of visas.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Pakistan is an active member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In February, FATF removed Pakistan from its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism review process due to progress made addressing the strategic deficiencies that had been identified in 2010. Despite this action, Pakistan was required to provide a report in June detailing recent action to identify and freeze property of UN-listed entities as well as efforts to monitor the non-profit organization sector, money remitters, and cross-border activity. This report was submitted on time; FATF recommended further reporting to the APG. As the release from FATF monitoring indicated, Pakistan’s criminalization of terrorist financing met international standards.
The NAP conveys the government’s intention to cut the financial sources of terrorists and terrorist organizations. Hundi/hawala offenses under the pre-existing Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947 were designated as predicate offences under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2010. In January 2015, the government lowered the threshold for currency transaction reports from US $25,000 to approximately US $20,000.
Despite military and police action against certain UN-designated organizations, throughout 2015 other UN-designated organizations continued to operate within Pakistan, employing economic resources under their control, and fundraising openly. The November PEMRA ban of electronic media coverage of domestically banned organizations and UN-designated organizations may reduce the public profiles of those organizations and reduce their ability to collect donations.
Money transfer systems persisted throughout much of Pakistan, especially along Pakistan’s long border with Afghanistan, and may be abused by drug traffickers and terrorist financiers operating in the cross-border area.
While Pakistani authorities did report having frozen assets of UN-designated entities during 2015, the amount was unclear. The U.S. government was not informed of any successful terrorism financing prosecutions in 2015.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan, banks and reporting entities were under legal obligation to report suspicious transaction reports wherever there is suspicion that NGOs/non-profit organizations (NPOs)/charities may be abusing the financial system for the financing of terrorism or any other criminal activity. From July 2014 to May 2015, Pakistan reportedly received 1919 Suspicious Transaction Reports, of which 855 were analyzed and 320 disseminated. The State Bank of Pakistan prescribed specific regulations for the opening of bank accounts by NGOs, non-profit organizations, and charities.
The Minister of Interior provided a list of 61 designated organizations in his December 18 brief to the Pakistani National Assembly, which various media outlets reported. Until that point, the government had only distributed updates to lists of individuals and groups designated pursuant to UNSCRs and domestic law via gazette notices (‘statutory regulatory orders’ and circulars). The sole use of that vehicle resulted in significant confusion and speculation among the public regarding which entities were and were not designated and/or under observation. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, banks were required to regularly access the Consolidated Lists from the pertinent UN website(s) to ensure compliance with sanctions regimes throughout 2015.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations employed strategic communications strategies to build support for the military’s counterterrorism initiatives. Reintegration of de-radicalized terrorists into society remained a priority for the government. Throughout 2015, the government operated a number of de-radicalization camps in different parts of the country. The camps reportedly offered corrective religious education, vocational training, counseling and therapy, and a discussion module that addressed social issues and included sessions with the students’ families. A Pakistani NGO continued to administer the widely lauded Sabaoon Rehabilitation Center in Swat Valley, which was founded in partnership with the Pakistani military and focused on the de-radicalization of juvenile violent extremists.
In February 2015, Pakistan’s Minister of Interior attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. Pakistan remained actively engaged with the process and attended regional summits on CVE held in Sydney, Australia (June 11-12); Astana, Kazakhstan (June 29-30), and Algiers, Algeria (July 22-23) at the ambassadorial level. It participated in the Senior Officials’ Check-in Meeting on CVE held in Rome on July 29. The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs represented Pakistan at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, which was hosted by President Obama and convened on the margins of the UNGA in September.
International and Regional Cooperation: Pakistan participated in counterterrorism efforts in both regional and international forums. Pakistan participated in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meetings on counterterrorism and in other multilateral groups where counterterrorism cooperation was discussed, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (as an observer), and Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
As a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), Pakistan participated in GCTF meetings and supported GCTF initiatives. Pakistan participated in UNSC meetings on sanctions and counterterrorism and in a UN Counterterrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate regional workshop for South Asian judges, prosecutors, and investigators in Thailand in October. Pakistan also attended the Special Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on “Stemming the Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters” held in Madrid, Spain in July. In collaboration with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Government of Pakistan organized a Needs Assessment Conference on Youth Engagement, Skills Development, and Employment Facilitation in Pakistan on May 13-14.
Overview: The Sri Lankan government maintained a strong military presence in post-conflict areas and continued to voice concern about the possible reemergence of pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sympathizers, but the new, democratically-elected government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized its commitment to seek political reconciliation with the Tamil community, including through talks with the Tamil diaspora. The security services’ focus on a possible LTTE resurgence affected the government’s attention to emerging threats, such as reports of Sri Lankan foreign terrorist fighters joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Although the Sri Lankan government maintained a comprehensive counterterrorism stance, counterterrorism cooperation and training with the United States in 2015 was limited.
In July, Sri Lanka saw the first confirmation that Sri Lankans had joined ISIL when social media announced the death of Sharfaz Shuraih Muhsin, an ISIL fighter from Sri Lanka, after he was killed in coalition airstrikes in Syria. Thauqeer Ahmed Thajudeen – Muhsin’s brother-in-law and fellow Sri Lankan national – was later identified as a member of ISIL in Syria. According to media reports quoting Turkish government sources, 10 members of Muhsin’s family went to Iraq through Turkey. Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said that although there were reports of Sri Lankans joining ISIL, there was no concrete evidence to suggest the group was operating in Sri Lanka.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Counterterrorism legislation in Sri Lanka has historically focused on eliminating the LTTE. In 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka continued to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), enacted in 1982 as a wartime measure, which gives security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest, and detain individuals. The new government pledged to end the broad application of the PTA even as civil society groups urged replacing it with a new act that more closely conforms to international standards. The new government also took steps to reduce the military’s role in civil society and its control of land in security zones in the north and east. In November, the Government of Sri Lanka granted bail to a first tranche of LTTE-associated Tamil prisoners held under the PTA. The Government of Sri Lanka further announced rehabilitation programs for other long-held Tamil prisoners.
Sri Lanka’s law enforcement capacity was robust, and its political leadership has launched a broad modernization effort. While such issues as the modernization of police computer systems were a work in progress, the leadership within the law enforcement community recognized the need for improvement and actively sought assistance to bring its abilities up to western standards.
Although U.S. counterterrorism assistance to Sri Lanka has generally been limited, the Sri Lankan government maintained its partnership with the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Energy on securing its maritime border. The U.S. Coast Guard, under the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, continued to train Sri Lankan Coast Guard and Navy personnel on border and export control matters, and the Government of Sri Lanka continued to cooperate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection through the Container Security Initiative, Megaports, and related initiatives.
In October, representatives from Sri Lankan law enforcement and judicial personnel attended the three-day Tenth Regional Workshop for Judges, Prosecutors, and Police Officers on Effectively Countering Terrorism in South Asia. The workshop was jointly hosted by the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and organized by the Global Center, with support from the Governments of Australia and the United States.
Border security remained a significant issue for the Sri Lankan government. In August, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, with the technical support of International Organization for Migration, and funding from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, launched an initiative to capture biometric data from all new passport applicants.
The Government of Sri Lanka continued to collaborate with the EU Immigration Department on an Advanced Passenger Information system, which transmits passenger information to Sri Lankan immigration officials upon arrival.
In November, Sri Lanka removed the ban on eight Tamil diaspora organizations and 267 individuals previously on the terrorism watchlist established by the Rajapaksa-led government, and criticized by civil society for being excessively broad in scope. The number of terrorist groups dropped from 16 to eight and individuals named as terrorists dropped from 424 to 157.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sri Lanka belongs to the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Sri Lanka’s financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Although it is neither an important regional financial center nor a preferred center for money laundering, Sri Lanka remained vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism finance. Key factors included a lack of transparent tender mechanisms in government projects, past experience with terrorism, tax evasion, and a large informal economy. Sri Lanka’s risks also involve cross-border illicit flows because of its geographic location. As a major transshipment port, Sri Lanka receives 70 percent of all vessels sailing to and from South Asia.
Substantial cash assets amounting to $677,600 and land assets worth $533,000 relating to terrorists and terrorism financing have been frozen, while cash and non-cash assets amounting to $6.5 million have been confiscated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 (as amended).
Countering Violent Extremism: Sri Lanka continued to operate a one-year long rehabilitation program for former alleged LTTE combatants, participation in which was mandatory for a majority of the prisoners formerly held under the PTA who were released on bail. The former Rajapaksa government estimated it rehabilitated approximately 12,000 former LTTE cadres during its tenure, although the number of persons undergoing this program decreased dramatically in the years leading up to and including 2015. Limited access by independent bodies to known rehabilitation camps prevented reliable evaluations of the government’s efforts.
International and Regional Cooperation: Sri Lanka continued to cooperate with a number of donor countries, including the United States, to improve its land and maritime border security. These efforts also enhanced the government’s capacity to interdict potential foreign terrorist fighters attempting to transit through the country. Government officials have expressed interest in increasing Sri Lanka’s regional cooperation on counterterrorism. Sri Lanka is a signatory of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.
Following 2014 anti-Muslim riots instigated by extremists in southern Sri Lanka, international donors have funded a number of reconciliation-focused programs, such as a program from July to October 2015 in the Kalutara, Galle, and Matara districts that promoted non-violence and reconciliation between Muslim, Sinhalese, and Tamil communities.
In September 2015, Sri Lanka military personnel participated in joint training exercises in India focused on improving military-to-military cooperation and inter-operability in counterterrorism operations. In November, Sri Lanka held the annual Galle Dialogue, which featured multilateral discussion by international security force representatives on issues of regional security in South Asia, including maritime security threats.
Overview: According to the Government of Tajikistan, 700 Tajiks had left the country to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by the end of 2015. In addition, the government remained concerned that instability in neighboring Afghanistan would push violent extremist groups across the border into Tajikistan. In response, the Government of Tajikistan worked to strengthen its efforts to fight terrorism and radicalization, although its focus was almost entirely on law enforcement measures, with little attention given to countering violent extremism. Tajikistan sought to increase military and law enforcement capacity to conduct tactical operations through bilateral and multilateral assistance programs, including programs funded by the United States. The United States, Russia, Japan, and the EU also provided funding for border security programs.
Three major events in 2015 have further heightened the government’s focus on the threat of terrorism within the country:
- In April, Gulmurod Halimov, the commander of the elite police unit OMON (Special Purpose Mobility Unit), defected to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
- On September 4, a small group of militants led by former Deputy Minister of Defense Abduhalim Nazarzoda committed a series of attacks in and around Dushanbe that left nine police, including Special Forces officers, and 17 attackers dead. While the exact motivation for the attacks remains unclear, the government has charged those involved with terrorism.
- Finally, the Taliban’s seizure of the city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan in late September increased concern in Tajikistan of a possible spillover of fighters and refugees.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Tajik government prosecuted terrorists under the Laws on Combating Terrorism, Anti-Money Laundering, Currency Regulation, and Notary, and the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. Resource constraints, corruption, lack of training for law enforcement and border security officials, and general capacity issues continued to plague the Tajik government’s ability to interdict possible terrorists. Tajik law enforcement bodies lacked sufficient interagency cooperation and information-sharing capabilities. Corruption in the judicial system and misuse of counterterrorism statutes to suppress political opposition generally hampered the effectiveness of the government’s counterterrorism efforts.
Tajikistan continued to make progress in improving border security with bilateral and multilateral assistance, although effectively policing the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border remained a difficult task requiring more resources and capabilities than were available to the Tajik government. Within the region, the illicit trafficking of opiates transiting the Commonwealth of Independent States destined for the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe was the predominant funding mechanism for Afghan-based terrorist activity. Drug trafficking in the region is inextricably tied to terrorism, and drug proceeds enable this activity. Afghan Drug Trafficking Organizations and Organized Criminal Groups tied to violent extremist organizations frequently solicit the exchange of weapons, arms, or vehicles for drugs in lieu of currency-based remuneration.
The UN Office of Drugs and Crime, in conjunction with DEA and the Department of State, provided interdiction related training to Tajikistan (and Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan) in support of the Border Liaison Office program. The U.S. Central Command Counter Narcotics Program continued to provide facilities, outposts, and material support (including ground-sensor interdiction technology) to the Tajik Border Guards under the State Committee for National Security. In 2015, the Department of State’s Export Control and Border Security program routinely provided both training and material support to Tajikistan to improve border control, contraband interdiction, and counter-proliferation capabilities.
The International Organization for Migration and the OSCE, with U.S. funding, worked to improve travel document security in 2015. The OSCE also provided funding to link Tajikistan’s existing passport data scanners at airports and land ports of entry to the INTERPOL database. In some instances, the Tajik government used INTERPOL Red Notices to seek the arrest of political opponents residing abroad. Tajikistan continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, and Tajik security forces received training related to border security practices and counterterrorism investigations.
On July 23, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that the Tajik government had prevented a series of terrorist attacks in the country planned by Tajik supporters of ISIL. According to their report, the attacks were planned to coincide with Ramadan celebrations in Tajikistan. Media reports stated that extremists were planning to attack more than 10 police stations in Dushanbe, Kulob, Fayzobod, and Gharm.
On December 5, the Khatlon regional court sentenced eight residents of the Shahrituz district of Khatlon to prison terms ranging from seven to 27 years after they displayed in public a black flag similar to that of ISIL’s. The defendants had been in contact with fighters from Syria via the internet and the government alleges that they were planning terrorist attacks in Tajikistan.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. At its November plenary meeting, the EAG discussed financial items relating to ISIL, and urged member states to intensify their efforts to combat the financing of ISIL, as well as undertake rapid implementation of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions related to terrorism financing.
Tajikistan’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Monitoring Department, is a member of the Egmont Group. In November, Tajikistan also participated in the Joint EAG/Anti-Terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States Seminar on strengthening cooperation between financial intelligence units and law enforcement agencies in investigations related to combating the financing of terrorism.
Also in November, the National Bank of Tajikistan implemented a new order allowing clients to deposit foreign currencies in any amount without disclosing the money’s source. While the Bank believed the measure will help to attract investment and prevent the black market exchange of currency, there is concern this decision will negatively affect law enforcement’s ability to identify, target, and prosecute money laundering violations.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, the Tajik government worked to create a national strategy to counter violent extremism, but this strategy was not finalized by the end of 2015. In addition, some previous government measures designed to reduce the threat of violent extremism had a negative impact on religious and political freedoms. Authorities detained and, in some cases, reportedly tortured members of religious groups based on broad allegations of “religious extremism.”
On May 9, the Ministry of Internal Affairs promised amnesty to Tajik militants returning to Tajikistan from Syria and Iraq. The announcement marked the first time the government declared an amnesty for returning foreign terrorist fighters. Authorities were keen to use this amnesty as a way to counter radical messaging. On May 7, Farrukh Sharifov, a former Tajik violent extremist recently returned from Syria and spoke to a large crowd in Khujand in a widely publicized event organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Sharifov condemned ISIL and described horrors he witnessed, including beheadings and sex slavery.
International and Regional Cooperation: Tajikistan is a member of the OSCE, where it focuses on border security issues, and is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). On April 21, the special force platoon and the rapid reaction unit of the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan participated in a five-day joint military exercise for special force units of the SCO in Kyrgyzstan. On May 20, Tajikistan participated in a CSTO-organized exercise in which member countries practiced their response to the incursion of 700 Taliban fighters into Tajikistan. On June 5, Tajik and Chinese special operations conducted joint counterterrorism drills at a mountain training center outside Dushanbe.
Overview: The Government of Turkmenistan continued efforts to improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to counter terrorism, ensure border security, and detect terrorist financing. Turkmenistan cooperated with international organizations and participated in training on anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), and strengthening border security. The government did not report any terrorist incidents, and authorities continued to maintain close surveillance of the population. Continued cooperation with international organizations to improve the quality of law enforcement, ensure respect for the rule of law, and raise living standards could further decrease the generally low potential for terrorist groups to operate in the country.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The country’s legal system as it pertains to counterterrorism centers on the 2003 counterterrorism law that defines which crimes are considered terrorist in nature. This law is supplemented by articles 271-273 of the criminal code, which pertain to terrorist acts and terrorism financing and are used to prosecute terrorism-related offenses.
The Ministries of National Security, Internal Affairs, and Defense; State Border, Customs, and Migration Services; and the State Service for Protection of the Security of a Healthy Society executed their counterterrorism functions and shared information through an interagency commission. The country’s law enforcement capacity needs improvement, since law enforcement units do not proactively conduct investigations and have a poor record of accountability and respect for human rights. Prosecutors, however, do play a significant role in the investigation phase of a case, and specialized law enforcement units exist to conduct investigations. These units possess specialized equipment but usually only use the equipment for official ceremonies and demonstrations as opposed to daily operations. Turkmenistan participated in training programs sponsored by the U.S. government and international organizations. These included a program on terrorist negotiation and cybersecurity organized by the OSCE, a program on UN Security Council Resolution 1540 organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and U.S.-provided training on combating transnational threats such as narcotics smuggling and organized crime.
The State Border Service continued to operate frontier garrisons on Turkmenistan’s borders with Iran and Afghanistan and managed eight radiation portal monitors along its borders donated by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Second Line of Defense program. The State Migration Service maintained a terrorist screening watchlist and possesses biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry.
There was significant political will in Turkmenistan to counter terrorism and ensure border security. Corruption, however, sometimes hampered effective law enforcement. Additionally, international cooperation with the government was often hampered by a bureaucracy that operated according to opaque rules and that frequently deemed public information to be “state secrets.”
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkmenistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism. Government officials participated in OSCE training on combating money laundering and preventing the financing of terrorism. The Government of Turkmenistan continued to express interest in gaining admission to the Egmont Group. There were no reported prosecutions of terrorism financing cases during the year.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Turkmen government views conservative Islam with suspicion. Since the country's independence, mosques and Muslim clergy have been state-sponsored and financed. The level of government surveillance in Turkmenistan suggests that any extremist groups existing in Turkmenistan would be small, underground, and disparate.
Rather than create effective counter-messaging, the government sought to control the importation, publication, and dissemination of literature, especially that which is religious in nature.
International and Regional Cooperation: Turkmenistan supported regional and international efforts to fight terrorism. Law enforcement officials participated in OSCE and UNODC training on border security. Turkmenistan continued to participate in the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Center.
Overview: In 2015, the Government of Uzbekistan continued to rank countering terrorism within its borders as one of its top security priorities, together with counternarcotics. There were no reported significant terrorist incidents on Uzbek soil in 2015, which the government attributed to its success in ongoing efforts to counter terrorism. The government restricted information on internal matters, making it difficult to analyze the extent of the terrorist threat and the effectiveness of Uzbek law enforcement’s efforts to counter it.
The government continued to express concern about the potential for a spillover effect of terrorism from Afghanistan and other Central Asian states, especially with the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Uzbek officials expressed confidence that Uzbekistan could control its border with Afghanistan, but doubted its neighbors’ ability to do so. The government was particularly concerned with the infiltration of violent extremists through Uzbekistan’s long borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan shared U.S. interest in combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and ISIL-affiliated groups, but did not formally join the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. However, the government remained concerned about the recruitment of Uzbek fighters to fight in the Middle East and issued public statements condemning ISIL and its recruitment propaganda.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The overarching legislation governing terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions is the Law on Combating Terrorism, passed in 2000 and revised in 2004. The Law on Counteracting Legalization of Proceeds of Crimes and Financing of Terrorism passed in 2004 prohibits money laundering and finance of terrorist activity. Legislation identifies the National Security Service (NSS), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the State Border Guards Committee (operating within the NSS command structure), the State Customs Committee, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations as the government entities responsible for countering and responding to terrorism. The NSS is the lead counterterrorism law enforcement agency, with primary responsibility for the coordination and supervision of interagency efforts.
In August, President Karimov signed a new law on citizenship, which authorized the stripping of citizenship for crimes “against peace and security,” including terrorism. As a purported counterterrorism measure, Uzbekistan also passed legislation in 2015 banning the private use and ownership of drones, remote control planes, and other similar devices.
The government has also made declarative steps to reinforce rule of law within Uzbekistan, participating in several workshops with international experts on legal case management, with the goal of empowering judges and defense attorneys to act independently in trial proceedings. However, political influences continued to drive the legal decisions within the country.
The government used security concerns related to terrorism as a pretext for the detention of suspects, and potentially used it to prosecute religious activists and political dissidents. According to press reports, law enforcement authorities detained more than 500 people based on suspicion of terrorism in November and December. The government also blocked social media sites and networking platforms, such as Skype, to purportedly prevent the spread of terrorist messaging.
Uzbekistan does not publicly share any information regarding counterterrorism operations. Based on press reports and publicly available information, the government actively investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects. However, a lack of reliable information made it difficult to differentiate between legitimate counterterrorism law enforcement actions and possible politically motivated arrests. Both the NSS and the MIA have dedicated counterterrorism units, with some specialized equipment. In 2015, the NSS held a series of counterterrorism exercises in Tashkent, Andijan, and Bukhara.
Uzbekistan began issuing biometric passports in 2011, with the goal of converting all passports to the new biometric version by December 2015. The goal was not met, however, and the deadline was extended to July 1, 2018. The biometric data includes a digital photo, fingerprints, and biographical data. The government also actively engaged with the Export Control and Related Border Security Program and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to enhance the investigative capabilities of customs and border patrol agents and upgrade screening equipment for incoming cargo. CENTCOM supported the ongoing construction of a border control post on the border with Tajikistan.
The Government of Uzbekistan did not report taking any specific actions to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, and 2199; however, the government voiced concerns over the return of foreign terrorist fighters and the recruitment of Uzbeks by ISIL and violent extremist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to NSS estimates reported to the press, at year’s end around 500 to 600 Uzbeks were fighting for ISIL. Enhanced security measures such as frequent document checks and house-to-house resident list checks sought to identify potential foreign terrorist fighters transiting through or active in Uzbekistan. According to press reports, law enforcement mandated neighborhood committees to report on all citizens suspected to have left to join ISIL or other extremist groups.
The Government of Uzbekistan bans Islamic groups it broadly defines as extremist and criminalizes membership in such groups. We refer you to the Department of State’s Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom (//2009-2017.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/) report for further information.
Below are known examples from 2015 in which law enforcement arrested and prosecuted suspects under charges of extremism or terrorism under Uzbekistan’s laws.
- In August, the Kashkadaryo Regional Criminal Court jailed two Tajik nationals for six year terms for propagating Hizb ut-Tahrir materials. They were found to be carrying Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets while traveling on the Moscow-Dushanbe train.
- In October, the Tashkent Regional Criminal Court sentenced Firdavs Salimov to nine years in prison for distributing ISIL leaflets.
- Also in October, the Kashkadaryo Regional Criminal Court sentenced two women, one to five years and one to seven years in prison, for spreading extremist ideology via social networks.
- In November, the Namangan Regional Criminal Court convicted four individuals of spreading materials promoting the Islamic Movement of Turkestan (formerly the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan).
- In December, Uzbekistan indicted Shurhid Mukhtarov, who is suspected to be fighting with ISIL in Syria, on terrorism charges.
There were no reported terrorist attacks against either U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in Uzbekistan in the last five years. In September, an individual who was suspected to be mentally ill threw homemade incendiary devices at the U.S. Embassy in two separate incidents. Uzbek law enforcement apprehended the suspect after the second incident and collected evidence from Embassy security. Initial reports from law enforcement indicated that the suspect will be charged with “hooliganism.”
Both law enforcement and the judicial system in Uzbekistan are subject to political influence and corruption. The government’s approach to stopping and preventing terrorism, such as detention of suspects without strong evidence and intensive document checks, may not be effective in detecting terrorism networks and might actually contribute to anti-government sentiment. Secrecy surrounding counterterrorism efforts and compartmentalized information sharing among law enforcement agencies likely also diminished Uzbekistan’s capabilities to effectively counter terrorism.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Uzbekistan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Uzbekistan’s financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. The Prosecutor General’s Office Department on Fighting Tax, Currency Crimes, and Legalization of Criminal Income with its dedicated Financial Investigative Unit (FIU) is the authority responsible for implementation of EAG agreements. In August 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FIU signed a memorandum of understanding that established a legal foundation for training activities, joint investigations, and intelligence sharing.
According to Uzbekistan’s presentation at the last EAG plenary meeting of 2015, law enforcement agencies and legislators were reviewing draft legislation that would reinforce procedures for combatting the financing of terrorism. The Uzbek government did not share further details on the proposed legislation. Uzbekistan did not report any efforts to seize terrorist assets in 2015.
Uzbekistan restricted non-profit organization activity and often conducted politically-motivated financial audits that led to the curtailment of the investigated organization’s activities or full closing of the organization.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, local neighborhood committees initiated a campaign of outreach, speaking with residents about the dangers of ISIL and extremist ideology and interviewing those intending to travel abroad or with relatives who had recently gone abroad about possible terrorist ties. Law enforcement forces and city government also conducted house-to-house checks with the goal of identifying individuals who were not officially registered at the address and may present a threat.
Official government media continued to produce documentaries and media reports about the dangers of Islamist religious extremism and joining terrorist organizations. Public officials, including President Karimov, stressed the danger of extremism and characterized extremist ideology as a perversion of Islam in public speeches. The Committee on Religious Affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers encouraged religious leaders to condemn extremist ideologies. Several imams traveled to Russia in October to consult with religious authorities there on approaches to countering extremism. Independent human rights groups estimated between 5,000 and 15,000 individuals remained in prison on charges related to religious extremism or membership in an illegal religious group.
In 2015, there were few known reintegration efforts under way in Uzbekistan as there was no significant population of returning foreign terrorist fighters. However, the government voiced concerns over the potential radicalization of Uzbek migrants who worked abroad in Russia and Kazakhstan. With the economic downturn in those countries, the government raised the question of the reintegration of returning migrants without undertaking any concrete steps to facilitate it.
International and Regional Cooperation: Uzbekistan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has a Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure headquartered in Tashkent. In July, Uzbekistan assumed the SCO presidency from Russia. The government also worked with multilateral organizations such as the OSCE and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on general security issues, including border control. Uzbek officials participated in a UNODC conference focused on improved information sharing among border control forces of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and attended container control trainings. Within the framework of a UNODC project, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan opened two border liaison offices on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. Uzbekistan law enforcement officials also participated in OSCE conferences focused on counterterrorism and counterterrorism financing approaches, and the Department of State continued to seek opportunities to develop counterterrorism assistance partnerships with Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan prefers bilateral over multilateral cooperation in counterterrorism matters. Uzbek leadership has declaratively welcomed Russia’s and others’ support in fighting terrorism. In the October meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the participants agreed to set up a joint task force on countering terrorism in the region. Similarly, as announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, Uzbekistan and India also plan to establish a joint working group on counterterrorism.