Country Reports on Terrorism: Middle East and North Africa Overview
The Middle East and North Africa region continues to be the region of greatest concern in the global war on terrorism. Iraq witnessed extensive terrorism and violence by foreign jihadists, former regime elements, and Islamic extremists. Numerous attacks in Iraq targeted foreign aid workers, contractors, and other non-combatants. Major terrorist attacks also occurred in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Active groups in the Middle East included al-Qaida, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), Hizballah, Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (Fatah’s militant wing), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ansar al-Islam and its offshoot Ansar al-Sunna, and Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s organization Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, or the al-Qa’ida Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers (formerly tJama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad). There was an increase in terrorist groups affiliating themselves with al-Qa’ida or expressing support for al-Qa’ida’s ideology. In December, the United States amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of Zarqawi’s group to include its new name and aliases and designated the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) as an FTO. Lebanese Hizballah’s television network, al-Manar, was also added to the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL).
Almost all countries in the region continued significant international counterterrorism cooperation and undertook efforts to strengthen their counterterrorism capabilities and effectiveness. Many countries continued to provide support to Coalition efforts to bring peace and stability to Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States continued to provide training throughout the region to assist US allies to enhance their counterterrorism capacity. In November, Bahrain hosted the first meeting of the newly-established FATF-style regional body, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF), the creation of which should strengthen members' efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in countries in the region.
Iraq's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was officially rescinded on October 20, and the United States continued to work closely with the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) and Iraqi Security Forces to combat terrorism in Iraq. Nevertheless, terrorists and insurgents endeavored to prevent the establishment of a free, sovereign, and democratic Iraq through numerous attacks, including bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and beheadings.
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait undertook aggressive actions to prevent terrorists and insurgents from crossing their borders into Iraq. Syria also took some measures to intercept Iraq-bound foreign jihadists, but those efforts were only partly successful.
Terrorist attacks in Israel in 2004 killed almost 100 people, a significant decrease from the year before. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack of the year, the August 31 double suicide bombing of two buses in Beersheva that killed 16 people and wounded 100.
In Egypt on October 7, terrorists attacked three tourist targets in Taba and Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsula, killing 34 people, including Egyptians, Israelis, Italians, a Russian, and an American-Israeli dual national, and injuring over 140. By the end of the year, the Egyptian Government assessed that of the nine individuals responsible for the attacks, two had been killed in the attacks, five were in custody, and two were still at large.
In Saudi Arabia, terrorists killed dozens of foreigners and Saudi citizens in 2004, including six Americans. Saudi authorities aggressively pursued terrorists and succeeded in capturing or killing many on their most-wanted list. On December 6, an attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah killed four Consulate locally engaged staff and one contract guard, and significantly injured ten employees. Three of the attackers were killed at the site, and one died later of his injuries. The fifth is in Saudi custody. Two groups associated with al-Qa’ida claimed responsibility for the attack.
Jordan’s State Security Court sentenced eight men to death, including Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, for the 2002 murder of USAID official Laurence Foley. In Yemen, the Sana’a Primary Court, in separate trials, convicted the defendants in the USS Cole and French M/V Limburg attacks. Both cases were under appeal at the end of 2004.
Algeria killed or apprehended key leaders of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and arrested more than 400 other GSPC and GIA terrorists during 2004. On October 12, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika opened the African Union’s Center for Study and Research on Terrorism in Algiers.
Morocco continued its aggressive action against suspects in the May 2003 Casablanca bombing.
Algeria continued strong support for US counterterrorism efforts and demonstrated its overall support of the global war on terror. Algeria made impressive gains against both the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC - also known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). In June, GSPC "Emir" Nabil Sahraoui (aka Abu Ibrahim Mustapha) was killed by security forces during an armed clash. In October, Amari Saifi, a.k.a. Abderazak al-Para, the GSPC leader responsible for the 2003 kidnapping of 32 European hostages in Algeria, was apprehended through cooperation with the Chadian and Libyan authorities, and returned to Algeria after being held by a Chadian rebel group, the Movement for Democracy and Justice, for several months. In early November, Algerian security forces captured GIA leader Nouredine Boudiaf and three of his associates along with a large cache of weapons near the Algiers airport. Alge-rian authorities arrested more than 400 other GSPC and GIA terrorists during 2004.
According to Algerian authorities, fewer than 800 terrorists remain active in Algeria, down from a possible high of 28,000 terrorists in the mid-1990s. The Government’s success in capturing or killing a number of GSPC and GIA leaders has further weakened the effectiveness of these two groups. The GSPC, however, carried out several operations in Algeria in 2004, including the August ambush of a military convoy in which 40 members of the security forces were killed. On June 21, GSPC terrorists exploded a vehicle-borne explosive device outside the El-Hamma electric power generating facility in central Algiers, causing no casualties but knocking out 210 MW of generating capacity for several months. Members of the cell responsible for the El-Hamma bombing were reportedly killed by security forces in October. Numerous smaller incidents occurred in 2004, mainly in the Boumerdes area and in parts of Kabylie.
Algeria’s neighbors, including Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania, continue to be affected by the GSPC’s activities. The GSPC conducts smuggling activities between Algeria and neighboring countries. There are also financial links between GSPC cells in Europe and Algeria. The GSPC issued several communiqués on its website threatening foreigners in Algeria and pledged renewed allegiance to al-Qa’ida and global jihad. Algeria cooperates closely with its neighbors in the Sahel. This cooperation led to the apprehension of Abderrazak al-Para.
On October 12, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hosted a high-level African Union (AU) conference on counterterrorism in Algiers and opened the new AU Center for Study and Research on Terrorism. This center is intended to facilitate information exchange and training for AU member states in the fight against terrorism. In the financial arena, Algeria drafted legislation to criminalize money laundering activities. A financial intelligence unit (FIU), which turns over actionable information to the courts, became operational.
Bahrain provides important support to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly efforts to block the financing of terror groups. Bahrain has continued to respond positively to requests for assistance to combat terror financing and has frozen about $18 million in terrorist-linked funds. In November, Bahrain hosted the inaugural meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF). Bahrain worked closely with FATF for several years to establish this regional body. Located in Bahrain, the new MENA FATF secretariat will promote FATF recommendations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
Bahrain is an active participant in the US Government’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program. Bahrain continued to cooperate with the US on intelligence and law enforcement matters.
The Government actively monitored terrorist suspects, but domestic legal constraints, including the absence of comprehensive conspiracy legislation, have at times hamstrung the Government’s ability to detain and prosecute suspects. In June, the Government arrested six Bahrainis and placed one Bahraini under house arrest on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks. All seven were released within two days. The Government re-arrested the six individuals in mid-July. The court ordered the release of two of the individuals in mid-September and ordered the release of the remaining four in early November pending trial. Preliminary hearings for the case began in early December. The court referred to the Constitutional Court a motion contesting the constitutionality of the charges against the suspects. One of the four escaped the courtroom during a hearing in mid-September and was recaptured the same day. He was convicted in mid-November for the escape attempt and began serving a six-month sentence.
The Egyptian and US Governments maintained close cooperation on a broad range of counterterrorism and law enforcement issues in 2004. A high-level Egyptian judicial delegation visited the United States in June and met with representatives of the US Departments of Justice, State, and the FBI to discuss cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism, law enforcement, and the mutual legal assistance treaty. In September, 20 generals from Egyptian security services attended a crisis management seminar in Washington funded by the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program.
The Egyptian and US Governments also exchanged information on a variety of terrorism, security, and law enforcement matters during the course of the year. In the past two years, Egypt has tightened its assets-freezing regime in keeping with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. Egypt passed strong anti-money laundering legislation in 2002 and established a financial intelligence unit in 2003. Egypt maintained its strengthened airport security measures and security for the Suez Canal, and continued to institute more stringent port security measures.
Egypt was a victim of terrorism in 2004. On October 7, terrorists attacked tourist targets in Taba and Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsula in three separate but coordinated actions. Thirty-four people were killed, including Egyptians, Israelis, Italians, a Russian, and an American-Israeli dual national, and over 140 were injured. On October 25, the Minister of Interior announced that the Government had identified nine individuals responsible for the attack. According to the Egyptian Government, a Palestinian resident in North Sinai was the group’s ringleader. The Government reported that the Palestinian and an accomplice were killed in the course of the attack in Taba, and that five others had been taken into custody. At year’s end, two of the nine named by the Government remained at large. The Government asserted that the nine perpetrators were not part of a wider conspiracy and did not receive assistance from international terrorist organizations.
The Egyptian judicial system does not allow plea bargaining in most cases, and terrorists have historically been prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Defendants are tried in military tribunals or emergency courts. In March, an emergency court pronounced its verdict in the trial of 26 persons accused of attempting to reconstitute the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami), which was banned in Egypt in 1974 for its efforts to overthrow the Egyptian Government. The court sentenced 12 of the defendants (including three UK citizens) to prison. In April, Ahmad Hussein Agiza, an Islamist militant returned to Egypt by Sweden in 2001, was sentenced by a military court to 25 years in prison for membership in a banned organization, although his sentence was subsequently commuted to 15 years.
Egypt continued to release from prison members of the terrorist Islamic Group (IG) who recanted their past actions and renounced the use of violence. Approximately 700 people were released over the course of the year, of which the majority were reportedly IG members. The Government characterized the releases as the result of a transformation in the ideological and theological positions of the imprisoned IG leadership, reflected in a number of books, pamphlets, and interviews in which they espoused a new non-violent philosophy. Some IG members in Egypt and abroad rejected the leadership’s move to adopt nonviolence.
Egypt continued to work with Israel to crack down on long-established smuggling tunnels through the Sinai to Gaza. Egypt has destroyed more than 40 tunnel openings since 2003 and long ago cleared sensitive portions of the border area spanning the tunneling area. Egypt has actively engaged Palestinian leaders on the question of reorganizing the Palestinian Authority’s security services to better police the border area.
Iraq remains the central battleground in the global war on terrorism. Former regime elements as well as foreign fighters and Islamic extremists continued to conduct terrorist attacks against civilians and non-combatants. These elements also conducted numerous insurgent attacks against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces, which often had devastating effects on Iraqi civilians and significantly damaged the country’s economic infrastructure. Following the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) on June 28, 2004, Iraqi authorities began to implement a new legal regime and to undertake needed law enforcement action to counter terrorist activity. Iraqi Security Forces (including the Police, Border Enforcement, National Guard, and Iraqi Armed Forces) worked closely with the Multi-Na-tional Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) to combat terrorism in Iraq. On October 20, 2004, Iraq’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was rescinded by the United States.
Prior to the IIG, the governing Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) implemented several orders (binding instructions or directives that have the force of law) governing the creation of a revised penal code, new policies on border security, management of the court system, and new security forces. IIG cooperation with MNF-I forces was enshrined in Article 59 of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), which established the framework for Iraq’s transition from the CPA through the sovereign IIG and eventually to a permanent sovereign Iraqi Government. The TAL names the Iraqi Armed Forces as the MNF-I’s "principal partner…pursuant to the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511 (2003)…until the ratification of a permanent constitution."
At the United Nations, the IIG consistently responded positively to US requests to co-sponsor the listing of al-Qa’ida-related entities and individuals pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and related resolutions that provide for the imposition of sanctions against entities associated with Usama bin Ladin, al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.
Terrorist attacks against a variety of targets increased in late 2004 in the run-up to the January 30, 2005, elections for the Transitional National Assembly and regional parliamentary bodies.
Jordanian-born Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and his organization emerged in 2004 to play a leading role in terrorist activities in Iraq. In October, the US Government designated Zarqawi’s group, Jama’at al Tawhid wa’al-Jihad, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). In December, the designation was amended to include the group’s new name Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (or "The al-Qa’ida Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers") and other aliases following the "merger" between Zarqawi and Usama bin Ladin’s al-Qa’ida organization. Zarqawi announced the merger in October, and in December, bin Ladin endorsed Zarqawi as his official emissary in Iraq.
Zarqawi’s group claimed credit for a number of attacks targeting Coalition and Iraqi forces, as well as civilians, including the October massacre of 49 unarmed, out-of-uniform Iraqi National Guard recruits. Attacks that killed civilians include the March 2004 bombing of the Mount Lebanon Hotel, killing seven and injuring over 30, and a December 24 suicide bombing using a fuel tanker that killed nine and wounded 19 in the al-Mansur district of Baghdad.
In February, Zarqawi called for a "sectarian war" in Iraq. He and his organization sought to create a rift between Shi’a and Sunnis through several large terror attacks against Iraqi Shi’a. In March 2004, Zarqawi claimed credit for simultaneous bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala that killed over 180 pilgrims as they celebrated the Shi’a festival of Ashura. In December, Zarqawi also claimed credit for a suicide attack at the offices of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one of Iraq’s largest Shi’a parties, which killed 15 and wounded over 50. Zarqawi has denied responsibility for another significant attack that same month in Karbala and Najaf, two of Shi’a Islam’s most holy cities, which killed 62 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 120.
Terrorists operating in Iraq used kidnapping and targeted assassinations to intimidate Iraqis and third-country nationals working in Iraq as civilian contractors. Nearly 60 noncombatant Americans died in terrorist incidents in Iraq in 2004. Other American noncombatants were killed in attacks on coalition military facilities or convoys. In June, Zarqawi claimed credit for the car bomb that killed the chairman of the Coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. In April, an American civilian was kidnapped and later beheaded. One month later, a video of his beheading was posted on an al-Qa’ida-associated website. Analysts believe that Zarqawi himself killed the American as well as a Korean hostage, kidnapped in June. Zarqawi took direct credit for the September kidnapping and murder of two American civilians and later their British engineer co-worker, and the October murder of a Japanese citizen.
In August, the Kurdish terrorist group Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of 12 Nepalese construction workers, followed by the murder of two Turkish citizens in September. Many other foreign civilians have been kidnapped. Some have been killed, others released, some remain in their kidnappers’ hands, and the fate of others, such as the director of CARE, is unknown.
Other terrorist groups were active in Iraq. Ansar al-Sunna, believed to be an offshoot of the Ansar al-Islam group founded in Iraq in September 2001, first came to be known in April 2003 after issuing a statement on the Internet. In February 2004, Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for bomb attacks on the offices of two Kurdish political parties in Irbil, which killed 109 Iraqi civilians. The Islamic Army in Iraq has also claimed responsibility for terrorist actions.
Approximately 3,800 disarmed persons remained resident at the former Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK) military base at Camp Ashraf; the MeK is a designated US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). More than 400 members renounced membership in the organization in 2004. Fortyone additional defectors elected to return to Iran, and another two hundred were awaiting ICRC assistance for voluntary repatriation to Iran at the end of the year. PKK/ KADEK/Kongra Gel, a designated foreign terrorist group, maintains an estimated 3,000 to 3,500 armed militants in northern Iraq, according to Turkish Government sources and NGOs. In the summer of 2004, PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel renounced its self-proclaimed cease-fire and threatened to renew its separatist struggle in both Turkey’s Southeast and urban centers. Turkish press subsequently reported multiple incidents in the Southeast of PKK/KADEK/ Kongra Gel terrorist actions or clashes between Turkish security forces and PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel militants.
Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
Israel maintained staunch support for US-led counterterrorism efforts in 2004. Palestinian terrorist groups conducted a large number of attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip in 2004. HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- all US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations -- were responsible for most of the attacks, which included suicide bombings, shootings, and mortar and rocket firings against civilian and military targets. Terrorist attacks in 2004 killed almost 100 people (mostly Israelis, as well as a number of foreigners, including one US citizen), a decrease from the almost 200 people killed in 2003.
The October 15, 2003, attack on a US diplomatic convoy in Gaza that killed three Americans is the most lethal attack ever directly targeting US interests in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a loose association of Palestinians with ties to various Palestinian militant organizations such as HAMAS, PIJ, and Fatah, claimed responsibility, although that claim was later rescinded. Official investigations continued and resulted in the arrests of four suspects. A Palestinian civil court ordered the four suspects freed on March 14, citing a lack of evidence. Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Arafat rescinded the order and kept the suspects in custody until Palestinian gunmen attacked the Gaza prison and released the four suspects on April 24. Since the April 24 incident, the PA has failed to re-arrest the four suspects or to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the October 2003 attack.
Palestinian terrorist groups in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza continue to focus their attention on the Palestinians’ historical conflict with Israel, attacking Israel and Israeli interests within Israel and the Palestinian territories, rather than engaging in operations worldwide.
Israel employed a variety of military operations in its counterterrorism efforts. Israeli forces launched frequent raids throughout the West Bank and Gaza, conducted targeted killings of suspected Palestinian terrorists, destroyed homes -- including those of families of suicide bombers -- im posed strict and widespread closures and curfews in Palestinian areas, and continued construction of an extensive security barrier in the West Bank. Israeli counterterrorism measures appear to have reduced the lethality of attacks; continuing attacks and credible threats of attacks, however, show that the terrorist groups remained potent.
Israel also took action in February to block what it labeled terrorist funding in two Palestinian banks. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet raided the West Bank offices of the Arab Bank and the Cairo-Amman Bank, seizing almost $9 million in cash from 310 accounts. Israeli law does not allow seizure of funds via correspondent accounts in Israel, and the Israeli Government claimed that the PA had failed to act on earlier intelligence. PA officials asserted that the funds belonged to reputable clients, with no connection to terrorism. The funds remain seized by order of an Israeli court.
HAMAS was particularly active in 2004, carrying out attacks that included shootings, suicide bombings, and standoff mortar and rocket attacks against civilian and military targets, many of them joint operations with other militant organizations. HAMAS was responsible for the deadliest attack of the year in Israel -- the August 31 double suicide bombing of two buses in Beersheva that killed 16 people and wounded 100. HAMAS was also responsible for an increase in Qassam rocket attacks. A rocket attack on Sderot on June 28 was the first fatal attack against Israelis using Qassam rockets. Two Israelis died in the attack. In September, two Israeli children were killed in Sderot from another Qassam rocket attack. In response to the continued Qassam rocket fire, the IDF launched a three-week operation on September 28, in which 130 Palestinians (among them 68 HAMAS and Palestine Islamic Jihad militants) and five Israelis died, according to press reports.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was active in 2004. The group was responsible for the November 1 suicide bombing at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, which killed three people and wounded 30. Palestinian Islamic Jihad conducted numerous attacks on Israeli settlements and checkpoints, including the April 3 attacks on the Avnei Hafetz and Enav settlements in the West Bank which killed one Israeli and seriously wounded a child.
Fatah’s militant wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, conducted numerous shooting attacks and suicide bombings in 2004. It was responsible for two suicide bus bombings in Jerusalem during January and February. The attacks killed 21 people and wounded over 110. Al-Aqsa also claimed responsibility along with HAMAS for the March 14 suicide attack in the port of Ashdod. The double suicide attack killed ten people and wounded at least 15. The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack which killed two people and wounded 17 at a checkpoint near Jerusalem on August 11. On May 2, Palestinian gunmen belonging to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and PIJ shot and killed an Israeli settler and her four daughters in the Gaza Strip. The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack which killed two people and wounded 17 at a checkpoint near Jerusalem on August 11.
In December, Israel convicted and sentenced an Israeli man for membership in the "New Jewish Underground," a terrorist organization that aimed to carry out attacks on Arab civilians. On September 29, a group of five Israeli settlers attacked and seriously wounded two US citizens, members of an NGO, who were escorting Palestinian children to school near Hebron. As of the end of 2004, the Israeli police had not arrested those responsible.
The Palestinian Authority’s efforts to thwart terrorist operations were minimal in 2004. The PA security services remained fragmented and ineffective, hobbled by corruption, infighting, and poor leadership. Following the November 11 death of PA Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and then PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas engaged in an effort to convince militant Palestinian groups to agree to a cease-fire. Cease-fire talks were inconclusive by the end of 2004. Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud Abbas, and some Palestinian intellectuals have called for an end to armed attacks against Israelis.
Jordan continued its strong support for the global war on terrorism in 2004. Jordanian security services disrupted numerous terrorist plots during the year, including several that targeted US interests in Jordan. It has aggressively pursued the network of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, deemed responsible for numerous plots and attacks in Jordan and Iraq. In the most serious plot disrupted to date in Jordan, security services in April arrested Zarqawi affiliates in the advanced stages of a plan to launch truck bombs against Jordanian Government targets and the US Embassy in Amman. In an unprecedented move, the Jordanian Government aired the plotters’ confessions on state-run television, emphasizing their plans to kill thousands, including Jordanian citizens. In late April, Government officials, including Queen Rania, joined thousands of Jordanians in a street march against terrorism. The Government publicly condemned terrorist acts throughout the world. King Abdullah was an outspoken critic of terrorism and Islamic extremism, and in September directed religious authorities to deliver the "Amman Message," a declaration that rejects religious extremism and terrorism, and seeks to promote moderate Islam and dialogue.
Jordan’s State Security court, which has purview over terrorism-related cases, maintained a heavy caseload over the year, most of which involved Zarqawi-affiliated suspects. The Court in April sentenced eight men to death, including Zarqawi and five others in absentia, for the murder of USAID official Laurence Foley in front of his Amman home on October 28, 2002. The Government announced in July that Muammar al-Jaghbir, sentenced to death in absentia for his role in the Foley murder, was in Jordanian custody and would be re-tried according to Jordanian law. In May, the Court found guilty three Jordanians -- including one of Zarqawi’s nephews -- for plotting attacks against US and Israeli tourists in the country. In June, the Court sentenced Ahmad al-Riyati and eight men being tried in absentia (including Zarqawi and reputed Ansar al-Islam leader Mullah Krekar) to prison for plotting against US interests. In October, the Court sentenced Bilal al-Hiyari, a Zarqawi fundraiser, to six months in jail for his activities. It also indicted suspected Zarqawi affiliate Miqdad al-Dabbas for planning attacks against Jordanian interests in Iraq. In November, the Court began the trial of the 13 suspects accused in the April plot, including Zarqawi in absentia.
In one of the few non-Zarqawi related terrorism cases, the State Security Court in September indicted two Jordanians for plotting to attack foreign diplomats in Amman. Separately, the Court in November acquitted four men of charges they plotted attacks against US and Israeli targets in Jordan, although they were sentenced to one year in jail for possession of an automatic weapon. In late December, the court convicted 11 men on weapons charges in a plot against the US Embassy and US military forces in Jordan.
The State Security Court also moved forward on other long-standing terrorism cases. In June, the Court affirmed its guilty verdict (first handed down in September 2000) against ten men accused of plotting attacks during Jordan’s millennial celebrations, sentencing two to death. In October, Jordan’s Court of Cassation, which hears appeals from the State Security Court, upheld the lower court’s guilty verdict of US-Jordanian citizen Ra’ed Hijazi, one of those sentenced to death for his role in the plot, but commuted the death sentence, sentencing him to 20 years in jail with labor. The decision is final, and no more appeals will be heard.
Border security remained a top concern of Jordanian officials in 2004, as the Jordanian Government continued to interdict weapons and potential infiltrators at its borders. In July, Jordanian border officials intercepted and killed armed individuals attempting to infiltrate northern Israel from Jordan. Jordanian border officials allegedly intercepted suspects involved in the April Zarqawi plot as they tried to enter Jordan from Syria. In November, a terrorist driving a vehicle loaded with explosives tried to cross the Iraqi-Jordanian border, but was stopped before the explosives detonated.
Kuwait continued to engage with the US Government and its neighbors to thwart domestic threats to Kuwaiti and foreign interests. It also continued to provide significant support to US efforts to stem terror financing. Following the four terror attacks carried out against Operation Iraqi Freedom and Coalition forces in Kuwait between October 2002 and December 2003 that resulted in the death of one US Marine and a US defense contractor, the Government of Kuwait sought to strengthen domestic counterterrorism efforts, but the potential for further attacks remains a serious concern.
The Kuwaiti Government has taken significant measures to bolster security and enhance protection for Coalition forces transiting Kuwait. Kuwait responded quickly to US concerns about a possible terror attack in December 2004. Kuwaiti officials have heightened security along their border with Iraq to prevent terrorist infiltration and have also worked with Syria and Iran to develop procedures to increase intelligence sharing and enhance customs and border-monitoring cooperation. In July, Syria repatriated to Kuwait seven people recruited to carry out suicide bomb attacks in Iraq. Kuwait subsequently arrested a dozen Kuwaitis reportedly being trained to attack US and Coalition forces in Iraq. By the end of 2004, all but two of them had been released on bail.
The Kuwaiti Government was able to identify and arrest terror suspects in some cases, but was on occasion unable to secure convictions, citing a lack of evidence for use in court. Those actually sentenced to jail on terrorism charges often had their sentences reduced.
As part of its campaign against terror, the Government formed in October a ministerial committee chaired by the Minister of Islamic Endowments and Islamic Affairs to develop strategies to combat terror and extremists. In November, the Government forbade Kuwaiti ministries and religious institutions from extending official invitations to 26 Saudi clerics who reportedly signed a statement in support of jihad in Iraq. No entry ban was imposed, however, and at least one cleric visited the homes of some Members of Parliament and other private gatherings, sparking widespread public criticism of the cleric’s presence. The Islamic political bloc in the Kuwaiti Parliament has been critical of the Government’s methods in confronting and dealing with Islamic extremists.
Lebanon remains host to numerous US-designated terrorist groups. Beirut continued to demonstrate an unwillingness to take steps against Lebanese Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), and HAMAS. In contrast, the Lebanese Government moved vigorously through legal and operational initiatives against Sunni extremist groups, including those similar in ideology to al-Qa’ida.
The Lebanese Government recognized as legitimate resistance groups organizations that target Israel and permitted them to maintain offices in Beirut. Lebanon also exempts what it terms "legal resistance" groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, from money laundering and terrorism financing laws. Lebanese leaders, including President Emile Lahud, reject assessments of Lebanese Hizballah’s global terror activities, though the group’s leadership has openly admitted to providing material support for terror attacks inside Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Hizballah, which holds 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament, is generally seen as a part of Lebanese society and politics.
The Lebanese Government has failed to comply with numerous UN resolutions to extend sole and effective authority over all Lebanese territory. The Lebanese security forces remain unable or unwilling to enter Palestinian refugee camps, the operational nodes of terrorist groups such as Asbat al-Ansar and other Palestinian terror groups, and to deploy forces into areas dominated by Lebanese Hizballah, including the Beka’a Valley, southern Beirut, and the south of the country up to the UN-demarcated Blue Line.
Syria’s predominant role in Lebanon facilitates the Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist presence in portions of Lebanon. In addition, Syrian and Iranian support for Lebanese Hizballah activities in southern Lebanon, and for Palestinian terrorist groups throughout the country, help promote an environment where terrorist elements flourish.
The Lebanese and Syrian Governments have not fully complied with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for, among other things, respect for the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, and the disarming and disbandment of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Lebanese Hizballah militiamen operate freely in southern Lebanon without interference from Lebanese security forces. Lebanese Government officials have openly and publicly condoned Lebanese Hizballah operations against Israel. Lebanese authorities further maintain that the Government’s provision of amnesty to Lebanese individuals involved in acts of violence during the civil war prevents Beirut from prosecuting many cases of concern to the United States, including the hijacking in 1985 of TWA 847 and the murder of a US Navy diver on the flight, and the abduction, torture, and murder of US hostages from 1984 to 1991. US courts have brought indictments against Lebanese Hizballah operatives responsible for a number of those crimes, and some of these defendants remain prominent terrorist figures. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Lebanese Government has insisted that Imad Mugniyah, wanted in connection with the TWA hijacking and other terrorist acts, who was placed on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists in 2001, is no longer in Lebanon. The Government’s legal system also has failed to hold a hearing on the prosecutor’s appeal in the case of Tawfic Muhammad Farroukh, who -- despite the evidence against him -- was found not guilty of murder for his role in the killings of US Ambassador Francis Meloy and two others in 1976.
Lebanon's Special Investigation Commission (SIC), an independent legal entity with judicial status empowered to investigate suspicious transactions, investigated over 176 cases involving allegations of money laundering and terrorist financing activities in 2004.
Lebanon has taken other counterterrorism measures in 2004, primarily directed against Sunni extremists. In March, a Lebanese military tribunal sentenced eight alleged Sunni extremists, for periods varying from five to 20 years imprisonment with hard labor, who were accused of carrying out terrorist attacks against foreign interests in Lebanon (including bombings of McDonalds and Pizza Hut restaurants) and plotting to assassinate the US Ambassador. Lebanese security services, in concert with Italian and Syrian authorities, rounded up members of a Sunni extremist cell in September that was allegedly planning to bomb the Italian and Ukrainian Embassies, and assassinate Western diplomats. The alleged cell leader later died in Lebanese custody. In October, a Lebanese military tribunal found guilty and sentenced two people to imprisonment with hard labor on charges of bringing an explosives device to US Embassy premises. One was sentenced for seven years and the other for three years.
The Government of Morocco continues to be a staunch ally in the war on terror. King Mohammed VI has been a steadfast supporter of efforts to confront terrorism, in particular by promoting internal reforms designed to combat sources of terrorism over the long-term. Towards this end, during 2004 Morocco implemented reforms to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to promote religious moderation and tolerance. Domestically, Morocco’s historical record of strong vigilance against terrorist activity remained unwavering.
Following the May 16, 2003, Casablanca attacks in which suicide bombers from the "Salafiya Jihadiya" group killed 42 and wounded approximately 100 others, the Government arrested several thousand people, prosecuted 1,200 and sentenced about 900 for various terrorism-related crimes. The Minister of Justice announced that these arrests represented approximately 90 percent of those sought by the Government. The remaining ten percent were subjects of international arrest warrants. A spate of May 16-related terrorist arrests since June 2004, however, in Agadir, Beni Mellal, Fes, Khourigba, and Meknes suggests that the number of at-large suspects has likely decreased further. The Government also aggressively pursued Salafiya Jihadiya terrorist cells in several Moroccan cities.
The al-Qa’ida-affiliated Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) continues to pose a threat in Morocco as well as in Europe. Moroccan extremists, associated with the GICM, were among those implicated in the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Oman continued to provide support for the global war on terrorism, and has been responsive to requests for Coalition military and civilian support, making arrests as well as working with its neighbors to improve cross-border security. During the last three years, the Government of Oman has implemented a tight anti-money laundering regime, including surveillance systems designed to identify unusual transactions, with plans to require financial institutions to verify customer identities using sophisticated biometric technology. Omani financial authorities have also demonstrated their commitment to freeze the assets of any UN-listed individual found in Oman.
The Government of Qatar provided the United States with significant counterterrorism support during 2004, building on the bilateral cooperation it has maintained since September 11, 2001.
No terrorist attacks occurred in Qatar in 2004, and the Qatari security services had some successes against terrorist targets. In March, Qatar passed the Combating Terrorism Law. The law defines terrorism and terrorist acts, lists specific punishments for terrorist crimes to include the death penalty, provides measures against terrorist financing or fundraising activities, and gives the Government sweeping authority to take action against terrorist crimes and activities. The law incorporates existing laws such as Qatar’s penal code, criminal procedures code, judicial law, law on weapons, ammunitions and explosives, and the anti-money laundering law.
In March, the Government passed a new law to establish the Qatar Authority for Charitable Works, which monitors all domestic and international charitable activities. The Secretary General of the Authority approves international fund transfers by the charities. The Authority has primary responsibility for monitoring overseas charitable, developmental, and humanitarian projects, and is to report annually to concerned Government ministries on the status of all projects. The Authority was still in the process of developing concrete measures to exert more control over domestic charity collection.
In October, the Government appointed a member of the ruling al-Thani family as director of its financial intelligence unit (FIU). The FIU is responsible for reviewing all financial transaction reports, identifying suspicious transactions and financial activities of concern, and ensuring that all Government ministries and agencies have procedures and standards to ensure proper oversight of financial transactions.
In 2004, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continued to support the global war on terror. Terrorists killed dozens of foreigners and citizens, including six Americans, in attacks throughout the country. The attacks consisted of kidnappings, armed assaults, targeted shootings, bombings, and beheadings. In the first half of 2004, the al-Qa’ida presence in Saudi Arabia kept up a steady tempo of attacks, surpassing the number and lethality of attacks conducted in the previous year. In the second half of the year, facing concerted pressure from Saudi authorities, the network appeared to be largely on the defensive, and did not mount a major operation until the December 6 attack on the US Consulate General in Jeddah. Five foreign nationals -- four locally engaged staff and one local guard -- working at the Consulate were killed. This attack was later claimed by "al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula," which also claimed credit for other deadly attacks against American citizens in 2004. Two car bombs, one aimed at the Ministry of Interior, exploded December 29, killing one passer-by and injuring several others.
In response to the wave of terrorist violence in the Kingdom, the Saudi Government aggressively pursued terrorists and achieved successes, including the capture or killing of all but seven of the Kingdom’s 26 most-wanted terrorists and most of the known terrorist leadership in Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces launched dozens of security sweeps throughout the country, dismantling several al-Qa’ida cells, some of which were directly involved in attacks against US citizens and interests. More than thirty members of the Saudi security forces lost their lives in this campaign.
Saudi Arabia continued a public outreach campaign in the war against terror. As custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, the Saudi Government worked to delegitimize the inappropriate use of Islam to justify terrorist attacks. During the year, Saudi authorities aired confessions of militants and interviews with fathers of wanted men as part of a campaign to rally the public against radicals who carried out attacks in the Kingdom. In June, the Grand Mufti Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Al al-Shaykh issued a fatwa condemning terrorist acts and calling on citizens to report "saboteurs and anyone planning or preparing to carry out terrorist acts to the concerned authorities." Also in June, six senior religious leaders issued a statement denouncing terrorist attacks as "heinous crimes." A November "fatwa" issued by 26 radical Saudi clerics, who called on Iraqis to resist Coalition forces in Iraq by force, was rebutted by senior members of the Saudi official religious establishment, including the Grand Mufti. The Government also focused on internal social, political, and economic reforms as a method to reduce the appeal of radical ideologies. The media reported widely on each of the attacks conducted by terrorists in the Kingdom and the subsequent Government crackdown, leading to widespread public recognition that terrorism is a serious threat in the Kingdom, not only to foreigners, but to Saudis as well.
During the year, the Government launched intensive searches and counterterrorism sweeps in the country, often involving thousands of Saudi security personnel. On June 23, Crown Prince Abdullah issued an ultimatum to terrorists: surrender in 30 days or suffer the full force of the state. The ultimatum prompted several notable extremists to turn themselves in, including one terrorist suspect on Saudi Arabia’s 26 most-wanted list. On June 29, the Prince Nayif Security Academy began training employees of the national oil company (Saudi ARAMCO) on counterterrorism measures. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior announced a 60-day pardon for persons to surrender unlicensed weapons.
In July, reporting on the results of a mutual evaluation conducted in 2003, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded that Saudi Arabia’s financial regime met the general obligations of the organization’s recommendations for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. The Government continued to take steps to make operational a financial intelligence unit (FIU) established in 2003 under anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing law. Concerned about the possible misuse of charitable organizations for terrorist purposes, the Government issued a set of bylaws for the Commission for Relief and Charitable Work Abroad, designed to oversee all Saudi charities. In this regard, the Government ordered the closure of the al-Haramain Foundation, a Saudi charity with a number of overseas offices that had been designated by the UN Sanctions Committee for providing support for terrorist activities. The Government also maintained its prohibition, imposed in 2003, on the collection of cash donations at mosques or commercial establishments and its restrictions on the bank accounts of charities, including prohibiting fund transfers out of the country. The media reported during the year that Saudi banks froze more than 250,000 accounts for noncompliance with anti-money laundering and terrorist finance laws. During the year, the Saudi Government requested that the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee add entities and individuals suspected of terrorist activities or of supporting terrorists to its consolidated list.
The Government of Tunisia publicly supported the international coalition against terrorism and responded positively to US requests for information and assistance in blocking financial assets. Tunisia’s active stance against terrorism has been reinforced by its own experience with international terrorism. In April 2002, a suicide truck bomb detonated outside the el-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, killing at least twenty.
The Government of Tunisia has taken steps to strengthen counterterrorism laws. The Tunisian legislature in December 2003 passed a comprehensive law to "support the international effort to combat terrorism and money laundering." The first prosecution of suspected terrorists under the law’s provisions commenced in February 2004. Tunisia has consistently emphasized the threat that terrorism poses to security and stability in the region. Further, it has encouraged Libya to abandon terrorism. Domestically, the Tunisian Government has prohibited the formation of re-ligious-based political parties and groups, which it believes pose a terrorist threat.
United Arab Emirates
In 2004, the United Arab Emirates continued to provide staunch assistance and cooperation to the global war against terrorism. In July, late President Sheikh Zayed issued an antiterrorism law defining terrorist crimes and punishment, and specifically criminalizing the funding of terrorist organizations. In December, the United States and the Emirate of Dubai signed a Container Security Initiative Statement of Principles aimed at screening US-bound containerized cargo transiting Dubai’s ports. The UAE also undertook several security measures along its land border and at sea to deter terrorists from reaching UAE soil.
In October, the UAE hosted an international conference on Islam intended to encourage moderation and condemn terrorism and extremism. The conference included sessions by prominent international and Emirate Muslim religious figures, and called for moderate Islamic preaching, increased training of imams, and reforms of the Islamic studies education curriculum.
In suppressing terrorist financing, the UAE Central Bank continued to enforce anti-money laundering regulations aggressively. Tightened oversight and reporting requirements for domestic financial markets resulted in a stronger legal and regulatory framework to deter abuse of the UAE financial system. The Central Bank has provided training programs to financial institutions on money laundering and terrorist financing. In April, the Central Bank hosted the Second International Hawala Conference, which was attended by 375 participants from around the world to discuss how to better monitor money flows occurring outside the formal banking structure. (Hawalas are informal money remittance and exchange businesses common in the Middle East and South Asia.) The conference included interactive panels, overviews of anti-money laundering systems in various other countries, and presentations from multilateral organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, FATF, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The Central Bank has also investigated financial transactions and frozen accounts in response to UN resolutions and internal investigations, and continued the process of registering hawala dealers.
In 2004, the Republic of Yemen continued to provide support for the global war on terrorism and took action against al-Qa’ida and local extremists, arresting several individuals suspected of having al-Qa’ida ties and prosecuting the perpetrators of several terrorist acts.
On August 28, the Sana’a Primary Court convicted 14 al-Qa’ida members for the October 2002 attack on the French tanker M/V Limburg, the murder of a Ministry of Interior officer during the November 2002 attack on an oil company helicopter, a plot to attack the Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority, a plot to attack four foreign embassies in Sana’a and to kill the US Ambassador, and for forging documents for the purpose of carrying out terrorism. Two defendants received death sentences, one in absentia. The other defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to ten years. Under Yemeni law, both defendants and the prosecution have the right to appeal rulings. All defendants have appealed their sentences, as has the prosecution, the latter arguing that some of the sentences were too light. The appeals process is expected to conclude in early 2005.
On September 10, the Sana’a Primary Court concluded the trial of five defendants for the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole in Aden that killed 17 US sailors and injured 35. This included suspects Jamal al-Badawi and Fahad al-Quso, who were re-apprehended on March 10 by Yemeni authorities following their escape from an Aden prison in April 2003. On September 29, the court issued two death sentences for the ringleaders of the bombing (al-Badawi and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in absentia). Three others were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to ten years for their roles in the attack. These cases were under appeal by both the Government and the defense at the end of 2004.
The Yemeni Supreme Court heard appeals on the death sentences of Abed Abdulrazak al-Kamel and Ali Ahmed Mohamed Jarallah for the December 30, 2002, shootings of three American citizens in Jibla. No final decision has been issued in these cases.
Yemen has expressed a willingness to fight international terrorists by denying them the use of its territorial seas and ports. Over the past year, Yemen has increased its maritime security capabilities. The US Government provided extensive training and eight boats to the Yemeni Coast Guard, which is now a visible patrolling force along the coastline. Coast Guard operations are expanding to stem the use of Yemen as a way station for smuggling of persons, drugs, weapons, and explosives.
Land border security along Yemen’s extensive frontier with Saudi Arabia remains a major concern. In February, Yemen and Saudi Arabia agreed to bolster cooperation in order to combat the cross-border smuggling of arms and people. The two countries also agreed to establish joint patrols and increase monitoring.
The Government’s capacity for stemming terrorism financing remains limited. In February, the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee designated prominent Yemeni sheikh and opposition Islah party leader Abd al-Majid al-Zindani for his association with al-Qa’ida. The Yemeni Government has taken no action to bar his travel or to freeze his assets in compliance with its UN obligations, and Zindani continues to appear prominently at public events.
Yemen utilized its Islamic Dialogue Committee, headed by a leading judge, to continue its dialogue with detainees arrested for connections to terrorist groups and extremist elements. In a 2004 Ramadan amnesty the Government released over 100 security detainees, claiming that they had been rehabilitated and had made commitments to uphold the Yemeni constitution and laws, the rights of non-Muslims, and the inviolability of foreign interests.
Several terrorist organizations continued to maintain a presence in Yemen throughout 2004. HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are recognized as legal organizations, and HAMAS maintains offices in Yemen. Neither organization has engaged in any known terrorist activities in Yemen, and PIJ does not have any known operational presence. HAMAS conducts extensive fundraising through mosques and other charitable organizations throughout the country. While al-Qa’ida’s operational structure in Yemen has been weakened and dispersed, concerns remain about the organization’s attempts to reconstitute operational cells in Yemen.
Source: “Country Reports on Terrorism,” Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. State Department, (April 27, 2005)