The Near East region experienced significant levels of terrorist activity in 2013, with instability and weak governance in North Africa, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen continuing to have ramifications for the broader region. Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates exploited opportunities to conduct operations amid this fragile political and security climate.
- ** Iran **
- Israel (incl. West Bank & Gaza)
- Saudi Arabia
- ** Syria **
- United Arab Emirates
**- Designated as State Sponsor of Terrorism
In Libya, lack of countrywide security coverage contributed to a high threat environment. Libya’s weak security institutions, coupled with ready access to loose weapons and porous borders, provided violent extremists significant opportunities to act and plan operations.
Reflecting its greater regional ambitions, al-Qa’ida in Iraq changed its name in 2013 to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and stepped up its attacks across Syria and Iraq. Iraqi security forces demonstrated some ability to confront this challenge in terms of protecting larger installations and events, and finding and arresting terrorist suspects. ISIL also took advantage of the permissive security environment in Syria. The Syrian government historically had an important role in the growth of terrorist networks in Syria through the permissive attitude the Asad regime took towards al-Qa’ida’s foreign fighter facilitation efforts during the Iraq conflict. Syrian government awareness and encouragement of violent extremists’ transit through Syria to enter Iraq for many years, for the purpose of fighting Coalition Troops, is well documented – Syria was a key hub for foreign fighters en route to Iraq. Those very networks were the seedbed for the violent extremist elements that terrorized the Syrian population in 2013.
Shia militants continued to threaten Iraqi security in 2013, and were alleged to have been responsible for numerous attacks against Mujahadin-e Khalq members that continued to reside at Camp Hurriya near Baghdad. Hezbollah provided a wide range of critical support to the Asad regime – including clearing regions of opposition forces, and providing training, advice, and logistical assistance to the Syrian Army – as the regime continued its brutal crackdown against the Syrian people.
Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. In January, an AQIM offshoot led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar attacked an oil facility near In Amenas, Algeria, resulting in the deaths of 39 foreign hostages including three Americans. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against members of state security services within the Trans-Sahara region.
In Tunisia, the terrorist group Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) precipitated a government crisis by assassinating, among others, two secular politicians in February and July 2013. Ansar al-Shari’a was designated a Terrorist Organization by the Tunisian government in August.
The Government of Yemen continued its fight against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), although struggling somewhat in this effort due to an ongoing political and security restructuring within the government itself. AQAP continued to exhibit its capability by targeting government installations and security and intelligence officials, but also struck at soft targets, such as hospitals. President Hadi continued to support U.S. counterterrorism objectives in Yemen, and encouraged greater cooperation between U.S. and Yemeni counterterrorism forces.
Despite these persistent threats, governments across the region continued to build and exhibit their counterterrorism capabilities, disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. Although AQ affiliate presence and activity in the Sahel and parts of the Maghreb remains worrisome, the group's isolation in Algeria and smaller pockets of North Africa grew as partner efforts in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia increased.
In Egypt, significant political instability presented various security challenges for the government, leading to an increase in violent extremist activity in the Sinai and parts of lower Egypt, including Cairo. Government security forces aggressively targeted violent extremist activity in these areas.
In Gaza, sporadic rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups continued, as well as ongoing and related smuggling activity by these groups along the Gaza-Sinai border region. Israeli officials expressed concerns about the smuggling of long-range rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza, but also recognized the positive impact of increased Egyptian government efforts to fight smuggling through such tunnels in preventing weapons and dual-use materials from reaching Gaza.
In 2013, Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hezbollah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. The U.S. government continued efforts to counter Iranian and proxy support for terrorist operations via sanctions and other legal tools. The United States also welcomed the EU’s July 2013 designation of Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist organization.
Overview: Algeria remained a key U.S. counterterrorism partner. Within Algeria, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remained the most active terrorist threat. AQIM attacked Algerian security forces, local government targets, and westerners in the Sahel, operating primarily in the mountainous areas east of Algiers and in the expansive desert regions near Algeria's southern border.
The security situation in neighboring countries, the threat of retaliatory attacks following the international military intervention in Mali, the proliferation of weapons smuggled out of Libya, low-intensity violence in the south central and northeast border zones and along the Algeria-Tunisia border all contributed to the terrorist threat to Algeria.
Once part of AQIM, the al-Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) became a separate organization in late 2012 and its sub-battalion, “Those Who Sign in Blood,” led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility for the January 16, 2013 attack against a gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria. In August 2013, the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and AMB announced that the two organizations merged and adopted the name al-Murabitoun.
Algeria has a long history of fighting terrorism, and continued its aggressive campaign against AQIM. In 2013, Algerian security forces decreased the number of successful terrorist attacks, sustained pressure on the group’s Algeria-based leadership, seized equipment and arms caches, and further isolated AQIM in the north, in the area east of Algiers, and in the southeast. Press sources reported 27 terrorists surrendered under the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation in 2013, in exchange for amnesty measures.
Algeria’s sustained military, security, and policing efforts undercut AQIM’s capabilities in northern Algeria, largely limiting the group’s operations to more rural areas. However, AQIM’s Sahel-based battalions have increasingly taken advantage of regional instability to expand their areas of control and assert autonomy after long serving as support nodes for Algeria-based AQIM. The Algerian government sees AQIM and its affiliates as posing a threat comparable to violent criminal organizations, and has frequently cited links between AQIM and narco-traffickers in the Sahel.
The Government of Algeria maintains – and advocates that others also maintain – a strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage. Algeria played a leadership role in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) efforts to raise awareness among governments to prevent the payment of ransoms to terrorist organizations.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: AQIM continued attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes in areas east and south of Algiers. The press reported at least 196 terrorist acts in 2013. As in years past, Algeria experienced a spike in terrorist incidents during Ramadan. In 2013, however, the Algerian government observed AQIM’s yearly Ramadan offensive was significantly reduced relative to the past decade.
On January 16, AMB attacked the Tiguentourine gas facility (a joint venture among Algerian, British, and Norwegian companies) near In Amenas, in southeastern Algeria. Over 800 people were taken hostage for four days and the attackers killed 39 foreign hostages, including three U.S. citizens. The group’s leader, Algerian national Mokhtar Belmokhtar, remains a threat and was at-large in the region, at year’s end.
There is a high threat of kidnapping in isolated parts of Algeria. Although much lower profile than the kidnappings of westerners by AQIM in neighboring Mali, kidnappings of Algerian citizens continued to occur within the country’s borders. In October, Foreign Minister Lamamra said the four Algerian diplomats kidnapped in April 2012 from the Algerian consulate in northern Mali are alive and that the government is fully mobilized to ensure the diplomats' release. MUJAO claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Algeria amended Article 87 of the Penal Code in 2013 to define terrorist acts in accordance with relevant international terrorism conventions. In 2013, Algeria made efforts to build the capacity of the National Gendarmerie’s National Institute of Forensic Science and Criminology to eventually obtain International Organization for Standardization certification. Algeria also acquired the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) – a milestone in creating a platform for future sharing of DNA data with other Algerian and international partners.
The Government of Algeria has multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security agencies with delineated responsibilities to address counterterrorism, counter-intelligence, media monitoring, investigations, border security, crisis response, and anti-corruption. These include the National Gendarmerie, the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) and the Department of National Security (DGSN). In 2013, the Algerian President reorganized parts of the DRS, removing some judicial police authority to units under the control of the Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of Staff.
The Government of Algeria has demonstrated that it has the will and capability to investigate and to disrupt terrorist and criminal activity. Since 2010, the Algerian government has increased the number of police officers from 166,348 to 200,000, and has worked to professionalize and modernize its police force.
Algerian security forces, primarily the Gendarmerie under the Ministry of National Defense, continued to conduct periodic sweep operations in the Kabylie region southeast of the capital to capture AQIM fighters. Algerian law enforcement has been effective in protecting diplomatic missions and strengthening security assets when necessary.
Algerian security forces made a number of arrests in 2013. As of November, press reported that security forces arrested 545 individuals on terrorist charges, although it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of this number. As of mid-December, 220 terrorists were killed in 2013, according to the President of the Judicial Unit for the Application of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, a consultative body to the Algerian Office of the Presidency.
In 2013, Algerian law-enforcement personnel participated in a variety of U.S. Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program courses that were designed to enhance investigative and screening capacities, strengthen border security, prevent terrorist transit or operations, and build response capacity to critical incidents. The majority of these courses combined students from different ministries in an effort to promote inter-ministerial cooperation and coordination in law enforcement.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program and the Algerian Gendarmerie Nationale focused on targeted capacity-building consultations and training in forensics, criminal investigation, and border security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In July 2013, Algeria was admitted as a member of the Egmont Group, an informal network of financial intelligence units.In October 2013, the FATF called on Algeria to continue working on its action plan and address its remaining deficiencies: adequately criminalizing terrorist financing and establishing and implementing an adequate legal framework for identifying, tracing, and freezing terrorist assets. Despite the FATF action in October, the Algerian government maintained that it had taken measures sufficient to meet international standards. Measures included building on 2012 legislation regarding the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, and authorizing judges to freeze or seize funds belonging to terrorist organizations. Algeria has a cash-based economy and a vast informal sector that poses challenges to monitoring and regulating money and value transfer services. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Algeria is a founding member of the GCTF and co-chairs the group’s Sahel Working Group (SWG), in which capacity it championed the development of the Algiers Memorandum on Good Practices on Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists. In September, the Governments of Algeria and Canada announced that they would seek to renew their terms as co-chairs until 2015. Algeria hosted the GCTF-SWG’s second plenary meeting in June. Regional and international experts discussed donor coordination and programming in the Sahel and the evolution of local terrorism-related threats. Also in June, with the active support of the United States and the United Kingdom, the G-8 Summit expressed support for the principles contained in the Algiers Memorandum.
In September 2010, Algeria in collaboration with Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, formed the Comite d’ État-Major Opérationnel Conjoint (CEMOC). Algeria participated in CEMOC meetings in March and November. Algeria is home to the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (CAERT) of the AU and CEMOC’s Liaison and Fusion Center for information sharing. The Algerian government supported CAERT’s Seventh Annual Focal Points Meeting in December that examined current and future CAERT Strategic Plans, terrorist threats in Africa, radicalization to violence and violent extremism, and terrorist financing.
Algeria also participates in the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Western Mediterranean.
The Algerian Prime Minister and his Libyan and Tunisian counterparts met in January 2013 to enhance security along their common borders to reduce the flow of arms and drugs and organized crime. Measures included new joint checkpoints and patrols along the frontiers, which stretch for miles through sparsely-populated desert. In September, Algeria participated in a two-day workshop in Tripoli on enhancing operational land border security cooperation in the Sahel-Saharan region. In November in Rabat, Algeria participated in the second conference on regional border security with counterparts from the Sahel and Maghreb countries.
While Morocco and Algeria both participated in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and the GCTF, the level of their bilateral CT cooperation did not improve. Algeria and Morocco’s political disagreement over the Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2013.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Algeria's 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation offered amnesty to former terrorists who laid down their weapons and disavowed violence. Perpetrators of particularly egregious acts, such as rape and bombings, were excluded from this amnesty. The program was controversial but succeeded in demobilizing a number of former militants.
The Algerian government appoints, trains, and pays the salaries of imams. The penal code outlines strict punishments, including fines and prison sentences, for anyone other than a government-designated imam who preaches in a mosque. The Algerian government monitors mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibits the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. The government has the authority to pre-screen and approve sermons before they are delivered during Friday prayers, but more often it provides preapproved sermon topics prior to Friday prayers. In practice, each province and county employed religious officials to review sermon content. The Ministry of Religious Affairs' educational commission is responsible for establishing policies for hiring teachers at Quranic schools and ensuring that all imams are well qualified and follow governmental guidelines aimed at stemming violent extremism.
Overview: Amid a third consecutive year of political and social unrest, Bahrain developed its counterterrorism capacities while taking some steps to better protect human rights in the conduct of its counterterrorist effort. Violent opposition groups’ use of real and hoax improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and increasingly sophisticated weapons and detonators remained a key threat to security services. Bahrain-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong.
2013 Terrorist Incidents:
- On February 15, a policeman died from injuries he sustained from an improvised-projectile launcher fired by rioters.
- During April 12-15, three separate bombs detonated, injuring one police officer and damaging both a police vehicle and a girls’ school.
- On May 30, a device exploded in Bani Jamra village, injuring several policemen.
- On July 6 in Sitra, a homemade bomb exploded, killing one policeman and severely injuring two others.
- On July 17, a gas cylinder exploded inside a parked car outside a mosque in Riffa without any injuries.
- On August 17, an explosion in the village of Al-Dayr injured five policemen, one of whom later succumbed to his injuries.
- In October, two separate explosions injured at least five policemen.
- On December 17, a homemade bomb exploded in the town of Dimistan, injuring two police officers. A vehicle-borne gas cylinder exploded on December 23 near a shopping mall in Seef without causing injuries.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Penalties for terrorism-related acts are spelled out in the Antiterrorism Law of 2006 and Articles 155 and 168 of the Penal Code. King Hamad issued royal decree-laws in July amending the 2006 law to increase penalties for some terrorism-related offenses. Separate royal decrees issued in August and September amended the Charity Fundraising Law of 1956 to tighten terrorist finance monitoring and penalties, to increase penalties for parents of juveniles involved in terrorism, and to strengthen the ability of the Minister of State for Communications to monitor and impede the use of social media to facilitate or promote terrorism. The royal decrees were in response to a July 28 special joint session of parliament, which sent 22 recommendations to the King for strengthening laws and state powers to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) is the lead government agency regarding the detection and prevention of acts of terrorism and the arrest of suspects in terrorist-related acts. The Bahrain National Security Agency provides intelligence support. The Bahraini Coast Guard monitors and interdicts the seaborne movement of weapons and terrorists into and out of the country.
The Bahraini authorities stepped up border security in recent years primarily in response to terrorist threats, and in November 2013 announced that they will introduce biometric testing at all ports of entry within the next couple of years. Deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security are the lack of both interagency coordination and training to develop requisite law enforcement skills.
Bahrain’s ongoing investment in border control and security yielded some major successes in 2013, including:
- In February, a MOI explosives team defused a two kilogram bomb placed on the King Fahd Causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
- On July 4, police discovered and seized a large weapons cache in the Tubli area of Manama containing rifles, ammunition, silencers, and material used to make explosives.
- On July 26, police and firefighters foiled an attempt to detonate a vehicle-borne gas cylinder.
- On September 24 in Bani Jamra, a police raid yielded two homemade bombs.
- On December 28 and 29, an MOI operation uncovered a large cache of arms and explosive materials and interdicted a boat heading to Bahrain loaded with explosives, including C4 and TNT.
- On December 29, police defused an explosive-laden vehicle.
Prosecutions in 2013 included:
- In March, Bahraini criminal courts convicted and sentenced more than 30 individuals to 15 years in prison for bombings in April 2012 and January 2013.
- In June, a court handed down 10-year sentences for six people involved in a 2012 bomb blast.
- On September 30, the government sentenced two men to 15 years in prison for being part of an Iran-backed terrorist cell.
- In early October, sentences were handed to more than 25 individuals convicted of planting explosives in November 2012, hiding weapons caches uncovered in June 2012, and for attending terrorist training in Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
- On November 3, four men received life sentences and six men were sentenced to 15-year terms from their role in the “Imam Army” terrorist cell police uncovered in February 2013.
- On December 29-30, six men were sentenced to five- to 15-year terms for their role in hoax and live IEDs discovered in April and November 2012.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bahrain is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The country is an important regional financial hub, which makes it vulnerable to large cash flows through the Gulf region to support various terrorist and violent extremist groups. The United States is not aware of any public prosecutions of terrorist finance cases in 2013, although the Bahraini government did not formally reply to multiple requests for information on prosecutions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Bahrain worked closely and cooperatively with international partners throughout the region. Since formally endorsing the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in March 2008, Bahrain has proactively worked to expand air, sea, and causeway border control points. On December 30, the Bahraini Cabinet endorsed a Gulf Cooperation Council collective security agreement, which outlines mutual responsibilities to preserve regional security and stability and help combat terrorism and transnational and organized crime through information exchanges and coordination.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs (MOJIA) heads Bahrain’s efforts to counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism, in part by organizing regular workshops for clerics and speakers from both the Sunni and Shia sects. The MOJIA also undertakes an annual review of schools’ Islamic Studies curricula to evaluate interpretations of religious texts.
Overview: During 2013, Egypt witnessed an increase in terrorism and violent extremism following the July 3 removal of the elected government. Although the majority of attacks were concentrated in northern Sinai, some significant incidents occurred in the eastern Nile Delta between Cairo and the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya. This violence was primarily directed against Egyptian government security forces and rarely targeted Egyptian civilians, foreigners, or foreign economic interests, although there were several bombings or attempted bombings of public buses in Cairo in late December. The Sinai-based terrorist organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) claimed responsibility for the majority of the more complex attacks on the security services.
While Egyptian security services struggled in July and August to contain the wave of violent extremist attacks, close coordination between the National Security Sector (NSS), the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS), and the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) ultimately led to a reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in the Sinai. By the end of 2013, the EAF were continuing an aggressive military campaign in northern Sinai in an effort to disrupt the smuggling of arms and explosives between Gaza and Egypt, as well as to kill suspected militants and deny extremist groups a place from which to plan attacks. In an effort to restore internal security and combat violent extremism, the interim Egyptian government focused its 2013 efforts on protecting critical infrastructure and restoring basic security.
The Egyptian government also cracked down on those opposed to the interim government throughout the country. This crackdown targeted the Muslim Brotherhood and non-violent secular political opponents, as well as violent Islamist extremist elements. On December 25, the Government of Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist organization, but did not provide any substantiating evidence that the MB was directly involved in the terrorist attacks that followed President Mohamed Morsy’s removal.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Egypt witnessed hundreds of terrorist attacks in 2013, the vast majority occurring after the July 3 removal of the elected government, within the north Sinai and the eastern Nile Delta region. The Egyptian military and police forces were the primary targets of these attacks. A majority of the attacks in July through September employed rudimentary tactics, such as drive-by shootings and crude explosives, but since September, an increasing number have used more lethal and sophisticated tactics, including rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and suicide vehicular-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) attacks.
Significant attacks included:
- On July 7, unknown assailants attacked the Sinai pipeline that transports natural gas between Egypt and Jordan. This was the first attack on the pipeline since June 2012.
- On August 19, unknown gunmen stopped two police buses carrying Central Security Forces (CSF) conscripts to a base in Al-Arish in Northern Sinai and killed at least 24. On August 31, the al-Furqan Brigades launched two RPGs at a merchant vessel transiting the Suez Canal.
- On September 5, a suicide VBIED attack attempted to target Egyptian Minister of Interior Muhammad Ibrahim in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo, resulting in one dead and over twenty injured. Ibrahim was not hurt. ABM claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On September 11, near simultaneous suicide VBIED attacks targeted the Egyptian Directorate of Military Intelligence office in Rafah, wounding 20; and an armored personnel carrier at an Army checkpoint nearby, killing nine.
- On October 7, the al-Furqan Brigades launched two RPGs at a NileSat uplink facility’s satellite dish in the Maadi neighborhood of Cairo.
- On October 7, ABM launched a suicide VBIED attack against the south Sinai security directorate in al-Tor, killing five security force personnel and wounding 50.
- On October 10, a suicide VBIED attack at an Al-Arish checkpoint killed four and injured five security personnel.
- On October 19, ABM launched a suicide VBIED attack against an Egyptian Directorate of Military Intelligence building in Ismailia, wounding six.
- On November 18, ABM launched a VBIED attack against an Army transport bus east of Al-Arish killing 11 soldiers and wounding 35 others.
- On December 24, ABM launched a VBIED attack against the Daqahliya Police Directorate in the eastern Nile Delta city of Mansura, killing 16 and injuring over 130 others.
- On December 26, a small, rudimentary IED exploded next to a bus in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo, wounding five; a second IED was discovered in the vicinity and dismantled.
- On December 29, a VBIED went off near the military intelligence headquarters in Sharqiya injuring four.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Egypt’s most recent State of Emergency (SoE) declaration expired on November 14, 2013, ending implementation of the Emergency Law that had been reinstated since August 14, 2013. On June 2, the Supreme Constitutional Court declared warrantless searches and arrests, even under the Emergency Law, unconstitutional.
Interim government officials insisted that all arrests since July 3, when the 2012 constitution was suspended, were made in accordance with the Penal Code and denied any warrantless arrests, although these were reported by human rights groups. Warrantless searches and arrests did occur under an SoE in early 2013, following a January 27 decision by then-President Morsy to declare a 30-day SoE in Port Said, Suez, and Ismailiya after violent clashes on the anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution, left more than 50 people dead in those governorates.
Egyptian law enforcement entities continued to take proactive measures against identified terrorist cells. While Egypt appeared to have limited its counterterrorism exchanges with some foreign partners, it continued to participate – with periodic interruptions due to security concerns and instability – in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in 2013. ATA training and equipment deliveries for Egypt were shaped to try to meet objectives and needs specific to Egypt amid the country's evolving political landscape, specifically in the areas of leadership and management, border security, and building investigative capacity.
Egypt continued its efforts to improve border security. This included achieving significant control over the illicit border trade, including weapons, through tunnels beneath northeastern Sinai and Gaza. In response to unrest through the year, Egypt reinforced its security and protection measures at airports, ports, and the Suez Canal. While Egyptian border officials maintain a watchlist for suspected violent extremists, it is not shared with the relevant agencies involved in the processing of people and goods. The United States provided some technical assistance at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza; however, the Egyptian Customs Authority lacks a central database to track the movement of cargo and passengers and to establish patterns and trends across all of Egypt. The Egyptian Ministry of Defense continues to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Defense for the procurement of border security items such as ground monitoring sensors and cameras.
To combat weapons and explosives smuggling, the Egyptian government completed installation of nonintrusive inspection equipment at the Ahmed Hamdi tunnel site near Suez; additional sites on the Suez Canal, the Sinai, and in western Egypt were under development. Due to the July change of government, there has been little progress to enhance the capabilities and modernize the Border Guard Forces. The Ministries of Defense, Finance, and Interior, who all contribute to border security, share border-related information minimally.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Egypt is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The country has a well-developed financial sector, but a significant amount of funds moves through the informal sector, raising the risks for abuse by terrorist groups. Egyptian authorities have accused its main political opposition, the MB, of funding al-Qa'ida, although they have not provided substantiating evidence. Egypt’s terrorist finance regulations are broadly in line with relevant UNSCRs regarding terrorist financing. Egypt regularly informed its own financial institutions of any individuals or entities that are listed by UNSCRs 1267/1989 and 1988 sanctions committees, and its Code of Criminal Procedures and Penal Code adequately provides for the freezing, seizure, and confiscation of assets related to terrorism.
With regard to implementation of the UNSC 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) sanction regime, the Egyptian notification process falls short of FATF standards, particularly with respect to authorities to freeze or seize assets without delay. According to current procedures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives the UN lists and sends such lists to the Egyptian Money Laundering Combating Unit, which then directs concerned agencies to take the required actions. There are no specific procedures related to the un-freezing of assets.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Egypt is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and together with the United States, co-chairs its Rule of Law and Justice Working Group. Egypt participated in the Arab League’s Counterterrorism Committee.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) is legally responsible for issuing guidance to imams throughout Egypt, including how to avoid extremist language in sermons. Al-Azhar University cooperated with international programs to help train imams who promote tolerance and non-violence, interfaith cooperation, and human rights. The Ministry of Islamic Endowments is also required to license all mosques; however, many operate without licenses. The government has the authority to appoint and monitor the imams who lead prayers in licensed mosques and pays their salaries. In practice, government control over mosques decreased after the 2011 revolution, but strengthened following the removal of former President Mohamed Morsy in July. In September, the ministry issued a decree banning imams who are not graduates of Al-Azhar from preaching in mosques. The decree prohibited holding Friday prayers in mosques smaller than 80 square meters, banned unlicensed mosques from holding Friday congregational prayer services, and required that Friday sermons follow government “talking points” that preach tolerance and non-violence. Local media reported that the ministry did in fact stop some non-Azharite preachers from delivering sermons in mosques later in the year.
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and for Hezbollah. It has also increased its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle arms to Houthi separatists in Yemen and Shia oppositionists in Bahrain. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its regional proxy groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Hezbollah, its primary beneficiary. In 2013, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of Iraqi Shia fighters to the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown, a crackdown that has resulted in the death of more than 100,000 civilians in Syria. Iran has publicly admitted sending members of the IRGC to Syria in an advisory role. There are reports indicating some of these troops are IRGC-QF members and that they have taken part in direct combat operations. In February, senior IRGC-QF commander Brigadier General Hassan Shateri was killed in or near Zabadani, Syria. This was the first publicly announced death of a senior Iranian military official in Syria. In November, IRGC-QF commander Mohammad Jamalizadeh Paghaleh was also killed in Aleppo, Syria. Subsequent Iranian media reports stated that Paghaleh was volunteering in Syria to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque, which is located in Damascus. The location of Paghaleh’s death, over 200 miles away from the mosque he was reported to be protecting, demonstrated Iran’s intent to mask the operations of IRGC-QF forces in Syria.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war. Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Hezbollah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters often use these skills in support of the Asad regime in Syria.
Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Hezbollah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device technology and other advanced weaponry. Similar to Hezbollah fighters, many of these trained Shia militants then use these skills to fight for the Asad regime in Syria, often at the behest of Iran.
On January 23, 2013, Yemeni authorities seized an Iranian dhow, the Jihan, off the coast of Yemen. The dhow was carrying sophisticated Chinese antiaircraft missiles, C-4 explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and a number of other weapons and explosives. The shipment of lethal aid was likely headed to Houthi separatists in Northern Yemen. Iran actively supports members of the Houthi movement, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region.
In late April 2013, the Government of Bosnia declared two Iranian diplomats, Jadidi Sohrab and Hamzeh Dolab Ahmad, persona non grata after Israeli intelligence reported they were members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. One of the two men had been spotted in India, Georgia, and Thailand, all of which were sites of a simultaneous bombing campaign in February 2012, according to Israeli intelligence. Both diplomats were subsequently expelled from Bosnia.
On December 29, 2013, the Bahraini Coast Guard interdicted a speedboat filled with weapons and explosives that was likely bound for Shia oppositionists in Bahrain, specifically the 14 February Youth Coalition (14 FYC). Bahraini authorities accused the IRGC-QF of providing opposition militants with explosives training in order to carry out attacks in Bahrain. The interdiction led to the discovery of two weapons and explosives cache sites in Bahrain, the dismantling of a car bomb, and the arrest of 15 Bahraini nationals.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria. Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.
Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to violate its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. For further information, see the Report to Congress on Iran-related Multilateral Sanctions Regime Efforts (November 2013), and the Report on the Status of Bilateral and Multilateral Efforts Aimed at Curtailing the Pursuit of Iran of Nuclear Weapons Technology (September 2012).
Overview: The terrorist organization previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) changed its name in 2013 to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL remained an al-Qa’ida (AQ) affiliate in 2013, despite continued disputes between its leaders and AQ senior leadership. The group and its affiliates are herein referred to as al-Qa’ida in Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (AQI/ISIL) to account for attacks carried out during the year under both names.
Despite a significant increase in the level of terrorist violence, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) made some progress combating AQI/ISIL and other Sunni insurgent groups in 2013. The Iraqi government largely succeeded in securing large religious gatherings at holy sites in Najaf and Karbala and high-profile government events, but terrorist bombings and other attacks continued to occur against provincial level interests, the ISF, and some soft targets. The number of both large-scale terrorist attacks aimed at soft targets, which have become the hallmark tactics of groups like AQI/ISIL, and smaller-scale tactics such as small arms fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), reached levels not seen since 2007. There were no significant attacks on U.S. interests and no U.S. fatalities in 2013 from these attacks.
AQI/ISIL significantly increased the lethality, complexity, and frequency of terrorist attacks in Iraq in 2013. According to UN estimates for 2013, more than 7,800 civilians (including civilian police) and over 1,000 ISF personnel were killed in acts of terrorism and violence – an average of 24 deaths per day. Press, host nation reports, and other public sources of information compiled for the time period from January through November estimated the death toll of civilians and ISF due to terrorist and criminal violence at 7,058 (4,817 civilians, 2,241 security personnel). Throughout the year, AQI/ISIL grew increasingly indiscriminate in its attacks and demonstrated increasing capabilities to plan, coordinate, and conduct large-scale attacks effectively. AQI/ISIL carried out numerous high-profile suicide bombings and vehicle-borne explosive device (VBIEDs) attacks on government and civilian targets, aiming to increase tensions among Iraqi sectarian groups and ethnic minorities and undercut public perceptions of the government’s capacity to provide security. In addition to targeting government facilities and the ISF, the group targeted Shia places of worship, large religious processions such as the Shia pilgrimage to Karbala, funerals, schools, minority groups, journalists, critical infrastructure, and public spaces such as parks, cafes, and markets.
While AQI/ISIL continued to rely predominantly on suicide bombings and VBIEDs, it has increasingly relied on gunmen using assault rifles or silenced weapons to carry out targeted assaults on government and security officials, as well as against Sunnis affiliated with the government through the Sahwas (Sunni Awakening Councils), in areas where the group exercised greater control, such as Anbar, Ninawa, and Salah ad Din Provinces. The police and judiciary continued to face threats to their personal safety and that of their families. Terrorists increasingly targeted families of ISF who were operating within their home provinces. Journalists were also increasingly targeted by terrorist groups.
Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (JRTN), a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party, also continued attacks during 2013, largely targeting the ISF in northern Iraq.
The ISF proved to have some capability in finding, arresting, and charging terrorism suspects. In October, the ISF arrested at least 560 people, mostly under the Antiterrorism Law of 2005, according to media and host government reports. In addition, the ISF found and cleared at least 135 IEDs of various types and found and cleared 32 weapons caches. Among the confiscated items were 48 IEDs, almost 400 mortar and artillery of varying caliber, 42 rockets, 21 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, several kilograms of C-4 explosives, over 30 kilograms of TNT, over 120 hand- and stun-grenades, and two landmines. As of the end of September, Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service (CTS) had made over 700 terrorism-related arrests, based on the service’s own reporting.
In October, the Government of Iraq established the Joint Operations Command (JOC). The JOC was designed to facilitate intelligence coordination among the various national security ministries and agencies. Each ministry or agency had a senior representative at the JOC headquarters. The representatives submitted actionable information to the JOC commander regarding terrorist threats, who in turn ordered the relevant provincial Operations Commands to carry out operations against specified targets.
Iraq-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong but limited to training, advisory, and information-sharing programs.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist groups significantly increased the number of attacks throughout the country in 2013, many of which involved suicide bombs, VBIEDs, and targeted shootings, hallmark tactics of AQI/ISIL. In 2013, an average of 68 suicide and VBIED attacks per month were attributed to AQI/ISIL. Terrorist groups grew more indiscriminate in their attacks and increasingly targeted schools, oil infrastructure, and public spaces such as parks, cafes, and markets. Following is a partial listing highlighting some of the most egregious incidents:
- On March 4, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement claiming that terrorists from Syria had entered Iraq and killed 48 unarmed Syrian soldiers. The 48 Syrian soldiers had fled to Iraq following clashes on March 1-2 between Syrian Army and Free Syrian Army forces on the Syrian side of the Rabiah border crossing that connects to Ninewa Province. The ISF were escorting the 48 Syrian soldiers back to Syria when their convoy came under attack in Anbar Province. Nine Iraqi soldiers were also killed in the attack, with many more wounded. The Free Syrian Army denied any involvement in the attack. Iraqi press speculated AQI/ISIL involvement in the attack.
- On July 21, AQI/ISIL conducted well-coordinated simultaneous attacks against Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons. At least 10 ISF personnel were killed and more than 500 suspected AQI/ISIL prisoners reportedly escaped.
- On July 29, a wave of coordinated VBIED attacks in rapid succession targeted predominantly Shia areas in Southern Iraq, killing more than 50 people and wounding an estimated 190. At least 17 VBIEDs detonated, including at least nine in Baghdad, and six in the southern provinces of Muthanna, Basrah, and Wasit.
- On July 31, an IED blast in a café in Diyala Province left 20 people dead and wounded.
- On September 21, two VBIEDs were employed in an attack on a Shia funeral in Sadr City. The coordinated attack killed at least 50 and wounded at least 120.
- On September 29, AQI/ISIL carried out a complex attack involving VBIEDs and small arms fire against the Asayish (the Kurdistan Regional Government’s internal security force) headquarters in Erbil. The attack killed six security personnel and wounded more than 60 bystanders.
- On October 6, in Ninewa Province, two VBIEDs were detonated in the al-Aiyathiya neighborhood. The first VBIED was detonated near an elementary school and the second one targeted an Iraqi Police checkpoint. The attacks killed up to 13 school children and one Iraqi police officer. Another 140 were wounded, mostly students from the school. On October 17, near the end of the Eid al-Adha holiday, a suicide bomber detonated a VBIED in a Shabak minority neighborhood in eastern Mosul, killing 15, including seven children, and wounding more than 50 others.
- On December 1, unidentified gunmen killed a Sunni tribal leader in Fallujah, Anbar Province.
- On December 3, a VBIED outside the mayor’s office in Tarmiya, Baghdad Province, killed at least 14 and wounded 40 others.
- On December 6, gunmen attacked local area mayors in Diyala and Salah ad Din provinces. The attack in Diyala resulted in the mayor’s death, while the official in Salah ad Din sustained injuries.
- On December 23, five people were killed in a suicide bombing after armed militants stormed a television complex in the city of Tikrit. The violence unfolded when a car bomb exploded outside Salah ad Din TV and the local offices of al-Iraqiyya State TV. Militants then stormed the offices of Salah ad Din TV and a suicide bomber killed the chief news editor, a copy editor, a producer, a presenter, and the archives manager. Five other employees were wounded. Security forces arrived at the scene, fought the attackers, and regained control of the building.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Iraq’s Antiterrorism Law, Number 13, of 2005, is the primary means of prosecuting terrorism crimes. Iraqi Courts use various provisions of the Penal Code, Number 111, of 1969, to address crimes that do not fall squarely within the Antiterrorism Law. The U.S. government engaged with judicial and law enforcement authorities in numerous activities designed to strengthen criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law.
Draft legislation for a law that formalizes the CTS as a ministerial-level organization and codifies the Service’s mission and authorities under Iraqi law has been under consideration by the Council of Representatives since 2009. The CTS relies on the Ministry of Defense for its budget.
Violent sectarian strife was one of the greatest deterrents to effective law enforcement and border security. Iraq’s law enforcement capacity as it pertains to proactively detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism strengthened in 2013 but needs improvement.
Iraq has a number of counterterrorism units that fall under the Ministries of Interior (MOI), Defense, and other agencies. However, there is no mechanism to determine which agency should lead or respond to particular counterterrorism incidents. This leads to a significant lack of coordination and cooperation among the Iraqi entities that lessens Iraq’s effective response to the overwhelming threat from terrorism.
The Iraqi government is working to improve its law enforcement capacity via U.S.-assisted training in various areas of border control, chemical weapons threat mitigation, explosive incident countermeasures, post-blast investigations, vital infrastructure security, protection of national leaders, maritime port and harbor security, crisis response, police leaders’ role in combating terrorism, fraudulent document recognition, and forensic examination of terrorist crime scenes. Other projects sponsored by the United States included financial investigation training to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as capacity building in the Iraqi judiciary, corrections service, and police. In October, a U.S.-funded program helped the Iraqi government open a free legal clinic at its Rusafa court complex in Baghdad. The help desk was a critical link between the Iraqi government and its citizenry, and served as a mechanism for assisting some of Iraq’s more vulnerable segments of society, such as women who suffered from domestic violence and juveniles who were exposed to sexual or other abuse.
Iraq’s MOI and Ministry of Transportation continued to strengthen their border security capabilities, and information-sharing within the Government of Iraq regarding travel documents is improving. For example, Iraq uses the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) System, which registers and screens travelers entering and exiting the country. As of the end of 2013, Iraq’s PISCES system was operational at six international airports, 11 land border locations, and one seaport. This program is run and coordinated by the Iraq National Information Service.
In 2013, the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program worked to improve Iraqi law enforcement capabilities in the areas of investigations, border security, and crisis response. ATA provided courses in border control management, maritime port and harbor security, and identifying fraudulent document recognition.
The deteriorating security situation in Syria has made it increasingly difficult for the ISF to secure Iraq’s 400-mile border with its western neighbor. Since 2012, terrorist groups have gained greater access to weaponry as a result of increased smuggling and ease of movement along Iraq’s border with Syria. In an effort to improve security along the border, the government formed the al-Jazirah and al-Badiyah Operations Command.
During 2013, the Syrian refugee population in Iraq soared from approximately 68,000 on January 1 to 148,000 in mid-May, when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) closed the unofficial border crossing that most refugees had used to enter Iraq. The KRG authorities reopened the border from August 15 through September 22, during which time as many as 75,000 more Syrian refugees entered the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). In the wake of the September 29 attack against Asayish headquarters in Erbil, officials in the IKR maintained tight controls on refugee flows and tightened restrictions on Iraqi Arabs attempting to enter the region from other provinces of Iraq. The UN estimated the Syrian refugee population to be at 210,000 in December. However, the total Syrian refugee population in 2013 is estimated to possibly have reached as high as 225,000.
Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council reported an estimated 2,252 terrorism cases in 2013. Of those, 363 resulted in convictions, with the remainder dismissed. The Federal Court of Cassation reviewed 2,225 of the decisions. Arrests in Iraq are often used as a means to corral potential offenders, but the counterterrorism conviction rate does not correlate with the number of arrests.
In 2013, the U.S. Federal Bureau of InvestigationI submitted more than 35 requests for information regarding a variety of counterterrorism investigations to the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) Federal Intelligence and Investigations Agency (FIIA). FIIA’s responses have been sporadic; nevertheless, FIIA continued to articulate its need for counterterrorism investigative training and its intent to provide more comprehensive responses. A Statement of Intent was drafted and passed to FIIA which would structure and reinforce communication with FIIA, and at year’s end was awaiting approval from the MOI.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Since 2005, Iraq has been a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Late in 2013, Iraq assumed the presidency of MENAFATF for a period of one year. In November 2012, MENAFATF adopted Iraq’s first-ever mutual evaluation to review compliance with international anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards. The report identified significant risks and Iraq agreed on an action plan to address its vulnerabilities. In September 2013, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) submitted an interim report to the MENAFATF Secretariat. Iraq also underwent a FATF Targeted Review, negotiating an action plan to address deficiencies in its AML/CFT regime. The international community, including the United States, provided subject matter expertise to assist Iraq.
In June, CBI Acting Governor Abdul Basit Turki replaced the previous director of the Iraqi financial intelligence unit (the Anti-Money Laundering Unit or AMLU). The AMLU is not independent of the CBI and suffers from lack of capacity and human and material resource constraints.
The Iraqi legal framework for AML/CFT is based on the Anti-Money Laundering Law of 2004, the Antiterrorism Law of 2005, and the Penal Code.
Iraq acceded to the Terrorist Financing Convention in November 2012. In March 2013, the Government of Iraq published in its official gazette the Arab Agreement to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorism Finance, which the Government of Iraq previously signed in Cairo in December 2010. There was no formal mechanism in place to implement UNSCR 1267/1989 (al Qa’ida) sanctions and no mechanism at all to implement UNSCR 1373 (2001). Further, neither the CBI nor the AMLU has legal grounds to impose freezing of assets.
Iraq’s implementation of UNSCRs pertaining to CFT depends on the approval of the draft law by the Cabinet and the Parliament. The delay is due to a combination of lack of institutional capacity, political consensus, and a backlog of pressing political and economic reform issues. The Iraqi government had requested technical assistance to finalize the law by September 2015. The nationwide criminalization of terrorist financing in accordance with international standards and the establishment and implementation of appropriate procedures to freeze terrorist assets in line with international standards depend on the passage of the draft law.
The CBI and AMLU lack the institutional capacity to monitor money and value transfer services (MVTS) effectively. The Government of Iraq has imposed few penalties for non-compliance and issued no enforceable regulations regarding internal AML/CFT controls to the MVTS sector. The CBI and AMLU do not require such data collection because there is no provision in Iraqi law that requires the inclusion of the originator’s account number in all segments of wire transfers. It is unclear if banks and other financial institutions are monitoring for compliance regarding the inclusion of full originator and beneficiary information in wire transfers.
Iraq’s suspicious transaction report requirement is inadequate due to the delay and the threshold for reporting. While the Government of Iraq has required non-profit organizations (NPOs) to file suspicious transaction reports, which it has monitored and regulated, there has been no review of the adequacy of existing laws and regulations regarding exploitation or abuse of NPOs by terrorists or terrorist organizations. It is likely that the Government of Iraq lacks the institutional capacity and resources to enforce and prevent NPO exploitation by terrorist organizations.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2014/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Iraq continued to engage with its neighbors through the Arab League. Iraqi Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts from the Ministry of Defense attended a “Train-the-Trainer” course on “Countering the Threat of Home-made Explosives.” The course was held at the NATO-accredited EOD Centre of Excellence in Slovakia in November 2013. This training was the first activity with Iraq funded under the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program.
Iraq hosted its first International Conference for Counterterrorism on November 27-28. Representatives from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and China attended.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Various U.S. entities offered programs to the Government of Iraq during 2013 aimed at helping it counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism. The programs varied from those rooted in economic development to community engagement. The active members of the more than 5,000 alumni of U.S. government exchange programs in Iraq conducted a variety of community development programs targeting marginalized populations in Iraq.
Overview: Israel continued to be a committed counterterrorism partner in 2013. Israel again faced terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; and from Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to Israeli government sources, six Israelis were killed as a result of terrorist attacks in 2013. Three individuals were stabbed, two were killed by sniper fire, and one was abducted and murdered.
Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and multiple terrorist attacks were launched along the Gaza security fence. Gaza also remained a base of operations for several Salafist splinter groups. 2013 saw the lowest number of rocket and mortar launchings on Israel from Gaza and the Sinai in more than a decade with 74 launchings compared to 2,557 in 2012. According to Israeli authorities, 36 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory in 2013 compared to 1,632 in 2012. Of the 74 launchings on southern Israel, 69 were launched from Gaza and five from the Sinai Peninsula. Only 36 of the total launchings were identified as landing in Israeli territory – others either landed in Gaza territory or in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Government of Israel responded to these threats with operations directed at terrorist leaders, infrastructure, training facilities, and rocket launching sites. Arms smuggling from Iran through Egypt into Gaza to Palestinian terrorist organizations significantly decreased. Israeli officials continued to be concerned about the smuggling of weapons from Libya and via Sudan into Gaza.
Israeli experts noted that militants successfully smuggled long-range rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza and subsequently began producing rockets in Gaza. However, these experts recognized the positive impact of increased Egyptian government efforts to fight smuggling through such tunnels in preventing weapons and dual-use materials from reaching Gaza.
Israeli counterterrorism officials said Gaza militants made significant quantitative and qualitative advances in capabilities in the five years since Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009). The Government of Israel continued to hold Hamas, as the dominant organization in effective control of Gaza, responsible for attacks emanating from Gaza, and Israeli officials pointed to these attacks as proof that Hamas has not abandoned terrorism.
Over the course of the year, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) discovered several tunnels from Gaza into Israeli territory. These tunnels are believed to have been designed to undertake kidnappings or attacks on Israeli border communities. The most intricate of these tunnels, a reinforced concrete structure over one mile long and up to 59 feet deep, was discovered in October and destroyed by the IDF a few weeks later.
Israeli security officials and politicians remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to Israel from Hezbollah and its Iranian patron, highlighting that Iran, primarily through the efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), continued to transfer arms to Hezbollah. Also, Israeli officials were concerned about the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. According to the Government of Israel, Hezbollah has stockpiled some 60-70,000 missiles in Lebanon since the 2006 Lebanon War, some of which are capable of striking anywhere in Israel, including population centers.
The Israel Security Agency (ISA, or “ShinBet”) reported a total of 1,271 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens in 2013. Of these, 858 involved firebombs, but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and IED incidents, and rock throwing. The ISA identified an additional 126 attacks in Jerusalem, 122 of which involved firebombs. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and ISA continued to conduct operations in the West Bank, in part to maintain pressure on Palestinian terrorist organizations and their supporters. The improved capacity of Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) also constrained those terrorist organizations' ability to carry out attacks.
In November, Israel and the United States held an interagency counterterrorism dialogue to discuss the broad range of threats in the region and to determine areas of collaboration to address these challenges.
In 2013, Israel engaged with the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, and France on preventing possible terrorist attacks by foreign fighters (especially those fighting in Syria) once they return home.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Israel faced a variety of terrorist attacks and threats in 2013, including: rocket and mortar fire from Gaza; a bus bombing; attacks along the Gaza security fence; and limited rocket fire from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula towards the southernmost city of Eilat, and from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Rocket and mortar fire emanating from Gaza continued to be the most prevalent form of attack by Palestinian terrorist organizations, albeit at a significantly reduced rate from previous years.
Attacks included the following:
- On July 14, two masked gunmen in the Sinai fired across the border at IDF soldiers just west of the town of Nitzana. They then retreated from the border area and continued exchanging fire with Egyptian forces.
- In November, there were two politically-motivated stabbing attacks within the Green Line area, which the ISA characterized as terrorism. One Israeli soldier was stabbed to death in Afula (November 13), and a female soldier was slightly injured in Jaffa (November 22).
- On December 22, an abandoned bag left on the rear seat of a bus in a south Tel Aviv suburb Bat Yam exploded after a passenger alerted the driver, who parked the bus on the side of the street and evacuated the passengers from the vehicle, according to the Israeli military radio station. One policeman was slightly injured when the medium-sized explosive went off. Initial Israeli investigations indicated that it was an act of terrorism.
- During 2013, five rockets were launched from Sinai toward Israel according to data released by the ISA. Remnants of three of the rockets fired were located in areas surrounding Eilat and one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The remaining rocket was not located in Israeli territory and may have landed in neighboring Aqaba, Jordan.
Incidents along the Gaza Security Fence:
- In March, the IDF uncovered and defused three explosive devices adjacent to the Gaza security fence.
- On May 1, IDF soldiers came under fire near the security fence in the central Gaza; two armored vehicles were damaged.
- On June 1, an Israeli soldier was killed when a terrorist attempting to enter Israel from southern Gaza opened fire on IDF soldiers.
- On October 23, an IDF officer was injured in an IED attack on the Gaza border. Israeli forces subsequently uncovered additional explosive devices near the security fence.
- On October 31, five IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device, which exploded in an attack tunnel leading from central Gaza into Israel while the soldiers were demolishing the tunnel.
- On October 31, five IDF soldiers were injured while demolishing a tunnel leading from central Gaza into Israel. The tunnel contained an explosive device which exploded, injuring the soldiers.
- On November 9, explosives in a tunnel on the Gaza border detonated during an operational activity by the IDF.
- On November 10, an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF patrol along the security fence in the northern Gaza, injuring four Israeli soldiers.
- Explosive devices were also located near the Gaza border on two separate occasions in January, once in February, and once in September.
Incidents of Rocket Fire from Lebanon:
- On August 22, four rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards communities in northern Israel. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, two rockets fell in Israeli territory in open areas without causing damage or injuries, and the remaining rocket did not reach Israeli territory. The IDF reported that global jihadists were responsible for the attack.
- On December 29, at least five rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel. One rocket landed near the community of Kiryat Shmona on Israel’s northern border.
- Since the Bulgaria attacks in July, 2012, there have been no serious overseas incidents targeting Israelis or Israeli interests. However, in Nigeria, a case involving Hezbollah planning against Western and Israeli targets underwent local investigation and led to a conviction on criminal charges.
- In Azerbaijan, an October arrest of an Iranian, possibly Quds Force, was investigated by local Azerbaijan police before the suspect was released.
- Previously reported cases of terrorist attacks or plots targeting Israeli interests and citizens abroad have advanced within legal systems in Bulgaria, Cyprus, India, and Thailand, and in many cases led to convictions and sentencing. See individual country reports for details regarding the investigations and legal proceedings about these cases.
Price Tag Attacks:
“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement) expanded into Israel from the West Bank in 2013. The Israeli government formed a new unit of the national police designated specifically to investigate these crimes in both Israel and the West Bank and in June the Security Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Defense to classify groups that perpetrated “price tag” attacks as “illegal associations,” which allowed security authorities greater leeway in collecting information on and seizing the property of groups, and of their members, that perpetrated “price tag” attacks. Incidents included:
- In July, gravestones in a Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa were vandalized with the words “revenge” and “price tag.” Price tag graffiti was also found on a residential building near the cemetery.
- In August, the Beit Jamal Monastery near Jerusalem was firebombed and spray-painted with the words “death to the Gentiles” and other slogans.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Israel has a robust legal framework to combat terrorism and promote international legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists.
On January 2, Israel's Security Cabinet updated its list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism in order to better align with the UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions lists. As part of this update, the Security Cabinet designated eight organizations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), repealed the terrorist designation of 23 other organizations, declared 119 foreign individuals to be terrorists, and canceled the terrorist designation of nine other individuals. The update was issued pursuant to Israel’s Prohibition of Terror Financing Law, 2005, which allows the Israeli Security Cabinet to declare a foreign association to be an FTO on the basis of a relevant determination by a foreign country or by the UNSC. This is the first terrorist designation process that has taken place since this law was amended to authorize the Security Cabinet to designate FTOs and individual terrorists solely on the basis of UNSCRs (prior to this, an Israeli examination of the evidence was also required).
In December, the Minister of Defense approved the designation of 16 Hamas-related entities, 12 individuals, and four institutions, all operating out of Europe on fundraising, radicalization, recruitment, or incitement. Other than compliance with UNSCR 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) sanctions regime, this is the first time that Israel designated individuals.
On the law enforcement front, the ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, as well as other counterterrorism initiatives of mutual interest.
The Israeli Ministry of Interior maintains a voluntary biometric passport control system at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which is available for Israeli passport holders over the age of 18. The system facilitates both entry into and exit from Israel via an automatic kiosk for Israeli citizens who successfully pass a background check and provide a scan of the back of their hand. In July, Israel began issuing its new biometric passport via a voluntary pilot program and has been rolling out the initiative in stages to select geographic locations. The new passport has been available for residents of Tel Aviv since September 2013. Israel recently completed construction of a border fence along the length of its border with the Sinai Peninsula to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Israel, but it has been augmented with cameras and sensors to reduce the threat of terrorism as well. Israel does not collect advance passenger name records on commercial flights.
Iranian and Belgian dual-national Ali Mansouri, 55, was arrested September 11 in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport as he attempted to leave the country. The state prosecution charged him with espionage and aiding an enemy in war. According to the indictment, Mansouri had been recruited by Iranian intelligence services, visited Israel three times, and passed along to Iran information about starting a company in Israel, about security procedures at Ben Gurion International Airport such as security checks and the kinds of questions asked, as well as photographs of the airport, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and a classified security installation.
On January 2, the military advocate general’s office filed an indictment with the West Bank Military Court against Ahmed Salah Ahmed Musa for his role as the alleged mastermind of the November 21, 2012 bombing of a bus in central Tel Aviv. The bomb exploded in a city bus on Shaul Hamelech Street in central Tel Aviv, near the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, wounding 26 Israeli civilians. On October 22, 2013, Muhammad Asi, suspected as one of the planners of the bus bombing, was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces near the West Bank village of Bil’in when they attempted to capture him. On December 2, 2013, 19 year old Israeli Arab Muhammad Abed Al Jfar Nasser Mafarja pleaded guilty to planting the bomb on the bus and was convicted of attempted murder, attempting to assist the enemy, and assault. His sentencing is set for February 17, 2014. According to the ISA, the cell planned additional attacks against soldiers in various locations, including drive-by shootings.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Israel is a member of the Council of Europe's Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (Moneyval), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that Israel received high marks on its fourth round Moneyval evaluation in 2013, at year’s end that report was not available on the website for public consultations.
The Israeli financial intelligence unit, known as the Israeli Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority, is a member of the Egmont Group. Israel's counterterrorist finance regime continued to be enhanced through enforcement operations and the inclusion of new groups under national terrorist finance laws. The well-regulated Israeli banking industry worked to address suspected terrorist activity. Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities, as did the funding of Hezbollah through charities and criminal organizations.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Israel continued its counterterrorism cooperation with a range of regional and international institutions, including the UN, the OAS, and the OSCE. In 2013, Israel conducted strategic dialogues that included counterterrorism discussions with the United States, Canada, Russia, the UK, Germany, India, and Singapore. Israel also engaged on counterterrorism with the EU, France, Greece, Cyprus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Kenya, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Australia, and hosted a delegation of prosecutors from Kazakhstan. After changes to the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) procedures for non-member states’ participation, Israel took part in GCTF activities. Israel continued to cooperate with the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) to assist Latin American states in counterterrorism efforts. Israel also deepened its cooperation with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). As a full member of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Israel presented a proposal for hosting a seminar on legal aspects of counterterrorism. Israel also engaged with the EU on transportation and aviation security efforts and sought to deepen its counterterrorism cooperation with NATO.
The West Bank and Gaza
The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remained present in the West Bank, although the improved capacity of PA Security Forces (PASF) significantly constrained those organizations' ability to carry out attacks. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank due to the IDF continuing presence in certain areas per Oslo-era agreements. The IDF and Israeli security service (ISA or “Shin Bet”) continued arresting members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank, including some who were reportedly planning to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Gaza continued to be administered by Hamas. Hamas, PIJ, and other Gaza-based terrorist and militant groups launched attacks against Israel from Gaza. Hamas continued to consolidate its control over Gaza, eliminating or marginalizing potential rivals. Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza continued to smuggle weapons, cash, and other contraband into Gaza through an extensive network of tunnels from Egypt, although the Egyptian government severely curtailed smuggling from the Sinai in the second half of the year. Gaza remained a base of operations for several Salafist splinter groups, such as the Mujahideen Shura Council; and clan-based terrorist groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks.
Palestinian militants initiated attacks against Israelis inside the West Bank and Israel. In April, for the first time in the previous 18 months, an Israeli was killed in the West Bank when a Palestinian stabbed settler Evyatar Borovsky at Tapuach Junction, south of Nablus. Also in September, an Israeli soldier in Hebron City died from a bullet wound; the identity and nationality of the perpetrator are unknown. Additional incidents in the West Bank and Gaza included:
- In January, a Palestinian from Ramallah stabbed a 17-year-old Israeli at a hitchhiking post near Tapuach Junction (an Israeli settlement in the West Bank), who sustained light to moderate wounds.
- In April, Israeli settlers, suspected to be from Yitzhar settlement, vandalized and attempted to set fire to a mosque and staged multiple attacks against civilians in the Palestinian village of Urif in response to the killing of Israeli settlers at Tapuach Junction.
- In April, an Arab Jerusalemite was stabbed and critically injured in the Me’a Shearim section of West Jerusalem shortly after the murder of a settler at Tapuach junction.
- In October, a Palestinian crashed a tractor through the perimeter fence of an Israeli military base in the village of al-Ram; the IDF shot and killed him.
- In October, per press reports, PA security forces in Hebron disrupted a cell attempting to construct a drone aimed at launching attacks on Israel.
- In November, Israeli security personnel killed three Salafist Jihadist militants leading a cell in the West Bank who reportedly took “inspiration” from al-Qa’ida, but were not affiliated with the group. According to press reports, PA security officials also detained a number of other suspects in the ring.
- Shin Bet reported a total of 918 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens from January through November. Of these, 760 involved firebombs, but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and improvised explosive device incidents, and rock throwing. Shin Bet further identified an additional 360 attacks in Jerusalem, 312 of which involved firebombs.
- In December, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman stationed at a traffic circle outside Ramallah.
Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted according to UN and NGO sources. The UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage. Violent extremists, including Israeli settlers, vandalized five mosques and three churches in Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to data compiled by the UN.
The United States continued to assist the PA's counterterrorism efforts through programs that continued to strengthen the capacity of the PASF, primarily through training, equipping, and the provision of infrastructure to PA personnel in the West Bank. U.S.-funded training of PASF primarily took place at the Jordan International Police Training Center, and the PASF’s Central Training Institute in Jericho. Concurrently, the United States continued to assist the larger PA criminal justice system to conduct more thorough investigations and prosecutions of terrorist related activity, and to ensure safe incarceration of those being held for trial or convicted of such crimes.
Israeli authorities, among others, have noted continuing improvements in the capacity and performance of PASF as a leading contributor to the improved security environment in the West Bank, and a dramatic reduction in terrorist incidents in and emanating from the West Bank over the past seven years. For example, in early October, PASF personnel conducted a large-scale crackdown in the restive Jenin refugee camp aimed at arresting PIJ members and criminal elements, including rogue members of the ruling Fatah party.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas consistently reiterated his commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel. He continued to support a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank. President Abbas’s Fatah party also continued efforts to end the division resulting from Hamas’s control of the Gaza. In February, Hamas permitted the Central Elections Commission to register voters in Gaza for national elections, a precursor for reconciliation. In May, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a timeline to form an interim Palestinian government and hold elections, but implementation stalled because of disagreements between the factions, and there have been no formal talks since then.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The PA continues to lack legislation that is specifically tailored to counterterrorism, although existing Palestinian laws criminalize actions that constitute terrorist acts. Presidential Decree No. 3 of 1998, titled “Enhancement of National Unity and Prohibition of Incitement,” prohibits incitement to violence, illegal associations, and acts against Palestine Liberation Organization agreements with other states (an indirect reference to the Oslo Accords with Israel). PA officials frequently enforce Presidential Decree No. 17 of 2007, which criminalizes armed militias and any assistance to such militias, as well as carrying unlicensed weapons and explosives. Presidential Decision No. 257 of 2007 bans “all Hamas militias” and states that any affiliation therewith will be punished in accordance with the laws and regulations in effect. The PA’s parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, has not met since 2007 due to the Hamas-Fatah rift, and is unable to pass new legislation.
The PA continued to detain terrorists in the West Bank, and PA authorities tried some detainees in civilian and military courts. Despite on-again, off-again factional reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, PASF personnel continued to detain Hamas elements, operations often protested by Hamas officials. The PA continued to develop its civilian justice institutions (e.g., judiciary, police, prosecutors) to improve both investigative and prosecutorial functions. In partnership with international donors, the PA has made efforts to reduce case backlogs, improve warrant executions, and forensic services.
After 2007, many terrorism and security-related cases were processed through the Palestinian military (security) court system. Following numerous objections by civil society groups, the PA decided in 2011 to prosecute all cases involving civilian suspects in the civilian court system. In 2013, a committee formed by the PA drafted legislation to govern the military court system which, in part, confirms that its jurisdiction is limited to members of the security services. The draft legislation was completed in December 2013 and was awaiting submission to the Council of Ministers for consideration.
The key PA institution by mandate and law that works to prevent internal terrorist events and investigates security-related criminal conduct is the Preventive Security Organization (PSO). The PSO conducts investigations in coordination with public prosecutors, but this cooperation could be improved, especially the PSO’s ability to conduct criminal investigations and gather evidence usable in civil court. PA law enforcement units display mediocre command and control. PA security forces have a mixed although steadily improving record of accountability and respect for human rights. International donors, primarily the United States and the EU, continued to provide assistance to the PA to improve its capacity in this field. Since the PA committed to moving the prosecution of all civilian cases, including those involving terrorism and security-offenses, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the civilian courts, increased efforts are needed to: enhance cooperation between security service investigators and civilian prosecutors and improve the ability of the security forces to conduct investigations that produce evidence for use in civilian prosecutions; and strengthen the ability of selected civilian judges and prosecutors to deal with security-related cases.
Per the Oslo-era Accords, Israel controls border security in the West Bank.
The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’ control of the area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and through areas of the West Bank for which the Israeli government retained responsibility for security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements.
The PA continued to lack modern forensic capability. The Canadian International Development Agency, through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, announced a multi-year project to initiate forensic criminal capacity within Palestinian law enforcement and project activity commenced in late 2012. The project progressed slowly in 2013 in the areas of training, facilities development and the initiation of the equipment procurement process. Eight physicians were sent to Jordan for a four-year course of forensic training.
PA justice and security leaders continued to participate in regional conferences and meetings to combat terrorism. PASF personnel attended a variety of international training courses related to counterterrorism at training facilities in Jordan, Europe, and the United States.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The PA is an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), but in 2013 the Palestinian Monetary Authority postponed the submission of its membership application to that body. The PA continued to increase its capacity to combat illicit finance in 2013. The Palestinian financial intelligence unit, known as the Financial Follow up Unit (FFU), added staff and continued building its technical capacity, while conducting outreach to other parts of the PA. Presidential Decree No. 9 of 2007 and subsequent regulations issued in accordance with the law in 2009 established a regime for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of money laundering. The banking sector in Gaza continued to repel Hamas attempts to influence and tax the sector. The PA Interior and Awqaf and Religious Affairs Ministries monitored the charitable sector for signs of abuse by terrorist organizations.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The PA has taken significant steps to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank that fall under its control do not create content that leads to incitement to violence. According to the PA’s Palestinian Broadcasting Company’s code of conduct, no programming is allowed that encourages “violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex.” The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in over 1800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes; the guidance is that no sermon can discuss politics or lead to incitement to violence. The PA’s ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon its location and it has limited authority to control the context of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C. As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided significant financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in 2013 in an effort to reintegrate them into society.
Overview: In 2013, Jordan remained a strong ally in combating terrorism and violent extremist ideology. Jordan’s geographic location renders it susceptible to a variety of regional threats, while also making it a natural regional leader in confronting them. During 2013, the radicalization of segments within the Syrian opposition further entrenched terrorism as a top concern for Jordanian security services. Jordan continued to provide diplomatic and political support to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in addition to its support for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict. Jordan also continued to assist Palestinian Authority law enforcement institutions through training at the Jordan International Police Training Center, where both advanced-level and refresher courses were offered to Palestinian security services, in addition to basic-level courses.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The State Security Court (SSC) is the primary legal apparatus for prosecuting terrorist suspects, although its role continued to be an issue of parliamentary and public debate during 2013. The SSC oversees the prosecution of civilians charged with crimes considered to touch on national security. Civil society organizations have criticized the SSC’s jurisdiction as too broad and its procedures as opaque.
In December, the Parliament amended the SSC Law to conform to 2011 Constitutional Amendments. The amendment would restrict the SSC’s jurisdiction to try civilians for crimes pertaining only to terrorism, treason, espionage, drugs, and counterfeiting. However, Article 149 of the penal code defines the term “terrorism” in part as “undermining the political system.” This language infers that the SSC can prosecute cases of political expression or other acts typically considered outside the realm of terrorism. The bill was still being debated at year’s end.
Jordan has advanced capabilities to proactively detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism within its territory. Comprehensive training programs, detailed planning, and recurring surveys of key facilities have enabled Jordan to engineer a coordinated national response to crises. The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) has legislative authority to investigate acts of terrorism. The Public Security Directorate (PSD) has authority over non-terrorism-related crimes, but frequently supports GID counterterrorism activities through the PSD Special Branch, the intelligence branch of PSD. The GID also occasionally coordinates with the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) and its intelligence branch, particularly on cases involving border security, which the JAF oversees. The division of authority is clear, and the different agencies communicate and coordinate effectively during emergencies. Prosecutors typically are not consulted until the back end of investigations, when terrorism cases are referred to the SSC.
Jordan remained committed to securing its borders and denying safe haven to terrorists. Jordan continued to develop its border security infrastructure, largely through the Jordan Border Security Program (JBSP), which began in 2009. JBSP consists of a sophisticated package of sensors to help improve situational awareness along the border and prevent infiltrations into Jordan or unauthorized departures. Phase 1B neared completion at the end of 2013.
During 2013, Jordanian authorities took legal action against individuals deemed to be terrorists under local law. The following legal procedures took place in 2013:
- In September, the SSC sentenced five Jordanians to five years in prison for attempting to join al-Nusrah Front. Jordanian border guards originally arrested the men in February 2012 when they were trying to cross the Syrian border carrying AK-47 assault rifles.
- In November, the longtime terrorist Raed Hijazi was detained by Jordanian authorities. Hijazi, a U.S.-Jordanian national, was jailed from 2001 to 2011 for his role in al-Qa’ida’s planned Millennium attacks in Jordan. Authorities did not make public the reasons for Hijazi’s most recent detention.
- In November, authorities charged 15 university students from Al-Balqa University with carrying out “terrorist acts” following a tribal fight on campus that resulted in five injuries. The students were subsequently released, although it is unclear whether the charges were dropped or changed.
- In December, the public trial began of Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric who was deported from the UK in July 2013. The SSC previously convicted Qatada in absentia for his involvement in conspiring to carry out acts of terrorism in 1998 and another foiled attempt in 2000 against Western and Israeli targets during Millennium celebrations.
- Throughout the year, the State Security Court moved swiftly to detain, and in some cases, charge individuals who illegally entered Syria with the intention of joining the armed opposition. Individuals illegally entering Syria were charged with either the misdemeanor of illegal border entry or a major felony of illegal border crossing with the intent to destabilize regional security.
On October 1, the Government of Jordan signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States.
Jordan is a key participant in the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. Close to 1,000 Jordanians participated in the ATA program in 2013; key areas of focus included strengthening law enforcement investigative capacity and border security capacity, and institutionalizing counterterrorism law enforcement capacities in Jordan’s own training programs.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Jordan is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body; its financial intelligence unit has been a part of the Egmont Group since 2012. The country’s anti-money laundering/counterterrorist finance framework has been significantly strengthened in the last several years. While Jordan’s Anti-Money Laundering Law does not oblige non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports, the country has reportedly monitored charitable contributions to ensure they are not being diverted to fund terrorists. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Jordan is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Jordan has sought to confront and weaken the violent ideology that underpins al-Qa’ida and other violent extremist organizations. Jordanian prisons have a religiously based de-radicalization program that seeks to re-engage violent extremist inmates into the peaceful mainstream of their faith. Based upon the individual needs of the inmate, this program can include basic literacy classes, employment counseling, and theological instruction.
The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Thought, under the patronage of Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad, promotes religious tolerance and coexistence. Building upon the foundations of the 2005 Amman Message, this institute continued its sponsorship of a series of ecumenical events promoting interfaith dialogue. Jordanian officials, including King Abdullah II, strongly condemned extremist violence and the ideology that promotes it.
Jordan hosted events geared toward rejecting terrorism and sectarianism. In November, Islamist leaders, researchers, academics, and politicians participated in a two-day event titled “Political Islam Movements” which stressed the need to create a democratic atmosphere to achieve political reforms, justice, and development in the Arab world. Prince Ghazi also convened two conferences in Jordan this year highlighting challenges facing Arab Christians and the importance of religious tolerance.
Overview: Kuwait is an important non-NATO ally located in the critical Gulf region and a valued partner in promoting policies that strengthen regional security and stability. While Kuwait passed comprehensive anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation in 2013, there were also increased reports of Kuwait-based private individuals funneling charitable donations and other funds to violent extremist groups outside the country, particularly to Syria.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Prior to the May 26, 2013, passage of Kuwait Law 106/2013, the Government of Kuwait lacked a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes, often having to resort to other legal statutes to try suspected terrorists, which hampered enforcement efforts. The 2013 law includes a definition of terrorism, which may provide better legal grounds for prosecuting all terrorism-related crimes.
Some specialized law enforcement units have the capacity for investigations and crisis response, but multiple agencies have jurisdiction, and inadequate legislation made prosecution of terrorism-related offenses a challenge.
Following the 2012 application of a biometric fingerprinting system to include all land and sea entry points, the government began the third phase of an integrated border security system that will link to law enforcement databases.
On May 6, Kuwait’s Court of Cassation upheld the life sentences given to four defendants (two Iranians, a Kuwaiti, and a stateless man) convicted of belonging to an Iranian espionage cell. The cell’s seven members (four Iranians, a Kuwaiti, a Syrian, and a stateless man) were apprehended in May 2010 on charges of espionage, terrorist plotting, and vandalism. The rulings of the Court of Cassation are final.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kuwait is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Kuwait Law 106/2013 was drafted in consultation with the International Monetary Fund to address the FATF recommendations. Law 106/2013 provides new mandates and powers to the government including the criminalization of the financing of terrorism, the requirement to report suspected terrorist financing, and the ability to freeze terrorist assets without delay. In October, FATF noted that Kuwait had made progress but called for the country to continue its effort to establish and implement adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets, ensure its financial intelligence unit (FIU) is effective, and ensure that institutions file suspicious transaction reports to the FIU. At year’s end, Kuwait was still operationalizing its FIU; the first chairman of the FIU was named in December. In preparation, Kuwaiti financial and designated non-financial institutions were reportedly upgrading their systems and processes and preparing to train their personnel to implement the new law.
The law also includes an article that calls for the implementation of UNSCRs 1267/1989 and 1373 (2001) and their successor resolutions with respect to freezing terrorist assets, although this has not yet been implemented.
In 2013, however, there were increased reports of Kuwait-based private individuals funneling charitable donations and other funds to violent extremist groups outside the country, particularly to Syria. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for monitoring and supervising government-authorized charities, including enforcing the ban on cash donations except during Ramadan; implementing an enhanced receipt system for Ramadan cash donations; and coordinating closely with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to monitor and prosecute fraudulent charitable operators.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, National Guard, and Ministry of Interior conducted a number of exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks, including joint exercises with regional and international partners.
Kuwait also cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. Kuwait is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and holds the rotating GCC presidency for 2014. Kuwaiti officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, including following the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum in New York in September 2013.
Throughout the year, Kuwaiti security professionals regularly participated in joint training programs around the world. In addition to Kuwait’s bilateral cooperation with the United States, Kuwaiti officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct missions and exchange information.
Overview: Lebanon’s security situation deteriorated in 2013 as a result of the spillover from the violence in Syria, the involvement of Lebanese fighters in the conflict (including Hezbollah, which openly backed the Asad regime, as well as Sunni individuals and groups supporting various opposition forces), and continuing internal political deadlock that prevented formation of a new Lebanese government that is fully empowered to respond to these challenges. Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned on March 22 amidst political disagreements over the leadership of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and timing of parliamentary elections. The Lebanese caretaker government is headed by a centrist caretaker Prime Minister, but the cabinet remains dominated by the Hezbollah and pro-Syrian regime-aligned March 8 coalition. PM Mikati and his cabinet remained in caretaker status following the resignation while Prime Minister-Designate Tammam Salam tried to form a new government. Although the Lebanese Parliament extended its term for 17 months in May, Parliament did not reconvene for the remainder of the year due to a boycott by various political parties. Although various branches of the Lebanese state, including the Central Bank, ISF and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), continued to cooperate with international partners in combating terrorism, the political stalemate in Beirut has hindered progress on many fronts such as rigorous prosecution of long-standing and new terrorism-related cases.
The challenges emanating from the Syrian spillover include issues dealing with border security, internal stability, and terrorism. Lebanese towns and villages near the border with Syria regularly experienced shelling from Syria – both by the Syrian regime and Syrian opposition forces – because of regime allegations that opposition fighters use Sunni-dominated areas as safe havens and opposition allegations that Hezbollah uses Shia-dominated areas to enter Syria or launch attacks. Lebanon, a country of approximately four million, now hosts nearly a million refugees from Syria. Lebanese authorities are challenged not only by the significant burden the refugees place on its financial and natural resources, but also by concerns over potential terrorists hiding within the refugee population who may perpetrate violent acts in both Lebanon and Syria.
Although Hezbollah, with considerable support from Iran and Lebanon’s Shia population, remains the most capable and prominent terrorist group in Lebanon, radical Sunni groups based in Syria but operating in Lebanon constitute a visible and growing terrorist threat. Al-Nusrah Front announced in December its presence in Lebanon and al-Qa’ida in Iraq/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has threatened to enter Lebanon because of Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. At the same time, other groups, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and several other splinter groups, continued to operate within Lebanon's borders, although primarily out of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps. The LAF did not maintain a daily presence in the camps, but it conducted operations and patrols near the camps and across Lebanon to counter terrorist threats, including attempts to launch rockets against Israel from south Lebanon. In November, the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported that there has been no progress in efforts to dismantle military bases maintained by the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada, which are primarily located along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Despite Lebanon’s official disassociation policy regarding the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah dramatically increased its military role in support of the Syrian regime in 2013, including openly participating in major armed offensives against Syrian opposition forces, which exacerbated the already tenuous security situation inside Lebanon. Various radical Sunni groups and individuals from Lebanon actively participated in the Syrian conflict as well. Hezbollah and its Sunni extremist rivals had largely kept their fighting limited to Syria, but Lebanon was increasingly affected by spillover violence originating from Syria.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Attacks conducted in Lebanon included:
- On January 18, a convoy carrying the Lebanese Minister for Youth and Sports, Faisal Karame, was attacked in Tripoli, wounding five. Tripoli continued to suffer from armed clashes between the pro-Syrian Alawite community of Jabal Mohsen and various Sunni groups in Bab al-Tabanneh throughout 2013. In March at least six people were killed during such clashes, and a weeklong round of violence commenced on May 19, killing at least 36 and injuring over 200.
- On May 26, following a speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah announcing Hizballah’s military role in support of the Syrian regime, the Shia-dominated areas of south Beirut were hit by rockets.
- On May 28, in the northern Bekaa Valley town of Arsal, unknown assailants killed three soldiers at a LAF checkpoint. On June 23, followers of Sunni extremist preacher Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir killed two soldiers at a checkpoint in the southern city of Sidon. The LAF responded to the Sidon attacks by conducting a military operation against al-Asir and his followers, during which at least 17 soldiers and over 20 armed al-Asir supporters died. Al-Asir escaped and was hiding in an undisclosed location at year’s end.
- On July 9, a car bomb exploded in Bir al-Abed, a predominantly Shia neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut, wounding at least 53. On August 1, two rockets also landed near the Presidential Palace.
- On August 9, two Turkish Airlines pilots were kidnapped near Beirut International Airport, reportedly by relatives of Lebanese Shia who were held for several months by groups in Syria allied with the Syrian opposition. The Lebanese citizens and Turkish pilots were released on October 19.
- On August 15, a car bomb targeted Rouweiss, another Shia neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut, killing at least 24 and wounding over 200.
- On August 22, two car bombs hit two different Sunni mosques in Tripoli, killing over 40 and wounding several hundred.
- Also on August 22, four rockets were fired towards Israel from the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, at least three of which landed inside Israeli territory. Although the Abdullah Azzam Brigades later claimed responsibility for these rockets, Israel responded on August 23 by striking sites reportedly belonging to PFLP-GC near the city of Sidon.
- On November 19, two suicide bombers from the southern city of Sidon attacked the Iranian Embassy, located in the Shia neighborhood of Bir Hassan in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Abdallah Azzam Brigades took responsibility for this attack that killed at least 25, including an Iranian diplomat and four guards, and wounded several dozen.
- On December 25, a car bomb exploded in the Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. The blast reportedly targeted a supporter of Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, but it resulted only in material damage to the car and surrounding area.
- On December 27, Mohammad Chatah, former ambassador to the United States and advisor to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was assassinated in downtown Beirut using a remote-controlled car bomb. At least seven other individuals were killed by the bomb blast.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Several articles of Lebanon’s criminal code deal with terrorism, but their implementation has at times been hindered by Lebanon’s complex political and confessional system, and also at times by Hezbollah restricting access to attack sites that were within areas under its control. By definition, the caretaker government’s legislative power is circumscribed, but the fully empowered cabinet before PM Mikati’s March resignation did not consider legislative initiatives that could potentially threaten Hizballah’s operations, as Hezbollah and its allies were members of the cabinet.
Neither the caretaker cabinet nor the parliament considered counterterrorism initiatives in response to the EU’s July terrorist designation of Hizballah’s military wing.
The LAF and ISF remain functional in combating terrorism, but they would benefit from stronger political support from state institutions, including a fully functional cabinet and parliament.
Several agencies focus on combating terrorism, including the LAF, ISF, and the Directorate of General Security (DGS). Lebanon has been a participant in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2006, and this assistance focused on border security as well as building law enforcement’s investigative and leadership capabilities. Lebanon has also been working with Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) to improve the capabilities of the ISF through a multi-year program.
Lebanon has a Megaports and Container Security Initiative program, and it participated in Export Control and Related Border Security programs. Through INL and the Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS), a biometric assessment will be conducted for the ISF. The LAF also partnered with several friendly nations on a bilateral basis to conduct training programs that focused on strengthening its counterterrorism capabilities.
Lebanon did not have biometric systems in place at the official points of entry into the country. Lebanese passports were machine readable, and the government was considering the adoption of biometric passports. The DGS, under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), controls immigration and passport services, and it uses an electronic database to collect biographic data for travelers at all points of entry. The Lebanese government maintained bilateral agreements for information sharing with Syria.
Although the case against Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese Minister of Information arrested on terrorism charges in 2012, made some progress, a Lebanese court in June postponed trial proceedings until December. On February 4, Lebanese authorities also issued an arrest warrant for General Ali Mamlouk, the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, due to his ties to the Samaha case.
On October 14, the State Commissioner to the Military Court announced the indictment of seven suspects alleged to have been involved in the August 22 Tripoli bombings, at least three of whom had been arrested.
Lebanese authorities maintained that amnesty for Lebanese involved in acts of violence during the 1975-90 civil wars prevented terrorism prosecutions of concern to the United States.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Lebanon is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Lebanon’s Central Bank, the Banque du Liban, issued circulars to improve its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime:
- Basic Circular No. 128 dated January 12, 2013 – and amended by intermediate Circular No. 338 dated September 23, 2013, requested that banks establish an AML/CFT Compliance Unit
- Intermediate Circular No. 325 dated June 6, 2013, regulated electronic funds transfers
- Intermediate Circular No. 337 dated September 20, 2013, regulated cash transfers in the hawala system.
From January 2013 to November 20, 2013, the ISF prepared files on three suspected cases of terrorism and was in the process of investigating each of these cases at year’s end. The Special Investigation Commission (SIC), Lebanon’s financial intelligence unit, is an independent legal entity empowered to investigate suspicious financial transactions and freeze assets. The SIC is a member of the Egmont Group, and reported that there were no allegations of terrorist financing in 2013, and that no related accounts were found and frozen in Lebanon’s banking sector.
Hezbollah continued to use its Lebanese connections to further its agenda. Lebanese nationals in Latin America and Africa continued to provide financial support to Hezbollah, including through the laundering of criminal proceeds using Lebanese financial institutions. In June, the Lebanese Canadian Bank paid a fine of US $102 million to U.S. regulators for laundering drug profits that also benefitted Hezbollah. Requests for designation or asset freezes regarding Hezbollah and affiliated groups are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the Lebanese government does not require banks to freeze these assets, because it does not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Only NGOs are subject to enhanced due diligence from the banking sector, which reports suspicious transactions to the SIC. Monitoring the finances and management of all registered NGOs is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior, but it was inconsistent in applying these controls. The deficiency could be attributable to an absence of laws, lack of political will to effectively prosecute cases, corruption, and lack of training for effective CFT law enforcement.
Regional and International Cooperation: Lebanon continued to voice its commitment to fulfilling relevant UNSCRs, including 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006), and 1701 (2006). The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international body investigating the 2005 assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, received Lebanon’s annual contribution of approximately US $40 million on December 30. Lebanon is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Overview: Libya is a willing partner in the fight against international terrorism, but the country continued to lack a coherent national security bureaucracy to develop a comprehensive counterterrorism plan and functional and capable national security forces to implement it. Numerous factors contributed to Libya proving a permissive environment for terrorists: a central government with weak institutions and only tenuous control over its expansive territory; the ubiquity of uncontrolled weapons and ammunition; porous and inaccessible borders; heavily armed militias and tribes with varying loyalties and agendas; high unemployment among young males along with slow-moving economic improvement; divisions between the country’s regions, towns, and tribes; political paralysis due to infighting and distrust among and between Libya’s political actors; and the absence of a functioning police force or national army. The central government and municipalities have largely failed to provide services to their constituencies, thereby providing fertile soil to terrorist organizations, such as Ansar al-Shari’a (AAS) Benghazi and AAS Darnah, to fill that void and recruit. This confluence of factors has allowed violent extremist elements to use platforms in Libya to conduct short-term training for Libyan and third-country recruits en route to terrorist attack destinations in the region and to Syria. Libya-based violent extremists continued to supply arms throughout the region and to fighters in Syria. Regional terrorist organizations exploited the vulnerabilities of the relatively isolated and ungoverned border regions to the south and west to launch the In Amenas attack in Algeria in January.
Although the government is making efforts and cooperates with the international community to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, progress has been hampered by a lack of trust among stakeholders, in particular between the central government, the General National Congress (GNC), militia groups, and civil society. The only notable initiatives to curb or prevent terrorist activities were the deployment of militia notionally under government control to secure Tripoli – which itself created complications due to the separate agendas and varying degrees of professionalism of those forces; the dispatch of a security coordinator and Special Forces (Sai’qa) to try to evict AAS from Benghazi; efforts to destroy the country’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons; a declaration of intent to increase cooperation in law enforcement investigations and fulfill international crime-fighting obligations; a request to the United States and other international partners to train a General Purpose Force; and the stated ambition to build or improve a domestic intelligence service, the diplomatic police, and law enforcement, in general.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: The list of incidents below highlights terrorist attacks by violent extremist groups acting against U.S., Western, and Libyan government facilities and interests. It is not exhaustive and excludes many incidents in an ongoing campaign of bombings and assassinations – committed at least in part by AAS Darnah and AAS Benghazi – of dozens of security forces, government officials, and civilians, and peaking during the Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr holidays. Most of those attacks have gone without claims of responsibility, although the attacks below were all presumably launched by violent extremists. The goals of these attacks appear to be undermining the fragile democratic transition and spreading fear.
- On January 12, the vehicle of the Italian Consul General was attacked in Benghazi, purportedly by terrorists that had a role in the 2012 attacks against U.S. facilities in Benghazi. No one was injured.
- On March 14 and 28, assaults on Christian Coptic Churches in Benghazi and damage to a major Sufi shrine followed an explosion in the Tajoura neighborhood near Tripoli. There were no injuries or casualties.
- On April 23, a car bomb rumored to be in retaliation for the French military mission in Mali, detonated in front of the French Embassy before working hours, injuring two people, and significantly damaging the Embassy.
- On July 23, an improvised mortar hit a high-rise apartment building located between the Corinthia Hotel, which houses the Prime Minister, Western businessmen, the Qatari Embassy, and Tripoli Towers – home to the British, Canadian, and Maltese Embassies – as well as western companies. There were no injuries or casualties.
- On July 30, a bomb attached to an Italian embassy car detonated near the Italian embassy, destroying the vehicle. No one was injured.
- On August 17, unidentified masked assailants threw a small briefcase bomb toward the Egyptian Consulate General in the Fuwaihat District of Benghazi. One Egyptian security guard sustained minor injuries as the explosion damaged the front of the consulate, neighboring buildings, and nearby automobiles.
- On October 11, in Benghazi, a car bomb caused severe damage to the building housing the joint honorary consulates of Finland and Sweden, private commercial offices, and a number of apartments. There were no injuries or casualties.
- On October 15, 26, and 28, as well as November 3, large bombs exploded outside of a municipal office, a wedding hall, a hospital, and café in Benghazi, but caused no casualties.
- On November 27, an explosion triggered presumably by violent extremists, targeted the shrine of Murad Agha in the area of Tajoura and caused serious damage, but no injuries.
- On December 5, an American teacher was assassinated in Benghazi by gunmen who remained at large at year's end.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Libya continued to work on establishing a functioning framework of laws in all areas of governance, but does not have a comprehensive counterterrorism law. However, Title 2, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 170 and Title 2, Chapter 2, Article 207 of the Libyan penal code provides for crimes or offenses prejudicial to state security, and for felonies to the state including terrorism, the promotion of terrorist acts, and the handling of money in support of such acts. Libya has ratified the Organization of African Unity’s Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, which requires states to criminalize terrorist acts under their national laws. In 2013, the GNC adopted two laws (Nos. 27 and 53) as part of a security plan to disband all non-state militia groups, including through their integration as individual members into the State’s official institutions. Implementation continues to prove challenging, although some progress has been made, in particular in Tripoli. The Libyan interim parliament also passed a Transitional Justice Law late in the year, which will provide some means to address grievances underlying groups opposing the State.
Libyan law enforcement personnel demonstrated a limited capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Law enforcement agencies and officers do not have adequate training – particularly in the area of collecting and managing evidence, do not have delineated roles, lack coordination, and are fearful of retribution. Prosecution of terrorism-related crimes was nearly non-existent, with poorly-trained prosecutors and judges often afraid to pursue cases. Although the government has successfully assumed control over a large number of previously militia-controlled prisons, several remain outside of the government’s aegis.
The Libyan government is increasingly seeking to take advantage of training opportunities and other assistance offered by the international community to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, although that assistance is only slowly having an impact on the performance of the country’s security institutions, in part due to absorptive capacity challenges across Libya’s security institutions. Government forces acted in a concerted manner as the bombing and assassination campaign became a chronic feature of life in Benghazi, with additional Special Forces deployed to establish security and combat violent extremist elements theretofore operating with few constraints. Results of the deployment of the additional forces was mixed, however, and violence in Benghazi continued.
Libya’s vast territory and thousands of miles of uncontrolled desert border continued to present a massive security challenge for the government. Border security at Libya’s airports is minimal, with no collection of passenger name records, biometric screenings, or thorough travel document screening, and only limited biographic screening or use of terrorist watchlists. At land crossings, border security is normally either provided by poorly trained, underpaid, and ill-equipped government border guards or by local brigades or tribes with tenuous loyalties to the State and often themselves involved in illicit cross-border trade. As a result, there are considerable illicit flows of goods, people, and weapons across Libya’s porous borders, as evinced by the many refugees sailing from the shores of Libya, by foreign fighters coming to train in Libya, and by the vast number of illicit weapons transiting Libya for the Maghreb, Sahel, and places beyond.
In fulfillment of plans developed at the February 2013 Paris ministerial meeting, Libya has been striving to improve its border management capabilities, notably by working with the EU Border Assistance Mission to Libya that was established during the year, and through cooperation with other partners, including the United States. Progress has been slow, however, as weak national institutions have struggled to absorb this assistance. The Libyan authorities have intensified regional cooperation with their neighbors, especially Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, to exert better control over shared borders. They have agreed on joint checkpoints, coordinated border patrols, increased information exchanges about movements in the border zones, and regular meetings for security staff. Libya has also agreed to set up a joint border security training center in Libya with an eye to promoting regional cooperation in North Africa and the Sahel region, boosting security, and tackling organized crime, smuggling, and illegal migration. Libya has actively participated in regional ministerial dialogue on border security, the latest in Rabat in November, and endorsed its objectives and plans for strengthening practical cooperation, and has sought opportunities to enhance regional links and build the capacity of its officials and institutions.
Despite its limited capacity, Libya is cooperating in the investigation of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests and its political leadership has repeatedly pledged to do everything possible to arrest and bring perpetrators to justice. The Libyan government is cooperating with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe and conducting its own investigation into the September 2012 killing of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at U.S. government facilities in Benghazi. The Ministry of Interior also opened an investigation into the December 5 murder of Ronald Thomas Smith II, an American teacher working at an international school in Benghazi; the gunmen who carried out the killing remain at large.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Libya is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force and has committed to the implementation of a national identification database to improve transparency in government salary and programs. Libya has asked for IMF technical assistance for its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. Since the fall of the Qadhafi regime, there has been little reliable data on Libya’s AML/CFT efforts. In 2013, Libya did not pass new legislation or add significant new tools to prevent terrorist financing.
Libya’s Central Bank has established a Financial Information Unit (FIU) as an independent body directly reporting to the Central Bank Governor. Additionally, Libya has had discussions with international donors to provide technical assistance to the FIU and other government entities in combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes; and reorganizing law enforcement and financial entities to help better detect, investigate, and prosecute complex international financial crimes. Libya is also looking to become a member in the Egmont Group’s network of FIUs that are supporting governments in the fight against money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial crimes. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Libya has shown considerable engagement in regional and international counterterrorism fora, participating in a Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conference on regional cooperation in criminal matters related to terrorism in the Maghreb and the Sahel, and a GCTF Sahel Working Group meeting to discuss international crime, arms trafficking, and terrorism. Libya has also supported counterterrorism initiatives by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the AU, the AU’s African Center for Studies and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), and the UN General Assembly, where then-Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan reiterated the government’s commitment to work with the international community to address weaknesses in the security and justice sectors and expressed support for the completion of a comprehensive UN convention on terrorism. Meanwhile, Libya has welcomed international efforts to build counterterrorist capacity, in particular following the In Amenas attacks staged from its territory. Libya’s neighbors have reported difficulty in addressing security and counterterrorism issues with the Libyan government, principally due to an inability to identify reliable and sustainable avenues for cooperation.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Although Libya does not yet have a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism, then-Prime Minister Zeidan publicly criticized violent extremist ideology, and the Ministries of Culture and Youth and Sports have launched ad campaigns against violent extremism. The Ministry of Interior and the Warriors Affairs Commission also launched educational and mental health campaigns to assist in the reintegration of former revolutionaries into society and the State, thus providing an alternative to violent extremist ideology. Libya has also been working with the ACSRT in developing strategies for preventing and countering terrorism, and has participated in an ASCRT and UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute regional workshop on the rehabilitation of violent extremist offenders.
Libya’s population is predominantly Muslim, and the society is deeply religiously conservative. Most religious leaders have repeatedly and strongly advocated for a “moderate” Islam to counter the rise of violent extremism, and have publicly denounced violence and criminal groups.
Overview: Morocco has a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. In 2013, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts effectively mitigated the risk of attack, although the country continued to face threats, largely from numerous small, independent violent extremist cells. Those groups and individuals, referred to collectively as adherents of the so-called Salafiyya Jihadiyya ideology, remained isolated from one another, small in size, and limited in both capabilities and international connections. Morocco and the United States continued robust counterterrorism collaboration, and both countries committed to deepening that relationship during the November visit by King Mohammed VI to Washington, DC.
During the year, authorities disrupted multiple groups with ties to international networks that included al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM continued its efforts to recruit Moroccans for combat in other countries, calling for attacks against the Moroccan monarchy and against French and U.S. interests in Morocco and the region. There were reports of Moroccans attempting to join AQIM and other violent extremists in Mali and Syria, and the government was concerned about the return of those individuals to Morocco. The government was also concerned about veteran Moroccan violent extremists returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya to conduct terrorist attacks at home, and about Moroccans radicalized during their stays in Western Europe.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The government views counterterrorism as a top policy priority. The country experienced suicide attacks in Casablanca in 2003 and 2007 and in Marrakech in 2011. Additionally, Moroccan nationals were implicated in the 2004 attacks in Madrid. The government continued to enforce the 2003 counterterrorism law, which supplements the criminal code. That law defines terrorism broadly to include incitement to terrorism, but does not penalize participation in terrorist training, communication with a terrorist group, or intimidation of foreign governments and populations. The law also sets strict penalties for active participation in terrorism. The 2003 counterterrorism law and the criminal code were used in several convictions in terrorism-related cases. The government has publicly committed itself not to use the struggle against terrorism to deprive individuals of their rights. It has emphasized adherence to human rights standards and the increased transparency of law enforcement procedures as part of its approach.
Morocco aggressively targeted and effectively dismantled terrorist cells within the country by leveraging intelligence collection, police work, and collaboration with regional and international partners. The National Brigade of the Judiciary Police – the investigative arm of the General Direction of National Security (DGSN), the national police force – is the primary law enforcement entity responsible for counterterrorism efforts. It works closely with the internal security service, the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST). The DGSN is the body primarily responsible for border security, handling border inspections at established ports of entry such as the Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, where most border crossings occur. Law enforcement officials and private carriers work regularly with the United States to detect and deter individuals attempting to transit illegally. Government authorities work directly with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Regional Carrier Liaison Group to address watch-listed or mala fide travelers. Government airport authorities have excellent capabilities in detecting fraudulent documents but lack biometric screening capabilities.
Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts led to numerous disruptions of alleged terrorist cells and prosecutions of associated individuals, including the cases highlighted below:
- In January, the Rabat Court of Appeals reviewed the case of 12 individuals convicted under the counterterrorism law of recruiting young men to fight abroad with AQIM. Those arrests reportedly resulted from the investigation of two individuals said to have been detained in facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to a Ministry of Interior (MOI) statement, the cell operated in Al Hoceima, Fnideq, Meknes, and Tangier and had recruited more than 40 Moroccans to fight in Syria.
- In May, the DGST and BNPJ dismantled two cells in the suburbs of Nador. Investigations connected the cells with elements fighting in Mali, and to a network charged with recruiting and sending volunteers to fight in the Sahel region. According to an MOI statement, those arrested included former prisoners, held under the counterterrorism law, who had ties to international violent extremist circles.
- In August, authorities dismantled an al-Qa’ida-linked cell active in the central cities of Fez, Meknes, Taounate, and Tiznit following investigations by the DGST. Four to seven suspects were arrested for having ties to AQIM leaders and intentions of plotting attacks against Morocco. According to the investigation, the suspects were commissioned to hire new recruits and to carry out targeted operations against foreign missions in Morocco, particularly against the AFRICAN LION joint military exercise and against French military flights that allegedly originated from Guelmim airport in support of the intervention in Mali. Press reported that the cell was composed of several teachers of Islamic studies and one student who had allegedly joined one of the Ansar al-Shari’a groups operating in Libya in 2012.
- In August, the Salé Criminal Court of Appeals sentenced nine individuals belonging to Ansar al-Shari’a to one to six years in prison. According to an MOI statement, the group was planning attacks against strategic sites in several Moroccan cities. The group had been dismantled in November 2012 after an ongoing investigation.
- In December, the Salé Criminal Court of Appeals sentenced 17 to 20 individuals to two to 20 years in prison for affiliation with the Moroccan Mujahedin movement, a terrorist cell with connections to the 2003 Casablanca bombers and AQIM, according to the MOI. The individuals were arrested in May 2012.
- In December, authorities dismantled a terrorist cell allegedly operating in several cities. The largest group arrested included at least 13 people in the city of Sidi Slimane near Meknes. According to an MOI statement, the suspects had received training in weapons and explosives and were preparing to go to Syria to fight. According to press reports, several of the individuals arrested had links to the “Sham al-Islam” movement, a group of Moroccans fighting in Syria under Moroccan ex-detainees at Guantanamo. Several of those individuals had allegedly returned from Syria through Turkey and were raising funds in preparation to return with new recruits.
Morocco, a long-standing and effective partner, continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, which provided DGSN and the Royal Gendarmerie with training in cyber forensics, crime scene forensics, and executive leadership. Morocco also participated in Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and Department of Justice programs to improve technical investigative training for police and prosecutors.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Morocco is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. In April, Parliament amended the penal code to criminalize money laundering and terrorist financing, bringing legislation in line with international standards. Those amendments fulfilled the last remaining requirements that the FATF had identified in a 2010 action plan. As a result, the FATF announced in October that Morocco was no longer subject to ongoing compliance monitoring, and in November, removed Morocco from its follow-up process. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Morocco maintained cooperative relationships with European and African partners by sharing information, conducting joint operations, and participating in military, security, and civilian capacity-building events. Morocco is a founding member of the GCTF. In April, it hosted the UNODC/GCTF conference on regional cooperation in terrorist criminal matters. In September, it hosted the GCTF Criminal Justice Sector/Rule of Law Working Group meeting. Morocco also chairs the UNSC’s Counter-Terrorism Committee and is a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT).
Morocco is a Mediterranean Dialogue (5+5) partner of the EU’s Barcelona Process and a Major Non-NATO Ally. Morocco participates in multilateral peacekeeping operations in Africa as well as in training exercises such as maritime-focused PHOENIX EXPRESS, the FLINTLOCK regional security cooperation exercise, and special operations exercises. It is also host to the annual AFRICAN LION exercise. These engagements, coupled with Morocco’s initiative to modernize its force through Foreign Military Sales, have enhanced border security and improved capabilities to counter illicit traffic and terrorism. Morocco also participates in the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Western Mediterranean. During the year, Morocco was active in the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address the conflict in northern Mali. In November, it hosted the second regional ministerial conference on border security, which brought together 17 countries to improve border security in the Sahel; however, cooperation among countries in the region remains inconsistent. Specifically, while Morocco and Algeria participate in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and the GCTF, the level of bilateral CT cooperation did not improve. Algeria and Morocco’s political disagreement over the status of the Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2013. Finally, Morocco, a long-standing and effective partner in counterterrorism, seeks to play a more prominent role in the training of its neighbors in North and West Africa, an effort which the State Department seeks to support in the coming years.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Morocco has a three-pillar strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE). First, the government takes a law and order approach to CVE, working closely with the United States and other international and regional partners to strengthen its security and counterterrorism capabilities. Second, Morocco has accelerated its rollout of education and employment initiatives for youth and expanded the legal rights and political empowerment of women. Finally, to counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, it has developed a national strategy to confirm and further institutionalize Morocco’s widespread adherence to the Maliki school of Sunni Islam.
The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) funds a program to improve the overall management of Morocco’s corrections system to stanch potential radicalism and the recruitment of prisoners to terrorist ideology.
Every year during the month of Ramadan, the King hosts a series of religious lectures, inviting Muslim speakers from around the world to promote peaceful interpretations of Islam. In the past decade, and particularly since the Casablanca and Madrid terrorist bombings, Morocco has focused on countering youth radicalization, upgrading places of worship, promoting the teaching of moderate Islam, and strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (MEIA). The MEIA has developed an educational curriculum for Morocco’s nearly 50,000 imams in the Maliki school of Sunni Islam. To counter the radicalization of Moroccans living abroad, the Moroccan Council of Ulema for Europe and the Minister Delegate for Moroccans Living Abroad also undertook similar programs to promote religious moderation among Moroccan expatriate communities in Europe. In September, Morocco expanded its regional counter-radicalization efforts by agreeing to train 500 Malian imams.
Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner and worked actively to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks within Oman and using the country for safe haven or to transport terrorists, weapons, and materiel. The Omani government actively sought training and equipment from U.S. government and commercial entities as well as from other countries to support its efforts to control its land and maritime borders. At the request of the Government of Bahrain, Omani authorities arrested three members of the alleged terrorist group “Army of the Imam” in February, according to regional press reports. Oman used U.S. security assistance to improve counterterrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures. Omani officials engaged regularly with U.S. officials on the need to counter violent extremism and terrorism.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Omani criminal law does not explicitly criminalize terrorism. However, certain general provisions of the Penal Code may be used to prosecute acts of terrorism. Oman’s criminal procedure law permits those suspected of posing a threat to national security to be held for 30 days without a charge.
Although there was strong U.S.-Omani cooperation, there was little interagency coordination among the many Omani agencies with jurisdiction over counterterrorism. Roles and responsibilities between law enforcement and the armed forces were not clearly delineated.
The Government of Oman recognizes the need to improve its capabilities and participated in the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in 2013. FY 2012 was to be the final year of funding for the ATA program in Oman, but as a result of the growing security challenges in the Arabian Peninsula, the program was extended. Priorities for the ATA program in Oman are to build border security capacity and enhance investigative capacity. U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) training included land border training for Omani security forces responsible for securing Oman’s border with Yemen.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Oman is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. A 2010 Royal Decree, number 79/2010, is the country’s main legislation on Anti-Money Laundering/ Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). The Royal Oman Police Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), a member of the Egmont Group, is responsible for enforcing AML/CFT laws and regulations. Oman has increased the funding for its FIU. However, the country lacks any statistics on the number and nature of its suspicious transaction reports and has not had any apparent investigations or prosecutions for money laundering or terrorist financing.
The Government of Oman and its Central Bank have a high degree of oversight of its commercial banking sector. In 2012, Oman formally introduced Islamic banking services into the financial system through Royal Decree 69/2012. Hawalas are not permitted in the financial service sector and Omani authorities have acted to shutter attempted hawala operations.
Regional and International Cooperation: Oman cooperated in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.
Overview: Terrorist activity historically has been low in Qatar; restrictive immigration policies and security services capable of monitoring and disrupting nascent violent extremist activity have helped to maintain that status quo. However, Qatar’s monitoring of private individuals’ and charitable associations’ contributions to foreign entities remained inconsistent. Qatari-based terrorist fundraisers, whether acting as individuals or as representatives of other groups, were a significant terrorist financing risk and may have supported terrorist groups in countries such as Syria. The ascension of the new Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani did not result in any political changes that would affect the Government of Qatar’s ability to counter terrorism.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Qatar passed its Combatting Terrorism Law in 2004 and the Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law in 2010. The Law on Combating Terrorism set forth broad provisions for defining and prosecuting terrorist-related activities in Qatar.
The State Security Bureau maintains an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal violent extremist or terrorism-related activities and the Ministry of Interior is well-positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces and trained internal security forces that routinely pursue and engage in structured counterterrorism training and exercises. Qatar also maintains an interagency National Antiterrorism Committee (NATC) within the Ministry of Interior composed of representatives from more than 10 government ministries and official institutions. The NATC is tasked by law with formulating Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, ensuring thorough and transparent interagency coordination within the government, fulfilling Qatar’s obligations to combat terrorism under international conventions, and participating in international or UN conferences on terrorism. Qatar’s Office of the Public Prosecutor is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism.
Qatar maintains a watchlist of suspected terrorists that it uses to screen passengers on international flights. Qatar also conducts extensive vetting and background checks on all applicants for work visas. The Qatari Government uses biometric scans for arrivals at Doha International Airport. Qatari officials have indicated an interest in adding fingerprinting to the tracking measures they use at entry points.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Qatar is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Government of Qatar routinely engages with international interlocutors on terrorist financing and has taken some steps to improve oversight of foreign charities that receive contributions from Qatari institutions and to work with the banking sector to identify suspicious transactions.
Qatar’s Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2010 requires Qatar’s Public Prosecutor to freeze the funds of terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council, and the government distributes lists of UN-designated terrorist entities and individuals to financial institutions. Qatar did not pass or implement any new legislation in 2013 although a law on charities oversight based on FATF standards was in development throughout the year, but remained in draft status as of December 31. Formally, Qatar’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs monitors and licenses nongovernmental charitable organizations and requires that Qatari organizations’ foreign partners submit to a vetting and licensing process before receiving Qatari funds. The Qatari government in the past has ordered Qatari institutions to cut ties with certain foreign charities over concerns about their activities.
Despite a strong legal framework, judicial enforcement and effective implementation of Qatar’s anti-money laundering/counterterrorist the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law are lacking. Qatar’s lack of outreach and enforcement activities to ensure terrorist financing-related transactions are not occurring and the lack of referrals by the financial intelligence unit of cases are significant gaps.
The NATC is authorized to designate by resolution those who finance terrorism, terrorists, and terrorist organizations, independently of lists forwarded to the Government of Qatar by the UNSC 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) Sanctions Committee. No designations were made in 2013. Qatar does require financial institutions to file suspicious transactions reports. The Financial Intelligence Unit referred one suspicious transaction report case to the Public Prosecutor for investigation as of November 2013, with no judgment issued as of year’s end.
Regional and International Cooperation: Qatar participates in the UN, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the OIC, and the Arab League. Qatari military and security services participated in several bilateral and multilateral exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks. Qatar also supported and participated in GCC efforts this year to develop sanctions targeting Hezbollah terrorist activities region-wide, although these efforts were not finalized as of December 31.
Overview: Although unsuccessful in conducting a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia in 2013, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), working primarily from Yemen, continued its efforts to inspire sympathizers to support, finance, or engage in conflicts outside of Saudi Arabia and encouraged individual acts of terrorism within the Kingdom. AQAP’s lack of success in Saudi Arabia can be attributed to the Saudi government’s continued domestic and bilateral efforts to build, augment, and refine its capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremist ideologies in the Kingdom, while increasing participation in international counterterrorism efforts. Saudi authorities continued public trials of individuals suspected of engaging in or supporting terrorism. The government pursued convictions of terrorism supporters, including prosecuting a religious cleric who issued fatwas (religious edicts) allowing suicide operations outside the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a strong counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of both U.S. and Saudi citizens within Saudi territories and abroad.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In an effort to more clearly define terrorism, the Council of Ministers approved an updated draft of the Terrorism and Terrorist Financing Law in mid-December. Throughout 2013, Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to disrupt terrorist activities in the Kingdom by tracking, arresting, and prosecuting terrorist suspects. The Saudi General Investigations Directorate, also known as the Mabahith, is responsible for conducting counterterrorism investigations in the Kingdom and, upon its discretion, will cooperate with other elements of the Saudi government to further investigations into specific cases. Once the investigation is complete, the case is transferred to the Special Investigations and Public Prosecutions Office in the Saudi Ministry of Justice for the duration of the trial. In addition to continuing programs to improve physical border security through the employment of biometric systems, aerial reconnaissance, thermal imaging, and remote unattended sensors along the border region (primarily the border with Yemen), Saudi Arabia moved forward with its efforts to work with neighboring countries to build and maintain joint security programs and explore areas of mutual border security interest.
Neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members in Saudi Arabia, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about suspected terrorist activity. The government offered rewards for information on terrorists and Saudi security services made several announcements throughout the year pertaining to the arrest of AQAP militants and supporters.
The Saudi government continued its efforts to bring to trial groups and individuals suspected of terrorism. On September 25, Saudi courts convicted three Saudi nationals on charges related to coordinating the sending of youths to participate in violent extremism in conflict areas. Saudi prosecutors also convicted one of the three defendants of preparing to conduct a suicide operation. On October 1, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh convicted 19 members of a group of 63 defendants on various terrorism charges. Additionally, the court found a cleric guilty of financing terrorism, issuing fatwas in support of terrorist suicide operations, and interfering in the affairs of foreign sovereign nations.
Saudi Arabia continued to cooperate with the United States to prevent acts of terrorism both through engagement in bilateral programs and through information exchange agreements with the United States.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Saudi Arabia’s Financial Crimes Unit was accepted into the Egmont Group in 2009. The Saudi government affirmed its commitment to combating terrorist fundraising and sought to further establish itself as a regional leader in disrupting terrorist finance efforts. It provided training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies in this area. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency has standing requirements for all Saudi financial institutions to implement all the FATF recommendations regarding money laundering and terrorist finance. Notwithstanding Saudi Arabia’s increased control over the formal financial sector, bulk cash smuggling from individual donors and charities has reportedly been a major source of terrorist financing. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues, including its participation as a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). In January, the Saudi government participated in a two-day workshop under the auspices on the GCTF Criminal Justice Sector and Rule of Law Working Group.
In February under the auspices of the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT), the Saudi government hosted an international terrorism conference with participants from 49 governments and representatives from international organizations and counterterrorism centers. On August 8, Saudi Arabia pledged US $100 million to UNCCT.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) since 2008. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects including, but not limited to, combating violent extremist ideology and counterterrorist financing.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: As part of its strategy to counter violent extremism, the Saudi government focused on increasing public awareness campaigns and conducting outreach, counter-radicalization, and rehabilitation programs. Some of these efforts involved seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist ideology. Public awareness campaigns were aimed at reinforcing the values of the Islamic faith and educating Saudi citizens about the dangers of violent extremism and terrorism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting events. Additionally, in March, Saudi security officers participated in the GCTF Countering Violent Extremism Working Group on Community Engagement and Community-Oriented Policing, held in the United States.
The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship deradicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue), as well as its extensive prison rehabilitation program to reduce recidivism among former inmates. The Saudi government also continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks used in religious training. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to re-educate imams, prohibiting them from incitement of violence, and continued to monitor mosques and religious education.
Overview: Over the past year, the Tunisian government has increased its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. The rise of violent extremist organizations in Tunisia since the January 2011 revolution – most notably Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) – has posed serious security challenges to a post-revolutionary government previously inexperienced in counterterrorism operations. The assassination of two opposition politicians in February and July, as well as the attack on the U.S. Embassy and the American Community School in Tunis in September 2012, demonstrated the extent of the terrorist threat. The Tunisian government continued to face challenges that included the potential for terrorist attacks, the influx of arms and violent extremists from across the Algerian and Libyan borders, and the use of improvised explosive devices. The disproportionate numbers of Tunisians among those traveling to fight in Libya, Mali, and Syria – and the ensuing return of these fighters – is another cause for concern.
In response to these incidents, the government has taken increasingly bolder steps to counter terrorism and violent extremism in Tunisia. Following the revolution, Tunisia experienced the emergence of hard-line Salafists, who sought the reestablishment of an Islamist Caliphate, contended the Tunisian government was too accommodating to the West, despite the presence of the ruling Islamist party a-Nahda in the government, and rejected Western values. Salafists repeatedly disrupted social order in 2013. While the government initially vacillated in responding to excesses by Tunisia’s Salafist movement, following the assassination of opposition figure Chokri Belaid in February, the government banned AAS-T’s annual conference in Kairouan. Following the July 25 assassination of a second opposition politician, Mohammed Brahmi, the government officially designated AAS-T a terrorist organization and intensified efforts to capture and arrest members of the group.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: There was a marked increase in the number of incidents fueled by violent extremism, which was in part a reaction to the government’s escalating campaign against terrorist groups. The list of incidents below highlights some of the most significant terrorist attacks that occurred during the year.
- On February 6, head of the leftist Popular Front coalition Chokri Belaid was assassinated in front of his home by unknown assailants. The killing prompted nationwide protests against the government for failing to address security concerns that eventually resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minister and a cabinet reshuffle. The government has since blamed AAS-T violent extremists with reported connections to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for the killing.
- In defiance of the Ministry of Interior order banning its annual conference, members of AAS-T clashed with police in Kairouan on May 18 and in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen on May 19, resulting in the death of a protester. Several hundred AAS-T supporters, armed with rocks, knives, and Molotov cocktails, stormed a National Guard office and police station.
- On July 25, opposition member of the National Constituent Assembly Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated outside his home on Tunisia’s Republic Day. The Ministry of Interior announced the following day that the same individuals reportedly responsible for the murder of Chokri Belaid had also killed Brahmi.
- On October 17, two National Guard members were killed in clashes with an armed group in the town of Goubellat, when their vehicle reportedly came under fire. A third National Guard member was injured.
- On October 23, a total of six police officers were killed in clashes with militants near the central town of Sidi Bouzid. Two militants were also killed. The killings resulted in a two-day postponement of the National Dialogue aimed at negotiating a solution to the ongoing political impasse spurred by the July 25 killing of Mohamed Brahmi.
- On October 30, a man wearing explosives blew himself up outside a hotel in the resort town of Sousse after being chased by security, but killed no others. That same day, police prevented a suicide bombing in Monastir when they arrested a would-be bomber at the Tomb of Habib Bourguiba. Five other men were detained in Sousse. The government claimed the arrested men had ties to AAS-T and that both bombers were Tunisian. The Sousse bombing was the first attempted suicide attack in Tunisia since 2002 when 21 people were killed in a bombing at a synagogue on the island of Djerba.
- On November 30, the Ministry of Interior reported clashes in El Kef following the arrest of 10 alleged members of AAS-T. Some of the group’s supporters attempted to storm a police station while others tried to block roads by setting tires on fire.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2003 counterterrorism law remains the primary piece of legislation for dealing with terrorism offenses, although lesser offenses can still be charged under the penal code. A new law, designed to address concerns raised by human rights groups, has been approved by the cabinet and was before the National Constituent Assembly at year’s end. On August 27, the Tunisian government designated AAS-T as a terrorist organization. The designation makes it a crime to be a member of the group or to offer it logistical or financial support and allows the government to freeze the group’s assets. AAS-T is the first group to be designated a terrorist organization in Tunisia since January 2011. The group has been implicated in attacks against Tunisian security forces, assassinations of Tunisian political figures (including Belaid and Brahmi), and an attempted bombing of a tourist hotel. AAS-T is ideologically aligned with AQ and has links to AQIM.
The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense share responsibility for detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism in Tunisia. In particular, the Antiterrorism Brigade (BAT) – an elite unit under the Ministry of Interior’s National Police – is responsible for SWAT and tactical operations related to counterterrorism. The newly formed National Unit for the Investigation of Terrorist Crimes (UNECT) is a key partner to the BAT and takes the lead in investigating and liaising with the judicial system to encourage successful prosecutions. The military’s role in counterterrorism increased substantially since the spring of 2013 when fighting around Mount Chaambi began and again in fall 2013 when the military reinforced its control of the southern third of the country.
Tunisian security services suffer from the legacy of the previous regime, which created a culture of red tape and a lack of communication and coordination between ministries. Security forces were also inexperienced in tackling terrorist threats and lacked appropriate equipment and training. In the past year, the government’s efforts have intensified, with successes including the seizure of weapons, arrests, and operations against armed groups throughout the country. At the tactical level, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense forces reportedly work together, but communication and coordination between the military and law enforcement could be enhanced, especially with regard to strategic and operational planning.
Tunisia has an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and maintains fingerprint records for identification cards, criminal records, and latent prints. Tunisia currently has only one AFIS system and it is not known if the records can be shared with other government agencies via automated responses. Tunisia also maintains a DNA data base and has expressed an interest in becoming a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) member. Tunisia does not currently share its biometric data with any counties.
Regional insecurity, particularly in Libya and in Mali, presents an additional challenge. Border security remained a priority in 2013 as Tunisian authorities sought to collaborate with their Libyan and Algerian counterparts in stemming the flow of weapons and insurgents across their common borders. Algeria and Tunisia signed an agreement in December 2012 to strengthen border security coordination, including the creation of joint patrols to combat terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling, and illegal migration. Efforts to root out militants in the Mount Chaambi region continued at year’s end. While the operation has achieved some success, it has been hampered by Tunisian security forces’ inexperience in this type of engagement.
The year has seen increased arrests and raids by security forces. The Government of Tunisia claimed to have arrested and detained hundreds of members of AAS-T, although successful prosecutions lagged behind. Significant law enforcement and proactive disruptions, arrests and prosecutions related to counterterrorism activities included:
- On February 20, the Tunisian National Guard seized a large weapons cache in the Ariana Governorate in northeastern Tunisia, including rocket propelled grenades and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
- On September 10, security forces arrested AAS-T military wing leader Mohamed Aouadi and Mohamed Khiari. Both were allegedly involved in the assassinations of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior.
- On September 28, National Guard units conducted a raid in the town of Mornaguia in Tunisia’s interior region, seizing home-made bombs, explosives, and tasers. Security forces arrested two terrorists allegedly affiliated with AAS-T.
- On October 19, following the launch of an operation to apprehend terrorists who killed two National Guard officers and injured a third on October 17, security forces arrested AAS-T leaders Abdelouehed Alargoubi in Jendouba and Adel Hanachi in Beja. Eight other alleged members of the terrorist group were killed in military operations in response to the deaths of the National Guard officers.
- On November 30, the Ministry of the Interior announced special security forces had arrested 10 members of AAS-T in El Kef, in Tunisia’s northwest.
The Government of Tunisia arrested more than 120 individuals for their alleged involvement in the September 14, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and American Cooperative School of Tunis. Out of those arrested, many suspects were released or subjected to small fines. Several court cases related to the attacks were ongoing or on appeal at year’s end. In one instance, 20 suspects were issued two-year suspended sentences in May 2013, and those still in custody were released. The public prosecutor was appealing this case, which has been postponed several times.
Tunisia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. Tunisian Ministry of Interior professionals received ATA training in 2013 in the areas of crisis response and tactical and command training. Department of State International Narcotics and Law Enforcement programs supported leadership development, police reform, prison reform, hostage rescue, and crowd control management for the Justice and Interior ministries, and provided vehicles to enhance internal and border security. Leadership development included travel for Tunisian police and corrections professionals to the United States to meet U.S. law enforcement counterparts. In September, Tunisia and the United States signed an amendment to the 2012 letter of agreement to expand programming to reform and improve the capacity of the police and corrections officials. The Tunisian Armed Forces consider counterterrorism and border security their principal mission. The armed forces have successfully employed U.S.-funded patrol craft, equipment, and training in border security and counterterrorism operations. In 2013, the special operations Joint Combined Exchange Training program restarted.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tunisia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Since Tunisia has strict currency controls, it is likely that remittance systems such as hawala are operating. Trade-based money laundering is also a concern. Throughout the region, invoice manipulation and customs fraud were often involved in the process of hawala financial reconciliations. Tunisia’s financial intelligence unit, the Tunisian Financial Analysis Commission (CTAF), is headed by the governor of the Central Bank and includes representatives from a range of other agencies. The Tunisian penal code provides for the seizure of assets and property tied to narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Tunisia participates in multinational efforts to counter terrorism, such as those at the UN, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and the AU. Tunisia is an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, a U.S. multi-year regional program aimed at building the capacity of governments in the Maghreb and Sahel to confront the threats posed by violent extremists. Tunisian authorities intensified their coordination on border security with Libyan and Algerian counterparts over this past year. The Prime Ministers of Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria met January 12 in the southwest Libyan town of Ghadames to discuss border security and agreed to hold regular meetings on the topic. Algeria’s cooperation with Tunisia on counterterrorism is particularly robust: an agreement between the two countries established military-to-military communications and a coordination committee in order to improve information sharing related to counterterrorism activities. The (former) Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jarandi conducted a two-day visit to Algeria on August 6-7, following the killings of eight soldiers in an ambush on Mount Chaambi, to expand security cooperation and intelligence coordination.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Tunisia is making concerted efforts to improve socioeconomic conditions in the country through economic development and education programs in order to counter radicalization and violence. It is working closely with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) on several programs designed to counter violent extremism. The programs, which include awareness campaigns, youth centers, and educational activities, seek to engage youth who are at risk of being recruited by violent extremist organizations.
Overview: The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and strengthened its international counterterrorism cooperation. Over the course of the year, the UAE government improved its border security measures and renewed its efforts to counter terrorist financing. The UAE and U.S. governments signed an agreement to establish a pre-clearance facility for travelers boarding direct flights to the United States at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Prominent officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The UAE government continued to make use of Federal Law No. 1 of 2004 on combating terrorism offenses which outlined terrorism-related offenses and corresponding punishments. The State Security Directorate in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai State Security share principal responsibility for counterterrorism functions. Specialized law enforcement units exist that have advanced investigations, crisis response, and border security capacity. These specialized units are properly equipped and supported with relevant training.
The UAE participated in the Megaports and Container Security Initiatives (CSI). The CSI, which became operational at Port Rashid and Jebel Ali Port in the emirate of Dubai in 2005, co-locates two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with the Dubai Customs Intelligence Unit at Port Rashid. On average, CSI reviewed approximately 250 bills of lading each week, resulting in about 25 non-intrusive inspections per month of U.S.-bound containers. Examinations were conducted jointly with Dubai Customs officers, who shared information on transshipments from high risk areas, including those originating in Iran.
In 2012, the UAE initiated the use of retina scanning devices at international airport arrival terminals. The process for determining who is subjected to the scans was unclear.
In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed two Memoranda of Cooperation (MOCs) to support the respective training academies of the UAE Ministry of Interior’s (federal) Immigration Authority and the Abu Dhabi (emirate-level) Customs Authority (ADCA) and to enhance capacity building of its police and customs authorities. The aforementioned MOCs remain in effect.
A critical challenge to the effectiveness of the UAE’s law enforcement, border security, and judicial systems is the country’s shortage of human capacity. These sectors are generally reserved for Emirati citizens, who compose only 11 percent of the country’s total population, making it structurally difficult to develop the country’s human resources to counter the full range of terrorist activities. Despite this, the UAE government remained vigilant in its overall counterterrorism pursuits.
U.S. training initiatives included post-blast investigation and evidence response team training, which were designed to provide the UAE with the ability to develop instructors who would then train UAE police departments.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and chairs the Task Force’s Training and Typologies Working Group. The UAE Central Bank’s (CBUAE) financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit (AMLSCU), is a member of the Egmont Group. The UAE continued efforts to strengthen its institutional capabilities to combat terrorist financing, but challenges remained with its enforcement of local and international law. The UAE’s last mutual evaluation report, in 2008, included a recommendation to amend the federal anti-money laundering (AML) law and increase dedicated resources available to the AMLSCU. The amended law has been in draft since 2010 and was reportedly in the final stages of drafting at year’s end. The amended Law conforms to the FATF Recommendations according to the AMLSCU. This law had not been passed by the end of 2013.
The Central Bank conducted AML training both locally and regionally, and expanded its cooperation with foreign FIUs. Exploitation by illicit actors of money transmitters including licensed exchange houses, hawalas; and trading firms acting as money transmitters, remained significant concerns. With an expatriate population comprising around 90 percent of the country’s residents, a significant amount of money flows out of the country in remittances. Since formal financial services are limited in large parts of many guest workers’ home countries, hawaladars are prevalent in the UAE. There were some indications that trade-based money laundering occurs in the UAE, including through the use of commodities as a means of reconciling accounts in hawala transactions or through trading companies, and that such activity might support sanctions evasion networks and terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.
The CBUAE promulgated new regulations in 2013 that made hawala registration mandatory instead of voluntary. This represents a significant step towards improved oversight of informal value transfers systems although concerns remain about CBUAE’s capacity to supervise the vast number of hawalas in the country. The United States and the UAE continued to work together to strengthen efforts to counter terrorist finance, including: training on cross-border Bulk Cash Smuggling and money laundering, which remain of significant concern; collaborative engagement with the local financial communities; and other bilateral government cooperation.
In 2012, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Legal Attaché established a sub-office at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai to assist with Counterterrorist Financing matters and to provide a viable means to enhance cooperation between the FBI and UAE.
While it issued updated guidance in 2013 regarding the compliance obligations of UAE banks under UN-based sanctions programs, CBUAE does not routinely distribute UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities to financial institutions. Terrorist organizations have used the UAE to send and receive financial support. Operational capability constraints and political considerations sometimes prevented the UAE government from immediately freezing and confiscating terrorist assets absent multilateral assistance. The UAE’s communication with the local financial community is largely driven by follow-up on suspicious transactions reports and close bilateral cooperation with partner governments.
Regional and International Cooperation: The UAE is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), and chaired the Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism with the UK. The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, known as Hedayah, was formally launched in Abu Dhabi on December 13-14, 2012, at the GCTF's Third Coordinating Committee and Ministerial meetings. The UAE is Hedayah’s permanent host, and in November 2013, the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan issued federal Law No. (7) of 2013 which officially established Hedayah.
The UAE government routinely invited participation from GCC countries at counterterrorism-related training sessions conducted by the FBI in the UAE.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: To prevent violent extremist preaching in UAE mosques, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments provided guidelines for all Friday sermons and monitored compliance. Abroad, the General Authority has trained cohorts of Afghan imams on preaching messages of non-violence and tolerance, a program they have conducted since 2010. During key periods of Muslim religious observance, especially the fasting month of Ramadan, the UAE government aired commercials on television warning its Muslim citizens and residents to refrain from donating money at mosques, as the funds could unknowingly go to support terrorist causes. The UAE worked to keep its education system free of violent extremist influences, and it emphasized social tolerance. Also, the UAE has a cybercrime law criminalizing the use of the internet by terrorist groups to “promote their ideologies and finance their activities." The UAE government repeatedly condemned terrorist acts in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.
Overview: The Government of Yemen struggled to maintain momentum against a resilient al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2013, while facing multiple challenges from former regime elements, southern secessionists, Houthi rebels, and tribal adversaries. The military and security restructuring process, intended to unify the command structure of the armed forces, remained incomplete, with front-line units often poorly trained or poorly equipped to counter the threat posed by AQAP. The Yemeni military did not undertake major counterterrorism operations through most of 2013; instead, they primarily assumed a defensive posture, while relying on small-scale operations, including air strikes and raids, in response to AQAP attacks.
AQAP is exploiting delays in the military restructuring process – an element of Yemen’s ongoing political transition – by targeting military and security installations across several governorates and ambushing checkpoints, in addition to assassinating and kidnapping military, security, and intelligence officials. Additionally, AQAP retaliated against pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees for their role in driving out AQAP from the southern governorates in 2012. AQAP attacks have also increased in complexity and brazenness, as exemplified by the December 5 attack on a hospital located within the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Sanaa. In that attack, portions of which were caught on internal security cameras, AQAP operatives calmly murdered hospital staff, convalescing patients, and visiting family members.
Despite these challenges, the Government of Yemen under President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi remained a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner in 2013. As part of the political transition agreement, President Hadi convened a National Dialogue Conference (NDC) on March 18, 2013, bringing together political parties, activists, women, and youth to develop recommendations for Yemen’s future and lay the groundwork for a new constitution. President Hadi supported U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and encouraged cooperation among the U.S. military and Yemen’s Special Operations Command and the Ministry of Interior’s Counterterrorism Unit. The U.S. military trained Yemeni counterterrorism units and advised efforts to restructure the Ministry of Defense. As part of these restructuring efforts, President Hadi dissolved the Republican Guard, effectively removing former president Saleh’s son as commander, and appointed Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar as senior advisor, removing him as head of the First Armored Division.
Yemeni government officials accused members of the southern movement (Hirak) of carrying out violent acts against the government. Senior military and security officials raised concern over Iranian assistance to Hirak, as well as over Iran’s role in supporting some armed Houthi groups in the north and fomenting sectarian and extremist violence.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP and AQAP-affiliated groups carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen, including suicide bombings, car bombings, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations by gunmen riding motorcycles. The following list is not exhaustive and details only a small fraction of the incidents recorded in 2013:
- On January 10, unknown gunmen ambushed and killed Sheikh Ali Abdullah Abdul Salam in Mahfid, in the Abyan Governorate. Sheikh Abdul Salam served as an intermediary between the Yemeni government and AQAP.
- On January 16, two unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles shot and killed the deputy security chief of the Dhamar Governorate, Brigadier General Abdullah al-Mushki, just south of Sanaa.
- On January 28, a suicide bomber affiliated with AQAP drove a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) into a checkpoint on the outskirts of Radaa, in the al-Bayda Governorate, killing 11 soldiers and wounding 17.
- On February 4, militants affiliated with the Yemen-based Ansar al-Sharia (designated as an alias for AQAP and separate from the Ansar al-Sharia groups in Benghazi, Darnah, and Tunisia), ambushed Yemeni troops in the Walad Rabi’a district of the al-Bayda Governorate, killing two soldiers and wounding three.
- On April 27, militants reportedly affiliated with AQAP attacked a checkpoint in Radaa, in the al-Bayda Governorate, killing five soldiers.
- On September 20, militants reportedly affiliated with AQAP detonated two car bombs at a military camp in al-Nashama, in the Shebwah Governorate, killing 21 soldiers. In a separate but related incident, armed gunmen attacked the police headquarters in Mayfaa, killing eight police. The attackers reportedly kidnapped several soldiers during the attack and escaped using stolen vehicles.
- On September 30, AQAP militants overran the Second Military Regional Command (2MRC) headquarters in Mukalla, Hadramaut Governorate, killing 10 soldiers. A suicide bomber detonated a VBIED outside of the 2MRC building at the onset of the attack. Armed gunmen, disguised in military uniforms, exchanged fire with soldiers before storming the 2MRC headquarters and taking hostages.
- On October 11, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a market in Yafaa, in the Lahj Governorate, wounding seven people.
- On November 26, unidentified gunmen shot two Belarusians working as private contractors in Sanaa, killing one. In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Colonel Ahmed Ismail al-Jahdary, director of training at the police academy in Sanaa.
- On December 5, militants affiliated with AQAP initiated a complex attack on the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Sanaa. Suicide bombers detonated two VBIEDs: the first to gain entry into the complex, and the second in front of the hospital. Attackers wearing military uniforms then entered the hospital and gunned down medical staff, patients, and visitors indiscriminately. The Yemeni government reported 57 people killed and hundreds wounded. Qasim al-Raymi, an AQAP military commander, later apologized for the attack on the hospital in a December 21 video statement, due to public outrage.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On September 17, the Yemeni parliament introduced a revision to the draft counterterrorism legislation that has been pending action since 2008. The revised law, if passed, would facilitate the detention of suspects and include mandatory sentencing for a number of terrorism-related crimes.
Although Yemeni courts tried dozens of suspected terrorists in 2013, many received light sentences due to the current legal framework for handling these cases. A number of government organizations were involved in countering acts of terrorism, including the National Security Bureau, the Political Security Organization, the Special Security Forces, and the Yemeni military.
Law enforcement units demonstrated limited capacity to detect, deter, or respond to terrorist incidents. There was sporadic interagency cooperation and coordination, and information-sharing was limited. The weakness of the judicial system with respect to terrorism-related crimes discouraged law enforcement officials.
Regarding border security, the security of Yemeni travel documents remained an acute vulnerability due to pervasive corruption. Yemen possessed biographic and biometric screening capabilities at 26 ports of entry (eight airports, six land border stations, and 12 seaports) through the adoption of the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s (TIP) Personal Identification Secure Comparison Evaluation System (PISCES). Yemen’s Immigration, Passport, and Nationality Administration has managed and operated PISCES since 2002.
Yemen continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. In 2013, the ATA program had a broad number of strategic objectives, including protecting senior leaders from terrorist attacks, enhancing investigative capacity, strengthening border security capacity, and improving law enforcement officers’ leadership and management skills.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Yemen is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and enacted its first comprehensive anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law in 2010. Since February 2010, Yemen has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies, and Yemen has committed to an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. In October 2013, the FATF noted the country’s progress but urged the authorities to focus on adequately criminalizing money laundering and terrorist financing and establishing and implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.
In 2012 and 2013, the financial intelligence unit (FIU) participated in training to enhance its operational capacity. Yemen has a cross-border cash declaration or disclosure requirement for cash amounts over US $15,000. The FIU and Tax Authority have increased coordination in reporting and investigating suspicious quantities of cash at ports of entry. There are approximately 530 registered money exchange businesses in Yemen. Money transfer businesses are required to register with the Central Bank of Yemen and can open offices at multiple locations. Yemen has a large underground economy. Yemeni legislation does not allow for the forfeiture of terrorist assets.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm
Regional and International Cooperation: Yemen continued to cooperate with and be advised by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United States, and Jordan, with respect to its military restructuring plan. In April, Yemen also hosted the first Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum to coordinate counterterrorism capacity building with Djibouti and Somalia.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: President Hadi and other senior officials stressed the importance of countering terrorism by addressing the conditions that terrorists exploit. The Yemeni government expressed support for a rehabilitation and reintegration program for violent extremists, similar to the Mohammed bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care in Saudi Arabia. Yemeni officials explored the idea with the UN’s Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), which is leading a major international initiative in this area. In August 2013, UNICRI established a Steering Group that included the United States to assist the Yemeni government in establishing this type of program.
Sources: U.S. Department of State