The Near East region remained a primary theater for terrorist activity in 2014, with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) exploiting and exacerbating the ongoing conflict in Syria and instability in Iraq to seize contiguous territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria for a self-declared Islamic caliphate. Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its affiliates continued to seek and take advantage of opportunities to conduct operations amidst this fragile political and security climate, including in Yemen, Syria, and North Africa.
- ** Iran **
- Israel (incl. West Bank & Gaza)
- Saudi Arabia
- ** Syria **
- United Arab Emirates
**- Designated as State Sponsor of Terrorism
In Libya, civil conflict, the proliferation of armed groups, and the breakdown of government functions provided space and safe haven for terrorist groups. Libya’s non-existent security institutions, coupled with ready access to loose weapons and porous borders provided violent extremists with significant opportunities to act and plan operations. There were indications that ISIL affiliates were active in Libya in 2014.
Expanding ISIL presence and operational activity in both Iraq and Syria further challenged the stability of both states. Iraqi security forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, in conjunction with Iranian-backed Shia militias, demonstrated some ability to confront this challenge. Global Coalition to Counter ISIL airstrikes stopped ISIL’s initial advance in Iraq, degraded its leadership, and targeted the group’s energy infrastructure. Aggressive pushes by ISIL into central and northern Iraq, as well as central and northern Syria, however, significantly challenged the capabilities of local partners to check ISIL advances. Syria was also a key theater for AQ regional activity, with al-Nusrah Front’s presence and activities threatening the Syrian opposition, Syrian civilians, and other states in the region. While Shia militias have declared opposition to the return of U.S. troops to Iraq and have threatened attacks, they refrained from launching strikes against U.S. personnel in 2014.
Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. In 2014, AQIM and its affiliates staged separate large-scale attacks against Algerian and Tunisian security forces near the terrorist group’s stronghold in the Chaambi Mountain region that straddles the two countries in April and July respectively. In addition, AQIM increased its coordination with Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia, partly as a result of the safe haven both groups found in an increasingly chaotic Libya. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against security services across the Trans-Sahara region.
The Government of Yemen continued its fight against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), although struggled in this effort in the latter half of the year due to political instability brought on by the armed Houthi movement, who forcefully took control of the government in the fourth quarter of the year. AQAP continued to exhibit its capability by targeting government installations and Yemeni security and intelligence officials, and increasing attacks against and clashes with the Houthis. AQAP used its social media presence and online Inspire magazine to encourage lone offender attacks and released instructions for a non-metallic explosive device designed to bypass airport security barriers. President Hadi and other government officials continued to support U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, and encouraged greater cooperation between U.S. and Yemeni counterterrorism forces. This report solely focuses on 2014 and does not address the dynamics that have unfolded in Yemen in 2015.
The Egyptian government continued to confront terrorist groups Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM) and Ajnad Misr, which conducted numerous deadly attacks on government and military targets in the Sinai Peninsula, Cairo, and the western desert; and increasing insecurity along Egypt’s extensive border with Libya.
Israel’s tenuous ceasefire with Hamas broke down in July 2014, culminating with the July-August Gaza conflict between Israel and militant groups in Gaza. Thriving smuggling activity through tunnels along the Gaza-Sinai border region was ultimately severely restricted by persistent counterterrorism activity by Egyptian forces in the Sinai who subsequently created a kilometer-wide buffer zone along the Gaza border.
In 2014, 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.
Overview: Algeria remained a key partner in global counterterrorism efforts. Its military forces and multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security services with clearly delineated responsibilities addressed counterterrorism; these include the various branches of the Joint Staff, the National Gendarmerie (GN), the Border Guards, and the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS), all operating under the Ministry of National Defense (MND), as well as the national police, or General Directorate of National Security, under the Ministry of Interior. The Government of Algeria continued an aggressive campaign to eliminate all terrorist activity, and it sustained policing efforts to thwart terrorist activity in the capital and other major urban centers. Military forces and security services, primarily the GN, operating under the MND, conducted regular search operations for terrorists in the mountainous Kabylie area, east of Algiers, and in the expansive desert regions in the southeast.
Within Algeria, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitoun, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, remained active terrorist threats. AQIM’s leader, Abdelmalik Droukdel, and Belmokhtar, both Algerian nationals, remained a threat and were at-large in the region at year’s end. These groups aspired to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests. AQIM continued attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes. The terrorist group Jund al-Khilafa fi Ard al-Jazayer (JAK, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), emerged in 2014 following a split from AQIM, and swore allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
There is a high threat of kidnapping, primarily in the mountainous areas east of Algiers and in the expansive desert regions near Algeria’s southern border. The Algerian government maintained – and advocated that others should also maintain – a strict “no concessions” policy with regard to terrorist groups holding its citizens hostage.
Rising regional political and security instability contributed to the terrorist threat to Algeria. Violent extremist groups and criminal networks in the Sahel attempted to operate around Algeria’s nearly 4,000 miles of borders. The threat of retaliatory attacks in response to international military intervention in Mali since 2013, weapons smuggled out of Libya or Tunisia, and human and narcotics trafficking were key external threats and made regional coordination on border security a necessity. The Algerian government frequently cited links between terrorist activity, organized crime, and narco-traffickers in the Maghreb and Sahel.
Algerian government officials and Muslim religious and political leaders publicly condemned ISIL and criticized acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. In September, the Algerian government underscored the potential risk from ISIL infiltration at a meeting of the High Council on Security (chaired by President Bouteflika with high-level civil, military, and security officials). To build trust and resilience among communities, the government has in place a development plan and a comprehensive national reconciliation policy. It provided social services and family outreach mechanisms to integrate at-risk youth and prevent marginalization, thus reducing the risk of travel to conflict zones for the purposes of joining terrorist activities.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: On April 19, terrorists attacked an Algerian military convoy in Tizi Ouzou province, killing 11 soldiers, and wounding five. AQIM claimed responsibility for the ambush. The Algerian government observed that AQIM’s Ramadan offensive in 2014 was significantly reduced relative to the past decade. On September 21-24, JAK-A abducted and beheaded a French citizen, Hervé Gourdel, in the Kabylie region, east of Algiers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:The Algerian government continued its decade-long push to increase the strength of its military and security forces and to professionalize and modernize them. Following restructuring in September 2013, a June 2014 presidential decree restored some judicial police authority to the DRS, Algeria’s intelligence service. It created a new Judicial Investigation Service under the jurisdiction of both the DRS and the general prosecutor of the court of appeal’s criminal division. A public decree related to DRS affairs could be considered an attempt to bring more transparency to the institution’s functioning.
The Algerian government underscored that border security remained a top priority to guard against the infiltration of smugglers and terrorists from neighboring countries. In September, President Bouteflika convened a meeting of the High Council on Security to increase border security, expand search operations to detect and disrupt terrorist activity, increase troops in southern Algeria, and strengthen coordination with neighboring countries on border security. Measures included increased border security, among them closed military border areas, new observer posts in the east, reinforced protection of energy installations, additional permanent facilities for border control management, new aerial-based surveillance technologies, upgrades to communication systems, and additional troops deployed on the borders with Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, and Morocco. Algerian law enforcement and armed forces increased security cooperation with Tunisian counterparts to reduce the flow of arms. Border security measures included new joint checkpoints and patrols along the frontiers, information sharing, and training and equipment programs.
The Government of Algeria closely monitored passenger manifests for inbound and outbound flights and scrutinized travel documents of visitors, but did not fingerprint them. Algeria employed biometric screening systems to identify suspect travelers, undertook training, and was equipped to recognize fraudulent documents. The Government of Algeria used Interpol channels, alerts, and fusion notices to stay informed on suspicious travelers at land, air, and maritime borders.
Algerian security forces made a number of arrests in 2014. Official and private sector press announced trials for at least 50 suspected terrorists charged with support for or membership in a terrorist organization, kidnapping for ransom, attacks on security forces, and fake checkpoints. Human rights organizations believed there was overuse of pretrial detention by judges and magistrates. Media sources reported on the police’s excessive use of force resulting in alleged injuries and arrests in both legal and illegal protests. Law enforcement actions included:
- On May 5, Algerian army forces launched a counterterrorist operation near Tin-Zaouatine (Tamanrasset province), on the southern border with Mali. The MND reported a dozen terrorists were killed. According to a Council of Ministers communique, the nationalities of those killed were Malian, Tunisian, and Libyan.
- On August 30, the Algerian government announced that it secured the release without ransom payment of two Algerian diplomats who were kidnapped in 2012 in Mali by MUJAO.
- On November 26, the Minister of Justice confirmed that security forces had killed in October a JAK member involved in the Gourdel kidnapping. The Justice Minister announced December 23 that security forces killed the leader of JAK, Abdelmalek Gouri, along with two other perpetrators of the Gourdel kidnapping and murder.
To enhance its capacity to deal effectively with security challenges within its borders and defend against threats to regional stability, Algerian law enforcement agencies participated in Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program trainings to enhance investigative and screening capacities, border security, prevent terrorist transit or operations, and build response capacity to critical incidents. The Algerian government sent an interagency mix of officers to U.S. government-sponsored programs. In August, the State Department delivered a Regional Border Control Management course for security officials from Algeria, Niger, and Tunisia. The U.S. DOJ International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) focused on capacity-building consultations with Algeria and mentoring in forensics, border security, criminal investigation, and evidence collection at crime scenes.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism:Algeria 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 is also a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, an informal network of financial intelligence units.
Algeria continued its work on drafting revisions to various portions of its anti-money laundering/counterterrorist finance (AML/CFT) statutory scheme, including amending the Penal Code effective February 16, 2014 to bring the definition of a terrorist act into accordance with international standards, and has made progress. It will take time, however, to determine whether the laws enacted are being actively and evenly implemented. Algerian authorities are working on further revisions to the penal code dealing with AML/CFT with respect to terrorist finance and freezing of terrorist assets. The decree 13-318 of September 16, 2013 addresses how to identify, locate, and freeze the funds or property of terrorists, but needs revisions to make it compliant with international standards.
The Algerian law enforcement services collaborated with the United States on several workshops that addressed terrorist financing including workshops to dismantle complex criminal organizations and terrorist financial networks.
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 increased diplomatic efforts to fight terrorism in the region in 2014, while maintaining its non-interventionist military policy. It facilitated an inclusive national dialogue for Malian groups and officials, regional partners, and hosted talks among the stakeholders to help reach political resolutions, in coordination with the UN. Algeria also strongly supports UN efforts for a political solution in Libya.
Algeria is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and co-chair of GCTF’s Sahel Region Capacity Building Working Group (SWG). In June, Algeria joined regional partners and international organizations to found the International Institute for Justice and Rule of Law (IIJ). Algeria continued to play a leadership role in the GCTF’s efforts to raise awareness among governments to prevent the payment of ransoms to terrorist organizations. As co-chair of the GCTF’s SWG, Algeria continued to champion the implementation and development of the Algiers Memorandum on Good Practices on Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists. In October, Algeria, Canada, and the United States co-sponsored the first in a series of GCTF Kidnapping for Ransom technical workshops at the IIJ.
While Morocco and Algeria both participated in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, the IIJ, and the GCTF, the level of their bilateral counterterrorism cooperation did not improve in 2014. Algeria and Morocco’s political disagreement over the Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation.
When the UNSC adopted Resolution 2178 condemning foreign terrorist fighters, Algeria expressed publicly its support for the measure and commitment to the UN’s Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Algeria recalled its prior experience with returning foreign fighters from Afghanistan in the 1990s and the need to address the phenomenon comprehensively. In November, Algeria sent an interagency delegation to Brussels for the regional conference on foreign terrorist fighters that was jointly organized by the Swiss Confederation and the EU. In December, Algerian officials participated in the GCTF Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group meeting in Marrakech. Algeria also attended a December meeting of the IIJ and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate on challenges regarding evidence collection and the ability to effectively prosecute cases involving foreign terrorist fighters.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) expanded international outreach efforts, including a cooperation agreement with the French Ministry of Interior. France will broadcast monthly the Friday prayer from the Grand Mosque of Paris on Algerian television and will welcome in France visiting Algerian imams who profess their views of a balanced and tolerant Islam and respect for the citizen and secularism.
Algeria is home to Regional Command for Joint Counter Terrorism Operations (CEMOC’s) Liaison and Fusion Center for information sharing and hosts the AU’s African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism. Algeria also participated in the G-5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso) and the Nouakchott Process on the Enhancement of Security Cooperation and the Operationalization of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Algeria worked with the EU on its European Neighborhood Police initiative and the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.
Algeria actively participated in the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Western Mediterranean. In October, it hosted a meeting on the 20th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s Mediterranean Dialogue to discuss security challenges in the region. Algeria is a delegate for the African region on the Interpol Executive Board and in February, agreed to host the headquarters of AFRIPOL, a pan-African organization that fosters police training and cooperation in response to security threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and cybercrime.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:The Government of Algeria underscored the value of state oversight for religious education, including the training of imams, the content of prayers, and credentialing imams in a way that promotes tolerance and sensitizes the religious leaders to the risks of using religion for political objectives. The Algerian government appointed, trained, and paid the salaries of imams. The penal code outlined punishments, including fines and prison sentences, for anyone other than a government-designated imam who preaches in a mosque. The Algerian government monitored mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibited the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) warned Algerians against foreign extremist trends (e.g. ISIL, Wahhabism) and heeding to fatwas (judicial rulings) that originate outside Algeria. The Religious Affairs Minister submitted a proposal to the Presidency for the creation of an Academy of fatwa in Algeria to include university teachers and Ulema in different fields. Official press noted this religious institution will have the authority to take legal action against unfounded fatwa promulgation and the Academy’s religious scholars will inform society on the criteria for issuing fatwa.
Under the 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, Algeria offers amnesty to former terrorists who laid down their weapons, and disavowed violence, exceptions being perpetrators of particularly egregious acts, such as rape, murder, and bombings. The Charter works through offices located nation-wide that extend judicial assistance and social and job reintegration measures to repentant terrorists, victims of terrorism, and families of terrorists. The President of the Judicial Unit confirmed a total of 9,000 terrorists – repentant prisoners and members of terrorist support networks – were pardoned under the Charter since its inception.
Overview: The Bahraini government continued to increase efforts to detect, neutralize, and contain terrorist threats in 2014. Some groups’ use of real and fake improvised explosive devices remained a threat to security services, resulting in the death of at least five police officers. The Government of Bahrain also began to implement tougher counterterrorism laws that the legislature approved during the first half of the year. Peaceful opposition groups and some international observers expressed their concern at the scope of the new laws, which they say could easily be used to hinder peaceful opposition activity as well as terrorism. The inability of the government and political opposition to reach an agreement on political reforms threatened to fuel further domestic unrest, upon which violent opposition groups could seek to capitalize.
The Government of Bahrain has supported the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and on November 9 hosted an international conference on countering ISIL’s financing. The Bahraini government welcomed UN Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178. Bahraini leaders have publicly condemned ISIL’s activities, ideology, and recruitment, while the government has worked to detect, counter, and discourage domestic ISIL recruitment and extremist messaging. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) has arrested and charged, or stripped the citizenship of some Bahrainis suspected of supporting ISIL, and in March it called on all Bahrainis fighting in Iraq and Syria to return to Bahrain or face prosecution.
2014 Terrorist Incidents:
- On February 15, a policeman was killed and three others were injured after a homemade bomb detonated in Al-Dair.
- On March 2, a policeman was injured after a homemade bomb detonated in East Eker.
- On March 3, a homemade bomb exploded in al-Daih, killing two local policemen and one officer from the United Arab Emirates.
- On March 22, a policeman was injured after a homemade bomb detonated in Sitra.
- On July 4, a homemade bomb detonated in East Eker, killing a police officer.
- On July 27, three policemen were injured when a homemade bomb exploded in Al-Dair.
- On December 9, a homemade bomb exploded on December 9 in Dumistan, killing a policeman.
- On December 10, a civilian was killed by a homemade bomb that exploded in Karzakan.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:Throughout 2014 Bahrain bolstered existing counterterrorism laws and criminal penalties. Bahrain’s legislature approved and the government promulgated a series of royal decrees issued during the second half of 2013 increasing penalties for terrorism-related crimes and expanding counterterrorism finance regulations. Terrorism-related acts, a broadly-defined category, are treated as criminal cases, with prescribed penalties spelled out in the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2006 and Articles 155 and 168 of the Penal Code. There were concerns that the government used counterterrorism laws to prosecute or harass individuals for their criticism of the government.
The MOI is the lead government agency regarding the detection and prevention of acts of terrorism and the arrest of suspects in terrorist-related acts, with the Bahrain National Security Agency providing support. The Bahraini Coast Guard also contributed to the counterterrorism mission by monitoring and interdicting the seaborne movement of weapons and terrorists into and out of the country. The major deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security remained the lack of interagency coordination and limited training opportunities to develop requisite law enforcement skills.
Bahrain has participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 1987, and assistance in 2014 focused on developing the capacity to investigate and respond to terrorists’ use of explosives. Leahy vetting challenges, however, prompted the cancellation of nearly all planned ATA courses in 2014. The U.S. Embassy was able to assist with the delivery of an ATA K9 Train the Trainer course that graduated two trainers and eight trainees, but as a result of a general lack of training and antiquated investigative methods and technologies, the MOI Police Force’s progress in areas of counterterrorism and criminal investigation has slowed.
On January 4, an MOI explosives team defused a bomb placed on a busy commercial street in central Manama. On March 16, an MOI explosives team defused a gas cylinder bomb located in a vehicle along a busy public road in central Manama.
Notable prosecutions included:
- On April 28, a court handed down life sentences to eight individuals convicted of killing a police officer (and injuring five others) in a September 2013 bomb attack on a police patrol.
- On May 11, a court sentenced six Bahraini to life in prison for planting an explosive device that killed a civilian in 2013.
- On July 17, a court sentenced three men to prison terms ranging from five years to life for forming a terrorist cell and detonating a bomb in 2013 in Budaiya.
- On August 6, a court sentenced nine Bahrainis to up to 15 years in prison and stripped their citizenship for establishing a terrorist cell, possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition, receiving militia training, and smuggling weapons.
- On August 13, a court sentenced fourteen individuals to a range of prison terms for their involvement in an explosion in July 2013 that killed a policeman.
- On September 29, a court sentenced nine individuals to life imprisonment and stripped their citizenship for smuggling weapons and explosives into Bahrain.
- On November 21, a court sentenced three men to 10 years in prison and stripped them of their Bahraini citizenship for their involvement in an August 2013 explosion in Eker.
- On December 30, two individuals were sentenced to death for their role in an explosion on February 14 that killed a policeman.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism:Bahrain is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and its financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Bahrain is an important regional financial hub, which makes it vulnerable to the large amounts of money flowing through the Gulf region to support various terrorist and violent extremist groups. The Bahraini government did not provide information on prosecutions. In November, Bahrain hosted an international seminar on countering the financing of terrorism. 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.
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: In 2014, the Egyptian government continued to confront active terrorist groups, which conducted deadly attacks on government and military targets throughout the country. The two primary terrorist groups operating in Egypt are Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM) and Ajnad Misr. ABM, a Sinai-based group, swore allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on November 3. While ABM is most active in the Sinai, it has demonstrated a capability to conduct attacks throughout Egypt, including in Cairo. Ajnad Misr is a Cairo-based terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in downtown Cairo and focuses primarily on government and security targets.
In June, former head of the Egyptian Armed Forces ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi was elected president, replacing an interim government that had taken over following the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi from office in July 2013. President al-Sisi has focused intently on counterterrorism in Egypt, and he made counterterrorism issues one of the pillars of his first speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2014. Under President al-Sisi’s authority, the Egyptian military and security forces continued to aggressively pursue counterterrorism initiatives, particularly in the Sinai. Some political opposition groups claim that the Egyptian government’s counterterrorism initiatives, while intended to target terrorist groups, have also had the effect of constraining their activities.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the MB-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and NGOs affiliated with the MB were outlawed in 2014. The Egyptian government designated the MB as a terrorist organization in December 2013 and the High Administrative Court dissolved the FJP on August 9, 2014. On October 30, the government also declared illegal the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which is an informal political advocacy coalition led primarily by MB supporters. These designations have enabled widespread crackdown on MB and its affiliated organizations, including mass arrests by the government and often severe sentences from the judiciary in mass trials.
Egypt joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, provided it with logistical and political support, and backed its line-of-effort to “expose ISIL’s true nature.” Egypt acknowledges the threat of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to fight with ISIL in Syria and returning to Egypt. Throughout the year, authorities required citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 to obtain permission to travel to Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. Additionally, on December 6, authorities began requiring official permission for travel to Qatar and Turkey. The government stated that these regulations are intended to make it more difficult for citizens to join terrorist groups, such as ISIL, in Iraq and Syria.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and prominent Egyptian religious leaders, such as al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb and Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Allam, have repeatedly publicly condemned ISIL and its actions, while also making unhelpful remarks about the origins of ISIL. In early December, as part of Egypt’s contribution to counter-ISIL messaging, al-Tayyeb hosted a two-day conference with dozens of Egyptian and international religious scholars, aiming to discredit the theological basis of ISIL’s use of “jihad,” “caliphate,” and “kufr (infidelity to Islam),” and to promote coexistence between Muslims and Christians.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: Noteworthy incidents included:
- On January 24, a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) detonated at the Cairo Security Directorate building in Cairo, killing five people and injuring dozens of others. The VBIED ripped the façade off of the building, and partially destroyed the nearby Islamic Museum. ABM issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
- On January 25, assailants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter near Shaykh Zuwayd, killing all five soldiers on board. ABM released a video on YouTube several days later showing the attack.
- On February 16, a suicide bomber detonated a suicide belt on a tourist bus in Taba, killing three South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver, and wounding several others. ABM issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
- On April 2, two improvised explosive devices concealed in a tree detonated near Cairo University in Giza, killing a police brigadier general and wounding five other police officers. Ajnad Misr released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
- On July 14, assailants on Egyptian territory fired a salvo of rockets at Eilat, Israel; which wounded multiple Israelis. ABM publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On July 19, assailants used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine guns to attack an Egyptian military checkpoint near the al-Farafra Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert. The attack killed 22 Egyptian border guard personnel and wounded several others.
- On August 6, assailants carjacked and killed a U.S. citizen oil worker on the road to the al-Karama Petroleum Field in the Western Desert. On November 30, ABM claimed responsibility for the attack via a statement on Twitter.
- On August 18, assailants kidnapped and beheaded four civilians in Shaykh Zuwayd. ABM released a video showing the four hostages allegedly confessing to spying for Israel.
- On October 24, assailants attacked a military checkpoint near Shaykh Zuwayd in a two-phased attack involving a suicide VBIED followed by RPGs and small arms fire. The assailants killed 30 Egyptian troops and wounded dozens more. ABM released a video of the attack and claimed responsibility for it.
- On November 12, assailants hijacked an Egyptian Navy guided missile craft in Damietta. Egyptian military aircraft engaged the attackers, destroying the boat and killing the crew.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:The new Egyptian Constitution passed following a public referendum in January 2014. Article 237 specifically addresses terrorism, stating that Egypt “commits to fighting all types and forms of terrorism and tracking its sources of funding within a specific time frame…” Egypt’s penal code includes an extensive counterterrorism legal framework, primarily under Part 2, Section 1, Article 86, which defines terrorism in expansive terms that include peaceful protests. Additionally, subsequent sections define a variety of offenses and penalties for those who engage in terrorist activities and provide incentives for cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist organizations. Despite having counterterrorism as its stated primary purpose, Egyptian counterterrorism legislation has had an intimidating effect on NGO operations.
The November 2014 draft of the Terrorist Entities Law also defines a “terrorist entity” in broad terms that human rights groups are concerned could be applied to civil society. However, it does give designated groups the right to appeal their designation through judicial review. The draft law also gives Egyptian authorities the power to freeze a designated group’s assets and to arrest its members.
The Ministry of Interior’s National Security Sector (NSS) is primarily responsible for counterterrorism functions in Egypt, but it also works with other elements of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, and the Egyptian armed forces. There is adequate interagency cooperation and information sharing among the various counterterrorism elements within the Egyptian government.
Egypt continues to take actions to improve its border security measures. At border crossings and airports, Egyptian authorities check for the presence of known security features within travel documents, such as micro-printing, UV features, and digit schemes. They also scan and cross reference documents with criminal databases that alert them when there is derogatory information present. Egypt maintains a terrorist watch list with a simple listing provided to Egyptian immigration officials at the ports of entry and detailed information maintained within the NSS.
Egypt’s primary physical border security concerns are along the borders with Gaza and Libya. Following a series of terrorist attacks in northern Sinai, Egypt destroyed underground tunnels that connected Gaza and Sinai and is in the process of building an up-to-five kilometer buffer zone along the border with Gaza. Egypt also increased its military presence along the Libya border, but continues to face challenges with policing the 715 miles.
Egyptian law enforcement and security personnel achieved some limited successes in battling terrorists in its territory in 2014. In April, Egyptian authorities arrested Thirwat Salah Shihata, one of al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s top deputies, in a Cairo suburb. In September, the MOI killed seven ABM terrorists in Ain Sukhna, who were accused of assassinating 44 civilian, security, and armed forces personnel, including an American citizen. On December 21, government entities raided a farm located in Husainiya Sharqiia, killing one security official and five ABM members. In this operation, security officials confiscated weapons, explosives, and explosive materials, including a VBIED, which was later control-detonated by security forces. Additionally, the MOI killed the alleged leader of ABM’s Cairo Branch, Mohamed Rabie Mohamed Younis.
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. On May 15, the Government of Egypt issued an amendment (Presidential Decree Law no. 36) to Law no. 80 of 2002, which modernized Egypt’s Anti-Money Laundering-Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) Law and provided the necessary legal framework for Egypt to implement key FATF standards. Among other improvements, the law criminalizes the willful collection and provision of funds for terrorist purposes and addresses previous deficiencies with regard to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373. To reflect Egypt’s increased emphasis on CFT, this law changed the name of Egypt’s Financial Intelligence Unit from the Money Laundering Combating Unit to the Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Combating Unit. Additionally, a statute proposed in November 2014 gives the government clear legal authority to designate groups as terrorist organizations, and allows the government to freeze their assets and money. 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:Within the UN, Egypt participated in a Sixth Committee (Legal) session in October that sought to draft a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. Speaking on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Egypt representative denounced terrorist atrocities, condemned attempts to link terrorism with Islam, and advocated a coordinated approach by the international community to combat terrorism. Egypt is also an active participant in the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), co-chairing (along with the U.S.) the Criminal Justice and Rule of Law Working Group. In June, Egypt was re-instated into the AU, following an almost one-year suspension after the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi. In his speech at the AU’s Heads of State meeting in June, President Sisi reinforced the need for cooperation among AU members to combat terrorism.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:The Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) is legally responsible for issuing guidance to which all imams throughout Egypt are required to adhere, including weekly instructions on a provided theme that aims to prevent extremist language in sermons. Al-Azhar University cooperated with international programs to help train imams to promote tolerance and non-violence, interfaith cooperation, and human rights. The Ministry of Islamic Endowments is also required to license all mosques in Egypt; however, many continued to operate without licenses. The government has the authority to appoint and monitor the imams who lead prayers in licensed mosques, and the government pays their salaries.
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hezbollah, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This year, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia militias, one of which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), in response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) incursion into Iraq, and has continued to support other militia groups in the region. Iran also attempted to smuggle weapons to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. While its main effort focused on supporting goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) 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 Lebanese Hezbollah, its primary beneficiary, and as a key pillar in its “resistance” front. In 2014, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of primarily Iraqi Shia and Afghan fighters to support the Asad regime’s brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 191,000 people in Syria, according to August UN estimates. Iran publicly admits to sending members of the IRGC to Syria in an advisory role. There is consistent media reporting that some of these troops are IRGC-QF members and that they have taken part in direct combat operations. While Tehran has denied that IRGC-QF personnel participate in combat operations, in 2014 it acknowledged the deaths in Syria of two senior officers (Brigadier Generals Abdullah Eskandari and Jamar Dariswali). Tehran claimed they were volunteers who lost their lives while protecting holy shrines near Damascus.
Likewise in Iraq, despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran increased training and funding to Iraqi Shia militia groups in response to ISIL’s advance into Iraq. Many of these groups, such as Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), have exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq and have committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Lebanese 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 (IED) technology and other advanced weaponry. Similar to Hezbollah fighters, many of these trained Shia militants have used these skills to fight for the Asad regime in Syria or against ISIL in Iraq.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deaths from attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank. Although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war, in a November 25 speech, Supreme Leader Khamenei highlighted Iran’s military support to “Palestinian brothers” in Gaza and called for the West Bank to be similarly armed. In December, Hamas Deputy Leader Moussa Abu Marzouk announced bilateral relations with Iran and Hamas were “back on track.”
In March, Israeli naval forces boarded the Klos C cargo ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Sudan. On board, they found 40 M-302 rockets, 180 mortars, and approximately 400,000 rounds of ammunition hidden within crates of cement labeled “Made in Iran” and believed to be destined to militants in the region.
Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Lebanese Hezbollah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC Aerospace Force stated in November that "The IRGC and Hezbollah are a single apparatus jointed together," and Lebanese Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem boasted that Iran had provided his organization with missiles that had “pinpoint accuracy” in separate November public remarks. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. These trained fighters have used these skills in direct support of the Asad regime in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in support of operations against ISIL in Iraq. They have also continued to carry out attacks along the Lebanese border with Israel.
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 previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.
Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, coordinated by the EU), and Iran began on January 20, 2014. Iran has fulfilled the commitments that it made under the JPOA. The parties negotiated during 2014 to pursue a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to achieve a long-term comprehensive solution to restore confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful.
Overview:Iraq witnessed a significant surge of terrorist activity in 2014, primarily as a result of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) seizure of large areas of the country. The resulting security vacuum and humanitarian crisis presented new challenges to the Iraqi government and exacerbated existing ethno-sectarian grievances. Building on military victories in Syria, in January 2014 ISIL captured the city of Fallujah in Anbar Province. On June 7, fighting erupted between ISIL, allied groups, and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Mosul, the capital of Ninewa Province and Iraq’s second largest city. Within a week, ISIL had seized control of the city and began using its significant business, industrial, and energy resources to fund its operations. ISIL formations moved south from Mosul through the Tigris Valley in June, seizing multiple cities and putting to flight several Iraqi Army divisions. Outside Tikrit, ISIL terrorists captured nearly 1,700 Iraqi Air Force recruits and executed many of the captives, posting the slaughter on YouTube. Nearby, ISIL surrounded the Bayji refinery – beginning a siege that would last five months. On August 2, ISIL invaded the Sinjar district causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee, tens of thousands of whom were forced to seek refuge and became trapped on Mt. Sinjar when they were unable to reach safety ahead of ISIL’s advance. In response, President Obama ordered four initiatives to gather information and help the Iraqis counter the ISIL threat, and on August 8, U.S. airstrikes against ISIL targets began in response to the group’s advance toward Erbil. In mid-September, the United States took the lead in forming the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, uniting over 60 countries in the effort.
After a general election on April 30, Iraq began a four-month government formation process, resulting in the August 11 selection of Haider al-Abadi as the next Iraqi prime minister. Prime Minister Abadi assumed office on September 8, and in October, Abadi secured the appointment of a full cabinet for the first time since 2010, including Defense and Interior Ministers. Throughout the latter part of 2014, the Iraqi government worked to implement its National Program, which includes a number of initiatives to ease ethno-sectarian tensions. It engaged with tribes fighting against ISIL and began to recruit a force composed of Sunni tribal units that could eventually be subsumed into the proposed National Guard. In addition, the Abadi administration reached an agreement in December with the Kurds on oil exports and revenue sharing. Looking forward to the needs of areas liberated from ISIL control, PM Abadi called for international assistance during the Global Coalition’s first ministerial in Brussels on December 3, as well as in the January meeting of the Small Group in London.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist groups significantly increased the number of attacks throughout the country in 2014. Most notably, ISIL’s rapid acquisition of abandoned ISF military equipment in the course of fighting from January onward gave ISIL greater capabilities in line with a more conventional military force, including the reported use of tanks, artillery, and unmanned aerial drones. According to estimates from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), acts of terrorism and violence killed more than 10,000 civilians and injured more than 17,000 in 2014. ISIL’s unsparing brutality affected many lives. Following is an illustrative sample that highlights only a small number of the most egregious practices:
- On January 15, an improvised explosive device explosion at a funeral in Diyala province killed thirteen civilians and wounded eighteen.
- In February, ISIL militants surrounded a police encampment near a stadium construction site in the town of Tuz Khurmatu. ISIL gathered six policemen, asked if they were Shia or Sunni, and then shot and killed the men after their prayer ritual indicated they were not Sunni.
- In June, ISIL attacked an Iraqi military base, formerly known as Camp Speicher, in Salah ad Din, killing as many as 1,700 cadets and soldiers.
- On July 27, ISIL destroyed the tombs of Sufi sheikhs in the al-Rawtha al-Muhamadiya Mosque in Muthanna District in eastern Mosul.
- On August 2-3, ISIL forces invaded Sinjar district. Hundreds of Yezidis (predominantly men) were killed and thousands fled to Mt Sinjar or the Iraqi Kurdish Region. In the course of the fighting and in subsequent days, an estimated 5,000 Yezidis (including approximately 4,000 women and children) were taken captive.
- On August 15, in Kocho (var. Kojo), media and eyewitnesses reported that as many as several hundred Yezidi male captives were killed.
- On August 31, ISIL executed 19 Sunnis in Saadiya for not pledging allegiance to ISIL.
- On September 3, ISIL abducted two former Iraqi Army officers and four civilians from Gheda village in Daquq area, Kirkuk.
- On October 13, approximately 33 people were killed in three attacks in Baghdad as Shia Muslims celebrated Eid al-Ghadir.
- On November 3, media reports indicated ISIL forces had massacred more than 300 members of the Abu Nimr tribe in Iraq’s western province of al Anbar.
- On December 10, there were reports in Mosul that ISIL had punished a homosexual man by throwing him from a rooftop and stoning him to death.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:In 2014, ISIL’s existential threat to Iraq forced the central government to focus entirely on the campaign to defeat it. ISIL offensives significantly degraded Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) capability, manpower, and equipment. The Government of Iraq suffered attrition across its national security apparatus, especially in the Iraqi Army and Federal and local police, and worked with the Coalition to address training and equipping shortfalls. In addition, Prime Minister Abadi’s National Plan specifically pledged to strengthen border security and improve law enforcement, among other areas.
Iraq adopted the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) in an effort to secure borders and identify fraudulent travel documents. The Government of Iraq has the capability to conduct biographic screening at multiple land and air ports of entry. Iraq also continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, and ATA training for the Emergency Response Brigades contributed to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
Before ISIL’s dramatic advance into northern Iraq in June, there was already significant population displacement as a result of its attacks in Anbar. These attacks, dating back to January, resulted in the displacement of some 474,000 people from Fallujah, Ramadi, and the surrounding areas. ISIL’s takeover of Mosul in June and its subsequent advances on the Ninewa plain resulted in massive additional displacements, of minority populations in particular, primarily into the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the Kerbala and Najaf governorates. The UN estimates that over 2.1 million Iraqis were displaced in 2014 alone, adding to the estimated one million Iraqis who were displaced prior to 2014.
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. Iraq held the presidency of MENAFATF from November 2013 to November 2014. In November 2012, MENAFATF adopted Iraq’s mutual evaluation to review compliance with international anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards. The report identified significant and serious risks, and Iraq agreed on an action plan to address its vulnerabilities. In November 2014, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) provided an update to the MENAFATF Plenary. In addition, Iraq is also reviewed three times a year under the FATF International Cooperation Review Group process, which includes a negotiated action plan with timelines to address specific identified deficiencies in its AML/CFT regime. The international community, including the United States, provided subject matter expertise to assist Iraq and seeks to develop capacity building as the situation improves.
In 2014, ISIL derived income from a range of sources, such as oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, looting, extortion, illegal “taxation,” antiquities theft and smuggling, and foreign donations. Together with Global Coalition partners, the United States took a holistic approach to combating ISIL’s ability to generate revenues and sustain itself, including through direct military action. Global coalition airstrikes targeted ISIL’s energy infrastructure – modular refineries, petroleum storage tanks, and crude oil collection points – and these airstrikes significantly degraded ISIL’s ability to generate revenue from its control of energy assets. Additionally, the United States used sanctions to ensure that banks, companies, and citizens across the world did not engage in financial transactions with ISIL. Partner nations actively implemented sanctions against ISIL pursuant to the UN Security Council 1267/1989 al-Qa’ida Sanctions regime, which obligates all member states to freeze assets, ban travel, and embargo arms from al-Qa’ida-associated individuals and entities, including ISIL. Each of the over 60 Global Coalition countries reaffirmed their commitment to countering ISIL’s financing in the joint statement at the Global Coalition Ministerial in Brussels on December 3.
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:As a result of ISIL’s rapid territorial gains in Iraq in the first half of 2014, in September, the United States led the creation of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. The Coalition focused on training, equipping, advising, and assisting the ISF, including Kurdish forces. Along with Coalition partners, the United States stood up multiple training sites across Iraq to focus on improving ISF capabilities in command and control, intelligence, logistics, fire support, and other combat-enabling roles. On December 3, the Secretary chaired a Global Coalition ministerial conference in Brussels, at which all partners unanimously endorsed a detailed communiqué to guide and coordinate global efforts going forward, including a commitment to five lines of effort designed to guide the ongoing action against ISIL. These five lines of effort include: supporting military operations, capacity building, and training; disrupting the flow of foreign terrorist fighters; cutting off ISIL’s access to financing and funding; addressing the humanitarian crises; and exposing ISIL’s true nature (ideological de-legitimization).
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: On October 27 the United States participated in the conference of Global Coalition partners focused on countering ISIL’s messaging and countering violent extremism. Bahrain, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, and the UAE joined the conference. In addition, Iraq has taken several significant steps towards diminishing the pull of ISIL’s propaganda on potential recruits. On April 10, then Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb opened a one-day conference on Countering Violent Extremism and appealed for scientific research focused identifying what motivates suicide attackers. The conference received significant national press coverage and included several high profile speakers.
Overview: Israel was a committed counterterrorism partner in 2014. Israel again faced terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other violent extremists, particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; and from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and multiple terrorist attacks were launched along Israel’s security barrier with Gaza. Israel was hit by a record volume of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza and the Sinai in 2014, according to the Israeli government, with more than 4,660 projectiles launched, most during the July-August conflict, at Israeli territory compared to 74 launchings in 2013 and 2,557 in 2012. Militants from Gaza also infiltrated Israeli territory using tunnels in six separate attacks and, for the first time, by a sea-borne operation. The Government of Israel reported that it responded to these threats with operations directed at terrorist leaders; infrastructure (including tunnels, weapons production and storage facilities; command and control centers; terrorist training sites; and safe havens), and activities such as rocket and mortar launching; most notably in Operation Protective Edge (OPE) during the July 7 to August 26 Gaza conflict. The Government of Israel reported that during OPE it conducted over 5,240 airstrikes in Gaza and carried out a 20-day military ground operation within Gaza. According to publicly available data, the conflict led to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians and 74 persons in Israel, among them 67 soldiers, six Israeli civilians, and one Thai civilian. The Israeli government estimated that half of those killed in Gaza were civilians and half were combatants, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) recorded 1,483 civilian Palestinian deaths – more than two-thirds of those killed – including 521 children and 283 women.
Militants continued efforts to smuggle arms and dual-use materials through the Sinai into Gaza via tunnels. Israeli officials welcomed significant efforts by the Government of Egypt to prevent such smuggling from occurring. In March, the Israeli government interdicted a weapons shipment containing 40 M-302 rockets, 181 mortars, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition from Iran believed to be destined for militants in Gaza. Israeli officials continued to be concerned about efforts to smuggle weapons from Libya, Iran, and via Sudan into Gaza.
Israeli counterterrorism officials said Gaza militants continued to make significant quantitative and qualitative advances in capabilities, as demonstrated during the 51-day conflict in the summer, with rockets reaching as far north as 74.56 miles from Gaza, frequently targeting the Tel Aviv area, and reaching as far east as the Jerusalem mountains. However, following the conflict, Israel estimated that the Hamas and PIJ weapons arsenal decreased by 60-70% due to Israeli strikes and militant use during the operation. These groups also continued to improve their tunnel construction capabilities, reaching depths of approximately 80 feet and extending more than a mile. Israeli forces destroyed more than 30 tunnels during OPE, including 14 that crossed into Israeli territory. Hamas has also announced its interest in acquiring new capabilities, such as UAVs to launch attacks. 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.
Since the conclusion of OPE, Iranian governmental officials have publicly stated a willingness to resume Iran’s military support of Hamas, including arming Hamas in the West Bank with the same weapons as in Gaza, but it remains unclear whether efforts have resumed.
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-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), continued to transfer arms to Hezbollah. Israeli experts believe that Iran is trying to arm Hezbollah with advanced weapons systems such as anti-air and anti-ship cruise missile systems, as well as continuing to transfer long-range rockets into Lebanon. 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 approximately 100,000 missiles in Lebanon since the 2006 Lebanon War, some of which are capable of striking anywhere in Israel, including population centers.
Iran has admitted publicly that it armed Hezbollah (in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1701 and 1747) with advanced long-range Iranian manufactured "Fateh" missiles. In late November, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC Aerospace Division admitted that "The IRGC and Hezbollah are a single apparatus jointed together" (Fars news agency, 29 November).
While Israel is not involved in Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) efforts, it shares information to help track and stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters through information exchanges on counterterrorism issues with numerous governments. In support of UNSCRs 2170 and 2178, Israel regularly updates the list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism in order to better align with UNSC sanctions lists. Additionally, in November the Israeli government approved the work of an interagency team that will examine the need and methods of requiring and collecting advance passenger information and passenger name record data from airlines operating in its territory, to achieve better safety measures and as part of Israel’s implementation of UNSCR 2178.
Attacks by violent extremists – both Israelis against a joint Arab-Israeli school and Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship, and Palestinians against Israelis – in Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank continued.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke out against extremist violence and “price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement) on multiple occasions, as did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Notable terrorist attacks included:
- On January 31, Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis took credit for launching two rockets on the southern resort city of Eilat. There were no reported injuries or property damage from the attack.
- On multiple occasions in March and again in October, Hezbollah allegedly planted IEDs along the Israel-Lebanon and Israel-Syria borders. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the October attack. A total of six soldiers were injured in IED explosions along these borders while on patrol.
- On June 22, a teenager was killed and three others were wounded when hit by an anti-tank rocket along the separation fence with Syria.
- From July 11 to August 26, a total of 18 rockets were launched from southern Lebanon towards Israel, with nine rockets hitting Israel on six occasions and injuring two civilians.
- In July and August, Gaza-based terrorist organizations and militants engaged in a 51-day conflict with Israel. Gaza-based groups fired 4,435 rockets at Israel; Israel conducted over 5,240 airstrikes in Gaza and carried out a 20-day military ground operation within Gaza. Additionally, Sinai-based terrorist organizations launched a total of 30 rockets from the Sinai during OPE resulting in minor injuries and property damage. During the military operation, many international airlines suspended air service to Ben Gurion Airport for 36 hours due to safety concerns after a rocket landed in close proximity to the airport.
- On November 10, a Palestinian stabbed an IDF soldier and wounded another at the Hagana train station in Tel Aviv. The suspect was later apprehended by the INP.
- On multiple occasions, violent extremists undertook “price tag” attacks. (In March, the tires of 19 vehicles were slashed and acid poured on in the Arab-Israeli town of Jaljulia. Homes in the town were sprayed with graffiti stating “Every Arab is a Criminal.” Additional cases of “price tag” attacks took place in Acre in May and in Haifa against an Arab-Israeli school in June. An Eilat sports complex was also vandalized with “Death to Arabs” and “Lehava” (the name of an extremist anti-assimilation group) in December.
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.
In September, Israel declared al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization on the basis of the U.S. designation of this organization. This was executed according 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 the relevant determination by a foreign country or by the UNSC. It is the first time that Israel has adopted a designation on the basis of a determination made by another country. Israeli officials have stated they will similarly pursue other designations.
Over the course of 2014, the Minister of Defense approved the designation of several terror organizations as “unlawful associations.” These designations include: Islamic Relief World Wide, Imarat Al-Aqsa wal-Muqadasat, the Abdallah Azzam Brigades (Lebanon), the Islamic State / ISIS (Iraq, Syria, and others), al-Nusrah Front (Syria), the Salafiya-Jihadiya (Network of networks), Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Egypt), and Muassasat Alquds Litanmiya.
On the law enforcement front, the ISA and 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. Israel maintained a border fence along the length of its border with the Sinai Peninsula to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Israel, augmented by cameras and sensors to similarly reduce the threat of terrorism. Israel does not collect advance passenger name records on commercial flights.
In November, the Israeli government approved the work of an interagency team that will examine the need and methods of requiring and collecting API and PNR data from airlines operating in its territory, to achieve better safety measures and as part of Israel’s implementation of UNSCR 2178.
Additionally, legal cases against violent extremists responsible for “price tag” attacks began making their way through the Israeli judicial system, although investigations by the Israeli authorities in the majority of such attacks did not result in prosecutions. Three illustrative cases are as follows:
- In February, in the first indictment for a “price tag” attack that was not a response to a settlement evacuation, three settlers were indicted for torching two vehicles and vandalizing buildings in the village of Farata. Two of the three were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, an additional 12-month suspended sentence if they commit a similar offense within three years of release, and 15,000 NIS (approximately US $4,000) each in compensatory damages.
- In May, two teenagers from a settlement were arrested for the June 2013 “price tag” attack in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Gosh, vandalizing 28 vehicles and buildings with graffiti. Both suspects remained in police custody since their arrest and were indicted in August. They will be charged as minors for incitement, damage to property, and intent to cause damage to property.
- In December, three settlers connected to the Jewish extremist group “Lehava” were arrested and indicted for the November arson and vandalization of the bilingual Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand School in Jerusalem. The three were charged with arson, breaking and entering, and destroying property.
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 (FATF)-style regional body. The FATF decided in June 2014 to expand its membership and identified Israel as a potential candidate for FATF membership. In September, Israel’s Ministers of Justice and Finance endorsed the FATF recommendations and processes and have committed to undergo a mutual evaluation. The second step of the process is an evaluation of the country’s commitment and compliance with the FATF standards. Timing had not been set at year’s end.
The Israeli financial intelligence unit, known as the Israeli Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. 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. Israeli experts and officials raised concerns about the issue of state-sponsored funding of Hamas. Israelis claim there are indications that money transferred from countries to Hamas is being used by the organization for terrorist activity and military buildup. Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities, as did the funding of Hezbollah through charities and criminal organizations.
Israel regularly updates the list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism, in order to align with the UNSC sanctions lists. The UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities are registered in the formal government registry. Every designation is published in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic, English), and in three different newspapers, as required by law. Designations are also published on the website of the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, and are also distributed by email to a mailing list of the IMPA, which includes banks, lawyers, and finance professionals.
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. On November 10-12, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted an international conference on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism with delegates from 28 countries and international organizations. The conference was hosted in partnership with the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the OSCE, and in consultation with the UNSC Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate. It is the first time that such a conference was hosted by Israel. The conference examined critical issues and challenges faced by many governments when dealing with legal frameworks in the fight against terrorism, such as maintaining the balance between human rights and security while trying to prevent acts of terrorism. In this context, the representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Justice presented the outlines of the new Israeli national counterterrorism legislation which aims to maintain such a balance. Other issues included in the discussions were methods of handling classified intelligence derived evidence in the court systems when dealing with cases of terrorism in a way which will not jeopardize its source; the use of universal instruments against terrorist financing; and how to insure judicial independence and the integrity of the legal process while handling terrorism cases of high public interest.
Israel continued to cooperate with numerous countries regarding efforts to thwart terrorist attacks and plots against Israelis or Israeli interests abroad. In April, Thai police arrested two Lebanese citizens under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against tourist targets known as a center for Israeli tourists. In May, a French foreign terrorist fighter who had returned from fighting with ISIL opened fire at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, killing four individuals including two Israeli citizens. In October, a Hezbollah operative was arrested in a suburb of Lima, Peru, for planning attacks on Israeli targets in Lima.
In June, 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. Additionally, during 2014 Israel conducted talks on counterterrorism issues with several countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the EU; and engaged with Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Thailand.
The West Bank and Gaza
The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank where Hamas, PIJ, and the PFLP remained present. The PASF constrained those organizations’ ability to conduct attacks. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank due to the continuing Israeli military presence in the majority of the West Bank. The IDF and ISA (“Shin Bet”) arrested suspected members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank, including a purported Hamas cell that was planning to carry out attacks against Jerusalem’s Light Rail and soccer stadium. During searches for three Israeli teenagers abducted in the West Bank in June and subsequent military raids and searches throughout the West Bank, Israeli security forces also announced that they uncovered Hamas networks in Jerusalem, and in the West Bank, uncovered efforts to build up military infrastructure and capacity.
Extremist Palestinians and Israeli settlers continued to conduct acts of violence in the West Bank. For the first time since 2008, Palestinians kidnapped and killed Israeli citizens in the West Bank. The UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs reported 330 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage. In Jerusalem, there was an uptick in violence relative to 2013, including two vehicular attacks against crowds of civilians. Extremist Israeli settlers abducted and murdered a Palestinian teenager in June. A Palestinian stabbed and injured an Israeli in the back in November. In May, in an apparent “price tag” attack, Israeli extremists vandalized the Vatican-owned Notre Dame Center, where they daubed “Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel.”
Despite Fatah and Hamas signing a reconciliation agreement in April, and the PA forming an interim government of technocratic ministers in June, the PA has exercised little control over Gaza, and Hamas continued to maintain control of security forces there. Hamas, PIJ, and other Gaza-based terrorist and militant groups continued to launch attacks against Israel from Gaza. In the wake of two militant attacks in North Sinai, which the Government of Egypt alleged were carried out in part by Palestinian factions, the Egyptian government closed the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and cleared a buffer zone on the Egyptian side of the border to eliminate smuggling tunnels into and out of Gaza. The Government of Egypt’s actions and the Israeli military’s bombings of tunnels during Operation Protective Edge hampered Hamas’s and other armed groups’ ability to smuggle weapons, cash, and other contraband into Gaza.
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. In November, Palestinian violent extremists detonated explosives in front of seven homes belonging to Fatah officials and in front of a stage set-up for a Fatah rally in Gaza. There were no reports of injuries. Despite claims of responsibility from individuals purporting affiliation with ISIL, there is no definitive link confirming this.
Additional 2014 incidents in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem included:
- In January, violent extremist Israeli settlers spray painted “revenge by blood” on and set fire to a mosque in the West Bank.
- In January, ISA arrested a group of al-Qa’ida (AQ) sympathizers in East Jerusalem which was allegedly planning several attacks.
- In May, St. George Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was defaced with the expressions “Jesus is Garbage” and “King David for the Jews.” On another street in Jerusalem, authorities found graffiti stating “Death to Arabs.”
- In June, two Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. During an attempt to apprehend the suspected perpetrators, the IDF shot and killed them. An Israeli court indicted a third individual suspected of planning the attack.
- In July, three Israelis kidnapped and killed a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. An Israeli court indicted three individuals who confessed to carrying out the attack.
- In July, an Israeli settler drove by and fired a gun into a protest near Nablus, killing one Palestinian.
- In October, a Palestinian crashed his vehicle into a crowd of people and into a Jerusalem Light Rail train as it was passing a light rail stop, killing an American-citizen infant, a foreign national, and injuring approximately nine others, according to media. The driver, who Israeli authorities suspected of being Hamas-affiliated, died from wounds sustained during Israeli National Police’s (INP) attempt to apprehend him.
- In October, a Palestinian critically injured an Israeli-American in Jerusalem while attempting to assassinate him. The INP shot and killed the suspected shooter, a known PIJ associate, during a raid to apprehend him.
- In October and December, violent extremists bombed the French Cultural Center in Gaza. There were no reports of injuries in October and there was one injury in December.
- In October and November, Israeli security forces arrested five residents of Tulkarem for planning to execute a suicide bombing in the Tel Aviv area as well as several other terror attacks, such as shootings, detonating a bomb in a bus crowded with soldiers, and abducting a soldier.
- In November, two Palestinians reportedly affiliated with the PFLP entered a synagogue and attacked Israelis with guns, knives, and axes, killing five people, including three American citizens, and injuring over a dozen. INP shot and killed the perpetrators while the attack was ongoing.
- In November, Israeli extremists vandalized and set fire to the Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand School, a bilingual center for Jewish-Arab education. ISA arrested three suspects, who were indicted by Israeli courts in December.
- In November, a Palestinian stabbed and killed an Israeli and injured two others near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut.
- Israeli security agencies reportedly thwarted several additional planned terrorist attacks in the West Bank, including a Hamas plan to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs’ vehicle. Security services also prevented Hamas plans to attack Israeli towns and settlements, and to launch an attack on a stadium in Jerusalem.
- In December, a Palestinian threw acid at an Israeli family and another Israeli, injuring six, near a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The IDF arrested the attacker.
The United States continued to assist the PA’s counterterrorism efforts through programs that further strengthened 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 PA’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, among other criminal acts, and to ensure safe incarceration of those held for trial or after conviction of such crimes.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas consistently reiterated his commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel. He condemned acts of violence, including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June, and the attacks on civilians at a West Jerusalem synagogue in November in which five people died, including three American citizens. Abbas 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. The PASF arrested members of Hamas, PIJ, and PFLP when it suspected them of involvement in terrorist or criminal acts. For example, the PASF arrested approximately 30 suspects in November who were planning terrorist attacks primarily against Israeli settlers, per media. The PASF spokesperson publicly announced in October that the PA trained special units and officers to monitor and track internet activity affiliated with Salafist jihadist movements and AQ. Also in October, PA security personnel arrested 10 individuals for promoting the ideology of ISIL.
Israeli authorities, among others, continued to note improvements in the capacity and performance of PASF as a leading contributor to the improved security environment in the West Bank. Most notable was the relative lack of organized or large-scale disturbances in the West Bank following the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager and during hostilities in Gaza during the summer.
The PA continued to lack legislation 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 was therefore unable to pass new legislation.
The PA continued to detain terrorists in the West Bank, and the PASF and public prosecutors received training to enable better investigations of terrorism-related crimes. Despite on-again, off-again factional reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, PASF personnel continued to conduct operations against and detain Hamas elements, which Hamas officials protested. The PA continued to develop its civilian justice institutions (e.g. judiciary, police, prosecutors) to improve both investigative and prosecutorial functions. The United States and other donors provided material and developmental assistance to enable the PA to reduce case backlogs, improve warrant executions, and upgrade forensic services.
After 2007, the Palestinian military (security) court system processed many terrorism and security-related cases. 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 PA committee drafted legislation to govern the military court system which, in part, confirms that its jurisdiction is limited to members of the security services. The committee completed a revision of the draft in December 2014, which awaits 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). During 2014, the United States expanded assistance to the PSO as well as the Security Justice Commission to help the PA move the prosecution of all civilian cases, including those involving terrorism and security-related offenses, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the civilian courts, and enhance cooperation between security service investigators and civilian prosecutors. 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.
Per the Oslo-era Accords, Israel controls border security in the West Bank.
The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’s 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.
While the PA continued to lack modern forensic capability, the multi-year assistance efforts that the Canadian International Development Agency started through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in late 2012 continued. The forensic science laboratory is nearly fully equipped and training in firearm and tool mark evidence, document examination, and drug analysis continued. The PA already has a basic ability to examine and compare unknown prints to known prints.
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.
The PA is an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. In part due to the patchwork of legal frameworks that the PA is subject to, terrorist financing is not specifically addressed in current law as required by international standards. However, the PA Ministry of Justice was working on modifying the anti-money laundering (AML) law to incorporate articles that address terrorist finance. The Palestinian Financial Follow-Up Unit (FFU), the PA’s financial intelligence unit, has 12 employees and a computer system linked with all 17 banks licensed to operate in the West Bank. Although the FFU has adequate staffing, authority, and equipment, it has been unable to realize its full operational effectiveness due, in part, to restrictions in the law. Article 31 of AML Law No. 7 of 2007 restricts information sharing between the FFU and any law enforcement agency, with the exception of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). Prosecutors within the AGO are the chief investigators in the PA, with all the powers of an investigative judge.
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 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.” In practice, this code of conduct is not always observed, with some instances of inciting taking place via official media. In July, Fatah included on one of its official Facebook pages: “Sons of Zion, this is an oath to the Lord of the Heavens: Prepare all the bags you can for your body parts.” The official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, included on its site in October Fatah’s call to its “fighters” and Palestinian people to “aid the Al-Aqsa Mosque and occupied Jerusalem.” In November, political cartoons glorifying vehicular terrorist attacks were posted on one of the official Fatah Facebook pages.
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 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 2014 in an effort to reintegrate them into society.
Overview: Jordan remained a key ally and a model partner in combating terrorism and extremist ideology. Jordan’s geographic location leaves it vulnerable to a variety of regional threats, while also facilitating its regional leadership in confronting them. During 2014, the emergence and rapid growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other extremist organizations in Syria and Iraq further entrenched terrorism as a top concern for Jordanian security services. Jordan actively participated in Global Coalition to Counter ISIL military efforts, and amended key counterterrorism legislation. Jordan continued to provide diplomatic and political support to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in addition to its support for a political resolution to conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Jordan demonstrated regional leadership in the fight against ISIL, joined the Global Coalition from the outset, and participated fully on the diplomatic, political, financial, and military fronts. King Abdullah II, in a November address to the Jordanian parliament, declared, “the war on these terrorist organizations and their radical ideology is [Jordan’s] war because we are targeted and we must defend ourselves, Islam, and the values of tolerance and moderation by fighting extremism and terrorists.” The Royal Jordanian Air Force participated in Global Coalition military operations against ISIL, humanitarian operations in support of communities targeted by ISIL, and the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) bolstered defenses against terrorist incursions in the northern and eastern border regions.
On December 24, ISIL captured, and ultimately killed, a Jordanian pilot in Syria who was participating in counter-ISIL operations. The JAF in 2014 continued to host United States military units, as well as other Global Coalition partners, for various joint counterterrorism exercises and training on Jordanian territory. Jordan actively worked to prevent flows of foreign fighters to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and took steps to restrict terrorism financing.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: In April, during a period of civil unrest in the southern city of Ma’an, armed civilians raked several buildings with gunfire, including an Islamic bank, a school for girls, and a local headquarters for the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). They also reportedly used hand grenades. Additionally, a series of low-yield improvised explosive device attacks against Interior Ministry police forces occurred at major traffic circles in the affected area. No deaths or casualties were reported, and no suspects were arrested in connection with these incidents.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The State Security Court (SSC) is the primary legal apparatus for trying and convicting alleged terrorists. The SSC oversees the prosecution of civilians charged with crimes affecting national security. In April, the parliament passed amendments to the SSC Law, limiting the court’s jurisdiction to five crimes: treason, espionage, terrorism, drug-related offenses, and currency forgery.
The parliament amended the 2006 Anti-Terrorism Law in April. The amendments broadened the definition of terrorism to include forming a group with the intention of committing terrorist acts, harming relations with a foreign state, using the internet to facilitate terrorist acts or promote terrorist ideas, and attacks on the life or liberty of members of the royal family. The penal code provides an even broader definition of terrorism to include acts intended to “contravene the public order.” Civil society organizations have criticized the amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Law, saying that by broadening the definition of terrorism, the law expands the SSC’s jurisdiction over speech-related offenses.
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. GID has 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 PSD Special Branch, which includes a criminal intelligence function. The GID also coordinates with the JAF and its intelligence branch, particular on cases involving border security, which the JAF oversees. Prosecutors typically are not consulted until the later stages of investigations, when terrorism cases are referred to the SSC.
Jordan also remained a critical partner for the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. Jordan continued to host the training and development of other ATA partner nations at its various academies and training facilities.
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 II neared completion at the end of 2014. Jordan actively monitors airports and border crossings for potential foreign fighters. Jordan maintains a terrorist watchlist, uses biographic and biometric screening, and actively engages in passenger information sharing.
During 2014, Jordanian authorities took legal action against numerous individuals deemed to be terrorists under local law. Jordanian authorities also arrested and began prosecuting men accused of seeking to join al-Nusrah Front and ISIL; recruiting for or otherwise supporting ISIL, especially on the internet; attempting to travel to – or return from – Syria to fight with extremist groups; and individuals affiliated with the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood accused of providing weapons to Hamas. Legal actions included:
- Abu Qatada: The public trial of Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric who was deported from the UK in July 2013, concluded in September with an acquittal on all charges. The SSC had 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.
- Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi: Jordan released Maqdisi, a Salafist leader who was convicted of providing support for al-Qa’ida in 2010, in June. Jordan briefly detained Maqdisi in September, and arrested him again in October, formally charging him with “using the internet to promote and incite views of jihadi terrorist organizations.”
- Beginning in August, security officials arrested over 100 ISIL supporters, many for posting pro-ISIL videos or statements on social media sites. The government began charging them before the State Security Court in October for using the internet to propagate terrorist ideology.
- Security forces regularly arrested departing or returning Jordanian foreign fighters, charging them with joining armed groups, including al-Nusrah Front or ISIL in Syria.
- In late 2014, security officials arrested several members of the Engineers Association, a group with strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and charged them under the Counterterrorism Law with possessing weapons and explosives, undermining public order, and carrying out illegal activities that could expose the kingdom to hostile acts.
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 of Financial Intelligence Units since 2012. The Jordanian parliament introduced proposed amendments to the 2007Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorist Financing Law, which would bring Jordan more in line with international standards. As of December, the legal committee had endorsed the amendments, but no vote to adopt the changes had taken place. No known prosecution of terrorist financing cases occurred in 2014. Jordan faces significant challenges in monitoring financial flows for extensive refugee camps on its territory but seems to be managing these risks well.
Although the Associations Law requires non-profit organizations to apply for Cabinet approval before receiving foreign funds, Jordan’s Anti-Money Laundering Law does not oblige non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports.
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, a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). In 2014, Jordan was a member of the UN Security Council and also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.
Jordan continued to assist Palestinian Authority law enforcement institutions through training at the Jordan International Police Training Center. In 2014 both advanced-level and refresher courses were offered to Palestinian security services, in addition to basic-level courses. Jordan also provided anti-terrorism training for Iraqi Security Forces at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:Jordan has sought to confront and weaken the violent ideology that underpins ISIL and other radical organizations. Jordan is examining ways to better counter radicalization in schools and mosques. The Prime Minister announced the formation of an interagency anti-extremist task force in October. The task force issued a wide-ranging set of recommendations to various line ministries, but it had not received authorities, resources, or staff as of the end of the year.
The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Thought, under the patronage of Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad, promotes religious tolerance and coexistence. This institute continued its sponsorship of a series of ecumenical events promoting interfaith dialogue. Jordan hosted events geared toward rejecting terrorism and sectarianism. King Abdullah II continued to promote his “Amman Declaration” of 2005, calling for tolerance and peace within the Islamic community, and rejecting “wanton aggression and terrorism.” The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs conducted outreach to imams across the country, encouraging them to refute radical extremist ideology in their sermons.
Jordanian prisons have a religiously based de-radicalization program that seeks to re-engage violent extremist inmates into the non-violent mainstream of their faith.
Overview: Kuwait is an important ally located in the critical Arabian Gulf region and a valued partner in promoting policies that strengthen regional security and stability. Kuwait is a key partner in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Kuwait hosted the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL’s Communications Conference on October 27, attended by delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and other partner countries. Discussions centered on how to combat ISIL and violent extremism in the region, degrade and defeat ISIL’s messaging, and confront and contest its presence in the information space. Over the reporting period, Kuwait showed a full commitment to countering the ISIL threat through its humanitarian and logistic contributions to coalition efforts. This included taking steps to reduce ISIL’s access to financing, cracking down on suspected ISIL supporters, and providing humanitarian assistance to displaced persons primarily from Syria, but also to displaced people in Iraq.
According to media reports, Kuwait implemented new security measures to prevent possible terrorist attacks on its soil. Deputy PM and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Khalid Al-Sabah announced a new security team of 80 officers to counter violent extremist threats. On December 5, media reported that state security forces had foiled a terrorist attack planned by an ISIL-affiliated terrorist cell of 12 persons, two of whom were former police officers. The Jahra-based cell had allegedly planned to carry out a number of bombings at civilian and government sites.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On December 14, a draft law was introduced in parliament criminalizing terrorism and stipulating harsh punishments for it. The legislator who introduced the bill explained that regional circumstances and terrorist threats to Kuwait necessitated a law specifically criminalizing terrorism. Terrorist acts are currently prosecuted under general provisions of the penal code.
In 2014, Kuwait security forces arrested several suspected members and sympathizers of ISIL. The Kuwait State Security (KSS) service reported it had received information that some of the defendants had gone to Syria and Iraq and had fought with, or contributed financially to, violent extremists. KSS also handed over an unidentified number of Saudi nationals, suspected of ISIL links, to the Saudi authorities. In December, media reports quoted a source within the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) as saying that approximately 10 employees were terminated when it was discovered they had travelled to either Iraq or Syria to participate in fighting.
On December 18, a criminal court jailed three Arab (non-Kuwaiti) supporters of ISIL. The court also sentenced a Kuwaiti to 10 years in jail for urging support of the terrorist group and also for insulting Kuwait’s ruler in public. An Egyptian and a Jordanian were handed four-year sentences for helping the Kuwaiti distribute pro-ISIL leaflets. It was the first such court ruling against supporters of ISIL. The courts were examining several similar cases at year’s end.
Law enforcement units had the capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents, but were often hindered by internal stove-piping. Kuwait’s primary counterterrorism organizations, the MOI and Kuwait National Guard (KNG), are well-resourced and have plentiful training opportunities. Under the auspices of the Joint and Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, the Embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation has heavily and consistently engaged with local counterterrorism units for both training and bilateral exercises in an effort to match capabilities with resources. Because MOI also includes the country’s criminal investigative apparatus and border protection mission, it has broad latitude with respect to investigations and border security. MOI is also generally considered to be the single point of contact for incident response; some terrorism-related matters fall under the prerogative of its semi-autonomous arm, KSS. Law enforcement units generally have a record of accountability.
On June 29, media reported that MOI had instructed its forces at border crossings to remain on high alert in anticipation of possible attacks by ISIL militants. The ministry instructed officers to intensify their security procedures at all borders after it received “confirmed information” that ISIL might try to enter Kuwait via land or sea ports.
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. It took initial steps in 2014 to implement bylaws to Law 106 of 2013, which govern the criminalization of terrorist financing – including a requirement to report suspected terrorist financing that creates the legal basis to freeze terrorist assets without delay. In April, the Cabinet issued Ministerial Resolutions 4 and 5, mandating the establishment of a ministerial-level counterterrorism committee (CTC) and stipulating the creation of mechanisms to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373, including the freezing of assets. Kuwait froze accounts and banned travel for the five Kuwaiti individuals added to the UN al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee list in 2014. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established and chaired the CTC, on which 11 governmental bodies were represented. The CTC met regularly to execute Kuwait’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Counterterrorism Financing (CFT) obligations under UNSCRs and domestic regulations.
Additionally, Kuwait established the Kuwaiti Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU) in 2013. It named its first president in February and opened a temporary office and started to process limited types of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in June. By November, the KFIU was working and improving its capacity to receive and analyze STRs. It is not publicly known if any have resulted in investigations or criminal proceedings.
In July, Kuwait re-established a working-level National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. Chaired by the president of the KFIU, it consists of the 11 governmental bodies represented on the CTC.
Despite progress, vulnerabilities remain in Kuwait’s CFT regime. Though Kuwait regulates donations to and spending by licensed charities, unlicensed fundraisers are able to operate on social media and raise and send funds through other unofficial channels. The KFIU does not oversee many sectors of the economy, such as money transfer businesses, according to international standards.
The CTC currently disseminates additions to the lists via facsimile, as well as by note. Financial institutions electronically monitor the UN lists directly. The CTC plans to set up a website that will post both UN and domestic designations. Financial institutions will be required by regulators to check the online list for updates on a regular basis.
Regional and International Cooperation: As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, KNG, and MOI 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, for example, conducting joint training programs with the United States and working with governments to conduct missions and exchange information.
Kuwait held the GCC’s and Arab League’s rotating presidencies in 2014. During the reporting period, Kuwaiti officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League members. Kuwait was the only GCC member not to ratify the Gulf Security Pact.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: In 2014, Kuwait began issuing weekly circulars to all mosques with approved language for Friday sermons and instructions to avoid extremist or sectarian language. It began broadcasts of “Kuwait Youth Radio,” which included public service announcements promoting social cohesion and religious tolerance, and also announced formation of the Higher Commission for the Promotion of Moderation, the main goal of which was to counter violent extremist ideology through education.
Media reported that an agreement was reached in September between the MOI and the Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic endowments) and Islamic Affairs to form a joint committee to monitor Friday sermons to ensure imams were not addressing any political or sectarian issues. Over the reporting period, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs referred 16 imams for investigation and deported one Egyptian imam under the Mosques Charter, which prohibits promoting sectarianism, radicalization, and incitement.
Overview: Lebanon’s security situation deteriorated in 2014 as a result of worsening spillover from the violence in Syria and the involvement of Lebanese fighters in the conflict, including Hezbollah, which had fully mobilized in support of the Asad regime, and to a lesser extent individual Lebanese who supported various anti-regime forces. Incursions by Syria-based Sunni extremists into Lebanon in 2014 underscored both the centrality of border security to Lebanon’s stability and importance of enabling the Lebanese government to exercise its full sovereignty, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701. Various branches of the Lebanese state, including the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), Internal Security Forces (ISF), and Central Bank continued to cooperate with international partners in countering terrorism and have scored some notable successes in the disruption of terrorist networks and combating militant forces. U.S. programs are meant to enhance the Lebanese state’s capacity to exercise sovereignty over all Lebanese territory, including its borders.
Border security and spillover from the Syrian conflict remained an immediate, pressing terrorism problem. In retaliation for Hizballah’s actions supporting the Asad regime, Sunni militant groups have carried out more than two dozen suicide attacks against Shia population centers and LAF targets from June 2013 through the end of 2014. Although these attacks declined in the second half of 2014 due to the Lebanese security services’ success at disrupting terrorist networks, Syria-based Sunni extremist groups infiltrated and sought to control Lebanese territory. Al-Nusrah Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) battled the LAF for control of the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August, before retreating into the nearby hills with more than 30 captured LAF and ISF personnel, four of whom were subsequently killed. The army faced additional attacks in late October in Tripoli by al-Nusrah Front and ISIL-inspired Sunni militants, some of whom professed a desire to establish an ISIL principality in northern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s security institutions, including the LAF and ISF, came under considerable pressure to end these attacks, a daunting task made all the more difficult by the country’s political and sectarian divisions and its refugee crisis. Lebanon, a country of approximately four million, hosted more than 1.1 million refugees from Syria at the end of 2014. Lebanese authorities were challenged not only by the significant burden the refugees place on its financial and natural resources, infrastructure, and host communities, but also by fears of potential militant recruiting among the refugee population. Al-Nusrah Front and ISIL’s use of informal refugee settlements during the Arsal attacks further hardened Lebanese attitudes towards Syrian refugees.
Despite these challenges, the Lebanese security institutions improved their capacity to detect and intercept terrorist attacks, resulting in the disruption of at least three major terrorist networks and more than a dozen high-profile arrests in 2014. Furthermore, the successful implementation of the Tripoli security plan gave the LAF complete control over the city for the first time since the early 1970s. The United States remains Lebanon’s closest counterterrorism partner, and the bilateral relationship is robust and growing. The focus of U.S. assistance was to strengthen Lebanon’s security institutions so they can better exert sovereign authority and maintain border security in accordance with UNSCR 1701 and counter both domestic and foreign terrorist threats.
Hezbollah, with considerable support from Iran, remains the most capable and prominent terrorist group in Lebanon, enjoying popular support among Lebanese Shia and some Christians. Hezbollah continued to operate as an armed militia beyond the control of the state and as a powerful political actor that can hobble or topple the government as it sees fit. The government was not able to take significant action to disarm Hezbollah or eliminate its safe havens in Lebanon. Despite Lebanon’s official dissociation policy regarding the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah accelerated its military role in support of the Syrian regime in 2014 and has proved to be a decisive force in the Syrian regime’s ability to retake major swaths of territory from Syrian opposition forces.
Hizballah’s actions in Syria have exacerbated the already tenuous security situation inside Lebanon. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has had a presence in Lebanon since the early 1980s and coordinates closely with Hezbollah on military operations and training. Hezbollah engaged in terrorist activity against Israel in violation of UNSCR 1701 on October 7, when it detonated a roadside bomb in the Shebaa Farms area south of the Blue Line, injuring two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers. It was the first time since 2006 Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack against the IDF.
Other designated terrorist groups, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, Palestine Islamic Jihad, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), and several other groups, continued to operate within Lebanon’s borders, including within Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps. The LAF did not maintain a presence in the camps, but it conducted limited operations and patrols near the camps to counter terrorist threats, including attempts to launch rockets against Israel from southern Lebanon. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported that a total of 18 rockets were launched from southern Lebanon towards Israel over nine different occasions in July and August, with a total of nine rockets hitting Israel and, in one case, injuring two Israeli civilians. UNIFIL concluded that the attacks were the work of “amateur operators” and were likely aimed at expressing solidarity with Gaza during Israel’s “Protective Edge” military operation from July 8 to August 26.
Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. The Lebanese security forces seek to limit ISIL’s threat at home, including the flow of foreign fighters both to and from Syria, by working to secure the porous, ungoverned border with Syria and conducting counterterrorism operations within Lebanon. The LAF and other security services were actively engaged in monitoring potential ISIL and al-Nusrah Front elements in Lebanon, disrupting their activities and networks, and arresting those suspected of plotting terrorist attacks. The government is expanding its efforts to counter ISIL messaging. The Lebanese government supports UNSCRs 2170 and 2178 and has increased security measures at airports and border crossings to prevent the flow of ISIL and al-Nusrah Front fighters to Syria and Iraq. The government was not in full compliance with UNSCR 2178 at year’s end, however, since it has not taken significant action to prevent Hezbollah from sending its fighters to Syria and Iraq.
2013 Terrorist Incidents: Representative terrorist incidents in Lebanon included:
- On January 2, a suicide car bombing in the Hizballah-dominated Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik killed four people and injured 77. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On January 6, a suicide car bombing killed five people and wounded 42 others in the northeastern border town of Hermel. Al-Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On January 21, a suicide car bombing just 50 meters from the January 2 suicide bombing killed four people and wounded 46 others. Al-Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for this attack.
- On February 22, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a LAF checkpoint in Hermel, killing three people, including two soldiers, and injuring more than 10 others. Al-Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for the bombing.
- On February 19, at least 19 people were killed and dozens injured after two vehicle-borne suicide bombs exploded near an Iranian cultural center in the Beirut suburb of Beir Hassan, an area closely associated with Hezbollah. A Twitter account linked to the AAB claimed responsibility for the bombings.
- On March 29, three LAF soldiers were killed and four others wounded by a car bomb targeting an army checkpoint near Arsal. An obscure militant group calling itself the Free Sunnis of Baalbek claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account.
- On June 20, a suicide bomber targeted an ISF checkpoint in the Bekaa area of Dahr al-Baydar, killing one ISF member and injured 32 people.
- On August 2-7, al-Nusrah Front and ISIL militants attacked LAF positions near Arsal and briefly gained control of the town, following the arrest of ISIL leader Imad Ahmed Joumaa. After several days of heavy fighting, the LAF repelled the militants, who retreated into the nearby hills with more than 30 captured LAF and ISF personnel. The clashes left 17 soldiers dead and nearly 200 wounded, along with approximately 40 civilians killed and 400 wounded.
- On August 28 and September 6, ISIL beheaded two LAF soldiers taken hostage in Arsal. Al-Nusrah Front also killed two Lebanese servicemen hostages, a LAF soldier on September 19 and an ISF policeman on December 5.
- On October 7, Hezbollah detonated a roadside bomb in the Shebaa Farms area south of the Blue Line, injuring two IDF soldiers.
- On October 26-27, Sunni militants attacked LAF positions in Tripoli following the arrest of Ahmed Salim Mikati, a local terrorist suspect with ties to ISIL, resulting in the deaths of 11 soldiers, eight civilians, and 22 terrorists.
- On December 2, armed militants killed six LAF soldiers and wounded another in an ambush near Ras Baalbek.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Lebanon does not have a comprehensive counterterrorism law, but several articles of Lebanon’s criminal code (1943) are used to prosecute acts of terrorism. Implementation of these articles has at times been hindered by Lebanon’s complex political and confessional system, however, and also by Hezbollah restricting access to attack sites that were within areas under its control. The cabinet did not consider legislative initiatives that could potentially threaten Hizballah’s operations, as the presence of Hezbollah and its political allies in the government make the requisite consensus on such actions impossible.
Several agencies focused on combating terrorism, although cooperation among the services was inconsistent. Lebanon has been a participant in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program since 2006; this assistance has focused on border security as well as on building law enforcement’s investigative and leadership capabilities. The Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) has also provided assistance to improve the capabilities of the ISF through a multi-year program that includes construction of training facilities and establishment of a secure radio communications system; provision of vehicles, protective gear, and other types of equipment; and a wide range of training and mentoring activities. INL also provides corrections training to bolster the ISF’s limited capacity to manage its overcrowded prisons. The ISF has worked to prevent terrorist recruitment and the direction of terrorist activities by prison inmates who, in many cases, have complete control of certain cell blocks, and access to cell phones and the internet.
INL and the FBI conducted a biometric assessment for the ISF in March and at year’s end were reviewing the findings and considering potential projects with the ISF to enhance its biometric 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 Interior Ministry, controls immigration and passport services, and it uses an electronic database to collect biographic data for travelers at all points of entry.
The Lebanese security services disrupted multiple terrorist networks and made several high-profile arrests in 2014. On February 12, the LAF arrested Naim Abbas, an AAB commander with ties to al-Nusrah Front, who was alleged to be behind the January 2 and January 21 bombings in Haret Hreik. On June 20 and 25, Lebanese security forces raided two Beirut hotels and detained at least a dozen terrorism suspects, including foreign nationals from Pakistan, France, and Saudi Arabia. During the June 25 raid at the Duroy Hotel, a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up in his room to avoid arrest. The Lebanese Military Court issued a November 7 indictment against the suspects in the hotel arrests, stating that they planned to carry out attacks against Shia targets in Lebanon.
On December 5, the Lebanese Military Court postponed trial proceedings until June 2015 in the case against Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese Information Minister arrested on terrorism charges in 2012. The delay came after General Ali Mamlouk, the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, failed to report to the court in accordance with a 2013 arrest warrant. Samaha and Mamlouk face charges of “transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders.” If convicted, they face the death penalty.
The United States maintains close ties with the Lebanese security services and could expect significant investigative and legal support in any terrorism case affecting U.S. citizens or interests. 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.
The LAF partnered with several friendly nations on a bilateral basis to receive training programs that focused on strengthening its counterterrorism capabilities.
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 two circulars in 2014 to improve its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime:
- Intermediate Circular No. 371 dated September 11, amending Basic Circular No. 83 dated May 18, 2005, required banks to establish an AML/CFT Branch officer in each branch and to set up additional compliance units within individual banks.
- Special Investigation Commission (SIC) Circular No. 17 dated September 16, requested banks to report suspicious transactions electronically to the SIC.
In 2014, the ISF received one request for assistance with a terrorism case from Interpol and had begun an investigation. The SIC, Lebanon’s financial intelligence unit, is an independent legal entity empowered to investigate suspicious financial transactions and to freeze assets, and is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The SIC reported that it had received three cases in 2014, two from the Directorate of General Security (DGS) and one from a local bank, regarding individuals with alleged terrorism ties. The SIC froze the individuals’ financial assets (amounts undisclosed) in Lebanon’s banking sector and forwarded the cases to the public prosecutor for further investigation. Neither the SIC nor the ISF received any allegations of suspicious financial transactions that led to terrorist financing cases in 2014.
Hezbollah continued to work internationally 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. 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. However, following the U.S. Treasury designation in July of Stars Group Holding for ties to Hezbollah, several Lebanese banks, of their own accord, closed the bank accounts of this group and related parties.
NGOs are required by law to submit a yearly financial statement to the government, but are not obliged to file suspicious transaction reports to prevent terrorist financing. However, the banking sector subjects NGOs to enhanced due diligence and reports suspicious transactions to the SIC. Monitoring the finances and management of all registered NGOs is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry, but it was inconsistent in applying these controls.
Regional and International Cooperation: Lebanon is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and attended Global Counterterrorism Forum meetings. Although Lebanon was a co-sponsor of UNSCR 2178 regarding foreign terrorist fighters, the government is not in full compliance since it did not take significant action to prevent Hezbollah from sending its fighters to Syria. Lebanon continued to voice its commitment to fulfilling other relevant UNSCRs, including 1559, 1680, and 1701. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international body investigating the 2005 assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, received Lebanon’s annual contribution of approximately US $37.5 million on November 5.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Several government institutions have programs that seek to counter violent extremism (CVE), but there is no overall national strategy in place. The Interior Ministry, primarily through the ISF, has the most robust CVE programs and is partnering with the LAF and DGS to develop a social media strategy that would specifically target Sunni youth who are vulnerable to extremist recruitment. The ISF cybersecurity chief and a representative from the Foreign Affairs Ministry attended the October 27 sub-ministerial conference on counter-ISIL strategic communications in Kuwait.
Overview: In 2014, Libya’s democratic transition was disrupted by the outbreak of violence between armed factions affiliated with rival tribes, cities, and political actors. The resulting collapse of government authority and fragmentation of the country’s security forces greatly impeded Libya’s ability to counter violent extremist groups active in its territory. Although all sides in the conflict claimed to reject terrorism, there were signs that violent extremist groups in the region sought to take advantage of the security vacuum to expand their foothold in Libya. Libya’s porous borders, vast uncontrolled weapons stockpiles, and critically weak law enforcement institutions continued to make it a permissive environment for terrorist groups, including Ansar al-Shari’a (AAS) in Benghazi and in Darnah as well as elements of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitun. In November, Darnah-based extremist groups pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), although the extent of operational and tactical linkages to ISIL’s leadership in Iraq and Syria was unclear. There were reports of infighting between ISIL and other Libyan violent extremist groups. Libya continued to serve as a key source and transit hub for foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq.
The Libyan government’s inability to prevent or punish terrorist violence, including a campaign of assassinations targeting activists and security officials in Benghazi, prompted others to take action outside of the state’s writ. In May, retired General Khalifa Heftar launched “Operation Dignity” against violent extremist groups in Benghazi as well as political rivals in other parts of the country. Following the outbreak of nation-wide violence in July, the internationally recognized government in Tobruk endorsed Heftar’s campaign and took some steps to bring it under the authority of the state. However, Heftar’s role within the Libyan military was unclear and he remained a controversial actor for many Libyans. Ansar al-Shari’a elements joined other militias in opposing Operation Dignity in the east of the country. Fighting in Benghazi continued throughout the year, with a spike in violence late in the year.
Violent Islamist extremists remained in control of the eastern city of Darnah, which has lacked virtually any state presence since the 2011 revolution. In 2014, violent extremist groups in Darnah reportedly employed summary executions and public floggings to enforce a strict form of sharia law, and carried out assassinations and beheadings of civil society activists, judges, and security officials.
In May, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a senior leader within Ansar al-Shari’a-Benghazi, was captured by U.S. forces and was facing trial in the United States at year’s end. Abdal Basset Azzouz, a Libyan al-Qa’ida leader, was reportedly arrested in Turkey in December.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: The following list of terrorist incidents is designed to highlight major attacks believed to be perpetrated by violent extremist groups against western, diplomatic, Libyan government, and civil society targets. It is not exhaustive and does not encompass the numerous acts of violence perpetrated by the parties to the current political conflict, who have each accused their opponents of conducting terrorist acts including kidnappings, assassinations, and attacks on civilian infrastructure such as airports and seaports. The list of incidents in Benghazi and Darnah also should not be considered comprehensive; according to Human Rights Watch, more than 250 politically motivated killings occurred in these cities in 2014. Frequently, there were no claims of responsibility for assassinations or other attacks.
- On January 2, two British and New Zealand nationals were murdered by unknown assailants near the coastal city of Sabratha.
- On February 24, seven Egyptian Coptic Christians were killed near Benghazi, apparently because of their faith.
- On March 2, a French engineer working in Benghazi was killed by unknown assailants.
- On March 17, a car bombing targeted a graduation ceremony for military academy cadets in Benghazi, killing 11 and injuring 20.
- On March 21 and April 17, in separate incidents, two Tunisian diplomats were abducted in Tripoli.
- On April 15, the Jordanian ambassador to Libya was kidnapped in Tripoli. He was released in May, reportedly in exchange for the release of Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan national who was serving a life sentence in Jordan for his role in an airport bomb plot.
- On June 4, a Swiss staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross was assassinated in Sirte.
- On June 25, civil society activist Salwa Bugaighis was murdered in Benghazi by unknown assailants.
- On August 12, Tripoli’s police chief was assassinated in the capital by unknown gunmen.
- From September 18-20, fourteen people, including a cleric and two teenage activists, were assassinated by unknown gunmen in Benghazi, in an event that became known as “Black Friday.”
- On November 9, a car bomb was detonated in the eastern city of Shahat near a location where Prime Minister al-Thinni was meeting with UN officials, following an earlier explosion that appeared to target al-Thinni’s government offices in Beyda.
- On November 11, three Libyan youth activists were beheaded in Darnah; they had been kidnapped after posting anti-extremist comments on social media. A fourth individual, a member of the Libyan security forces, was beheaded several days later. The killings were filmed and posted on social media.
- On November 12, more than 20 people were wounded in separate car bombings in the eastern cities of Tobruk and Beyda. Both attacks, in cities that previously experienced few security incidents, appeared to target the internationally recognized government and parliament.
- On November 13, car bombs detonated near the UAE and Egyptian embassies in Tripoli. The embassies were unoccupied and no one was injured.
- On December 27, a car bomb targeted Libya’s diplomatic security headquarters in Tripoli. No casualties were reported. An online outlet associated with ISIL’s Libya branch claimed responsibility.
- On December 30, parliamentary offices in Tobruk were targeted in a car bombing.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Libya lacks a comprehensive counterterrorism law, although the Libyan penal code (under Title 2, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 170 and Title 2, Chapter 2, Article 207) criminalizes offenses prejudicial to state security, including terrorism, the promotion of terrorist acts, and the handling of money in support of such acts. In 2013, the General National Congress (GNC) adopted laws no. 27 and 53 outlining a plan to disband non-state militias and integrate them into state security forces; however, neither law has been implemented. Libya has ratified the AU’s Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, which requires states to criminalize terrorist acts under their national laws.
In March, the interim government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni released a statement, known as the Ghat Declaration, pledging government, military, and security action against terrorism and requesting international counterterrorism assistance. The statement marked a significant escalation in the government’s counterterrorism rhetoric, asserting that there would be “no place for terrorism in Libya” and pledging the government to do “whatever is required to restore security and peace.” It placed particular emphasis on ongoing violence in Benghazi, Darnah, and Sirte. A number of GNC members affiliated with Islamist-leaning parties, who were reportedly not consulted on the content of the declaration, opposed the characterization of the security crisis in eastern Libya as terrorism.
Even prior to the outbreak of large-scale violence in July, Libyan law enforcement personnel lacked the capacity to detect, deter, respond to, or investigate terrorist incidents. There were no reported terrorism-related prosecutions in 2014. In many parts of Libya, security and law enforcement functions are provided by armed militias rather than state institutions. National police and security forces are fragmented, inadequately trained and equipped, and lack clear reporting chains and coordination mechanisms. Dozens of security and law enforcement officials, including prosecutors and judges, have been targeted in kidnappings and assassinations, resulting in the suspension of court operations in Benghazi and Derna. There has been no police presence in Darnah since 2011. Libya’s military is similarly weak, with units often breaking down along local, tribal, or factional lines. Formal security structures are often overmatched by non-state armed groups. Counterterrorism operations conducted by Libyan Special Operations Forces have so far failed to significantly reduce the level of terrorist violence, bombings, assassinations, or kidnappings in Benghazi.
The Libyan government lacks a comprehensive border management strategy and has struggled to secure the country’s thousands of miles of land and maritime borders, enabling the illicit flow of goods, weapons, migrants, and foreign fighters that pose serious security challenges to the region. Libyan border security forces were generally poorly trained and underequipped, and frequently participated in illicit cross-border trade. Border security infrastructure that was damaged and looted during the 2011 revolution had not been repaired or replaced, and the recent conflict has affected border security infrastructure along Libya’s border with Tunisia. Security at Libya’s airports is minimal, with limited document screening and no utilization of passenger name record systems or biometric technology. Libya also lacks the resources, manpower, and training to conduct sufficient maritime patrols to interdict or dissuade illicit maritime trafficking and irregular migration. According to Italian officials, more than 50,000 migrants arrived in Italy in the first half of 2014, many from Libyan ports. Existing legislation outlining the responsibilities of various government agencies in the area of border management is vague and often contradictory, resulting in ad hoc and poorly coordinated efforts.
At the March 2014 Rome Conference, the United States and other international partners committed to help Libya address its border challenges through the coordinated provision of expertise, training, and equipment. Libya has also sought to engage its neighbors and regional partners on border security issues. In 2013, Libya signed the Rabat Declaration, which foresees expanded cooperation, training, and information exchanges with countries in the region as well as the establishment of a regional secretariat in Tripoli. Under former Prime Minister Zeidan, the Libyan government also established a Border Management Working Group (BMWG) comprised of seven ministries involved in border security, including Defense, Interior, Finance (which oversees the Customs Authority), and Transportation. Envisioned as the government’s lead body for coordinating border security policy and assistance, the BMWG suffered from leadership turnover, poor internal communications, and weak capacity. Border security efforts led by the EU Border Assistance Mission to Libya (EUBAM) faced repeated delays and were largely placed on hold following the outbreak of fighting in Tripoli in July, which forced the evacuation of EUBAM staff from Libya to Tunisia and a considerable reduction in personnel.
Libya has cooperated in the investigation of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests, including the September 2012 killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at U.S. government facilities in Benghazi. However, Libyan support to these investigations has been limited given overall weak capacity in Libya’s law enforcement institutions. Although its political leadership has pledged to do everything possible to arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorist acts against U.S. citizens, Libyan officials publicly condemned the capture by U.S. forces of Abu Anas al-Libi and Ahmed Abu Khattalah, both of whom have been charged under U.S. terrorism laws. In 2013, the Libyan Ministry of Justice signed a Declaration of Intent to facilitate law enforcement cooperation with the United States on investigations, including that of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Libya is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and has taken steps to implement a national identification database system to improve transparency in government salary payments. Although there is little reliable data on Libya’s anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorist financing efforts, Libyan government and financial institutions generally lacked the ability to identify and interdict illicit financial flows. The Libyan Central Bank has requested IMF technical and capacity building assistance in AML and other areas. 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 participated in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and supported counterterrorism initiatives by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and the AU. In 2014, Libya participated in three foreign minister-level meetings with neighboring countries, hosted respectively by Tunisia, Egypt, and Spain, aimed at addressing Libya’s security challenges. Although the Libyan interim government under Prime Ministers Ali Zeidan and Abdullah al-Thinni has expressed interest in international counterterrorism cooperation, most efforts have failed to gain traction given the challenging security and political environment. Since 2011, the United States, UN, and a number of European countries have developed programs to help rebuild Libya’s law enforcement, security, and defense institutions through technical assistance and training. At the Libyan government’s request, the United States, UK, Turkey, and Italy committed to train a General Purpose Force (GPF) to help protect government institutions and maintain law and order. However, the GPF training program, as well as EU-led efforts to build Libyan border security capacity faced repeated delays in implementation. A number of these programs have been on hold since the outbreak of large-scale violence in July.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:The Libyan government has not adopted a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism. Under the previous interim government, the Ministries of Interior, Culture, and Youth and Sports launched educational and public messaging campaigns to counter extremist ideology. Like many other government programs, these efforts are on hold in light of the current political and security situation. Libya has participated in the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute regional workshops on the rehabilitation of violent extremist offenders. While many Libyan political and religious leaders condemn terrorism, others have implicitly endorsed extremist views. In November, Omar al-Hassi, the then-nominal prime minister of the unrecognized Tripoli-based administration, called Ansar al-Shari’a a “beautiful idea” and advocated engaging the group in dialogue. While disparate civic groups have carried out campaigns, including via social media, to speak out against extremism, the increase in online threats, kidnappings, and assassinations of activists who speak out against extremists contributes to a culture of intimidation and self-censorship.
Overview:Morocco has a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. The government has treated counterterrorism as a top policy priority since the country experienced suicide bombing attacks in Casablanca in 2003, and that focus has been reinforced by further attacks in 2007 and 2011. Additionally, Moroccan nationals were implicated in the 2004 attacks in Madrid. In 2014, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts effectively mitigated the risk of terrorism, 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 capabilities.
During the year, authorities reported the disruption of multiple groups with ties to international networks that included al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). AQIM and ISIL continued efforts to recruit Moroccans for combat in other countries, and there were reports of Moroccans attempting to join AQIM, ISIL, and other violent extremists in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 Moroccans were fighting in the Syrian conflict, making them one of the largest foreign contingents in the conflict. The government was increasingly concerned about the potential return of veteran Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters from those conflict zones to conduct possible terrorist attacks at home, and Moroccans resident abroad becoming radicalized during their stays in Western Europe. AQIM and ISIL continued to call for attacks against the Moroccan monarchy and prominent Moroccan institutions and individuals. In July, ISIL published a video online in which it promised to bring “jihad” to install the caliphate system in Morocco, and in October, the group published a video calling for attacks against U.S. persons and interests in Morocco and the region.
Morocco is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has made contributions and commitments to the effort. In addition, the government was increasingly proactive in 2014 to both stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to counter ISIL propaganda. In July, the MOI claimed to have arrested over 120 foreign terrorist fighters who had returned from Syria since the start of the Syrian conflict. As of December, the parliament was reviewing draft amendments to the criminal procedural codes to comply with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178. The amendments would criminalize support to terrorist groups, travel to fight or train in conflict areas, and recruitment of others for such acts, creating greater latitude for the government to prosecute Moroccans engaged in terrorist activity abroad. Finally, in December, Morocco co-chaired the inaugural plenary session of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The government continued to enforce the 2003 counterterrorism law, which supplements the criminal code. That law defines terrorism to include incitement to terrorism but does not penalize participation in terrorist training, communication with a terrorist group, or intimidation of foreign governments or populations. The law also sets strict penalties for active participation in terrorism. During the year, the 2003 counterterrorism law and the criminal code were used in several convictions in terrorism-related cases. Morocco has been working to improve its legal system through an ongoing comprehensive reform of the justice system; for example, in November, the parliament approved a law eliminating the use of military tribunals for civilian cases.
Moroccan law enforcement units 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 (BNPJ) – a specialized entity within the investigative arm of the national police force, the General Direction of National Security (DGSN) – is the primary law enforcement entity responsible for counterterrorism law enforcement. It works closely with and uses intelligence from the internal security service, the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST). In October, the MOI launched a security initiative to improve coordination among the Royal Armed Forces, the Royal Gendarmerie, and MOI auxiliary forces to better protect the public against terrorist threats in urban areas. 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. However, in August, the UN Human Rights Council working group on arbitrary detention released a report based on a review of cases from 2009 through 2013 that claimed they had found “a pattern of torture and ill-treatment by police officers” in national security and counterterrorism cases; separately, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez had reported in 2013 that while he found evidence of torture in Moroccan detention facilities, it was “not systematic.”
The DGSN is the body primarily responsible for border security, handling border inspections at established ports of entry such as Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport, where most border crossings occur. Law enforcement officials and private carriers have worked regularly with the United States to detect and deter individuals attempting to transit illegally. Government authorities worked directly with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Regional Carrier Liaison Group and the DHS Homeland Security Investigations Attaché office at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca to address watchlisted or mala fide travelers. Government airport authorities have excellent capabilities in detecting fraudulent documents but currently lack biometric screening capabilities.
Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts led to numerous disruptions of alleged terrorist cells and prosecutions of associated individuals, including these cases:
- In August, the MOI announced that a joint BNPJ-DGST operation had led to the arrest of nine individuals for recruiting volunteers for ISIL. The network was operating out of the northern cities of Fes, Fnideq, Tetouan, and Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, raising funds and exporting people to conflict zones. The arrests reportedly resulted from a joint Moroccan-Spanish investigation. According to the Moroccan MOI, some of the recruits were planning to return to Morocco to use their training to conduct attacks against senior civilian and military officials. Press reports indicated that by late August, the nine individuals had been charged in the Salé Court of Appeals with forming a criminal gang to prepare and carry out terrorist attacks within the framework of a collective plot to undermine public order by intimidation, violence, and terrorism; funding terrorism; and holding unauthorized public meetings.
- In October, a joint BNPJ-DGST operation in Fes led to the arrest of two individuals – a French national and a Moroccan with French nationality – who were reportedly preparing to join ISIL in Syria. The two individuals had previously been in France supporting ISIL through the translation of propaganda and posting it online along with videos that included calls for expanding the caliphate to Morocco.
- In December, the Salé Court of Appeals sentenced seven people to three years in prison, without remission, on terrorism charges based on testimonies during the preliminary investigation that these individuals had traveled to Syria to join terrorist organizations and receive military training.
Morocco 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. In August, Morocco and the United States signed an ATA agreement to partner in the development of CT capacity and cooperation in the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Morocco also continued to partner with the United States to improve the police criminal investigation process through the development and implementation of chain of custody and evidence management procedures; forensic evidence collection and analysis, including DNA; and mentoring and training. Morocco participated in Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and Department of Justice programs to improve technical investigative training for police and prosecutors. DGSN, Moroccan Customs, and the Royal Gendarmerie were active partners and participants in DHS-sponsored training events on border security, financial investigation, and counter-proliferation topics. Finally, government officials participated in several U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation-led courses to improve capacity in intelligence analysis, facial recognition, and leadership and management.
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 of Financial Intelligence Units. Morocco was removed from the FATF compliance monitoring follow-up process in 2013 and continued to make legal progress in the counterterrorist finance (CFT) domain in 2014. In July, the parliament’s chamber of representatives (lower house) voted to adopt the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism, and the convention was under parliamentary review at year’s end.
In March, a joint BNPJ-DGST operation arrested four individuals in the Fes region for terrorist financing and the recruitment of youth to travel to Syria to fight. According to the MOI, the group’s leader, Ahmed Zahrouni Kouis, previously detained on terrorism charges, reportedly scammed banks and financial institutions into granting loans to front companies with forged documents.
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/vol2/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation:Morocco is a founding member of the GCTF and a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). In April, Morocco hosted the Fifth GCTF Coordinating Committee meeting. During the year, Morocco pledged contributions to the GCTF-inspired Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) to address countering violent extremism goals and volunteered to serve as a pilot country. It also was a founding member of the Malta-based International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law launched in June. In December, it hosted and co-chaired the inaugural plenary session of the GCTF Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
Morocco is a major non-NATO Ally and a Mediterranean Dialogue (5+5) partner in the EU’s Barcelona Process; within that process, Morocco 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. Morocco also participates in multilateral peacekeeping operations in Africa as well as in training exercises such as maritime-focused PHOENIX EXPRESS and the FLINTLOCK regional security operations exercise, and hosts the annual AFRICAN LION regional exercise. These engagements have enhanced border security and improved capabilities to counter illicit traffic and terrorism.
Both Morocco and Algeria participate in 5+5, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), and the GCTF; however, political disagreement over the status of Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2014.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:Morocco has a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE) that prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere and messaging. Morocco has accelerated its rollout of education and employment initiatives for youth – the population identified as most vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment – and has expanded the legal rights and political and social empowerment of women. To counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, Morocco has developed a national strategy to affirm and further institutionalize Morocco’s widespread adherence to the Maliki-Ashari school of Sunni Islam. In the past decade, Morocco has focused on upgrading mosques, promoting the teaching of relatively 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 its version of relatively moderate Sunni Islam. The MEIA-affiliated Mohammedan League of Ulema (Rabita Mohammedia) produces scholarly research on the nation’s Islamic values, ensures conformity in educational curricula, and conducts outreach to youth on religious and social topics. 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 within Moroccan expatriate communities in Europe. Throughout 2014, Morocco expanded the regional counter-radicalization efforts to train Malian imams announced in 2013 to include imams from France, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, and Tunisia.
The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) funded a program to improve the overall management of Morocco’s corrections system, which might help deter potential radicalism and the recruitment of prisoners to terrorist ideology. USAID’s Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement in Today’s Youth (FORSATY, which loosely translates to “my opportunity” in Arabic) project addressed youth marginalization in areas known for recruitment by extremist organizations, helping them stay in school, develop skills, and become active in the community.
Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner and worked actively to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks within Oman, or using its territory for safe haven or to transport terrorists, weapons, and materiel. The Government of Oman 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. 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.
Oman participated in Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) meetings and signed the September 11 Jeddah Communiqué to express support for combating the spread of ISIL’s extremism. After the Jeddah meeting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement noting that regional cooperation was needed to end the threat posed by ISIL as quickly as possible. Omani officials also participated in the October Coalition Partners Communications Conference in Kuwait to develop a counter-narrative to ISIL messaging, and the December Counter-ISIL plenary meeting in Brussels. In his remarks to the UN Security Council (UNSC) September 19, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, disparaged ISIL as the “un-Islamic” state.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:Royal Decree 8/2007 outlines specific penalties, including the death penalty and life imprisonment, for various terrorist acts, including establishment or leadership of a terrorist group, attempts to join or recruit for a terrorist group, development of an explosive or weapon, or takeover of any mode of transportation for purposes of terrorism. Royal Decree 55/1999, ratified the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, and Royal Decree 22/2002, ratified the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Convention on Combating International Terrorism. Royal Decree 105/2005 ratifies the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Convention to Counter 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.
A widespread corruption crackdown started in 2013 continued into 2104, with guilty verdicts and lengthy prison terms – up to 23 years in prison – issued to well-placed government officials, influential business persons, and senior leadership of state-owned corporations.
Counterterrorism investigation, crisis response, and border security capabilities were limited by local capacity and a challenging operating environment due to Oman’s long and remote borders with Yemen and Saudi Arabia. There was little coordination among the many agencies with jurisdiction over counterterrorism. Roles and responsibilities between law enforcement and the armed forces were not clearly delineated.
In 2014, the U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security engaged with the Royal Oman Police Coast Guard, the Directorate General of Customs, and the Royal Army of Oman to deliver numerous training programs designed to assist Omani personnel in enhancing interdiction capabilities at official Ports of Entry on land and at sea ports, and along land and maritime borders.
Oman participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s week-long Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Commodity Identification Course, which included training on identifying and interdicting dual-use material that may to be used in a WMD terrorist attack.
Oman also participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provided training on maritime border security, cyber investigations, and critical incident management for Omani security officials representing a number of government agencies.
Omani authorities made significant progress on construction of a fence along Oman’s long and remote border with Yemen to deter entry into its territory.
The major deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security are the lack of interagency coordination and lack of training to develop requisite law enforcement skills. Oman’s border with Yemen also features extremely rugged, mountainous terrain which challenges border security efforts.
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. In compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012), the Government of Oman banned in January the import of Somali charcoal - a measure aimed to deny revenue from charcoal sales to the al-Shabaab terrorist group. The Switzerland-based Basel Institute assessed Oman in September 2014 as having the lowest risk among GCC states for money laundering and terrorist financing, according to its Anti-Money Laundering Index, which ranks Oman as 29th globally with a score of 4.76 on a scale from 0 (low risk) to 10 (high risk). Hawala are not permitted to operate in Oman. 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/vol2/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation:Oman participates in the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Strategic Cooperation Forum. During the September 25 forum, Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, joined other GCC foreign ministers in reaffirming the rejection of terrorism, violent extremism, and sectarianism in all their forms, condemning the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the recruitment of children to carry out attacks, and emphasized that ISIL poses a direct threat to shared peace and security. The foreign ministers agreed to follow up the Strategic Cooperation Forum discussion with concrete steps to destroy and ultimately defeat ISIL, and establish security and stability, including by cutting the group’s sources of revenue, blocking travel of foreign fighters, and sharing information on ISIL activities.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Grand Mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmed al-Khalili, published an essay in October calling on all Muslims to reject extremism and promote tolerance, themes he again amplified in his popular and widely broadcast weekly television program.
Overview:In 2014, Qatar restructured its national counterterrorism committee to improve interagency coordination on counterterrorism efforts, including counterterrorist financing, cybersecurity, threats to civil aviation, and internal security threats. The Qatari government is concerned by the threat of foreign terrorist fighters transiting through Doha’s new international airport hub to or from Syria to receive training and provide support to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as the possibility that violent extremists could seek to commit terrorist acts in or from Qatar using Qatar’s internet or financial systems. In 2014, the Qatari government implemented new tools to enhance monitoring and enforcement against persons using charities and the internet for terrorist purposes or in support of terrorism, including fundraising.
Qatar is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. In addition to hosting two U.S. military installations important to Coalition efforts, Qatar has offered to host a train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces and provided operational and logistical support for Coalition activities. Qatari aircraft have participated in Coalition airstrikes against ISIL in Syria. Qatar has contributed humanitarian aid to the effort, and sent six planes full of humanitarian assistance to Iraq in September.
U.S. agencies had an active and productive dialogue with their Qatari counterparts and worked closely for the exchange and evaluation of terrorist-related information. Qatar was generally responsive to U.S. requests and coordination efforts although limited in capacity and indigenous manpower. The United States and Qatar collaborated in fostering closer regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and rule of law activities.
Qatar has a strong legal framework to combat terrorist financing, and sought to strengthen it in 2014. Qatari officials recognized there were gaps in the law and acknowledged a critical need for improvement in implementation. Capacity to address this issue remained an obstacle during the year. As a result of information sharing and engagement on specific designated individuals, Qatari officials took enforcement steps against private financiers of terrorism and shared limited information on others with the United States.
Terrorist activity historically has been low in Qatar. Restrictive immigration policies and security services capable of monitoring and disrupting violent extremist activities helped to mitigate the terrorist threat.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In addition to existing laws which prohibit terrorist activities, in 2014 the Amir approved Law Number 14, the Cybercrime Prevention Law, which criminalizes terrorism-linked cyber offenses. The new cybercrime law clarifies that it is unlawful to establish or manage a terrorist organization on any information network (including a website) or information technology device, or to use an information network to establish contact with leaders or members of terrorist organizations, promote or finance terrorism, or instruct on methods to assist in terrorist activity. Specifically, the law prohibits use of an “information network or information technology technique” to set up or run a website for a terrorist group or organization, facilitate communication with leaders and members of such a group or organization, promote its thoughts, secure financing thereto, or publish information relating to manufacturing explosives or incendiary devices of any device that can be used in a terrorist act.
The new cybercrime law grants law enforcement and prosecutors additional investigative tools, such as monitoring internet traffic and electronic data, to combat terrorism and terrorist finance in the information age. Qatar can also deport individuals for violation of the cybercrime law. A professional organization (such as a law firm), unless specifically exempted by law, must comply with court orders and investigations under the Cybercrime Law, and may not withhold information on the basis of professional confidentiality. The law also provides mechanisms and details for Qatar to comply with requests for information made by other countries under mutual legal assistance treaties, thereby expanding enforcement capabilities outside of Qatar.
The State Security Bureau, also known as the Qatar State Security, maintains an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal extremist or terrorism-related activities. The internal security-focused 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’s Office of Public Prosecution is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism, and plays a significant role in terrorism investigations as the prosecutors conduct investigative interviews.
Qatar also maintains an interagency National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) within the Ministry of Interior, which is composed of representatives from more than 10 government ministries and official institutions. The NATC is tasked 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. During 2014, Qatar took steps to improve interagency coordination on terrorism-related security matters, by consolidating a restructured NATC, with a new Chairman. As of December 31, the NATC’s restructuring was ongoing, with pending law changes to formalize consolidation of interagency coordination on critical infrastructure and industrial security, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism including counterterrorism financing and border security measures.
Qatar maintains its own 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 the Doha International Airport. Through its state-owned airline Qatar Airways, Qatar signed an agreement in November with Interpol to check the validity of passports of travelers against the Interpol Stolen and Lost Travel Documents databases, a new initiative with only two airlines worldwide to help stem the flow of foreign fighters and enhance border security.
Overall, Qatar’s security services workforce is limited in scope and bandwidth, and in most agencies, is reliant on manpower from third countries to fill rank-and-file law enforcement positions. This limitation applies across the board with all Qatari government institutions (except for the Qatar State Security and elite units of the Ministry of Interior’s internal security force) and is commensurate with the demographics of the nation. Lack of capacity and to some extent the lack of advanced training of these non-Qataris does contribute to a lack of effectiveness in basic police operations. However, Qatar’s reliance on technology has provided state-of-the-art electronic surveillance capacity, which enhances Qatari security services’ effectiveness in the detection and monitoring of terrorist suspects.
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. Qatar’s Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2010 requires Qatar’s Public Prosecutor to freeze the funds of UNSC-designated terrorist organizations. Qatar Central Bank works with financial institutions to confirm compliance of UN designations of terrorist entities and individuals, including Qatari citizens.
In September, the Amir of Qatar issued a new law regulating the work of charities oversight based on FATF standards. Law Number 15 of 2014 established an independent Charities Commission composed of an interagency board (headed by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and including officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, the Central Bank, and Qatar State Security). It amended Law Number 4 of 2010 which previously charged the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs with the sole responsibility for regulating charities. According to the new law, local charities must obtain authorization from the Commission prior to any dealings with foreign entities. The Qatar Central Bank scrutinizes charities’ overseas transactions to ensure compliance.
The Amir also issued Law Number 14 of 2014 in September on cybercrime prevention, which penalizes the use of the internet for unauthorized fundraising in support of terrorism.
The Qatari government in 2014 took steps to stem the flow of funds from Qatar to violent extremist groups and individuals. Qatari authorities shut down the Madad Ahl al-Sham online fundraising campaign that was suspected of sending funds to violent extremist elements in Syria. Qatari authorities deported a Jordanian terrorist financier resident in Doha who had been employed by a Qatari charity. To further protect the State of Qatar from foreign terrorist financiers attempting to raise funds in Doha, the government barred the entry of multiple individuals of concern. The government also issued directives to local charities prohibiting them from transferring funds to several overseas charities suspected of engaging in illicit activities.
In June, Qatar sent fourteen interagency officials to a U.S.-hosted anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism training in Washington. Participants discussed with U.S. interagency experts the need to tackle the use of charities and misuse of the internet for illicit finance, and the relationship with funding foreign fighters and violent extremist groups overseas.
Qatari law authorizes the NATC to designate by resolution those who finance terrorism, terrorists, and terrorist organizations, independently of lists pursuant to UNSCR 1267. No designations were made in 2014.
Non-profit organizations are not obliged to file suspicious transaction reports, but the government has reportedly increased its regulation and monitoring of charities with the implementation of a new regulation of charities law issued in September.
Regional and International Cooperation:Qatar is a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and actively participated in GCTF coordination activities. Qatar participated in and was active in counterterrorism issues at the UN, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Qatar hosted the March GCTF workshop on developing a plan of action for community-oriented policing as a tool for Countering Violent Extremism. Qatar also participated in the Global Countering Violent Extremism Expo hosted by the Hedayah Center in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in December.
Qatari officials and Qatari media work together on strategic communications to counter violent extremism; the Prime Minister has a senior aide responsible for overseeing strategic communications and senior Qatari officials oversee state media and sit on the Board of Directors of the Al-Jazeera network. An Assistant Foreign Minister attended the Global Coalition Communication Conference in Kuwait in October. Qatari officials also participated in a Global Coalition Communications Working Group in Abu Dhabi in December.
Overview:For the first time in several years, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, was able to conduct a successful attack on Saudi soil with a July raid on the Wudayah Border Crossing and Ministry of the Interior (MOI) General Investigation Directorate (Mabahith) office in Sharurah (near the Saudi-Yemeni border), which resulted in the death of four Saudi security officers. AQAP continued efforts to inspire sympathizers to support, finance, or engage in conflicts outside of Saudi Arabia and encouraged individual acts of terrorism within the Kingdom.
In addition to facing the enduring threat from AQAP, Saudi counterterrorism efforts were increasingly focused on the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as Saudi citizens returning from fighting in Syria. The Saudi government continued domestic and bilateral efforts to build, augment, and refine its capacity to counter terrorism and extremist ideologies in the Kingdom while increasing participation in international counterterrorism conferences and engagements. Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a robust 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. Saudi Arabia stood as a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, taking military action in support of coalition efforts.
The Saudi government took a zero-tolerance stance on ISIL by condemning the organization’s activities and participating in Global Coalition military action to counter the group in Syria and Iraq. Its external action against ISIL was complemented by an aggressive campaign by both official clerics and Saudi King Abdullah to discredit the group and condemn their activities as acts of terrorism. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed UN Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178, expanding existing counterterrorism programs and rhetoric to address the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, and leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist-Financing (CT Law) to combat funding of violent extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: Several attacks on both Saudi nationals and Westerners occurred, despite Saudi efforts to detect and disrupt terrorist activity.
- On July 4, the most organized of the incidents, carried out by AQAP, targeted a Saudi border checkpoint in Sharurah near the Yemeni border, which resulted in the death of four Saudi security officers and five AQAP assailants.
- On October 14, there were two shooting events involving Western targets, including one targeting two American contractors working in Saudi Arabia who were shot at a gas station in Riyadh by a dual Saudi/U.S. national. There were indications that extremist propaganda influenced the attacker, a former employee of the victim’s organization.
- On November 3, a group of gunmen killed five Saudi nationals and wounded nine others in the town of al-Dalwah in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The Saudi government has alleged that the gunmen had ties to ISIL.
- On November 22, a Danish national survived being shot three times by three assailants who were arrested by Saudi authorities on December 11. Initial Saudi investigations determined that the three Saudi attackers had unspecified links to ISIL.
In all cases, the Saudi government worked closely with the United States to clarify the circumstances regarding these attacks and responded quickly to ensure proper security measures were in place to better secure U.S. installations and interests.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:In February, Saudi Arabia’s robust legal counterterrorism apparatus was bolstered by the introduction of a new counterterrorism law containing 41 articles that further refined existing counterterrorism laws. Human rights activists have criticized the counterterrorism law, claiming that an overly-broad definition of terrorism greatly inhibits freedom of expression and association. Saudi Arabia has a specialized criminal court for handling counterterrorism cases; it was also used in 2014 to try human rights defenders.
Throughout 2014, 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. The Saudi government continued its programs to improve physical border security through the employment of biometric systems, aerial reconnaissance, thermal imaging, and remote unattended sensors along the border region, especially considering the deteriorating security situation with neighbors Yemen and Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s MOI hosted the 17th Annual International Conference and Exhibition for Industrial Security, Fire, and Occupational Safety and Health in Riyadh in early November, which focused on strengthening industrial security practices and coordination between the government and private sectors to protect key infrastructure from terrorist attacks.
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, as well as the successful disruption of a more than 70-member ISIL cell active in Saudi Arabia.
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. Despite the absence of a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty, Post’s Legal Attaché office brokered and enhanced direct engagement between Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and MOI’s Department of Legal Affairs and International Cooperation. This year witnessed the first case in which Saudi Arabia produced certified bank records in response to a mutual legal assistance request.
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, and its financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. 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 in the Kingdom. It continued to provide specialized training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies as part of its efforts to maintain financial programs designed to combat terror financing. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has standing requirements to all Saudi financial institutions to implement all the FATF Recommendations regarding money laundering and terrorist finance. The February 2014 counterterrorism law further outlined the Saudi government’s ability to combat terrorist financing. Despite these efforts, however, foreign charities with suspected links to terrorist groups continued to leverage social media to solicit funds from Saudi donors, a trend the Saudi government worked to combat. In 2014, the FATF decided to enable a small expansion of membership, and the Kingdom was selected as a candidate for potential membership. 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 by participating in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Saudi Arabia has been a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative since 2008; Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which itself is a member of the FATF. Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects including countering violent extremist ideology and combating terrorist financing. In April 2014, the Saudi government participated in the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum Task Force on Counterterrorism and Border Security.
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: Designated in 1979 as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Asad regime continued its political support to a variety of terrorist groups affecting the stability of the region and beyond, even amid significant internal unrest. The regime continued to provide political and weapons support to Lebanese Hezbollah and continued to allow Iran to rearm the terrorist organization. The Asad regime’s relationship with Hezbollah and Iran continued to grow stronger in 2014 as the conflict in Syria continued. President Bashar al-Asad remained a staunch defender of Iran’s policies, while Iran has exhibited equally energetic support for Syrian regime efforts to defeat the Syrian opposition. Statements supporting terrorist groups, particularly Hezbollah, were often in Syrian government speeches and press statements.
The Syrian government 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 for many years of violent extremists’ transit through Syria to enter Iraq, 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, including ISIL, which terrorized the Syrian and Iraqi population in 2014 and – in addition to other terrorist organizations within Syria – continued to attract thousands of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria in 2014.
As part of a broader strategy during the year, the regime still attempted to portray Syria itself as a victim of terrorism, characterizing all of its armed opponents as “terrorists.”
Asad’s government has continued to generate significant concern regarding the role it plays in terrorist financing. Industry experts reported that 60 percent of all business transactions were conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians did not use formal banking services. Despite Syrian legislation that required money changers to be licensed by the end of 2007, many continued to operate illegally in Syria’s vast black market, estimated to be as large as Syria’s formal economy. Regional hawala networks (an informal value transfer system based on the performance and honor of a large network of money brokers operating outside traditional western financial systems) remained intertwined with smuggling and trade-based money laundering, and were facilitated by notoriously corrupt customs and immigration officials. This raised significant concerns that some members of the Syrian government and the business elite were complicit in terrorist finance schemes conducted through these institutions.
Despite the progress made through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon’s Executive Council and UNSCR 2118 (2013) to dismantle and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program, there continued to be significant concern, given ongoing instability in Syria, that these materials could find their way to terrorist organizations. Additionally, Syria continued to use toxic chemicals, including chlorine, as a weapon against its citizens. Syria’s behavior raises serious questions about the regime’s willingness to comply with its Chemical Weapons Convention and UNSCR 2118 obligations.
Overview:Over the past year, the Tunisian government increased its counterterrorism efforts and cooperation with the United States, with positive results. Former Prime Minister Joma’a’s government, which assumed power in January 2014, made fighting terrorism a top priority and the government took increasingly bold steps to counter terrorism and violent extremism. The government led a sustained campaign to take tough action on terrorists and began a major effort to build the counterterrorism capabilities of its security forces. The security forces showcased their capabilities during the parliamentary and presidential elections in the last quarter of the year. The elections proceeded smoothly and without any major incident, despite terrorist vows to disrupt the process. The Tunisian security forces dismantled several terrorist cells and disrupted a number of plots before they could be executed.
Nevertheless, terrorism remained a serious challenge for Tunisia’s nascent democracy. The rise of violent extremist organizations in Tunisia since the January 2011 revolution – including Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – posed serious security challenges to a post-revolutionary government. The government continued its efforts to reorient the focus of the security forces toward a counterterrorism mission, but these reforms need time and international support to succeed. Tunisia 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 (IEDs). The disproportionate numbers of Tunisians traveling to fight in Iraq and Syria – and the potential for the return of these fighters – was another cause for concern. Some independent sources estimate that up to 3,000 Tunisians have left their country for Syria and Iraq to join militant groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Tunisia has been active in countering terrorist threats to Tunisia’s security. The government has put considerable efforts into stemming the flow of fighters to Syria and Iraq. Minister of Interior Lotfi Ben Jeddou told the media in June that the Tunisian government detained “hundreds of returning foreign fighters.” His announcement is consistent with his previous statement in February, estimating 400 Tunisian fighters had returned to the country. The government also estimates that approximately 9,000 Tunisians have been prevented from leaving Tunisia for Syria to join the conflict, although there is no independent confirmation of this number. Existing legislation enables the Tunisian government to detain returning fighters, although it has been difficult to meet the evidentiary requirements needed to prosecute them. A counterterrorism bill, which would modernize the legislative framework for dealing with terrorism, is currently before the legislature. An interagency team within the Tunisian Government was reviewing the bill at year’s end to prepare amendments that would bring the bill’s provisions in line with UN Security Council Resolutions 2170 and 2178.
Tunisia is one of six countries participating in the President’s Security Governance Initiative (SGI) announced at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. SGI focuses on the management, oversight, and accountability of the security sector at the institutional level.
2014 Terrorist Incidents:The list of incidents below highlights some of the most significant clashes between security forces and terrorist elements that occurred during the year.
- On February 16, a group of terrorists wearing military uniforms killed three members of the security forces and one civilian in an ambush at a false check point in Ouled Manaa, Jendouba.
- On April 11, approximately five soldiers and one civilian were injured in an IED explosion on Mount Chaambi.
- On May 27, the Minister of Interior Lotfi Ben Jeddou’s house in Kasserine was attacked. Approximately four policemen were killed and one was injured. AQIM took responsibility for the attack.
- On June 30, the explosion of an IED during a sweeping operation in the mountains of Ouergha, Le Kef, caused the death of approximately four soldiers. Officials reported a fifth soldier also died the same day after a clash with gunmen.
- On July 16, in an attack on Mount Chaambi, 15 soldiers were reportedly killed and another 22 injured in a military camp a few minutes before they were to break their fast during the month of Ramadan.
- On November 5, a group of suspected terrorists attacked a bus transporting soldiers in Neber, Kef. Five soldiers were reportedly killed and 10 injured.
- On November 30, a National Guard member was abducted and later decapitated by violent extremists in the Mount Chaambi region.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2003 counterterrorism law remains the primary legal framework for dealing with terrorism offenses, although lesser offenses can still be charged under the penal code. A new bill that was designed to address concerns raised by human rights groups and modernizing the legislation was before the legislature at year’s end.
The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense share responsibility for detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism in Tunisia. In particular, the Antiterrorism Brigade (BAT) and the National Guard Special Unit – elite units under the Ministry of Interior’s National Police and National Guard, respectively – take the lead for counterterrorism operations outside the military exclusion zones. The National Unit for the Investigation of Terrorist Crimes leads investigations and liaises with the judicial system to encourage successful prosecutions. The military’s role in counterterrorism has gradually increased, especially in the military exclusion zones and mountainous areas close to the Algerian border, where the Ministry of Defense has the lead in counterterrorism operations. The government was at the last stages in December 2014 of establishing an interagency Counterterrorism Fusion Center that would act as a clearing house for information among security ministries to enable them to better communicate and coordinate their counterterrorism efforts.
Security forces were 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 well together, coordinating their efforts within Counterterrorism Task Forces that were established in the military exclusion zones.
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 countries. The Government has undertaken a sweeping study of its options to modernize and strengthen its border security capabilities.
Instability in Libya presents an additional challenge and continues to preoccupy Tunisian security officials and political leaders. Border security remained a priority in 2014 and Tunisian authorities collaborated with their Algerian counterparts to stem the flow of weapons and insurgents across their common borders and across their borders with Libya. Tunisia repeatedly expressed satisfaction with its cooperation with Algeria. Efforts to root out militants in the Mount Chaambi region and western borders with Algeria continued at year’s end. While the operation has achieved some success, it has been hampered by Tunisian military’s inexperience in this type of engagement.
The year saw a significant number of arrests and raids by security forces. The Government of Tunisia claimed to have arrested and detained 2,700 terrorists by the end of November 2014, double the number of arrests in all of 2013. On December 2, the government began the prosecution of 75 suspected terrorists for the killing of Anis Jelassi, the first member of the Tunisian security forces killed in a terrorist attack since the revolution.
Significant law enforcement and proactive disruptions arrests related to counterterrorism activities included:
- On February 4, the police killed Kamel Gadhgadhi, alleged murderer of politician Chokri Belaid, and six other suspected terrorists in a house raid in Raoued, a northern suburb of Tunis. Clashes between suspected terrorists and security forces lasted nearly 20 hours and resulted in the death of a National Guard member. The police and the army seized weapons, ammunition, a large quantity of explosives, and mobile phones and military uniforms.
- On February 9-10, the BAT raided a house and dismantled a terrorist cell in Cité Ennasim, Ariana, near Tunis. Four suspected terrorists were arrested, including Ahmed Melki, suspected of being involved in the assassination of politician Mohamed Brahmi.
- On March 15, Abou Ayoub, one of the leaders of AAS-T was arrested in Gabes following his illegal entry into Tunisia from Libya.
- On May 21, counterterrorist units arrested eight individuals on charges of planning terrorist attacks. They entered Tunisia from Libya, where they had been reportedly trained in the use of weapons and building bombs.
- On July 10, clashes between the police forces and AAS-T members led to the arrest of eight suspected terrorists and confiscation of cash. AAS-T sympathizers organized a protest against the operations, which turned violent, and led to the use of tear gas by the police.
- On October 9, Hafedh Ben Hassine, the brother of Seif Allah Ben Hassine, an AAS-T founder, was arrested on charges of financing Salafist groups and recruiting terrorists.
- On October 22, security forces launched an assault in Oued Ellil, Manouba and surrounded a house harboring suspected terrorists. The operations continued for two days and finally led to the death of six suspected terrorists, including five women, and a National Guard member. The police seized light weapons and grenades. Information that the security forces had collected from a terrorist suspect in the early hours of that day in the south reportedly triggered the operations.
Tunisians voted in parliamentary elections on October 26 and in two rounds of presidential elections on November 23 and December 21. Despite terrorists’ vows to disrupt the electoral process, the security forces could guarantee the safety of citizens during the vote. Sporadic violence in protest of the results occurred after the second round of the presidential elections, but it did not appear that terrorist groups had organized the protests.
The appeal of the court ruling to release the individuals who allegedly took part in the September 14, 2012 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and American Cooperative School of Tunis continued in 2014, but were continually delayed due to the suspects not showing up in court. The Minister of Interior confirmed in October that the security forces had arrested terrorists suspected of plotting an assassination attempt targeting the U.S. Ambassador.
Tunisia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. Tunisian Ministry of Interior officials received ATA training in the areas of tactical crisis response, counterterrorism investigations, and command and control. Tactical units were granted specific tactical and enabling equipment. 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, body armor, computers, and other equipment 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. 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.
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, is headed by the governor of the Central Bank and includes representatives from a range of other agencies. It has worked effectively over the last year to gather important regulatory information to improve its efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The Tunisian penal code provides for the seizure of assets and property tied to narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. Tunisia freezes and confiscates assets, but the timeframe for taking action varies depending on the case. 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 (GCTF), and the AU. Tunisia is an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, a U.S. multi-year interagency 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 Algerian counterparts over this past year, although cooperation with Libya diminished due to the absence of an effective Libyan central government. 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.
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. The government has also attempted to prevent the radicalization of Tunisians by minimizing their exposure to inflammatory rhetoric in the mosques. Article Six of the Constitution, adopted in January, defines the state as “the guardian of religion” with the duty to guarantee “the neutrality of the mosques and of the places of worship from all partisan instrumentalization.” It also commits the state to “the dissemination of the values of moderation and tolerance,” as well as “the prohibition of, and the fight against, appeals to excommunication and incitement to violence and hatred.” Several hundred imams, reportedly with extremist agendas, took over mosques in the months following the 2011 revolution, accusing their predecessors of collaborating with the previous regime. The Ministry of Religious Affairs acknowledged in October 2011 that these imams controlled 400 mosques in Tunisia. The ministry declared in December 2014 that it had regained control of all mosques throughout Tunisia, and that it had replaced all self-appointed imams with government-sanctioned imams.
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 government was dedicated to providing strong support for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The pre-clearance facility for travelers boarding direct flights to the United States at the Abu Dhabi International Airport continued to operate and expand its services. Prominent officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology.
The UAE government leaders and senior Emirati officials publicly highlighted the dangers of ISIL and violent extremism, using media to counter ISIL messaging. Apart from the United States, the UAE has conducted more air operations against ISIL than any other Coalition member. The UAE government has openly advocated fighting violent extremism not only militarily, but holistically, including by stopping violent extremist funding, disrupting the recruitment of foreign fighters, securing borders, preventing the exploitation of the web and social media, and by contesting the use of religious centers to promote hatred and violence. To this end, the government restricts violent extremist messaging on the internet.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: On December 1, an American teacher was stabbed to death in a mall restroom by a 38 year-old Emirati woman. The alleged perpetrator then went to the home of an American doctor and planted a primitive bomb outside his apartment. The explosive was discovered by one of the doctor’s children; the Abu Dhabi police were able to evacuate the area and defuse the device. Authorities identified the suspect, tracked her to her home, and arrested her in less than 48 hours. Security sources told the media that the crime committed was a “personal terrorist act” and said the accused did not have links to terrorist organizations although she had allegedly visited violent extremist websites.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The UAE government passed Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on combating terrorism offenses, which replaced Federal Law No. 1 of 2004. The new law strengthened existing legislation by criminalizing additional conduct and imposing stricter punishments, including fines and forfeitures, to deter terrorism and dissident activities.
In November, the government designated 85 groups as terrorist organizations in line with the new law. In conjunction with the new counterterrorism law, the designation of terrorist organizations laid the groundwork for prosecuting a greater number of individuals for a broader range of activities. However, the criteria used for designations, and procedures for organizations to appeal designations, were opaque. The list included Muslim affinity groups in several Western countries, alongside internationally recognized terrorist organizations such as al-Qa’ida and ISIL. The U.S. government requested additional information about the designation by the UAE of two American Muslim affinity groups, which the United States does not consider to be terrorist organizations, and which operate openly in the United States.
The State Security Directorate in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai State Security are the principal security services responsible for counterterrorism functions. These services have demonstrated capability in investigations, crisis response, and border security, and are trained and equipped to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. The State Security Court, a branch of the Federal Supreme Court, has developed capacity for handling security cases.
In June, the Federal Supreme Court issued sentences for seven of nine alleged members of an al-Qa’ida (AQ) cell who were arrested in April 2013. The seven individuals were convicted on charges of running or belonging to an AQ terrorist cell; recruiting and promoting the actions of AQ (including possible terrorist attacks within the UAE); and illegally collecting money to finance a terrorist organization. The group was reportedly recruiting and fundraising for al-Nusrah Front.
In a separate trial in December, the Federal Supreme Court convicted 11 of 15 individuals who were variously charged with joining, supporting, and collecting funds for, and transferring funds to al-Nusrah Front and Ahrar Al Sham; making unauthorized explosives; possessing unlicensed firearms; and polluting the environment through dangerous and banned materials. This is believed to be the first case involving provisions of the new counterterrorism law, and the mixed verdict of convictions and acquittals shows discernment in the way that the laws were applied. The sentences included incarceration, fines, forfeitures, and the closing down of a website. Four Emirati nationals who were tried in absentia were each sentenced to life imprisonment. The case shows the ability of the UAE government to focus its investigative resources on rooting out networks, and to use conspiracy and aiding and abetting as prosecution theories in terrorism cases.
The government continued to cooperate with the United States by hosting a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi International Airport. The preclearance facility expanded to cover additional direct flights to the U.S. through an increase in the number of deployed Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
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. CBP 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 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 remained in effect.
A critical challenge to the effectiveness of the UAE’s law enforcement, border security, and judicial systems is the country’s limited 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.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism:The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and chairs the Task Force’s Training and Typologies Working Group. The UAE’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The UAE continued efforts to strengthen its institutional capabilities to combat terrorist financing. In October, the government adopted Federal Law No. 9 of 2014, amending Law No. 2 of 2002 Regarding Combating Money Laundering. The new law is intended to address deficiencies identified in the UAE’s 2008 FATF Mutual Evaluation and bring the UAE into compliance with the FATF Recommendations issued in February 2012. Notably, the amendments codified in law the obligation of all covered entities to report suspicious transactions related to terrorism financing.
The Central Bank conducted Anti-Money Laundering (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.
The UAE is a regional and global financial and transportation hub. 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. In November, the UAE reported to the MENAFATF that Federal Law No. 7 of 2014 on Terrorist Crimes addressed outstanding deficiencies related to implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373.
Both the Governor of the Central Bank and the Public Prosecutor may freeze funds based on suspicion of terrorist financing. The Central Bank may only freeze funds for a period of seven days, during which the Public Prosecutor must be informed. The Public Prosecutor may extend the freeze, pending investigation. Federal Law No. 7 stipulates that the Cabinet issue a list of designated terrorist organizations or persons, and that funds and other items owned by listed organizations may be seized by the court.
The UAE requires licensing and registration of exchange houses and hawalas. Federal Law No. 9 of 2014 extends due diligence, reporting, and record keeping requirements to Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Persons, such as real estate brokers, precious metals dealers, lawyers, etc.
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 in December, 2012. The UAE is Hedayah’s permanent host, pursuant to federal Law No. 7 of 2013. The government continued to support the center, which hosted the Global CVE Expo 2014 from December 9-11, bringing together more than 200 government officials, industry partners, technology specialists, academic experts, and civil society actors to generate new ideas and programs, and to leverage new technologies for countering violent extremist narratives.
The government cooperated with other states to build counterterrorism capacity and routinely invited participation from GCC countries at counterterrorism-related training sessions conducted by the FBI in the UAE. In December at the 35th GCC Summit, GCC leaders announced the creation of a regional police force to be headquartered in Abu Dhabi.
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 mosques’ compliance. Abroad, the General Authority has since 2010 trained cohorts of Afghan imams on preaching messages of non-violence and tolerance. During key periods of Muslim religious observance, especially the fasting month of Ramadan, the UAE government aired commercials on television warning 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. Under its cybercrime law, the UAE criminalizes the use of the internet by terrorist groups to “promote their ideologies and finance their activities."
Overview:The Government of Yemen took steps to combat al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2014, despite significant challenges posed by elements of the former regime, heavily-armed Houthi forces, militant elements of the Hirak movement, and tribal adversaries. Yemeni security forces undertook two offensives against AQAP – one in the governorates of Shabwah and Abyan and one in Hadramawt – which temporarily reduced AQAP-controlled territory and safe havens. Gains in Hadramawt were hindered in the wake of advances by armed Houthi militia into Sana’a. As of the end of 2014, major counterterrorism operations and offensives by Yemen’s armed forces were indefinitely paused.
AQAP’s continued use of asymmetric tactics such as ambush-style attacks and assassinations took a heavy toll on military and security forces. AQAP also continued to conduct attacks against pro-government tribes, civilians, and international targets, such as the group’s car bomb attack against the Iranian Ambassador’s residence in Sana’a and AQAP’s murder of two Western civilian hostages (American and South African nationals) during a December rescue attempt. Counterterrorism efforts also suffered from the continued delay in the military and security restructuring process mandated by the 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, which left many units plagued by divided loyalties and unreliable command structures.
The National Dialogue Conference, which convened in 2013 to lay the groundwork for a political transition, concluded in January 2014. However, political maneuvering by elements of the former regime and other spoilers derailed the peaceful transition process. Most notably, the militant elements of the Zaydi Shiite movement known as Ansar Allah or the Houthis, aggressively expanded from their northwestern stronghold of Sa’ada in 2014. Events dramatically changed with the Houthi takeover of the capital Sana’a in September 2014, followed by the signing of the UN-mediated Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) which granted the Houthis significant political concessions. Despite the PNPA’s call for Houthi withdrawal from the capital and disarmament, the Houthis forcibly inserted themselves into numerous government offices and ministries and expanded further south from the capital. The political instability resulting from the Houthi crisis diverted key resources from official Yemeni counterterrorism operations, which were at a near standstill at the end of 2014. Additionally, Houthi expansion in governorates such as Ibb and al-Baydha, including clashes with AQAP, spurred a significant increase in AQAP attacks in these areas, heightening sectarian sentiments and causing formerly neutral or anti-AQAP Sunni tribes to side with AQAP against the Houthis to defend their historic geographic and tribal locations.
Despite these challenges, Yemen, under the leadership of President Hadi, remained a willing U.S. counterterrorism partner. In 2014, Hadi supported U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and encouraged cooperation between the U.S. military and Yemen’s security forces. This report solely focuses on 2014 and does not address the dynamics that have unfolded in Yemen in 2015.
2014 Terrorist Incidents:AQAP militants carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen in 2014. Methods included suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The following list details only a small fraction of the incidents that occurred:
- On January 16, AQAP launched simultaneous attacks on three military installations, including a checkpoint and a military camp, near the Rada district in al-Baydha Governorate. The coordinated assault, which included an attempted suicide bombing, killed at least six Yemeni soldiers, five militants, and wounded a number of others.
- On February 14, AQAP militants conducted a complex attack targeting the Sana’a Central Prison, facilitating the escape of 29 prisoners, including 19 AQAP operatives. A VBIED exploded outside the gate and was followed by a gun battle between security guards and the militants. Yemeni authorities report at least seven guards and three militants were killed in the fighting.
- On April 15, suspected AQAP militants assassinated the deputy governor of al-Baydha Governorate, Hussein Dayyan, near his home, fleeing the scene on motorcycles.
- On April 29, AQAP militants ambushed a Yemeni military convoy in Shabwah Governorate using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. At least 15 Yemeni soldiers and 12 militants were killed, with more wounded. Militants also captured a troop transport vehicle and took at least 15 Yemeni soldiers hostage. Two of these hostages were released soon thereafter, with reports indicating that they had been “severely beaten.” On April 30, three of the remaining hostages were executed and their bodies left on the roadside, reportedly bearing signs of torture.
- On July 4, six AQAP militants attacked the Wudayah Border Crossing at the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border in Hadramawt, killing at least one Yemeni soldier and several Saudi security officers. Several militants also died, two of them by detonating suicide bombs inside a Saudi government building after being trapped by Saudi security forces.
- On August 8, AQAP militants kidnapped 14 Yemeni soldiers traveling on a bus from Shibam, Hadramawt to Sana’a, executed them, some via beheading, in a market in Shibam, and left their bodies by a road near Sayun, Hadramawt.
- On October 9, an AQAP suicide bomber detonated his vest during a Houthi rally in Tahrir Square, Sana’a, killing at least 45 people and injuring at least 75 more.
- On November 10, AQAP militants detonated a VBIED near a Houthi-controlled building in the al-Manaseh region of al-Baydha Governorate, killing dozens.
- On December 6, AQAP militants shot and killed American journalist Luke Somers, who had been held hostage since 2013, during a joint U.S.-Yemeni rescue attempt. A video released by AQAP on December 3 had stated that Somers would be executed by the end of the week if the United States did not meet AQAP’s demands. A South African hostage, Pierre Korkie, was also killed by AQAP during this rescue effort.
- On December 16, AQAP militants in Rada, al-Baidha detonated two VBIEDs near a Houthi checkpoint, killing at least 10 Houthis and an estimated 20 children passing by in a school bus, and wounding many more. Possibly due to popular backlash, AQAP denied responsibility publicly for the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:Yemen does not have comprehensive counterterrorism legislation. Cases were prosecuted under a number of sections of criminal law, most with light maximum sentences. Draft counterterrorism legislation has been pending in the parliament since 2008. International experts provided technical advice in 2014 on the revised draft law introduced in September 2013. Prior to the political instability in the capital, the current draft was under review by the three parliamentary subcommittees responsible for counterterrorism law issues (Legal and Constitutional Affairs; Security and Defense; and Codification of Sharia Law). This law 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 2014, many received light sentences due to the lack of counterterrorism legislation or remained in detention while their cases were pending. 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. However, cooperation and information-sharing between these organizations was sporadic and limited. The takeover of security institutions towards the end of 2014 has impeded information sharing. The weakness of the law enforcement system with respect to terrorism-related crimes discouraged law enforcement officials working these cases. Officials also noted pervasive problems with a lack of proper case development and a failure to meet the requirements of the criminal prosecutions process.
In 2014, Yemen joined the Regional Criminal Justice Sector Reform Series, a State Department program that brings together government officials and civil society from states beginning or undergoing political transitions in Africa and the Middle East to share information, best practices, and implementation strategies on civilian security and justice sector reform. Members include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Yemen participated in several U.S. civilian capacity building programs to improve counterterrorism law enforcement capacity within the Ministry of Interior (MOI). The State Department, in partnership with the UN Development Programme, provided strategic leadership support to the MOI during the ongoing political transition, including capacity development assistance for the new Inspector General’s department, courses on strategic planning and leadership for several newly established central command units, and capacity development and support for senior female police officers within the MOI. Additional State Department programming assisted the Yemeni government in improving its capacity to respond to civil disturbances, improve criminal investigations, process and analyze physical evidence, operate and manage correctional facilities in an effective and accountable manner, and professionalize the justice sector in the area of criminal investigative and forensics. Yemen also continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program. However, political instability and the integration of Houthi personnel into many government organizations limited U.S. ability to effectively engage with the MOI and other Yemeni law enforcement agencies in 2014.
Yemen adopted the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) in 2002 in an effort to secure borders and identify fraudulent travel documents. Yemen has the capability to conduct biographic screening at multiple land, sea, and air ports of entry.
Yemen has more than 2,400 kilometers of coastline vulnerable to penetration by militants and maritime smuggling of weapons, materials, and goods used to finance AQAP and other terrorist activities, so the Yemen Coast Guard (YCG) plays a key function in border security. In past years, YCG forces have played a critical role in key interdictions of weapons and other illegal materials destined for Yemen-based terrorist groups. However, despite the strong focus the YCG places on counterterrorism efforts, Yemen’s maritime borders remained extremely porous due to a lack of capacity. In 2014, Yemen continued its participation in the Yemen Quadrilateral Border Talks, a multilateral forum that brings together officials from Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to discuss opportunities for cooperation and assistance in securing the Yemen/Oman/Saudi Arabia border region.
The Yemeni government cooperated with the United States in the ongoing investigations of several murders of U.S. citizens in Yemen, including a civilian who was targeted and killed by AQAP gunmen. Yemen also cooperated in investigations into AQAP kidnapping for ransom activities.
The justice and law enforcement sectors in Yemen continued to face significant challenges in overcoming more than 30 years of neglect by the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Law enforcement entities were frequently plagued by ineffectiveness and mistrust from civil society, and in worst cases, an unwillingness to perform their assigned task. Corrections institutions, while suffering from severe resource constraints, lacked fundamental skills to manage and operate safe and secure facilities. Meanwhile, Yemeni courts have become a victim of political, economic, and security instability – poor facilities, limited or poorly trained staff, forced closures, and absenteeism all exponentially increased the case backlog and therefore denied access to justice. In many cases, suspected terrorists wait years for the conclusion of their trials. Yemeni prison institutions are commonly targeted by violent extremist groups for the ‘rescue’ of terrorist inmates, which later serves as propaganda to recruit others. Criminal justice institutions and services continued to be identified by Yemenis through the National Dialogue Conference as one of their primary concerns.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism:Yemen belongs to the Middle East/North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In June 2014, the FATF upgraded Yemen from its October 18, 2013 Public Statement to its list of countries with strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering terrorist finance (AML/CFT) safeguards, in recognition of the significant steps Yemen has taken toward improving its AML/CFT regime and implementing its action plan. The FATF planned to visit Yemen in June, but this visit was prevented due to the security situation in the country. MENAFATF also upgraded Yemen, which is now required to submit follow-up reports every two years rather than every six months. Despite this progress, Yemen faced many challenges implementing AML/CFT safeguards due to ongoing political and economic turmoil.
Yemen’s Financial Information Unit (FIU), which operates out of the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY), received 192 suspicious transaction reports as of November 26, in comparison with 166 at this time in 2013. These reports were on a wide range of individuals, including government officials, military commanders, Houthi figures, and AQAP elements. The FIU requested international assistance in developing a national strategic plan to assess the risks of AML/CFT and prioritize additional needs, such as financial analysis training. In 2014, the FIU identified a need to work more closely with the Customs Authority on the risks posed by money laundering, and expressed appreciation for an ongoing World Bank program aiming to improve networking between the CBY and other Yemeni banks and increase monitoring of banks’ transactions.
In October 2014, following the September incursion of Houthi forces into Sana’a, the FIU reported that Houthis posted at the CBY briefly interfered with FIU operations despite a law guaranteeing the unit’s independence. The Houthis reportedly used the FIU to target the assets of enemies decried by the Houthis as corrupt, initiating proceedings via the FIU to freeze the assets of a number of these individuals.
Regional and International Cooperation:Yemen continued to cooperate with and be advised by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United States, and other donor countries with respect to its military restructuring plan, in accordance with NDC outcomes. It participated in several Global Counterterrorism Forum workshops. Yemen participated in the second annual Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum in February to support counterterrorism capacity and partnership building in Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia. Yemeni military, police, security, and maritime units cooperated with U.S., European and regional partners on counterterrorism and related security issues.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism:Throughout 2014, President Hadi and other senior officials stressed the importance of countering terrorism and violent extremism by attempting to address the conditions that terrorists exploit, such as a weak economy and low levels of education. Many political leaders and groups also publicly condemned terrorism and violent attacks. The Yemeni government expressed support for a rehabilitation/reintegration program for violent extremists, similar to the Mohammed bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care in Saudi Arabia, although the effort was on hold at year’s end.
Sources: U.S. Department of State