Chapter 2. Country Reports: East Asia and Pacific Overview
EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Throughout 2015, countries in the East Asia and Pacific region faced the threat of terrorist attacks, flows of foreign terrorist fighters to and from Iraq and Syria, and groups and individuals espousing support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In response, governments across the region actively sought to address threats and degrade the ability of terrorist groups to operate. Governments worked to strengthen legal frameworks, investigated and prosecuted terrorism cases, increased regional cooperation and information sharing, and addressed critical border and aviation security gaps. Countering and preventing violent extremism in partnership with civil society also became a priority for many countries. Despite all of these efforts, the region remained a target for terrorist group recruitment. ISIL released several videos showing Indonesian, Malaysian, and Australian fighters in Syria.
Southeast Asian countries actively participated in regional, international, and multilateral efforts to counter terrorism. Singapore and Malaysia joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL in 2015. Indonesia and Australia continued their co-chairmanship of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) Detention and Reintegration Working Group (DRWG), which grew out of the former GCTF Southeast Asia Working Group. EAP countries were also well-represented at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February and the Leaders’ Summit to Counter ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama and held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September. At the Leaders’ Summit, Prime Minister Najib announced Malaysia’s intent to create a regional counter-messaging center.
Cooperation between domestic law enforcement and judicial authorities throughout Southeast Asia, including in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia, resulted in high numbers of terrorism-related arrests and, in many cases, successful prosecutions. Moreover, as a result of the Philippine government’s strong and continued pressure, terrorist groups including U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiya, and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army; and other militant groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were unable to conduct major attacks, although sporadic fighting did displace locals.
The Government of New Zealand established an ambassador for counterterrorism citing a desire to strengthen engagement with key partners in the Asia-Pacific region and to increase counterterrorism policy cooperation and capacity building.
The Japanese government continued to participate in international counterterrorism efforts at multilateral, regional, and bilateral levels, particularly in the aftermath of the executions of two Japanese citizens by ISIL in early 2015. Japan has identified counterterrorism as one of its priorities for its G-7 presidency.
China's focus on terrorism intensified in 2015, largely in response to several reported domestic terrorist and other violent incidents. China’s primary focus has been on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and its purported influence in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The Chinese government strongly condemned ISIL’s claimed execution of Chinese citizen Fan Jinghui in November. China continued to express concerns that Chinese citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to associate with ISIL.
Overview: Australia is a key partner in the global fight against terrorism, and leads regional efforts to counter radicalization and violent extremism. In 2015, Australian authorities conducted 10 domestic counterterrorism operations, resulting in 25 people being charged. The Australian Attorney General estimated there were 110 Australian foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq, approximately 190 persons in Australia providing support to individuals and groups in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations. In the 2014-2015 fiscal year, there were also 536 suspected terrorism financing cases in Australia.
The Australian government took significant actions to counter terrorism by: providing additional funding to intelligence agencies and enhancing their ability to access communications data; creating the roles of the National Counterterrorism Coordinator and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counterterrorism; attending the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February; hosting a Regional Countering Violent Extremism Summit; co-hosting the first Southeast Asian Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit; developing a Combating Terrorist Propaganda initiative to monitor and contest online terrorist messages; and developing a revised National Terrorism Threat Advisory System.
On October 15, the Prime Minister convened a National Meeting on Countering Violent Extremism that included policy and law enforcement officials from federal, state, and territory agencies. In July, the federal and state governments released “Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy.”
In 2015, Australia was a major contributor of military assistance to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Since May, Australia deployed 300 military personnel to contribute to the international Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission in Iraq, following the September 2014 announcement of sending 200 personnel to “advise and assist” Iraqi forces and about 400 personnel to support Australian air operations against ISIL. Australia began air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in October 2014 and extended strikes into Syria in September 2015 using six FA-18s. Australia and the United States regularly discussed counterterrorism cooperation, including at the annual AUSMIN Foreign and Defense Ministers’ meeting.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On October 2, 15-year-old Farhad Jabar (Australian) killed New South Wales police employee Curtis Cheng outside a police station in the Sydney district of Parramatta. Australian authorities believe this was a terrorist incident and Jabar was subsequently killed in a shoot-out with police. Three men were also arrested on terrorism and criminal offenses related to the incident.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Australia’s legal framework to counter terrorism includes significant penalties for the following: committing terrorist acts; recruiting for and supporting terrorist organizations; financing terrorism; urging violence and advocating terrorism; and traveling abroad to commit terrorist acts and recruitment offenses. Authorities are authorized to detain individuals under “preventative detention orders” for a maximum of 48 hours, and to restrict activities and movement of individuals under “control orders.”
Since mid-2014, five tranches of national security legislation have been enacted. In October 2014, parliament passed legislation targeting returning foreign terrorist fighters which includes granting additional powers to security agencies, strengthening border security measures, and cancelling welfare payments for persons involved in terrorism. In May 2015, parliament passed legislation requiring telecommunications providers to retain and to secure data for two years, and the government appointed the first Commonwealth Counterterrorism Coordinator. On July 1, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service were merged into a single Department of Immigration and Border Protection. On August 13, parliament passed legislation strengthening the combined agency’s biometric program into a single updated framework used by border agents to collect biometric identity information. In December, parliament passed legislation allowing for the revocation of citizenship for dual nationals involved in terrorism, established the crime of advocacy of genocide, and lowered the minimum age for which control orders can be imposed from 16 to 14. (A control order is issued by a court [at the request of the Australian Federal Police] to allow obligations, prohibitions and restrictions to be imposed on a person, for the purpose of protecting the public from a terrorist act.)
Since the terrorism alert level was raised to “High” in 2014, security and law enforcement agencies have foiled six attacks, and police conducted 10 counterterrorism operations in Australia resulting in 26 people being charged with terrorism-related offenses. Australian Border Force Counter-Terrorism Units, established in August 2014, offloaded 336 passengers from commercial flights through June 2015, which according to an ABF press release, prevented a number of minors from travelling to the conflict areas in Syria and Iraq. The number of high priority targets investigated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) doubled to more than 400. From September 2014 to the end of 2015, the number of Australian foreign terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria identified by Australian security services grew from 70 to 110; the number of suspected Australians killed in the conflict rose from 15 to at least 41; the number of people suspected in Australia of providing support to individuals and groups in the conflict grew from 110 to 190; and the number of passports cancelled to prevent travel to the conflict expanded from 60 to 146. In July 2015, the Council of Australian Governments (the Prime Minister, state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association), agreed to develop a new threat advisory system, which was unveiled in November. The new five-tiered threat system provides ASIO with greater flexibility to make terrorist threats clearer to the public. At the end of 2015, the level was set at “Probable,” the third highest tier.
- On February 10, police arrested and charged Omar Al-Kutobi (Iraqi born, naturalized Australian citizen) and Mohammad Kiad (Kuwaiti citizen with Australian spousal visa) in Sydney with planning to carry out an imminent terrorist attack against a civilian.
- On April 18, five teenage Australian boys were arrested in Melbourne following a counterterrorism operation in relation to a planned terrorist act, which included targeting police officers. One was charged with terrorism offenses; one was charged with weapons offenses; and one had terrorism charges dropped and pleaded guilty to weapons offenses. The other two were released without charges.
- On May 8, police raided a Melbourne home and arrested a 17-year-old Australian man after finding three IEDs.
Australian law enforcement entities, such as the Australian Federal Police (AFP), have clearly demarcated counterterrorism units, as well as effective working relationships with provincial and municipal law enforcement. In September, the State of Victoria Police Department established a Counterterrorism Command, and in November, counterterrorism funding to the Victorian police almost doubled when the State of Victoria allocated $49.4 million for hiring additional intelligence experts and analysts. Australia has an extensive border security network and makes excellent use of travel document security technology, biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry, information sharing with other countries, and collection of advance Passenger Name Record information on commercial flights. Australian security forces effectively patrolled and controlled land and maritime borders.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Australia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force. Australia served as the organization’s President from July 1, 2014 until June 30, 2015. Australia is a founding member and co-chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. In 2015 Australia’s mutual evaluation, executed jointly by FATF and APG, was adopted. The assessment concluded that Australia has strong legal, law enforcement and operational measures for combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
Australia faces a range of terrorism financing risks, largely motivated by international tensions and conflicts, and counters the risks with a comprehensive legal and administrative framework. Australia can automatically freeze UN-designated terrorism-related assets and has made numerous domestic designations as well.
As a founding member of the Egmont Group, AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence unit, assisted the Southeast Asian region to develop a regional profile of financial characteristics of foreign terrorist fighters. Australia implements its obligations to restrict terrorism financing, including funding to violent extremist groups operating in Syria and Iraq, as well as freezing assets and economic resources in accordance with UNSCRs 1373 (2001) and 2253 (2015; which updates UNSCRs 1267 and 1989), as well as UNSCRs 2178 (2014), 2170 (2014), and 2199 (2015).
AUSTRAC detects, prevents, and deters money laundering and financing of terrorist activities. In addition, AUSTRAC regulates money transfers and remittance services, however, charities are not a regulated sector for the purposes of suspicious matter reports (SMRs). Using its rigorous detection and monitoring processes, AUSTRAC referred 536 SMRs in the 2014-2015 fiscal year to the AFP and the ASIO on suspicion of terror financing links, a 300 percent increase from the year before. Amounting to more than $37.6 million, the 536 reports were linked primarily to Australians traveling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. As of June 30, 2015, AUSTRAC stated that it was monitoring more than 100 persons of interest. AUSTRAC is also a core member of a multilateral information-sharing project on the financing of foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq. In November in Sydney, Australia and Indonesia co-hosted the first Counterterrorism Financing Summit in the Asia-Pacific Region, attended by more than 150 people from 19 countries. Australia is also a member of the Counter-ISIL Finance Working Group and co-chairs its Foreign Terrorist Fighter sub-group.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Australian Attorney-General’s Department leads the implementation of the government’s four main goals to counter violent extremism (CVE): building strength in diversity and social participation; targeted work with vulnerable communities and institutions; addressing terrorist propaganda online; and diversion and de-radicalization. The Australian Government created the Living Safe Together website (http://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/), which offers multiple resources and perspectives on building community resilience to violent extremism.
In February, the Australian Attorney-General attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and announced the $12.8 million Combatting Terrorist Propaganda in Australia initiative focused on the internet and social media. In June, Australia hosted the Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism to further goals outlined at the White House CVE Summit and to build on UNSCR 2178 and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Following the October shooting in Parramatta, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull convened an urgent meeting of officials from Federal, State, and Territory agencies and Muslim leaders to discuss Australia’s approach to countering violent extremism. On November 2, the New South Wales Premier announced a $33.4 million CVE package to stop radicalization of young people focused primarily on schools and community organizations. In December, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated that the government would provide $1.78 million over five years to the Commonwealth Secretariat dedicated to countering extremism and radicalization.
Building on its experience partnering with the UAE through the Sawab counter-messaging center in 2015, Australia is supporting Malaysia in the development of its regional counter-messaging center in Kuala Lumpur.
International and Regional Cooperation: Australia is a regional leader in the fight against terrorism, and worked to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region’s counterterrorism capacity through a range of bilateral and regional initiatives in organizations such as ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Pacific Island Forum. Australia participated in the APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force, the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism, and worked closely with NATO, including in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Australia is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and co-chair of the Forum’s Detention and Reintegration Working Group (DRWG), which grew out of the former Southeast Asia Working Group. In April, Australia and the EU agreed to intensify counterterrorism cooperation, building on the launch of the first EU–Australian Counterterrorism Dialogue in November 2014.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attended the GCTF Ministerial in September. Australia’s Ambassador for Counterterrorism played a key role in coordinating policy cooperation, capacity building, and operational collaboration between Australian agencies and international counterterrorism partners. Australia signed 19 counterterrorism memorandums of understanding with partners around the world. Australia increasingly collaborates with India on counter-messaging and counterterrorism legal reforms.
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU)
Overview: China's attention to terrorism in 2015 intensified as the country reacted to several incidents that it characterized as domestic terrorism. China continued to escalate its security and surveillance in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to prevent additional unrest, including the implementation of stricter controls and curbs on religious practice. The primary focus of China’s international counterterrorism efforts remained on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an organization that China alleges is behind violent incidents in Xinjiang. Government officials often characterized China’s restrictive policies in Xinjiang as an effort to prevent additional acts of terrorism and violent extremism.
The Chinese government reported that Chinese citizens operated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East, and has taken action to prevent its citizens from traveling to Syria and Iraq. In November, ISIL claimed to have executed Chinese citizen Fan Jinghui, which prompted strong condemnation from President Xi Jinping. Two weeks later, ISIL posted a song online in Mandarin calling for Chinese Muslims to take up arms against their country.
Counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and China remained limited. The two countries initiated a technical workshop on countering the spread of IEDs and increased consultations aimed at stemming the transnational flow of foreign terrorist fighters, countering terrorist funding networks, increasing information sharing on terrorist threats, and sharing evidentiary best practices.
China held bilateral dialogues on counterterrorism with five countries in 2015, including with the United States in August. China remained engaged in counterterrorism efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and Central Asia. It conducted bilateral and multilateral joint exercises with regional neighbors and through other frameworks, such as the Shanghai Cooperative Organization.
Chinese authorities criticized the United States when it did not follow China’s example in characterizing some incidents of violence in China as terrorism. As in previous years, China accused Uighur activists abroad – including in the United States – of complicity in supporting terrorist activity, but has not provided credible evidence to support the claims. China also appeared to apply inconsistent labels to incidents of mass violence involving Han Chinese suspects. For example, and in contrast to the examples discussed below, China designated a series of 17 explosions in September that damaged government buildings and neighborhoods in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, killing seven people and injuring more than 50, a criminal rather than a terrorist act and arrested a suspect surnamed Wei.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: The lack of transparency and information provided by China about violent incidents in China that the government characterized as terrorism greatly complicated efforts to verify details of those and other violent acts. In many of the domestic incidents that China characterized as terrorism, China alleged that ETIM influenced or directed the violence through its online propaganda. China often prevented foreign journalists and international observers from independently verifying official media accounts, which are often the only source of reporting on violent incidents in its territory. Government authorities heavily restricted foreign and non-state media access to information about 2015 incidents and often limited reporting to official accounts that were not timely and typically lacked detailed information.
The following incidents are examples of incidents the central government considered to be terrorism:
- On March 6, three knife-wielding assailants stabbed and injured nine people at a Guangzhou Railway Station before police fatally shot one of the suspects and captured a second. According to a leaked Guangdong Provincial Public Security document obtained by the media, the attack was likely reprisal for an alleged anti-terrorism raid on an apartment in Shenyang by 200 police officers that left four dead and captured 16 Uighur terrorism suspects.
- On June 24, local police attributed an attack that left 18 people dead (including 15 attackers) to purported ethnic Uighur terrorists. Suspects allegedly attacked police with knives and bombs at a security checkpoint in Kashgar’s Tahtakoruk district in Xinjiang.
- Assailants armed with knives attacked the Sogan coal mine in Xinjiang’s Aksu Prefecture on September 18, killing approximately 50 people (most of Han Chinese ethnicity), according to official media, which did not report on the attack until November, when reports appeared that a Special Forces unit had conducted a raid and killed 28 suspects from the mine attack. Official accounts eventually described the attackers as part of an alleged terrorist gang who had been radicalized by online overseas propaganda and had been directed by unspecified overseas extremist groups. An official statement from the Ministry of Public Security lauding the raid as a victory in the fight against terrorism was deleted without explanation hours after being posted online. On December 16, the Chinese government posted details and photos of the November raid online.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In May, the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and China’s State Council issued new measures designed to intensify surveillance and security throughout the country. In addition to increased inspections at all main transportation hubs, including bus and train stations, railways, airports and ports, police would patrol key public sites such as schools, shopping malls, and banks. The measures included an enhanced and vastly expanded video and data surveillance network. More surveillance cameras would be installed and a national population database would be established with citizen identification and credit information.
In December 2015, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved the country’s first comprehensive counterterrorism law to “provide legal support for counterterrorism activities as well as collaboration with the international community.” The law broadened China’s definition of terrorism and the scope of its counterterrorism measures, and made provisions to establish a counterterrorism intelligence center to better coordinate terrorism response and information sharing across different Chinese government agencies. The law also required foreign firms to provide technical and decryption assistance to Chinese authorities as part of terrorism-related investigations. The legislation stipulated measures on tightening internet security management, inspection of dangerous materials, prevention of terrorism financing, and border controls. The law’s broad definition of terrorism and its new technology-related requirements for foreign telecommunications firms and internet service providers elicited concerns from human rights organizations and business interest groups. Under the new law, the Central Military Commission may authorize the People’s Liberation Army to perform counterterrorism operations abroad. The law also provided for punishing news media that reports counterterrorism operations without approval from government authorities.
According to state media, law enforcement authorities in Xinjiang had disrupted 181 "terrorist gangs" since the launch of the 2014 “strike hard” campaign. Extended through 2015, the campaign was an amalgamation of enhanced cultural restrictions and security measures. Meng Jianzhu, Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, stated at a December 2015 counterterrorism conference in Urumqi that 98 percent of terrorist plots in Xinjiang had been stopped at the planning stage. Due to restrictions on independent reporting, it was difficult to corroborate this as well as other counterterrorism-related claims.
At the same conference, Meng announced several new guidelines regulating Chinese government activities in the fight against terrorism, including several on the use of internet and social media. The new guidelines called for greater cooperation with international counterterrorism bodies; maximum protection for overseas Chinese citizens; destruction of terrorism-related audio and video material; prevention of the dissemination of terrorist information via social media and other online methods; strengthened border controls to prevent terrorists entering China; elimination of religious extremism; and the “education and transformation” of terrorist offenders using “authentic” religious teachings.
Government authorities continued to act against what it alleged were suspected Uighur militants traveling through Southeast Asia. According to international media reports, Thailand repatriated more than 100 Uighur refugees to China after receiving pressure from Chinese authorities. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees criticized Thailand’s decision as a violation of international law, and human rights groups voiced concerns that the repatriated group could face harsh treatment once returned to China. State media reported that 13 of those repatriated were involved in terrorist activities, but did not provide evidence to support those claims. According to foreign press reports, some of the refugees were featured in a subsequent media campaign discouraging illegal emigration from Xinjiang.
China continued to stress the importance of counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, but Chinese law enforcement agencies generally remained reluctant to conduct joint investigations or share specific threat information with U.S. law enforcement partners. Despite multiple requests to Chinese law enforcement officials for more detailed background information on Chinese media-reported arrests and operations, U.S. law enforcement agencies received little new information. Overall, China’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States remained limited and was further constrained by China's conflation of religious expression with violent extremism.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: China is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), as well as the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, both of which are FATF-style regional bodies. China and the United States have met at least once a year (for the last four years) to engage in a technical discussion related to anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT). This meeting is known as the AML/CFT Working Group under the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). At the December 2015 meeting, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the U.S. financial intelligence unit (FIU), signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center (CAMLMAC), China’s FIU, to support its efforts to combat money laundering, related crimes, and terrorism financing. China’s CAMLMAC is not a member of the Egmont Group.
The Chinese government has strengthened its preventive measures to counter terrorism financing, with an emphasis on requiring financial institutions to collect and maintain beneficial ownership information, and making suspicious transaction reports more comprehensive. Additional issues remain to be addressed, including guidance for designated non-financial businesses and professions; procedures for individuals and groups who seek to be delisted; and defining the rights of bona fide third parties in seizure/confiscation actions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2015/
Countering Violent Extremism: Although China does not have an official strategy or program in place to counter violent extremism, the government implemented a number of programs aimed at countering radicalization and violent extremism, concentrating much of its efforts in Xinjiang. Local counterterrorism working groups have been established at the county, municipal, and provincial levels across China to coordinate “stability maintenance,” law enforcement, ethnic and religious affairs. Xinjiang government officials required imams to take political education classes as a means of persuading them to discourage extremism and condemn violence. In Xinjiang, authorities placed restrictions on religious expression, banning the burqa in public spaces in Urumqi and criminalizing unspecified “extremist garments” – clothes or symbols the government associates with terrorism and extremism.
Many Chinese government policies may have exacerbated ethnic tension in Xinjiang and could contribute to increased violent extremism. For further information, please see the Department of State’s 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm and the 2015 Report on Human Rights: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/
International and Regional Cooperation: China continued to promote its commitment to working with the international community on UN Security Council (UNSC) counterterrorism issues. In May 2015 in Nanning, China hosted the 13th ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime. China also regularly participated in other multilateral fora that address counterterrorism issues such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group. China also held bilateral counterterrorism dialogues with the Egypt, India, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States.
China cooperated with other nations on counterterrorism efforts through military exercises and assistance. China conducted joint military training with several nations that focused on improving counterterrorism capabilities. In September, China and Pakistan staged “Joint Field Exercise Warrior III,” an annual counterterrorism exercise. In October, China and India held “Hand-in-Hand 2015,” the fifth counterterrorism drill of its kind since 2007. That same month China hosted members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for “Xiamen 2015,” an online counterterrorism exercise. In August, China and Russia held their largest-ever joint maritime drill in the Sea of Japan, “Joint Sea II,” that included a joint counterterrorism amphibious assault component.
Hong Kong continued its effective security and law enforcement partnership with the United States through the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department’s successful joint operation of the Container Security Initiative; through participation in U.S. government-sponsored training in related topics; and through engagement with U.S. counterterrorism agencies.
Counterterrorism remained an operational priority for the Hong Kong Police Force, as demonstrated by existing policies on prevention, protection, and preparedness. The Police Security Wing shares potential terrorist threat information with relevant counterterrorism units. The Police Counterterrorism Response Unit provides a strong deterrent presence, assisting police districts with counterterrorism strategy implementation, and complementing the tactical and professional support of existing police specialist units – such as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau, Special Duties Unit, Airport Security Unit, and VIP Protection Unit. The Security Bureau in November 2015 conducted a large-scale, inter-departmental counterterrorism exercise to test and enhance city-wide counterterrorism coordination and response capabilities. This exercise was the first of its kind in terms of scale and scope.
Hong Kong is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Its Joint Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Terrorism financing is a criminal offense in Hong Kong, and financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorism financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida and1988 (Taliban) sanctions regime. Filing suspicious transactions reports irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Hong Kong does not require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
Hong Kong’s strategic trade regime buttresses U.S. efforts to restrict commodities, software, and technology to terrorist organizations or individuals. Hong Kong law enforcement officers attended U.S. government-sponsored capacity building training at the International Law Enforcement Academy on advanced post-blast investigations, personnel and facility security, law enforcement techniques to counter terrorism, and financial investigations. Select Hong Kong Police officers also attended Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) courses, DoD sponsored conferences, and conducted subject matter exchanges and training with U.S. Military units.
The Police Intervention Tactical Unit (UTIP), which falls under the Macau Public Security Police Force, is responsible for protecting important installations and dignitaries, and for conducting high-risk missions such as deactivation of IEDs. UTIP’s Special Operations Group’s mission is counterterrorism operations. Macau law enforcement officers attended U.S. government-sponsored capacity building training at the International Law Enforcement Academy on personnel and facility security, financial and crime scene investigations, countering terrorism, computer investigations, and evidence protection. U.S. Consulate law enforcement personnel also provided training in fraudulent document recognition to Macau border security authorities.
Macau is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and its Financial Intelligence Office is a member of the Egmont Group. Terrorism financing is a criminal offense in Macau, and banks and other financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorism financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida and the 1988 (Taliban) sanctions regime. Filing suspicious transactions reports irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Macau does not currently require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
Macau cooperated internationally on counterterrorism efforts through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations, including through FATF and APG.
Overview: Indonesia uses a civilian law enforcement-led, rule-of-law-based approach in its domestic counterterrorism operations. Since the 2002 Bali bombings, Indonesia has applied sustained pressure to successfully degrade the capabilities of terrorists and their networks operating within Indonesia’s borders. There was no major attack against Western interests in Indonesia in 2015. There is growing concern that foreign terrorist fighters returning from Iraq and Syria with new training, skills, and experience could conduct attacks against Indonesian government personnel or facilities, Western targets, or other soft targets.
As of December, Indonesian officials estimate that there are approximately 800 Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria, though official estimates fluctuate between agencies and services. Indonesian officials say they have identified 284 Indonesian citizens actively involved in fighting in Iraq and Syria and are investigating an additional 516. They also believe that 52 Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters have died in Syria and estimate that another 60 to 100 have returned to Indonesia. The bulk of this number of estimated returnees includes those Indonesians and their families who have been detained and deported by authorities in transit countries while en route to Syria and Iraq. Fighters may also return undetected by exploiting vulnerabilities in the land and sea borders of this vast archipelagic nation.
Abu Wardah (also known as Santoso) is the leader of Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) and is Indonesia’s most-wanted terrorist. He remained at large in the remote jungle area near Poso, Central Sulawesi. In July 2014, Santoso publicly pledged allegiance to ISIL. Several terrorist convicts were paroled in 2015 after completing their prison terms, including senior leaders of Jemaah Islamiya; these senior leaders are counter-ISIL. There is a growing government- and civil society-led effort to promote Indonesian Islam as a peaceful and moderate alternative to violent extremist teachings elsewhere in the world.
Indonesia does not provide a safe haven for terrorists. However, members of the terrorist group MIT meet and train in the isolated area near Poso, Central Sulawesi. Indonesian officials are committed to eliminating this threat.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: In 2015, MIT was blamed for the murders of three civilians. In August, a member of the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) was killed in a shootout with a suspected MIT terrorist. In late November, a member of the Indonesian military (TNI) was shot and killed by an MIT member in another confrontation.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Indonesia follows a strong rule-of-law-based counterterrorism approach. After investigation by the police, terrorist suspects’ dossiers are sent to the Task Force on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crimes (SATGAS), which is part of the Attorney General’s Office, for prosecution. Relevant legislation includes the Law on Combating Criminal Acts of Terrorism (15/2003), the Law on Prevention and Eradication of Anti-Terrorist Financing (9/2013), the 1951 Emergency Law, and Indonesia’s Criminal Code.
Counterterrorism efforts are police-led, with Detachment 88 – the elite counterterrorism unit of the police – leading operations and investigations. Counterterrorism units from the Indonesian military may be called upon to support domestic counterterrorism operations and responses on an as-needed basis. Law enforcement units are increasingly able to detect, and in some cases prevent, attacks before they are carried out.
Law enforcement personnel participated in a range of training and professional development activities, including through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, with training focused on building sustainable police capacity in tactical crisis response and investigative skills.
Indonesia recognizes the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters and was a co-sponsor of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178. The government has repeatedly and forcefully denounced ISIL, but it has yet to pass laws explicitly criminalizing material support, travel to join foreign terrorist organizations, or commission of extraterritorial offenses related to counterterrorism. Since mid-2014, officials have been considering amending Law 15/2003 or issuing a Presidential Decree in Lieu of Law to more effectively prosecute Indonesians traveling to join terrorist groups abroad or providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations.
Indonesian prosecutors stated that they prosecuted 56 terrorism-related cases between January and October 2015. Of those, 16 cases are related to ISIL activity and five have resulted in convictions, with the remaining cases ongoing. For example, charges were filed against Afif Abdul Majid, former Central Java branch head of Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), not only for his role in providing funding for a JAT training camp in Aceh in 2010, but for joining and participating in exercises with ISIL while in Syria. He was convicted in June for the former charge and sentenced to four years in prison, but the judge could not convict Majid for ISIL-related activities due to insufficient evidence under Indonesia’s current counterterrorism law. On March 21, six individuals were arrested by Detachment 88 for allegedly funding or recruiting for ISIL. Two of those arrested, Amin Mude and Tuah Febriwansyah, aka Muhammad Fachry, acted as key facilitators sending Indonesians to Syria to join ISIL. In November, Amin Mude was successfully convicted under 15/2003 and 9/2013 and sentenced to five years and six months in prison. Despite some domestic convictions, Indonesian law lacked the provisions to criminalize and prosecute acts of, and support for, terrorism committed abroad. Frequent personnel rotation at various agencies – including the police, legal cadres, and the judiciary – represents a challenge to building long-term institutional expertise.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) is responsible for coordinating terrorism-related intelligence and information among stakeholder agencies, and comprises detailees from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the TNI, and the Indonesian National Police (POLRI). In September, President Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) called for concrete steps to strengthen the BNPT’s interagency coordination role.
Violent extremist groups exploited social media and mobile phone applications to spread propaganda and recruit people to their cause. In March, the Minister of Communications and Information declared the government had blocked 70 ISIL-related blogs and websites at the request of the BNPT. On occasion, the BNPT will also request that specific social media accounts be suspended. The BNPT maintains multiple websites and social media accounts, publishes books, and organizes public discussion forums to counter extremist narratives. While legislative reform to tackle foreign terrorist fighters is still pending, some of Indonesia’s efforts dovetailed with obligations outlined in UNSCR 2178. For example, Indonesia condemned ISIL and sought to prevent the movement of terrorists, including through enhanced controls related to the issuance of identity papers. Indonesia also implemented several of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) good practices for a more effective response against foreign terrorist fighters.
In early 2015 POLRI launched Operation Camar Maleo, a significant and sustained police operation in Poso, Central Sulawesi, in an effort to root out members of MIT. The operations have involved a thousand personnel from the Brimob, Detachment 88, and members of the Indonesian military. At least 10 alleged terrorists have been arrested in the province and two were killed. MIT is reported to have approximately 20-40 members left in Poso. In December, MIT leader Santoso issued a message online calling for Indonesians to join ISIL in Iraq or Syria and to execute attacks on Indonesian authorities. Santoso also threatened to destroy the Jakarta Metropolitan Police. On September 13, 2014, police in Central Sulawesi arrested seven people, including one Turkish national and three ethnic Uighurs from China’s Xinjiang Province, for alleged links to MIT. In July 2015, the Turkish national and Uighurs were convicted of conspiring to join MIT and sentenced to six years in prison.
Also in July, police arrested three people deemed a threat to public safety in East Nusa Tenggara province for alleged involvement in ISIL and on suspicion of spreading ISIL ideology. On August 12, three suspects were arrested by Detachment 88 for suspected involvement in a plot involving improvised explosive devices in Solo, Central Java. The ringleader, Ibadurahman, allegedly received assistance from other Indonesians in Syria. On December 18 and 19, Detachment 88 conducted raids in East and Central Java, arrested several suspected terrorists, and seized bomb-making equipment.
As of early November, there were 230 terrorist prisoners held in 26 prisons throughout Indonesia, overseen by the Directorate General of Corrections under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. Some of Indonesia’s most hardened terrorists and ideologues are incarcerated in several prisons on the island of Nusakambangan, off the southern coast of Java. Authorities remained concerned about the potential recidivism of released terrorist prisoners. In addition, terrorists convicted on non-terrorism charges are not always counted or tracked through the justice system as convicted terrorists, creating a potential loophole in disengagement and de-radicalization efforts.
Immigration officials at major ports of entry, especially larger international air and seaports, have access to biographic and biometric domestic-only databases. Military and police personnel are often posted at major ports of entry to ensure security. Police maintained a watchlist of suspected terrorists, but there are not always clear lines of coordination among stakeholder agencies. Indonesia shares information through INTERPOL but does not regularly screen through INTERPOL at immigration checkpoints. Information sharing with countries in the region is often on an ad hoc basis, and there is no centralized database or platform for the sharing of information with countries in the region or internationally.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Indonesia is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center is a member of the Egmont Group. In June, Indonesia achieved milestone progress by being removed from FATF’s International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) after five years of being named on the Public Statement. This determination was based on Indonesia’s passage of key legislation criminalizing money laundering and terrorism financing, and by implementing terrorist asset freezing pursuant to UNSCR 1373 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
Implementation of asset freezes is known to take some time and Indonesia needs to find a way to expedite the implementation of asset freeze provisions. Indonesia adopted a joint resolution to further implement asset freezing as required under UNSCR 1373 and 2253. Indonesia continued to issue orders to freeze the assets of all UNSCR 2253 (ISIL and al-Qa’ida)-sanctioned individuals and entities and is working to implement an electronic process to ensure that its freezing process is “without delay.” Santoso was put on Indonesia’s list of domestic terrorists in 2015.
The passage of the terrorism financing law was an important step forward, and Indonesia has filed cases under this new legislation. In 2015, Indonesia brought 13 cases and obtained nine convictions. Indonesia must continue to develop investigative resources and intelligence to counter international organizations engaging in money laundering and terrorist finance. Although non-profit organizations such as religious and charitable organizations are licensed and required to file suspicious transaction reports, the terrorism financing law does not require monitoring or the regulation of such organizations to prevent misuse, including terrorism financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Indonesian officials recognize the importance of addressing radicalization to violence and countering violent extremism (CVE). Vice-President Jusuf Kalla led the Indonesian delegation to the Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September. In his address, he stressed that military intervention alone cannot defeat violent extremism and instead highlighted an approach that focuses on improving social welfare and equity, strengthening legal frameworks, and de-radicalization and counter-radicalization efforts. He said that Indonesia will continue to promote the spirit of tolerance by empowering moderates through dialogue and actively engaging civil society, including the two largest Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, to provide counter-narratives to terrorist ideology.
CVE programs are included in counterterrorism efforts, but because of limited resources and the vast amount of territory of the Indonesian archipelago, CVE efforts are not yet comprehensive. Government efforts are augmented by contributions from various civil society organizations. Some of the groups offered positive alternatives, such as sports, film-making, camps, and rallies, for populations vulnerable to violent extremism, especially youth. However, civil society efforts suffered from similar challenges of scale in reaching at-risk populations across the archipelago.
The BNPT has expanded the Terrorism Prevention Coordination Forum (FKPT) to 32 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, and leverages these groups to broaden community engagement. Forum members are usually civic and religious leaders who coordinate CVE-related programming and activities within their communities. The level of engagement and activities of each FKPT varies by region and available resources. For example, the BNPT collaborated with FKPTs in Mataram, Semarang, and Yogyakarta, to organize workshops to help young student leaders develop counter-narratives and amplify these messages using social media platforms. Through presentations from former terrorists, survivors of terrorist attacks, law enforcement personnel, and religious leaders, the BNPT encouraged discussion of religious tolerance and CVE.
With respect to ISIL, Indonesian government efforts to develop a counter-messaging strategy are nascent. In addition to the BNPT, the Indonesian National Police are training officers in the Public Relations Division on effective counter-messaging approaches. The Jokowi administration is promoting the concept of Indonesian Islam as a positive and tolerant form of Islam practiced by the majority of Indonesia’s Muslims and an alternative to violent extremist ideologies. The two largest Islamic civil society organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are at the forefront of this effort. In November, NU released a 90-minute film titled the “The Divine Grace of Islam Nusantara” (Rahmat Islam Nusantara) which directly challenges and denounces ISIL interpretations of the Quran and the Hadith.
A de-radicalization blueprint for terrorist prisoners issued by the BNPT in late 2013 has yet to be fully implemented. Counterterrorism officials, in coordination with the Directorate General of Corrections and other relevant law enforcement agencies, planned to open a de-radicalization center in Sentul, south of Jakarta, but it was not operational at the end of 2015. There was ongoing debate about how to handle the most hardcore violent extremists, but the evolving consensus is to confine these prisoners in one of Indonesia’s maximum security detention centers.
International and Regional Cooperation: Indonesia participated in counterterrorism efforts through several international, multilateral, and regional fora including: the UN, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), ASEAN, APEC, and others. Indonesia expanded regional and international cooperation, especially in response to the foreign terrorist fighter issue. With Australia, Indonesia co-chaired the GCTF Working Group on Detention and Reintegration, and it participated in a range of GCTF workshops. Indonesia remained active in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meetings on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) and the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group. In November, Indonesia and Australia co-hosted a Counterterrorism Financing Summit in Sydney, Australia. Indonesia continued to use the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) as a regional resource in the fight against transnational crime with a focus on counterterrorism. The United States and other foreign partners routinely offered counterterrorism training courses at JCLEC. Since its inception in 2004 as a joint Australian and Indonesian initiative, JCLEC has trained more than 18,000 police officers from 70 countries.
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Overview: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. In October 2008, the United States rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law, including a certification that the DPRK had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period and the provision by the DPRK of assurances that it would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
Four Japanese Red Army members who participated in a 1970 jet hijacking continued to live in the DPRK. The Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the fate of 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities in the 1970s and 1980s. In May 2014, the DPRK agreed to re-open its investigation into the abductions, but as of the end of 2015 had not yet provided the results of this investigation to Japan.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In May, the United States re-certified North Korea as a country “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. In making this annual determination, the Department of State reviewed the DPRK’s overall level of cooperation with U.S. efforts to counter terrorism, taking into account U.S. counterterrorism objectives with the DPRK and a realistic assessment of DPRK capabilities.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The DPRK is not a member of any FATF-style regional body. In July 2014, it was admitted as an observer, but not a full member, of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Nevertheless, the DPRK failed to demonstrate meaningful progress in strengthening its anti-money laundering/ combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) infrastructure. While encouraging the DPRK’s continued engagement with FATF and APG, the FATF highlighted continuing concerns about North Korea’s “failure to address the significant deficiencies in its [AML/CFT] regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system.” For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Overview: Malaysia’s counterterrorism efforts in 2015 continued to focus on mitigating the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and foreign terrorist fighters, including by passing and implementing new legislation and continued law enforcement activity. Prime Minister Najib announced at the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York that Malaysia was part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Malaysian authorities arrested approximately 90 suspected ISIL supporters and other terrorists in 2015 and convicted at least 13 in court. The Malaysian government identified 72 Malaysians, including 14 women, who have joined ISIL, 51 of whom were armed fighters. By the end of the year, Malaysian authorities had identified a total of 14 Malaysians killed fighting with ISIL, and seven of whom had returned to Malaysia.
Malaysia continued to strengthen its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. President Obama returned to Malaysia in November for the East Asia Summit and related meetings. During his visit, President Obama committed the United States to support the Malaysian government in developing a regional messaging center to counter terrorist propaganda.
Deputy Prime Minister/Home Minister Zahid visited Washington in October, when he and Secretary of State Kerry signed a terrorist watchlist-sharing arrangement, pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6. The agreement provides a foundation for a long-term, comprehensive, and systematic exchange of information on known and suspected terrorists, and will allow Malaysian authorities to screen individuals against U.S. watchlists. A team from the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center visited Kuala Lumpur in December to establish with Malaysian authorities technical steps for implementing the agreement. In November, Malaysia and the United States signed a similar information sharing agreement focused on serious crime, called the Preventing and Combatting Serious Crime (PCSC) Agreement. The PCSC agreement provides for automated checks and exchanges of biometric information on serious criminals.
Malaysia sometimes used national security and counterterrorism arguments to delegitimize some social groups and political activities. For example, high-level officials from the ruling coalition have publicly stated that ISIL and G25, a pro-reform Islamic NGO composed of retired senior civil servants, were the two most pressing threats to Malaysian security.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: In May, Militants allegedly from the Philippines and linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) kidnapped two Malaysians from a restaurant in Sandakan, eastern Sabah, Malaysia. ASG terrorists on the southern Philippine island of Jolo reportedly released one of the victims in November following a ransom payment. Several days later, however, the other victim was beheaded, reportedly due to a dispute between the kidnappers over the ransom payment.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In April, Malaysia’s Parliament passed two new counterterrorism laws and amended previous legislation, providing authorities with greater legal tools against foreign terrorist fighters and other terrorist supporters. The Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Bill enables authorities to suspend or revoke Malaysian travel documents for individuals suspected of planning to leave the country to engage in terrorist acts. The new laws passed with limited public debate granting broad new powers to the Prime Minister.
Amendments to the Penal Code criminalized the receipt of terrorist training, the preparation of terrorist acts, and possession of items (such as books and promotional materials) associated with terrorist groups. The amendments also ban travel to, through, or from Malaysia to engage in terrorism, criminalize the use of social media to promote terrorism, and expand the definition of “support to terrorist groups.”
While most of the legislative changes passed in 2015 are consistent with a rule-of-law approach to counterterrorism, the U.S. government and other observers, including the Malaysian Bar Council, raised concerns that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) reinstate preventive detention without trial and could be used against political opponents of the government. POTA covers the commission or support of terrorist acts outside of Malaysia, whereas the POCA amendments expand preventive detention authority to broader criminal activity. Fueling these concerns, in September, Malaysian authorities detained under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) authority a former ruling party politician who had been critical of the government. In early October, police detained his lawyer, also under SOSMA authority. Both were detained for the maximum 28 days allowed by the law, and were subsequently charged under Chapter VI, Section 124L for “attempt to commit sabotage.”
In early December, the Malaysian Parliament passed the National Security Council Act, which gives the Prime Minister unchecked authority to wield martial-law-like powers in any part of the country designated by the Prime Minister as a “security area.” Similar powers are defined by the Malaysian constitution, but were previously reserved to the king.
The Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch Counterterrorism Unit has the lead counterterrorism law enforcement role. Malaysian authorities continued to improve interagency cooperation and information sharing, including participation in regional meetings, Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) events, and training conducted through Malaysia’s Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT), which is part of Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Most of Malaysia’s terrorism-related arrests in 2015 were under SOSMA and penal code chapters VI (Offenses Against the State) and VIa (Offenses Relating to Terrorism).
Malaysia convicted at least 13 ISIL supporters in 2015, all of whom pled guilty in return for reduced sentences. Those convicted included a father and son sentenced to 18 years and 12 years respectively for plotting attacks in Malaysia; several individuals sentenced to two years following their arrest at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on their way to join ISIL in Syria, including a woman who planned to marry an ISIL fighter she had met online; a 55-year-old mother of a deceased ISIL fighter sentenced to two years for using Facebook to promote terrorism; and two military personnel sentenced to seven and nine months in prison for possessing an image of an ISIL flag on their cell phones.
In October, at the request of the U.S. government, Malaysian police arrested Ardit Ferizi, a 20-year-old computer hacker from Kosovo who had provided ISIL with personal information of more than 1,300 U.S. government employees. Ferizi’s extradition to the United States was pending as of early December.
In April, the trial began for al-Qa’ida operative Yazid Sufaat and accomplice Muhammad Hilmi Hasim, and remained underway at year’s end. Sufaat and Hasim were arrested in 2013 for recruiting Malaysians to fight in Syria and are charged with inciting or promoting the commission of terrorist acts under Malaysia’s penal code, and membership of a terrorist organization. Sufaat’s other accomplice, Halimah Hussein, remained at large at year’s end.
The trial of 30 suspects – 27 Philippine nationals and three Malaysians – involved in the February 2013 Lahad Datu incursion, began in January 2014 and remained ongoing at the end of 2015. The suspects were on trial under SOSMA for harboring terrorists, membership of a terrorist group, recruiting terrorists, and waging war against the king.
Iranian citizen, and suspected member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, arrested in Malaysia in February 2012 after failed attempted bombings in Bangkok, remained in Malaysian custody. A Malaysian court had ordered Sedaghatzadeh’s extradition to Thailand in 2012, but his appeal remained pending at year’s end.
With U.S. assistance, the Royal Malaysian Police and Immigration Department took steps to provide immigration authorities with direct access to INTERPOL databases. Also with assistance from the United States, Malaysia began near-daily reporting to INTERPOL of stolen and lost travel documents. Malaysia has a no-fly list, but passengers are compared to that list by the immigration officer at the port of entry and the decision to deny entry is made at the airport.
In 2015, Malaysia made notable progress implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2178 by passing new legislation, increasing information sharing with international partners, strengthening efforts to halt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, engaging with civil society and local communities, and promoting non-violent avenues for conflict prevention, such as the creation of MyCorps, a Malaysian version of the Peace Corps.
The Malaysian government enforced a maritime curfew along the eastern coast of Sabah, in response to the continued threat of kidnapping for ransom and other transnational threats. In September, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister/Home Minister announced plans to establish a new Border Security Agency, which would include police, customs, and immigration officials. As of year’s end, that agency had not yet been created.
Malaysia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, with programs focused on strengthening law enforcement capacity to secure Malaysia’s borders from terrorist transit.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of State launched in Malaysia a regional maritime law enforcement initiative, which includes Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The Department of State’s Export Controls and Related Border Security Program conducted capacity-building activities for customs, police, immigration, the Attorney General’s Chamber, coast guard, and strategic trade officials. Malaysia participated in the Container Security and Megaports Initiatives, as well as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Container Control Program.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Malaysia became a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2015, and is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Malaysia’s financial intelligence unit (the Unit Perisikan Kewangan, Bank Negara Malaysia) is a member of the Egmont Group. In September 2015, FATF published its Mutual Evaluation Report on Malaysia’s anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures. The report praised Malaysia’s robust policy framework, strong political commitment and well-functioning coordination structures for AML/CFT, although it underscored the need for Malaysia to improve its understanding of terrorist finance risk.
Malaysia has a well-developed AML/CFT framework, and a capable Financial Intelligence and Enforcement Unit within the Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank of Malaysia. While terrorism financing was not considered a high risk in Malaysia’s most recent National Risk Assessment (NRA), the continued influence of ISIL suggests that threat may be increasing: in particular, a small but growing number of “self-financed” terrorists have sought to raise funds through family, friends, and the internet to support their travel to fight with ISIL. Understanding of ISIL-related financing risks evolved in 2015, and Malaysia plans to update its most recent NRA to include further assessment of terrorist finance risks.
Malaysia has not prosecuted any terrorist finance cases to date, although it has commenced 40 terrorist finance investigations since 2010, with 22 ongoing at year’s end. All 12 of the cases opened since 2014 related to ISIL.
Malaysia has implemented sanctions in accordance with relevant UNSCRs, including designating domestic and foreign entities under UNSCR 1373 and co-sponsoring designations and freezing assets of individuals and entities on the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. The 2014 amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act provide for automatic translation of UN designations into designations under Malaysian law and direct reference to the lists maintained by the UN. Malaysia routinely distributed lists of terrorist designations and freezing obligations to financial institutions.
The use of informal remittances created vulnerability for abuse by terrorist financiers. Malaysia has undertaken strong regulatory and enforcement action against unauthorized money services businesses that operate in the informal economy. Strengthened controls, enforcement and other supervisory measures have boosted the use of formal remittance channels, although risks from unauthorized money services businesses remain.
Malaysia requires Know Your Customer (KYC) data for a wide range of entities, and requires financial institutions to promptly report transactions suspected to involve proceeds of any unlawful activity via Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs). Malaysia does not oblige non-profit organizations to file STRs, but they are required to file annual financial reports to the Registrar of Societies (ROS), which may file such reports. Law enforcement works with the ROS and other charity regulators to prevent misuse and terrorism financing in the NPO sector, especially in vulnerable areas like religious or charitable NPOs. The ROS also conducts an annual conference for its members on the risks of terrorism financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm
Countering Violent Extremism: Senior Malaysian officials actively participated in the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in February and related events held throughout the year. Prime Minister Najib announced Malaysia’s plans to develop a counterterrorism messaging center at the September Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York. Following that announcement, the U.S. Department of State worked closely with the government to develop a concept for the center. The Home Affairs Minister also actively engaged in CVE efforts, including through his participation at the CVE Summit held in Sydney, Australia, in June.
SEARCCT conducted several regional programs on countering violent extremism. The Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), a Malaysian-based organization founded by Prime Minister Najib, conducted several CVE programs, including a public forum on youth and terrorism. In May, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice Resident Legal Advisor, GMM organized a workshop in partnership with Google to develop the capacity of civil society, including bloggers, academics, students, journalists, and community activists to develop credible online campaigns to counter terrorist propaganda.
International and Regional Cooperation: As the 2015 chair of ASEAN, Malaysia convened multiple multilateral events focused on strengthening international cooperation on counterterrorism and CVE. In March, the Minister of Defense hosted the ASEAN Defense Ministers Ministerial in Langkawi, resulting in a joint declaration committing to greater regional cooperation to counter the ISIL threat. Also in March, SEARCCT hosted an ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on counter-radicalization. Deputy Prime Minister Zahid participated in the UNSC Ministerial Meeting on Foreign Terrorist Fighters in May. In September, the Deputy Prime Minister hosted in Kuala Lumpur a Special ASEAN Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism. At the East Asia Summit held in Kuala Lumpur in November, Malaysia co-sponsored with Australia a statement on CVE and sponsored a statement on the Global Movement of Moderates.
SEARCCT hosted 18 training events in 2015, including seminars on crisis management, terrorist finance, and transportation security. Malaysian officials participated in several Global Counterterrorism Forum events, including a workshop on border security and a plenary session on the detention and reintegration of terrorist prisoners.
Overview: The Philippines, in cooperation with the United States and other international partners, continued to make progress against international terrorism in 2015. Terrorist groups, including U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), as well as other militant groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were unable to conduct major attacks on civilian targets in metropolitan areas due to sustained pressure from Philippine counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, although sporadic fighting did displace locals.
Members of these groups were suspected, however, to have carried out attacks against government, public, and private facilities, primarily in the central and western areas of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, while others were linked to extortion operations in other parts of the country. In addition, terrorist and rebel groups in the southern Philippines retained the capability and intent to conduct bomb-making training, small-scale shootings, and ambushes.
The Philippine government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which creates a new Bangsamoro autonomous government in Mindanao, is aimed at providing a peaceful resolution to the 40-year-old conflict in Mindanao. The peace plan, negotiated between the Philippine government and Moro political leaders dominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is intended to reduce tensions in the South and diminish the attraction of violent extremist groups by providing greater political and economic autonomy for Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao.
Since the March 2014 signing of the CAB, clashes with the BIFF and other Moro splinter groups have continued in central Mindanao, indicating that violent opposition to the peace process remains. At the same time, continued heavy military and police presence, including active ongoing operations against the ASG, JI, the NPA, and other violent extremist groups with ties to terrorists such as the BIFF, resulted in the displacement of local populations and disruption of civilian livelihoods.
The Government of the Philippines continued to make modest progress in implementing its 2011–2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan, which calls for the transition of internal security functions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Philippine National Police (PNP). The increasing role and capability of the police in maintaining internal security in conflict-affected areas will permit the AFP to shift its focus to enhance the country’s maritime security and territorial defense capabilities. This transition continued to be slow, in part due to uncertainty over the implementation of the CAB, lack of capacity in the police force, and shifting priorities ahead of a national election in May 2016. Continued violent extremist activity, as well as counterterrorism capability gaps between the AFP and PNP, meant that the AFP continued to lead counterterrorism efforts in the Philippines.
The Philippine government submitted to Congress draft legislation known as the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” (BBL) in 2014 to establish the new autonomous government entity in the Southern Philippines, as stipulated by the CAB. The BBL was expected to pass Congress in 2015, but progress was largely derailed by the fallout over a counterterrorism operation in Mindanao that resulted in the death of 44 PNP Special Action Force troops in January. In the backlash against the peace process resulting from that clash, two additional separate versions of the BBL have been authored, one by each house of Congress, that vary significantly from the originally negotiated law. To date, none of those bills have progressed in the Congress and the law has missed several key implementation deadlines. Both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership confirmed their intent to press forward with a peaceful settlement at numerous points throughout the year.
The Government of the Philippines recognizes the potential threat posed by radicalized Philippine citizens supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the risk of ISIL elements traveling to the Philippines to promote violent extremism in the country or seek safe haven. Members of numerous groups – including ASG, the Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP), and BIFF – have publicly pledged allegiance to ISIL. In 2015, these groups displayed ISIL-affiliated images and conducted some of ISIL’s most reprehensible practices – including the beheading of hostages. Reports continued to emerge that ISIL was attempting to recruit Filipinos, but there was no strong evidence of any significant number of Filipinos traveling to the Middle East to join their ranks.
The government increased efforts to monitor the possibility of ISIL-affiliated terrorists seeking safe haven in the Southern Philippines. The President’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) heads an interagency technical working group on persons of interest in conflict areas. That group meets regularly and has taken steps to tighten passport issuance, increase Bureau of Immigration screening at major departure points, and enhance monitoring of online extremist-related activity through the intelligence services and the PNP. At year’s end, the ATC was reportedly preparing an Executive Order or other administrative policy document to formalize this process.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: There were dozens of small arms and IED attacks, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion efforts by suspected members of terrorist groups in the Philippines in 2015. Representative examples of specific incidents included:
- On February 19 in Cotabato City, members of the BIFF, who entered and occupied at least seven villages in Pikit town, North Cotabato Province, burned 20 houses in a rampage linked to competition with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
- On May 5 in Zamboanga City, six armed men wearing military uniforms seized two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel and a local barangay captain on an island resort off Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte. The barangay captain was later beheaded by his captors.
- On October 2 in South Cotabato, four people were killed and 11 others were injured in a roadside bombing attack on the convoy of a local official in Isabela City, Basilan.
- On November 17 in Sulu, a Malaysian hostage held by the ASG was beheaded after ransom demands were not met. The hostage had been captured in Malaysia and transported to the Southern Philippines.
- On November 23 in Samal, ASG-affiliated gunmen kidnapped two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian employee, and a Filipina from a luxury resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2007 Human Security Act (HSA) remained the principal counterterrorism legislation of the Philippines. The law defines terrorism and provides methods for law enforcement to conduct investigations of terrorist suspects. Many aspects of the law have not been used due to a number of strict procedural requirements in the law. These limitations include notification to subjects of surveillance before activities can begin and damages of approximately US $12,000 for every day of detention if an individual accused of terrorism is ultimately acquitted. In 2015, the Philippines Department of Justice obtained its first ever conviction under the HSA. Most convictions are made under other criminal legislation. In September, the Isabela City Regional Trial Court in Basilan designated ASG as a terrorist organization under the HSA. This is the first designation of a terrorist group in the Philippines under the HSA.
Philippine units with a specialized counterterrorism focus, including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), have improved their investigative, crisis response, and border security capacity. However, multiple agencies have jurisdiction over counterterrorism efforts, creating duplication and inefficiency in leading investigations and in response to terrorism incidents. Roles and responsibilities between law enforcement and military units that have a counterterrorism mission were often not well-delineated, and command and control arrangements were often dependent on interpersonal relationships between incident commanders. Specialized law enforcement units possessed some necessary equipment, but numerous unfulfilled needs remained, and sustainment and maintenance of complex equipment often exceeded fiscal and human resources. Law enforcement units had a mixed record of accountability and respect for human rights. The ATC provided guidance to agencies responsible for enforcing terrorism laws, but its capacity to enforce cooperation and coordination between agencies was limited.
The approximately 150,000-strong PNP maintained legal responsibility for ensuring peace and security throughout the county, which included arresting terrorists and conducting terrorism investigations. In conflict-affected areas, the PNP often relied upon the AFP to conduct counterterrorism operations, and coordination between the two services improved, but more work remained to be done. The PNP SAF is the national operational support unit for law enforcement counterterrorism efforts.
The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in the Philippines assisted the PNP’s SAF, Anti-Kidnapping Group, Anti-Cybercrime Group, Explosive Ordnance Disposal/K9 units and other law enforcement units in Mindanao by providing counterterrorism-related training and specialized equipment and explosive detector K-9 dogs. This assistance strengthened the PNP’s capacity to respond to terrorism-related incidents. In 2015, the ATA Program conducted 35 courses with 897 participants from the Philippines.
The Philippines issues “e-passports”, which make up more than 65 percent of all valid passports in circulation. At the main international airport in Manila, the Philippines participated in the INTERPOL Border Management Program.
The first phase of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was completed in 2014, which included the build-out of the physical AFIS facility at NBI headquarters and the digitization of 850,000 fingerprint records. No funding was available from either the Philippine government budget or U.S. assistance funding to complete the second phase of the AFIS program in 2015.
In 2015, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) partnered with State’s ATA program to deliver an Airport Security Managers course to several Philippine government agencies that focused on implementation and oversight of international aviation security standards.
The Philippine government has also successfully procured advanced screening technologies such as body imagers to mitigate the evolving threat of non- or low-metallic IEDs.
With assistance from the United States, security in the Sulu Archipelago Tri-Border area of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia was being improved through efforts to enhance the capacity of the PNP Maritime Group, Maritime Special Operations Units (MSOU). MSOU and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) operational and training capacity has been upgraded through provision of varied courses of instruction by the DOJ International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), using the Global Security Contingency Fund; this training enhanced the capacity of the MSOUs and the PCG to integrate operations in the border region.
In addition to its cooperation with the United States, the Philippines received counterterrorism assistance from Australia, the UK, Canada, and Japan. This work focuses generally on capacity building for investigation, detection and removal of explosive ordnance and demolition, forensics, case management, intelligence, and special operations training with the PNP and the AFP.
The U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG’s) International Port Security (IPS) Program has been actively engaged in the Philippines since 2004 to assist with and assess the country's implementation of counterterrorism measures at international port facilities. In 2015, the USCG continued its capacity building and assessment efforts to stimulate and enhance the country’s implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code by conducting four training seminars and numerous port facility assessments. The Philippine government is making incremental but steady improvement in terms of implementing counterterrorism measures.
In 2015, the United States continued to work with the Government of the Philippines to monitor and investigate groups engaged in or supporting terrorist activities in the Philippines. The Joint Special Operations Task Force–Philippines, under Operation Enduring Freedom, was successfully concluded in June 2015 after more than a decade. The government launched numerous operations, particularly in the Southern Philippines, to make arrests and disrupt organizations like the ASG, JI, BIFF, and NPA, with the ultimate goal of prosecuting terrorist suspects and organizations. Specific examples of counterterrorism operations included:
- On January 25 in Maguindanao, “OPLAN Exodus,” a plan to serve an arrest warrant on internationally-wanted Malaysian JI bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Amir, or “Marwan” (number one on the Philippines most wanted list and also wanted by the United States) was launched against a safehouse inside Moro Islamic Liberation Front-controlled areas in Mamasapano, Mindanao, and conducted by the PNP’s Special Action Force. Marwan was killed in the course of the raid when he resisted arrest; there was a seven-hour running firefight with several hundred BIFF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and private armed force fighters, killing 44 SAF troops, 15 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, and eight civilians. On March 15 in General Santos City, senior BIFF military leader Mohamad Ali Tombako was arrested in a joint operation between PNP and AFP forces, just weeks after leading BIFF forces in a clash with troops in Maguindanao that left four AFP soldiers dead.
- On May 1 in Maguindanao, BIFF and Moro Islamic Liberation Front bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman was killed during an AFP operation to detain him in Mindanao.
- On May 10 in Basilan, AFP troops overran a major bomb-making camp and seized a large amount of bomb-making materials during offensive operations against the ASG.
- On November 20 in Sultan Kudarat, Philippine Marines overran a camp operated by the Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP), killing eight members of the group, which had associated itself with ISIL and claimed to represent the group in the Philippines. Among those killed was one of the suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings. A combined military and police team intended to serve a warrant of arrest for the group’s leader, Mohamad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid (popularly known as “Kumander Tokboy”) when it was fired upon by the group. Tokboy is believed to have escaped in the fighting.
- On November 27 in Jolo, a joint task force of Philippine military and PNP troops captured ASG figure Saddam Jailani, who was suspected in the beheading of a Malaysian hostage and the death of a South Korean hostage.
In 2015, the Philippines continued coordinating with U.S. law enforcement authorities, especially regarding wanted U.S. fugitives and suspected terrorists. On November 18, three men were convicted in Regional Trial Court 15 of kidnapping and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the 2011 abduction of American Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, her son Kevin, and cousin Romnick Jakaria (other suspects remained at-large). Additionally, hearings continued in Cebu in the prosecution of four defendants accused of murdering two U.S. soldiers and one Philippine Marine in an IED attack in Kagay, Jolo, in September 2009.
On November 16, 2015, ASG financier Khair Mundos and three others were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court Branch 87 for abducting nurse Preciosa Feliciano in Zamboanga City in 2008. The suspects held Feliciano captive for four months after allegedly receiving a ransom payment.
Although these successes were important, an under-resourced and understaffed law enforcement and judicial system, coupled with widespread official corruption, continued to limit domestic investigations and resulted in a small number of prosecutions and lengthy trials of terrorism cases. Philippine investigators and prosecutors lacked necessary tools to build strong cases, including clear processes for requesting judicially-authorized interception of terrorist communications, entering into plea bargains with key witnesses, and seizing assets of those suspected of benefiting from terrorism. The Philippines, with the assistance of the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), has developed a Training Manual for collaboration among the intelligence, investigation, and prosecution sectors.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Philippines is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and its Anti-Money Laundering Council is a member of the Egmont Group. In recent years, the Philippines significantly improved its financial regulatory regime and remained focused on effective implementation of international standards.
The U.S. government works directly with the Joint Terrorist Financing Investigation Group (JTFIG), a joint interagency taskforce with members from the ATC; the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC); and the PNP’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI), Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), and SAF to pursue terrorism finance cases in 2015. The JTFIG acts as an “intelligence fusion center” to complement the other intelligence groups tasked with investigating terrorism and terrorism financing. In 2015, Philippine agencies participating in the JTFIG pursued several investigations into suspected terrorism financing. In March, a bank account of an arrested ASG member was frozen by the AMLC after six months of investigation. This is the first financial account frozen under the Financial Terrorism Law.
In implementation of UNSCR 2199 and the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, the AMLC has frozen the assets of six members of ISIL and al-Nusrah Front. Under Section 8 of the Terrorist Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, all transactions with the named individuals designated by AMLC are prohibited. The AMLC freezes assets of those listed at the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida, and 1988 (Taliban) sanctions regimes through AMLC Resolution TF-01.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, the Philippine government continued its counter-radicalization efforts through the Resilient Communities in Conflict Affected Communities program. During the year, the Philippines worked with the Global Counterterrorism Forum to apply the Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders. Government offices, including the President’s Law Enforcement and Security Integration Office and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, led interagency collaboration on countering violent extremism (CVE) through counter-radicalization and de-radicalization initiatives.
The PNP’s Directorate for Police Community Relations (DPCR), through the Salaam Police Center (SPC) and Salaam Police personnel in regional, provincial, and city police offices, regularly conducted peacebuilding and counter-radicalization efforts in respective areas of responsibilities targeting students, youth, women, Muslim elders, and religious and community leaders to foster dialogue and clear up misconceptions that could lead to violent extremism. The DPCR, through its Information Operation and Research Center (IORC), is strengthening its information operation strategies to weaken the narratives of violent extremism.
Philippine officials participated in several CVE initiatives throughout the year. In February, members of the ATC and civil society representatives attended the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington, D.C. In April, Philippine government and civil society members attended a Regional CVE seminar hosted by Singapore. In May, the Philippine government, in cooperation with the U.S. Pacific Command’s Military Information Support Team (MIST), inaugurated the Combined Special Outreach Group, a joint AFP-PNP community engagement group to share best practices and combine strategies for public messaging on peace and order and CVE outreach. The group meets roughly every two weeks and has coordinated several efforts to increase community and educational CVE engagement in support of the peace process. On July 29, Philippine officials from the ATC attended the Rome CVE Summit Process Senior Officials Meeting.
In February, Philippine officials facilitated the 3rd Multi-Lateral CVE Conference “Youth and Terrorism: Countering the Narrative” in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and a Seminar Workshop on CVE Narratives in Zamboanga City in October.
Training on rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders, implemented by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism-The Hague, continued and included Philippine experts from different agencies and the private sector. The Philippine government also continued to support a counter-radicalization program in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facilities housing ASG or other terrorist suspects pending trial. The PNP DPCR SPC coordinated with the BJMP to conduct visitation of inmates relating to violent extremism. In 2015, the government also launched a policy to expand the Special Intensive Care Areas of the BJMP in the Manila region and to introduce a modernized Inmate Counseling and Classification Unit (ICCU) to improve identification of inmates vulnerable to further radicalization while on trial – a large number of alleged ASG, BIFF, and MNLF fighters are incarcerated as their trials proceed in Manila courts.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Philippines views counterterrorism as a regional challenge and participated in numerous regional CT coordination activities. In 2015, Philippine government representatives were involved in trainings, workshops, dialogues, and working group meetings through the ASEAN-Japan Counterterrorism Dialogue, Australian-ASEANAPOL, INTERPOL, UNODC, UNICRI, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum.
Philippine counterterrorism, intelligence, and CVE officials participated in several international conferences throughout the year focused on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. These included the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Conference in Indonesia (March), the UNODC-sponsored Regional Conference on Effective Responses to the Phenomenon of Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Thailand (June), and the Regional Technical Workshop on Responding to the Threat of Returning Foreign Fighters in Manila (August), which was co-sponsored by UNICRI and the Philippines.
A representative from the ATC serves as the 2015-2016 Chair of the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) and has been supportive of U.S. efforts to sponsor self-funded counterterrorism capacity-building workshops under the auspices of APEC, particular initiatives designed to help implement the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy. In January 2015 in Subic Bay, the Philippines hosted an APEC CTWG Secure Finance Workshop on Countering the Financing of Terrorism with New Payment Systems (NPS), which provided working-level financial crimes policy and operational representatives from APEC member economies’ regulatory, investigative, and enforcement units the opportunity to develop and reinforce capacities to counter the illicit use of new payment systems, or NPS, especially in financing terrorism. In August 2015 in Cebu, they hosted an APEC CTWG Secure Travel Workshop on Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighter Travel, which highlighted the threat that foreign terrorist fighter travel poses to the Asia-Pacific region and explained why advance passenger information systems are effective at helping mitigate that threat. The Philippines also participated in a series of INTERPOL Integrated Border Management Task Force projects sponsored by Canada.
On May 26-27, the Philippines hosted a conference on kidnapping for ransom that was attended by representatives from INTERPOL, Colombia, Australia, and the U.S. FBI. The event was funded by the Australian Embassy.
Overview: Singapore and the United States increased cooperation on counterterrorism efforts and expanded information sharing in 2015. The rise in the number of terrorist incidents across the globe highlighted the importance of timely information sharing and the need for both countries to continue to explore ways to further expand engagement. Singapore’s domestic counterterrorism apparatus and ability to detect, deter, and disrupt threats remained effective, as evidenced by the successful detention of several Singaporean residents attempting to travel to Syria or Iraq to join terrorist groups. Singapore is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to which it contributes military assets, and hosted a regional summit in April 2015 to raise awareness about the threat of foreign terrorist fighters as well as to exchange regional experiences with de-radicalization and developments related to countering violent extremism.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Singapore uses its Internal Security Act (ISA) to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. The ISA authorizes the Minister for Home Affairs (MHA), with the consent of the President, to order detention without judicial trial or review if it is determined that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, and the MHA may renew the detention for an unlimited number of additional periods up to two years at a time with the President’s consent.
In 2015, five individuals were arrested under the ISA for terrorism-related activities, four of whom were subsequently detained under ISA. The fifth suspect was placed on a Restriction Order, which limits the ability to travel abroad without government approval, requires religious counselling, and prohibits the acquisition of violent or extremist material online. Singapore’s existing legal framework, in conjunction with the ISA, provides the government the necessary tools to support the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenses. Law enforcement agencies displayed coordination, command, and control in responding to threat information affecting Singapore’s security.
In 2015, Singapore improved its border security regime through creation of a new Integrated Checkpoints Command (ICC). The ICC complements the Joint Operations Command established in 1998 and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, which in 2003 merged the Singapore Immigration and Registration with checkpoint functions of the Customs and Excise Department. The ICC will strengthen interagency coordination, improve air, land, and sea domain awareness, and improve border security command and control to collectively counter traditional and unconventional threats.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Singapore’s Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office is a member of the Egmont Group. In April and October 2015, the Monetary Authority (MAS) issued updated guidance on Anti-Money Laundering and CFT to financial institutions to further strengthen controls and risk management. These were in line with international best practices and FATF recommendations and incorporated information from a series of inspections MAS conducted from 2012 to September 2015. Singapore’s robust legislative and financial regulatory framework makes terrorism financing illegal and the government, in cooperation with the financial services industry, remains vigilant against this threat. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Through entities such as the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), Singapore serves as a regional Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) hub. The ICPVTR conducts research, training, and outreach programs aimed at understating the causes of radicalization and formulating practical rehabilitation programs. The government also encourages interreligious and interethnic dialogue through Interracial and Religious Confidence Circles, community forums that bring leaders from Singapore’s religious and ethnic communities together to discuss issues of concern, and build trust. The government believes in building regional CVE capacity, and it has highlighted opportunities for constructive engagement for those concerned with the conflict in Syria and Iraq, such as promoting legitimate charities working to ease suffering in conflict zones. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the Islamic authority in charge of Muslim affairs in the country, maintains a Facebook presence and holds outreach and education events to counter terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts. Singapore’s RRG, a volunteer organization, has had success in counseling detainees held under the ISA. The comprehensive program includes religious and psychological counseling and involves the detainee’s family and community.
International and Regional Cooperation: Singapore is an active participant in counterterrorism cooperation efforts in ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and APEC; has supported UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) condemning terrorist activities including co-sponsoring UNSCR 2178; and hosted a regional CVE conference in April 2015. Singapore is also a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and participated in the February White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.
Overview: Thailand remains a productive counterterrorism partner, although the government continued to focus on domestic political challenges as its key security priority. As of late 2015, Thai security officials expressed moderate but growing concern about the threat to Thailand from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), following reports of fighters from neighboring Southeast Asian nations traveling to the Middle East. However, there is no confirmed evidence of Thai citizens joining ISIL, and no evidence of operational linkages between ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups in southern Thailand and ISIL or other international terrorist networks. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly condemned ISIL violence against civilians.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On February 1, two pipe bombs exploded outside a popular shopping mall in Bangkok, and on March 7, a small grenade detonated at a courthouse in Bangkok. Both incidents resulted in no casualties. Following the incidents, Thai police detained four suspects, and claimed the attacks were politically motivated and intended to undermine the government.
On August 17, an explosion in Bangkok killed 20 and injured more than 120 at the Erawan Shrine, a downtown tourist destination popular with Thai and Chinese tourists. On August 18, a second explosion occurred near Saphan Taksin, a pier popular with tourists, but did not result in any damage or casualties. Thai authorities released surveillance camera footage showing two suspects leaving backpacks, believed to contain the explosives, at each location. Thai investigators later arrested two Chinese Uighur suspects. In early December, a Thai woman and a Turkish man were detained in Turkey in connection with the bombings and were awaiting extradition to Thailand. Thai authorities claimed the motive for the attacks was retaliation for the government crackdown on human trafficking, and have not charged any of the suspects with terrorism. It has been widely reported that the attacks were related to the July 2015 forced deportation of a group of Uighur migrants to China.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand incorporated terrorism offenses into its penal code in 2003, but most terrorism prosecutions fail to prove the necessary element of specific intent and therefore result in deportation or a conviction on less serious offenses.
Competing domestic priorities, political sensitivities, and resource constraints contributed to a less aggressive approach to counterterrorism efforts on the part of the Thai government. Thailand’s law enforcement units demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police (RTP), Department of Special Investigations, and elements of the Thai military – have law enforcement responsibilities on counterterrorism cases. Interagency cooperation and coordination is sporadic, information sharing is limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism responsibilities was unclear. Biannual reshuffles of senior government and security officials hampered continuity in leadership.
Law enforcement officials with counterterrorism responsibilities received U.S. training through the Bangkok-based joint U.S.-Thai International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and Department of State-funded training programs. Additionally, Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) training programs were designed to enhance RTP capacity to combat terrorism.
Land borders are relatively porous. In June 2012, the Thai government removed the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) from eight major points of entry and installed an inferior, locally developed program. In early 2015, the Thai government also removed PISCES from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and replaced it with the same locally developed program. All passengers originating in Thailand traveling to or overflying the United States will continue to be vetted through the Secure Flight Program. Thailand has an active market in fraudulent documents. Information sharing with neighboring countries appeared limited.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia-Pacific Group (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and its Anti Money Laundering Office is a member of the Egmont Group. Thailand’s Counterterrorist Financing Act, together with subordinate laws, came into effect in early 2013. In September 2015, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) revised the CFT Act, amending its rules and procedures for notifications of designations in accordance with obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions. Thailand does not have a significant unregulated informal banking and money transfer system regarding terrorism financing activities. In cases where the Bank of Thailand has discovered unauthorized remittances, the Bank has coordinated with the RTP to arrest the perpetrators. AMLO in 2015 did not identify and freeze terrorist assets of any individuals and organizations listed under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, although it did freeze $3,079 in other terrorist assets. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Thai government’s Internal Security Operations Command continued to organize outreach programs to ethnic Malay-Muslims in southern Thailand to counter radicalization and violent extremism. The government also works with Muslim leaders to promote the teaching of moderate Islam. NGOs continue to reach out to communities in the southern provinces to provide services, identify the underlying causes of the area’s violence, and provide outlets for peaceful political expression.
International and Regional Cooperation: Thailand participated in international counterterrorism efforts, including through APEC, ASEAN, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The government signed a ministerial-level ASEAN statement condemning the rise of violence committed by violent extremists in Iraq and Syria, and an East Asia Summit leaders’ statement on ISIL’s violence and brutality.