Chapter 2. Country Reports: East Asia and Pacific
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
Overview: In 2016, terrorist attacks occurred in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. ISIS-affiliated operatives attempted but failed to conduct additional attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines, and a number of other terrorist attacks were foiled by arresting or deporting individuals who were in various stages of attack planning in these countries, as well as Australia and Malaysia. The flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq or Syria from the region declined throughout 2016, consistent with global trends. As a result, regional concerns shifted to foreign terrorist fighters potentially returning to Southeast Asia and using the operational training, skills, connections, and experience gained in Iraq or Syria to launch domestic attacks.
Governments in East Asia and the Pacific continued to work to strengthen legal frameworks, investigate and prosecute terrorism cases, increase regional cooperation and information sharing, and address critical border and aviation security gaps throughout the year. Cooperation between domestic law enforcement and judicial authorities throughout Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, resulted in high numbers of terrorism-related arrests and, in many cases, successful prosecutions. Despite these efforts, Southeast Asia remained a target for terrorist group recruitment.
East Asian countries actively participated in regional and international efforts to counter terrorism. Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan are partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Australia and Indonesia continued their co-chairmanship of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Detention and Reintegration Working Group.
The Japanese government continued to participate in international counterterrorism efforts at global, regional, and bilateral levels. Japan identified counterterrorism as one of its priorities for its G-7 presidency and joined the UN Security Council as an elected member for 2016-2017.
China’s counterterrorism efforts focused primarily on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM); it continued to claim ETIM has influence in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and was responsible for several domestic attacks, as well as an attack on the Chinese Embassy in The Kyrgyz Republic. In July, the XUAR became the only provincial level government to pass specific implementing measures of a new counterterrorism law. China continued to express concerns that Chinese citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to associate with ISIS.
Overview: In 2016, Australia continued to strengthen counterterrorism laws; investigate and disrupt suspected terrorists; and maintain high levels of cooperation with the United States and international partners, including through the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Australia plays a major role in the coalition as a leading contributor of military support, humanitarian assistance, and efforts to disrupt foreign terrorist fighters. Australia contributed more than 300 personnel, including a Special Operations Task Group, to provide training and advising capacities in Iraq; and provided strike operation capability in Syria and Iraq by contributing F/A-18 Hornet fighters, a tanker aircraft, and an airborne control aircraft. In July, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia would expand training to paramilitary police agencies, including Iraqi federal and local police and border guard forces. Additionally, Australia works with a number of partners in Southeast Asia to build capacities and strengthen the response to the foreign terrorist fighters and ISIS threats in the region.
Michael Keenan, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counterterrorism, noted in November that the preeminent terrorist threat in Australia is from individuals or small groups who use simple attack methodologies. These lone offender threats were not exclusive to violent Islamist extremism; a right-wing violent extremist was also charged with terrorism-related offenses in Melbourne.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Australia experienced one terrorist-related attack and disrupted five plots. The attack involved a 22-year-old man inspired by ISIS, who non-fatally stabbed a 59-year-old man in Sydney before being arrested and charged with attempted murder and terrorism offenses.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Australian government continued to apply its comprehensive counterterrorism legislation against domestic threats and passed additional legislation to strengthen national security protections. In December, the Australian Parliament passed the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016, which allows for the ongoing detention of high-risk terrorist offenders, approaching the end of their custodial sentences, but who pose an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offense if released. Another amendment this year to the Commonwealth Criminal Code empowered the Australian military to target a broader range of ISIS operatives, consistent with international law.
In July, Australia launched the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), which combined Australian law enforcement and criminal information agencies to provide a broader picture of imminent threats, and help identify links between organized crime and national security investigations, including foreign fighters, terrorists, extremists, and their supporters. The Australian Counterterrorism Center was restructured in 2016 to better coordinate Australia’s counterterrorism efforts and to ensure that Commonwealth agencies work together on operations, policy challenges, and capability development.
The U.S. and Australian law enforcement communities have excellent information sharing and counterterrorism collaboration. U.S. law enforcement agencies routinely coordinated investigations with their Australian counterparts, resulting in numerous arrests and convictions. Following the July terrorist attack in the French city of Nice, Australia completed a government review of soft targets to identify vulnerabilities and was in the process of finalizing a plan to address this issue by the end of 2016.
Australia’s border security remains robust. Australia’s lead agencies take a proactive stance and have increased security overall. Passport controls are in place using INTERPOL, biographic, and biometric methods. Approximately 190 Australian passports have been canceled or refused for citizens attempting to travel or who have traveled to Iraq or Syria.
Australia enjoys strong partnerships on information sharing with the United States and other Five Eye partners (Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom). Australia created a Border Intelligence Fusion Center in 2016, which combines Australia’s major intelligence agencies in a single location. Australia also shares port information with regional partners throughout Southeast Asia.
More than 100 Australians have traveled to fight with terrorist groups in Iraq or Syria, and approximately 200 people in Australia are being investigated for providing support to terrorists. Australia passed a law aimed at countering foreign terrorist fighters in 2014 and increased the resources and authorities of law enforcement and security services, enabling a number of foreign terrorist fighter arrests.
Since September 2014, a total of 56 people, including six juveniles, have been sentenced or are facing terrorism-related charges as a result of 24 counterterrorism operations. Significant law enforcement actions in 2016 included:
- In May, five Melbourne men were arrested in Queensland for allegedly planning to leave Australia in a small boat to join the ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups in the Philippines. They were charged with making preparations for incursions into foreign countries to engage in hostile activities.
- In August, police arrested a man believed to be a right-wing violent extremist who was allegedly plotting to attack two locations. He was charged with collecting or making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist act and planning or preparing for a terrorist act.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Australia continued its regional and global leadership in counterterrorist finance. As a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and a co‑chair of the FATF’s Risks, Trends, and Methods Group, Australia recently obtained observer status in the Middle East and North Africa’s Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. Australia is a founding member and co-chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body, and a co-chair of the APG Mutual Evaluation Working Group. Australia’s financial intelligence unit, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), is a founding member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, and assisted Southeast Asian countries in developing a regional profile of financial characteristics of foreign terrorist fighters. Australia also serves as the chair of Egmont’s Information Exchange Working Group and is a core member and major contributor to Egmont’s multilateral ISIS project.
Australia faces a range of terrorist financing risks and counters the risks with a comprehensive legal and administrative framework. Australia can automatically freeze United Nations (UN)‑designated terrorism-related assets and has made numerous domestic designations. Australia implements its obligations to restrict terrorist financing in accordance with the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al‑Qa’ida sanctions regime.
AUSTRAC, in partnership with law enforcement agencies, detects, prevents, and deters money laundering and financing of terrorist activities, and also regulates money transfers and remittance services. Regulated businesses include financial, gambling, remittance, and bullion services, which are subject to Know Your Customer requirements, transaction monitoring, and ongoing customer due diligence requirements. Australia is moving to regulate e-currencies, such as Bitcoin. Charities are not a regulated sector for the purposes of “suspicious matter reports” (SMRs).
In 2016, AUSTRAC reported a 201 percent increase in International Intelligence Exchanges with 1,262 incoming requests and 461 outgoing requests. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, AUSTRAC received 78,846 SMRs, comparable to the previous year, but the number of SMRs related to suspected terrorist financing increased 7 percent. Applying rigorous detection and monitoring processes, AUSTRAC referred 390 SMRs amounting to US $58.47 million in the 2016 fiscal year to the Australian Federal Police and the Australia Security Intelligence Organization on suspicion of terrorism-financing links. The 390 reports were linked primarily to Australians traveling to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Using an active alert system, AUSTRAC notified partner agencies of transactions relating to persons of interest, including more than 100 persons linked to counterterrorism matters.
In April, AUSTRAC co-hosted the Experts Symposium on Regional Risks of Terrorist Finance in Medan, Indonesia, which planned a regional risk assessment on terrorist financing. In June, AUSTRAC co-led the Regional Risk Assessment Workshop in Manila, Philippines, hosted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Philippines’ financial intelligence unit. In August, AUSTRAC established a cyber-team to identify online terrorist financing activities, money laundering, and financial fraud. For the second consecutive year, Australia and Indonesia co‑hosted the Counterterrorist Financing (CTF) Summit in Bali in August, attended by more than 200 specialists from more than 20 countries. During the Summit, Australia launched the world’s first regional risk assessment, discussed earlier in Medan. In November, AUSTRAC announced a risk assessment of the non-profit sector in Australia to improve understanding of money laundering and terrorist financing risks in this sector. AUSTRAC also signed Memoranda of Understanding for the exchange of financial intelligence and other information with Cambodia, China, and Jordan.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 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 (AGD) leads the nation’s countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts. Following a department restructure this year, the AGD established the CVE Center, which is composed of four overlapping streams that build strength in diversity and social participation, target work with vulnerable communities and institutions, address terrorist propaganda online, and counter radicalization to violence. The Challenging Terrorist Propaganda in Australia program has been operating since July 2015. State and territory-led intervention programs identify radicalized and at-risk individuals and provide tailored services to address the drivers of their radicalization to violence. The Australian government coordinates support and funding to state and territory governments to implement programs. In May, the Australian government announced an additional investment of US $3.73 million to communities impacted by violent extremism and to prevent young people from being attracted to violent extremism online. 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.
Radar, a CVE intervention tool, was designed and implemented nationally by the AGD. It connects at-risk individuals with a range of government and non-government services that assist them in disengaging from violent extremism. The New South Wales Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, in cooperation with the New South Wales Department of Justice and other stakeholders, is researching further tools that can be introduced to add value to the existing Radar tool, with emphasis on the assessment phase of the intervention program.
The Government of Australia continued to engage with social media companies about monitoring and removing content. In October, the AGD CVE Center participated in a youth engagement forum in Melbourne in partnership with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. The Australian government supported a private media partnership with the Islamic Council of Victoria to develop CVE workshop materials and deliver training in four pilot cities. Australia commenced work on a policy to address the return of the families of foreign terrorist fighters, using a whole-of-government approach focusing on social services assistance. In November, Australia hosted an international meeting in Melbourne attended by nine countries on countering violent extremist behavior.
International and Regional Cooperation: Australia strongly supported counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations in 2016. Australia is a member of the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, the Pacific Island Forum, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Australia also volunteered to chair the Counter-Terrorism Working Group of APEC. As a member of the GCTF, Australia co-chairs with Indonesia the Detention and Reintegration Working Group, which focuses on capacity building for corrective services officials and prisons officers; strengthening security of detention facilities; detention and correction programs for terrorist detainees; and developing pre-release and post-release/aftercare programs.
Bilaterally, Australia supports a range of capability development and capacity-building activities with bilateral partners, particularly in the Indo-Pacific Region. Indonesia continued to use the Australia-supported Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which has trained more than 18,000 police officers from 70 countries since its inception in 2004, as a regional resource in the fight against transnational crime with a focus on counterterrorism. Australia has also concluded memoranda of understanding on counterterrorism with 17 countries.
Australia attended the East Africa CVE Center of Excellence and Counter-Messaging Hub Coordination Meeting in New York in September. In October, Australia and the International Organization for Migration co-hosted a Regional Biometric Data Exchange Solution Workshop in Bangkok, and attended the U.S.-Japan-Australia Counterterrorism Dialogue Trilateral in Tokyo. Australia supported the Annual International CVE Research Conference in Jakarta in December.
Overview: In 2016, China’s government continued to list terrorism as one of “three evils” – along with religious extremism and separatism, which threaten domestic stability. China’s counterterrorism efforts focused primarily on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an organization that advocates independence for the Uighurs, China’s largest Muslim ethnic minority. In the past year, Chinese authorities have escalated security and surveillance in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). China’s first comprehensive counterterrorism law came into effect on January 1, 2016. This law explicitly endorses China’s longstanding counterterrorism efforts, which are sometimes difficult to distinguish from suppression of individuals and groups, most often ethnic Uighurs, who the Chinese Communist Party deems politically subversive.
There were also indications that ISIS was beginning to pose a threat to China in 2016. An ISIS song published in Mandarin called for Chinese Muslims to take up arms against China because of its religious suppression. The Chinese government reported that some Chinese citizens have joined ISIS and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and are concerned these foreign terrorist fighters could return to China with increased skills. As a result, China has attempted to prevent some of its citizens from traveling to Syria, Iraq, and Central Asia.
Counterterrorism cooperation between China and the United States remained limited. In 2016, the United States hosted the third bilateral Counterterrorism Dialogue with China and the second expert-level exchange on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices. Chinese law enforcement agencies generally remained reluctant to conduct joint investigations or share specific threat information with U.S. law enforcement partners. Chinese law enforcement officials also did not respond to requests for information about state media-reported arrests and operations. This lack of transparency complicated efforts to verify details of terrorism and other violent acts inside China.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: The Chinese government reported a drop in terrorist incidents in XUAR in 2016, although it continued to allege that ETIM attempted to carry out attacks in China or direct violence through its online propaganda. The lack of transparency and detailed information provided by China about alleged terrorist incidents in China greatly complicated efforts to confirm the nature of the alleged incidents. In addition, requests by U.S. law enforcement officials for information on terrorist incidents from Chinese officials went largely ignored. Violent incidents labeled as terrorist attacks in China and against Chinese interests in 2016 included:
- In August, a car driven by suicide bombers exploded after ramming the gates of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, The Kyrgyz Republic, injuring three locally employed staff, but no Chinese nationals.
- In September, a local police chief was killed and other officers injured during a home raid when explosives were detonated in Hotan, Xinjiang, according to Western and Hong Kong media.
- In December, four terrorists detonated explosives at a government building in Xinjiang, killing one and injuring three others, according to Western and Hong Kong media.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Counterterrorism measures enacted in 2015 that intensified enforcement, surveillance, and security throughout the country continued in 2016. These measures increased inspections at all main transportation hubs, including bus and train stations, railways, airports, and ports. The measures also included an enhanced and expanded video and data surveillance network. Chinese law enforcement and security forces in Xinjiang conducted violent raids and unannounced house searches, and carried out body searches and mobile phone searches in public venues, according to international and Chinese state media sources.
In addition to these counterterrorism measures, the National People’s Congress passed the country’s first counterterrorism law on December 28, 2015, to “provide legal support for counterterrorism activities, as well as collaboration with the international community.” The law, which took effect on January 1, 2016, broadened China’s definition of terrorism beyond internationally accepted definitions and intensified the scope of its counterterrorism measures. The law further made provisions to establish a counterterrorism intelligence center to better coordinate terrorism response and information sharing across 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 internet security management, inspection of dangerous materials, prevention of terrorist financing, and border controls. Other provisions under the new law include: the Central Military Commission’s ability to authorize the People’s Liberation Army to perform counterterrorism operations abroad; punishment of news media that report counterterrorism operations without approval from government authorities; greater cooperation with international counterterrorism bodies; protection for overseas Chinese citizens; deletion of terrorism-related audio and video material from the internet; strengthened border controls; and edicts to eliminate “religious extremism,” including the “education and transformation” of terrorist offenders using “authentic” religious teachings.
In July, XUAR became the only provincial-level government to pass specific implementing measures for the counterterrorism law. These XUAR implementing measures banned “instigating, encouraging, or enticing a minor to participate in religious activities,” proscribed the wearing of clothing that “advocate’s extremism,” and prohibited the “distortion of the concept of halal” or “distorting sensitive cases.” The XUAR’s regional law-making body also threatened fines up to US $72,700 for spreading news or information through social media or websites that could harm “stability” or “religious harmony” more broadly. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for further information.
In December, the XUAR People’s Congress adopted amendments to its border management regulations, tightening rules for individuals crossing to and from neighboring countries and granting local authorities the power to close border crossings to address “defense management, counterterrorism, and stability maintenance needs.”
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: China is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. The Chinese government has strengthened preventive measures to counter terrorist financing, such as making suspicious transaction reports more comprehensive. Based on current law enforcement investigations, the United States is concerned that China does not adequately control terrorist financing. Chinese law enforcement claims to have limited ability to freeze funds and investigate banking transactions. Additional concerns include: a lack of guidance for designated non-financial businesses and professions; underdeveloped procedures for individuals and groups who seek to be delisted from domestic sanctions; and inadequate regulations defining the rights of bona fide third parties in seizure and confiscation actions.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/.
Countering Violent Extremism: China does not have an official strategy or program explicitly designed to counter violent extremism. China has stated, however, that policies that promote economic growth and increased official presence in rural communities would help address the drivers of terrorism in the XUAR. The government implemented a number of other programs aimed at “stability maintenance,” many of which promote cultural assimilation in the XUAR and place restrictions on the practice of Islam. For further information, please see the Department of State’s 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom.
Regional and International Cooperation: China continues to promote the United Nations and the UN Security Council as the primary international fora for counterterrorism while continuing to engage in other multilateral bodies, including the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Counter-Terrorism Working Group and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. China also held bilateral counterterrorism dialogues with Egypt, India, Indonesia, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Additionally, Chinese Vice-Minister of Security Meng Hongwei was elected president of INTERPOL for a four-year term during the November 2016 INTERPOL General Assembly.
China remains engaged in counterterrorism efforts in Central Asia, conducting bilateral and multilateral joint exercises with regional neighbors and through frameworks, such as the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, comprising China, Kazakhstan, The Kyrgyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In July, the militaries of China and Russia held joint counterterrorism exercises in Moscow, according to Chinese official media. In October, China and Tajikistan held four days of counterterrorism exercises involving a mobile company of Chinese soldiers in Tajikistan. In September, China announced plans to assist in strengthening the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border to bolster counterterrorism efforts. In August, China held the inaugural meeting of the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counterterrorism with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
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 implementation of the Container Security Initiative, participation in U.S. government-sponsored training in port and border security, and 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 coordinates 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, the Special Duties Unit, the Airport Security Unit, and the VIP Protection Unit.
Hong Kong is a member of the FATF and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Hong Kong’s Joint Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in Hong Kong, and financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorist financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UN Security Council (UNSC) 1267/1989 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida and 1988 (Taliban) Sanctions Committees’ lists. Hong Kong was in the process of making legislative amendments to its United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance (UNATMO) to adequately comply with UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1373 and UNSCR 2178. Filing suspicious transactions reports irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Hong Kong does not require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Hong Kong’s strategic trade regime complements U.S. efforts to restrict commodities, software, and technology transfers 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 counterterrorism, and financial investigations. Select Hong Kong police officers also attended Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies courses and Department of Defense-sponsored conferences.
Macau’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States included information exchange, as well as capacity building through participation in U.S. government-sponsored training. 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 improvised explosive device deactivation. UTIP’s Special Operations Group’s mission is counterterrorism operations. Macau law enforcement officers have 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.
Macau is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Macau’s Financial Intelligence Office is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In response to FATF recommendations, the Macau government has introduced a bill on the cross-boundary transportation of large quantities of currency and bearer negotiable instruments to the Legislative Assembly (LA). In November, the Macau government introduced to the LA an amendments bill to existing anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws.
Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in Macau, and banks and other financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorist financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UNSC 1267/1989 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida and 1988 (Taliban) Sanctions Committees’ lists. Filing suspicious transactions reports irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Macau does not currently require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements. Regarding the amendments to existing countering the financing of terrorism laws mentioned above, the Macau government has proposed widening the scope of identifiable criminal offenses, extending the definition of terrorist financing to include any type of economic resources, assets and property, and products or rights that can be converted into funds to finance terrorism. Macau’s first asset-freezing law, which complies with the UNSCR on fighting terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, became effective on August 30, 2016.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Macau cooperated internationally on counterterrorism efforts through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations.
Overview: Indonesia uses a civilian law enforcement led, rule-of-law-based approach in its domestic counterterrorism operations. Since the Bali bombings in 2002, Indonesia has applied sustained pressure to degrade the capabilities of terrorists and their networks operating within Indonesia’s borders. Several small-scale attacks or attempted attacks by pro-ISIS extremists occurred throughout 2016 in different parts of Indonesia. Police continued to detect and disrupt multiple plots and cells, including a plot to bomb the presidential palace in December that was linked to a prominent Indonesian terrorist fighting with ISIS, Bahrun Naim.
Indonesian violent extremists continued to use websites, social media, and private messaging to spread their radical ideology, raise funds, recruit, and communicate with new followers. Additionally, there was growing concern that Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters could return from Syria and Iraq with operational training, skills, and experience, and therefore conduct more sophisticated attacks against Indonesian government personnel or facilities, western targets, and other soft targets.
As of December, amendments to strengthen Indonesia’s 2003 counterterrorism law, which would strengthen provisions against foreign terrorist fighters by criminalizing extraterritorial fighting, preparatory acts, and material support for terrorism, had not passed the Indonesian legislature. Indonesia is not a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, but the Indonesian government and Muslim civil society leaders have forcefully and repeatedly denounced the group. Official estimates on the number of Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters vary between agencies and services. At least 800 Indonesians departed for Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the conflict, including women and children. In August, officials said that 568 Indonesians remained in Iraq and Syria, 69 had died in the conflict zone, and 183 had returned to Indonesia. The number of returnees includes Indonesians who were deported by authorities in transit countries while traveling to the Middle East. Foreign terrorist fighters may also return undetected by exploiting vulnerabilities in the land and sea borders of this vast archipelagic nation.
A prominent Indonesian terrorist fighting with ISIS, Mubarak Salim (aka Abu Jandal Attamimi), was reportedly killed in Mosul, Iraq, in November, although police have yet to independently verify his death.
Indonesian officials describe the pro-ISIS Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and its network as the most dangerous terrorist organization in Indonesia because of its international and regional connections. A joint police-military operation killed Abu Wardah (aka Santoso), the leader of the pro-ISIS Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, on July 18, and captured his deputy, Mohammad Basri (aka Bagong), on September 14. The operation continued to pursue less than 20 remaining members in the remote, mountainous area around Poso, Central Sulawesi.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: There were five small-scale attacks throughout Indonesia:
- On January 14, four men attacked a police post and a U.S.-franchise coffee shop with small arms and homemade bombs in central Jakarta. Three Indonesian citizens and a dual national Algerian-Canadian were killed and at least 23 others were injured. All four attackers were killed in the confrontation with police and multiple arrests were made following the incident. Incarcerated JAD leader Aman Abdurahman is believed to have planned the attack with assistance from incarcerated 2004 Australian Embassy bomber Iwan Darmawan (aka Rois) and Syria-based Indonesian ISIS fighter Abu Jandal.
- On July 5, Nur Rohman, a suicide bomber with links to JAD, attacked a police station in Solo, Central Java, killing himself and wounding a police officer. The attack took place on the last day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
- On August 27, a 17-year-old attacked a Catholic priest with a knife, causing minor injuries, after failing to detonate a homemade bomb in a church in Medan, North Sumatra. Police arrested the attacker, who was radicalized online and sympathized with ISIS.
- On October 20, Sultan Azianzah attacked three policemen with a knife, injuring one severely, in Tangerang, West Java. Police shot and killed Azianzah, who was linked to JAD, during the attack.
- On November 13, former terrorist prisoner Johanda threw Molotov cocktails at the Oikumene Church in Sengkotek, Samarinda, East Kalimantan, severely injuring four children and damaging several motorcycles. One of the victims, a two-year-old girl, later died from severe burns sustained during the attack. Police arrested Johanda, who was part of a JAD cell.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Indonesia follows a 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, 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 force of the police – leading operations and investigations. The president may authorize counterterrorism units from the Indonesian military to support domestic counterterrorism operations on an as‑needed basis. Law enforcement units are increasingly able to detect, deter, and prevent most attacks before they are carried out. Law enforcement personnel participated in a range of U.S.‑funded training and professional development activities, to build sustainable police capacity in both investigative and tactical skills. These programs were implemented by the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program, and DOJ’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program. Frequent personnel rotation at various agencies, including the police, legal cadres, and the judiciary, constrained the development of long-term institutional expertise.
Indonesia recognizes the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, but it has yet to pass laws explicitly criminalizing material support, travel to join foreign terrorist organizations, or commission of extraterritorial offenses related to terrorism. On February 15, the president submitted to the Indonesian legislature a draft amendment to Law 15/2003 to address these legal gaps. As of December, the amendment was being debated and had not passed the legislature.
Indonesian prosecutors stated that between January and November they prosecuted, or were in the process of prosecuting, 104 terrorism-related cases. Of those, 23 cases are related to ISIS activity, including eight related to the January 14 attack. In November, a key facilitator in the attack, Saiful Muhtorir (aka Abu Gar), was sentenced to nine years in prison. Two bomb-makers were sentenced to 10 years in prison, and a facilitator who helped to procure small arms was sentenced to four years in prison. In August, the Supreme Court rejected a judicial case review filed in 2015 by incarcerated terrorist ideologue and founder of Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir.
As of early December, there were 241 terrorist prisoners in 71 correctional facilities throughout Indonesia. An estimated 150 terrorist suspects were held in police pre-trial detention facilities. 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. There is a lack of effective risk assessment, classification, and management of terrorist prisoners, although prison authorities recognized and worked to address this systemic challenge. In February, authorities isolated some convicted terrorist ideologues implicated in plotting attacks. Authorities remained concerned about the potential recidivism of released terrorist prisoners.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) is responsible for coordinating terrorism-related intelligence and information among stakeholder agencies. BNPT is staffed by detailees from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Indonesian military, and the Indonesian National Police. Immigration officials at major ports of entry, especially larger international air and seaports, have access to biographic and biometric domestic-only databases, but there was no centralized border screening system. Police maintained a watchlist of suspected terrorists, but there were not always clear lines of communication and coordination among stakeholder agencies. Indonesia shares information through INTERPOL and is developing systems to enhance border screening at major ports of entry using INTERPOL data. Military and police personnel are often posted at major ports of entry to ensure security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Indonesia is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Indonesia’s financial intelligence unit, the Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Indonesia’s Counterterrorist financing Law 9/2013 criminalizes money laundering and terrorist financing, and authorized terrorist asset freezing pursuant to UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1373 and the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime and (Taliban) Sanctions Committees’ lists. The implementation process requires Indonesia issue court orders of listed individuals and entities and subsequent freeze orders to be able to freeze the assets of UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida-listed individuals and entities. Indonesia instituted and continued to improve upon an electronic process designed to ensure that the orders requiring multiagency action is issued without delay and identified assets are frozen immediately. It is unclear if Indonesia has been consistently implementing UNSCR 1267, which require all freezes to be subject to a yearly renewal by the authorities.
For the second consecutive year, Indonesia and Australia co-hosted the Counterterrorist Financing (CTF) Summit in Bali in August, attended by more than 200 specialists from more than 20 countries. Indonesia and Australia also co-led the publication of the first Regional Risk Assessment on Terrorist financing, which was released during the summit.
Non-profit organizations (NPOs) such as religious and charitable organizations are licensed and required to file suspicious transaction reports. PPATK conducted an NPO-sector risk assessment and proposed a presidential regulation to require monitoring and the regulation of NPOs to prevent terrorist finance exploitation. As of December, the president had not signed the new regulation. In accordance with FATF recommendations, Indonesia should take a risk-based approach to monitor the high-risk NPOs rather than imposing the same requirements on the entire NPO sector.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Indonesian government has not developed a national countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy. Government and civil society leaders promote the Indonesian practice of Islam as a peaceful and moderate alternative to violent extremist teachings. Established terrorist organizations remained the primary sources of radicalization in Indonesia. These groups have long called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia and tap into perceived injustices against Muslim communities in Indonesia and abroad. They exploit both cyberspace and weaknesses in Indonesia’s overcrowded prison system to expand their influence and recruit new members.
The BNPT uses provincial-level Terrorism Prevention Coordination Forums comprising civic and religious leaders to develop and coordinate CVE-related programming within their communities. The BNPT also collaborated with student leaders to develop counter-narrative content, which was disseminated through official BNPT websites and social media accounts. A de-radicalization blueprint for terrorist prisoners issued by BNPT in late 2013 had not been fully implemented by the end of 2016. In coordination with the Directorate General of Corrections, the BNPT planned to open a de-radicalization center in Sentul, south of Jakarta, but it was not operational at the end of 2016. In addition to the BNPT, police trained their public relations officers on effective counter-messaging approaches.
A diverse array of non-governmental organizations and other civil society organizations was active in developing CVE programming; however, there was minimal coordination between these efforts and government programs. There were increased civil society efforts to develop credible counter-narrative content and small-scale programs to reintegrate former terrorist prisoners into society. In May, the world’s largest Muslim civil society organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), hosted an international summit of moderate Islamic leaders to discuss violent extremism. NU’s CVE efforts included new overseas chapters, academic collaborations, a documentary film, and a nascent counter-messaging effort.
International and Regional Cooperation: Indonesia participated in counterterrorism efforts through several international, multilateral, and regional fora including the United Nations, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). As a member of the GCTF, Indonesia co‑chairs with Australia the Detention and Reintegration Working Group, and co-hosted the third plenary session of the working group in December in Batam. In August, Indonesia hosted an international ministerial meeting in Bali to discuss efforts to counter the cross-border movement of terrorists. Concurrently, Indonesia and Australia co-hosted the second Counter Terrorist Financing Summit and released a regional counterterrorist financing risk assessment. In November, Indonesia hosted the INTERPOL General Assembly in Bali.
Indonesia remained active in the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meetings on Counter‑Terrorism and Transnational Crime and the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group. 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 20,500 police officers from 71 countries.
Overview: In October 2008, the United States rescinded the designation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (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 reopen its investigation into the abductions, but as of the end of 2016, had not yet provided the results of this investigation to Japan.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In May, the United States re-certified the DPRK 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 counterterrorism, taking into account U.S. counterterrorism objectives with the DPRK and a realistic assessment of DPRK capabilities.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: In July 2014, the DPRK became an observer, but not a full member, of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. It has been subject to FATF countermeasures since 2011 on the continued concerns about DPRK’s “failure to address the significant deficiencies in its [anti‑money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT)] regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system.” Nevertheless, the DPRK failed to demonstrate meaningful progress in strengthening its AML/CFT infrastructure. Similarly, in June 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the DPRK is a jurisdiction of “primary money laundering concern” and released special measures to further protect the U.S. financial system from abuse.
Overview: Malaysia’s 2016 counterterrorism efforts focused on monitoring and arresting ISIS supporters, increasing border security capacity at airports and in the Sulu Sea, countering violent extremist messaging on social media, and developing the capacity of its judiciary to effectively prosecute terrorism cases using a rule-of-law approach.
In June, Malaysia suffered its first ISIS-inspired attack, a grenade attack at a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor that injured eight people. The Royal Malaysian Police said that a number of other terrorist attacks were foiled by arresting individuals who were in the final stages of attack planning. There was an increase in kidnappings for ransom in Malaysian territorial waters off eastern Sabah. Many of these kidnappings were linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Malaysia also uses it national security laws to arrest, jail, harass, and intimidate critics and political opposition. In November, police arrested a human rights activist under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act on the eve of a planned public demonstration and held her in solitary confinement for 10 days.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: On June 28, ISIS-affiliated attackers threw a hand grenade into a bar in Puchong, injuring seven Malaysians and one Chinese tourist. Two Malaysians were arrested and charged for the attack, and two additional Malaysians arrested in the following weeks were believed to be linked to the attack.
There were a number of kidnappings in Malaysian territorial waters near Eastern Sabah by gunmen with links to the ASG, although the kidnappings appeared to be more for financial gain than ideological reasons. The attackers used speedboats to approach and board the vessels and the victims were subsequently transported to the southern Philippines, where they were held for ransom.
Most of the kidnapping victims during the year were Indonesian and Malaysian fisherman. For example, on November 18, gunmen attacked a Malaysian-flagged fishing trawler in the Celebes Sea off the coast of Sabah. The gunmen abducted the captain and a crewmember and took an outboard engine and some of the crew’s personal belongings before departing in an unmarked speedboat.
On November 6, gunmen in a speedboat attacked a private yacht, abducting a 70-year-old German man from his yacht and killing his wife, who reportedly tried to resist the attack. An ASG spokesman claimed the yacht was initially intercepted while cruising near Tanjong Luuk Pisuk, Sabah. Local residents subsequently found the yacht drifting near Laparan Island in the Philippines with the remains of the deceased German woman. The ASG later posted a video of the German man requesting assistance in raising ransom money.
On December 8, police killed three suspected kidnappers and captured two others during a shootout off the coast of Semporna after the suspected kidnappers reportedly mistook an unmarked police vessel for a fishing trawler that they could hijack. The kidnappers had already hijacked two other vessels that night, and one of the two kidnap victims, the captain of a fishing trawler, was rescued after the shootout. This was the first time Malaysian security forces engaged kidnappers in the area.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2016, the Malaysian government employed both recently amended and new legislation to arrest and prosecute individuals with suspected links to terrorism, including the financing of terrorism. These laws, however, have also been used to stifle dissent critical of the alleged misappropriation of sovereign wealth fund money from 1MDB, Malaysia’s government-owned investment fund. Malaysia’s Attorney General’s Chambers stated that at year’s end they had prosecuted, or were in the process of prosecuting, 70 terrorism-related cases. Of those, they had secured 22 convictions, while five cases were ongoing at the High Court.
In August, the government passed the National Security Council Act, granting the prime minister expanded powers intended to counter terrorism. The new law gives the prime minister the authority to unilaterally enforce martial law by declaring security areas of concern where police have expanded search, seizure, and arrest powers. It has not been used or tested in courts.
The Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch Counterterrorism Unit has the lead counterterrorism law enforcement role. This unit proactively identifies terrorist threats on soft targets and reported during the year that it had foiled a number of attacks in the final planning stages, including a series of attacks on tourist sites and entertainment outlets that were allegedly planned to take place on August 31, Malaysia’s Independence Day. 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 Center for Counter-Terrorism, which is part of Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Malaysian government intensified its cooperation with Indonesia and the Philippines to respond effectively to kidnapping incidents in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
The Royal Malaysian Police and Immigration Department took steps to provide immigration authorities with direct access to INTERPOL databases. Malaysia reports its stolen and lost travel documents regularly to INTERPOL. Malaysia has a no-fly list; 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. Malaysia co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2309 on aviation security, and took steps to improve intelligence and information sharing.
To support the implementation of UNSCR 2178 (2014) on foreign terrorist fighters, the government has criminalized travel to, through, or from Malaysia to engage in terrorism, and police have arrested individuals on arrival at the airport who were suspected of having traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for terrorist groups.
In October, the government launched the National Special Operations Force to respond to terrorist threats, which was not operational at year’s end. The new joint unit will reportedly include land, air, and maritime forces from the Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysian Police, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
On September 23, Ardit Ferizi was sentenced in a U.S. District Court to 20 years’ imprisonment for providing material support to ISIS. Ferizi, a Kosovo citizen living in Malaysia, hacked into a U.S. company’s database and illegally obtained customer information, including personally identifiable information (PII) of 1,300 U.S. military and other U.S. government personnel. Ferizi then provided the PII to an ISIS recruiter and attack planner and posted a tweet containing a document with the PII. Ferizi admitted that he provided the PII to ISIS with the understanding that ISIS would use the PII to “hit them hard.” Malaysian authorities provisionally arrested Ferizi based on a U.S. request in October 2015 and extradited him in January 2016.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Malaysia became a full member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in February 2016 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 of Financial Intelligence Units. 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 gave Malaysia positive ratings for its 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.
In 2014, Malaysia elevated the risk of terrorism and terrorist financing to high due to the threats posted by ISIS and foreign terrorist fighters. 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 ISIS.
Between January and early October, the government pressed charges in a total of 12 terrorist finance cases and convicted two. One of the convictions included the brother of Syria-based Malaysian ISIS operative Muhammad Wanndy. Wanndy’s brother, Mohamed Danny, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for transferring approximately US $3,000 to Wanndy from Malaysia through his bank account.
Malaysia has implemented sanctions in accordance with relevant UNSCRs, including designating domestic and foreign entities pursuant to UNSCR 1373 obligations, and co‑sponsoring designations and freezing assets of individuals and entities on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list. The 2014 amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act provide for automatic translation of United Nations (UN) designations into designations under Malaysian law and direct reference to the lists maintained by the United Nations. 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 continued to undertake 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 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). Non-profit organizations (NPOs) are required to file annual financial reports to the Registrar of Societies (ROS), which may file STR reports. Law enforcement works with the ROS and other charity regulators to prevent misuse and terrorist financing in the NPO sector, especially those considered vulnerable by Malaysia. The ROS also conducts an annual conference for its members on the risks of terrorist financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 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 Malaysian government established a new counter‑messaging center, supported research on radicalization, and officially launched an integrated rehabilitation module for terrorist detainees in 2016. The government had not initiated steps by year’s end to develop or implement a national countering violent extremism strategy in line with the UN Secretary‑General’s Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Plan of Action.
The Malaysian government published a study in 2016 that identified a diverse set of suspected drivers of violent extremism in Malaysia, including a poor understanding of Islam, a lack of critical thinking skills, sympathy for the plight of Syrian Sunnis under Bashar al-Assad, and the possibility of adventure. The study also cited a lack of willingness by the government to “comment on anything with regards to Islam for fear of treading on sensitivities associated with religion” as a factor that cedes the narrative to ISIS.
Non-government observers have identified other possible local drivers of radicalization, including government-sanctioned religious intolerance, the stifling of political dissent and civil society, the politicization of Islam, and deepening divisions between Malay Muslims and other non-Muslim Malaysian citizens.
There is recognition by government and non-government observers alike that pro-ISIS Malaysians, especially those who have traveled to Syria, have had a powerful effect in accelerating radicalization to violence via their extensive social media presence.
International and Regional Cooperation: Malaysia supports the efforts of international and regional organizations involved in countering terrorism, to include the United Nations, the GCTF, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the East Asia Summit. In January, Malaysia hosted the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism for ASEAN member states and strategic partners. The Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism hosted a number of multilateral events during the year, including ones on preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, countering ISIS narratives, and the radicalization of undergraduate students.
Overview: The Philippines continued to make progress against terrorism in 2016, a period that included the orderly transfer of power through a fair and free election. The emergence of ISIS‑affiliated extremist groups, persistent kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), attacks on government forces, and bombings, all indicated that domestic and international terrorism remained a serious problem. Terrorist acts included criminal activities designed to generate revenue, such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and bombings for hire. Philippine military and police counterterrorism efforts kept up pressure on terrorist organizations, but were unable to prevent numerous attacks against government, public, and private facilities, primarily in central and western Mindanao. Terrorist groups retained the ability and intent to conduct bombings, shootings, and ambushes against targets of their choice, as seen in a November 28 incident in which a bomb was discovered and disarmed near the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
President Duterte’s focus on anti-narcotics and counterterrorism operations slowed progress towards shifting internal security functions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Philippine National Police (PNP). The PNP is responsible for ensuring peace and security throughout the country, including arresting terrorists and conducting terrorism investigations. The AFP, including special operation units, often supplants the PNP as the primary force tasked with counterterrorism operations, and coordination between the two services is improving, but remained a challenge in 2016.
The Philippine government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, if implemented, would have created a new Bangsamoro autonomous government in Mindanao. The agreement was not acted on by Congress before the end of the Aquino administration in June 2016. President Duterte has pursued a strategy focused on establishing regional autonomy through a constitutional shift to a federalist model and pursuing parallel peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front, and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA). The government’s goal is to reduce radicalization and the attraction of terrorist groups by providing greater political and economic autonomy for Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao. In August, the government and the CPP/NPA each declared unilateral cease-fires as negotiations continued.
The Philippine government recognized the threat posed by radicalized Philippine citizens supporting ISIS and ISIS supporters traveling to the Philippines to promote violent extremism in the country or seek safe haven. Members of numerous groups – including parts of the ASG; the Dawlah Islamiyah Lanao (DIL), commonly referred to as the Maute Group; and Ansar-al Khalifah Philippines – have pledged allegiance to ISIS. ISIS called on its supporters in Southeast Asia to join these groups and attack targets in the Philippines, and named former ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon as its regional leader.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: There were dozens of small arms and improvised explosive device attacks, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion efforts. Notable incidents included:
- ASG fighters on Sulu beheaded two Canadian hostages, one in April and one in June, when their ransoms were not paid. The two men had been held captive since September 2015.
- In July, seven government troops were killed in clashes with CPP/NPA guerillas in eastern Mindanao.
- In August, 50 fighters associated with the DIL attacked a jail in Marawi, freeing eight detained members.
- On September 2, a Davao city night market was bombed, killing 15 people and wounding more than 40 people. The government arrested several suspects affiliated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and DIL for the bombing.
- On November 24, DIL fighters temporarily seized the town center of Butig, a city of 16,000 in Mindanao, resulting in six days of fighting that left dozens of DIL fighters dead.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2007 Human Security Act (HSA) is the Philippines’ key counterterrorism legislation. The HSA defines terrorism and provides for law enforcement investigation of terrorist suspects. Use of the law has been limited by strict procedural requirements in the HSA, including requirements to notify subjects of electronic surveillance and monetary damages for every day of detention if an individual is acquitted. No convictions under the HSA were reported during 2016, and no groups were designated as terrorist organizations in 2016. Efforts to amend the HSA to better conform to international standards was renewed following election-related delays. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Reorganization and Modernization Act was enacted into law to meet the increasing demands of an expanded investigative and detective workload. The Cyber Prevention Act of 2012 and National Defense Act are among the priority pieces of legislation under the current administration.
Units with a specialized counterterrorism focus, including the NBI, the PNP Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), and the Bureau of Immigration have enhanced investigative, crisis response, and border security capacity. Multiple agencies have jurisdiction over counterterrorism efforts, leading to inefficient investigations and response to terrorist incidents. Responsibilities between law enforcement and military units involved in counterterrorism missions are often not clear, information sharing is moderate, and command and control arrangements often depend on personal relationships between incident commanders. The focus on counternarcotics has increased workload and operational tempo for security forces. Specialized law enforcement units possess some necessary equipment, but numerous unfulfilled needs remain, and sustainment and maintenance of equipment often exceeds fiscal and human resources. Law enforcement units have a mixed record of accountability and respect for human rights. The president’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) provides guidance to agencies responsible for enforcing terrorism laws, but its capacity to enforce coordination between agencies is limited. The ATC supported projects under the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Center of Excellence in coordination with the UN Interregional Crime Justice and Research Institute (UNICRI).
The United States continued to work with the Philippine government to monitor and investigate groups engaged in or supporting terrorist activities in the Philippines. The Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group and the Pacific Augmentation Team provided equipment, training, and support to the government as it launched numerous operations, particularly in the Southern Philippines, to arrest and disrupt terrorist organizations. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program provided critical counterterrorism training and equipment to the PNP-SAF, Anti‑Kidnapping Group, Anti-Cybercrime Group, and EOD/K9 teams.
Philippine agencies actively coordinated with U.S. authorities, especially regarding suspected terrorists. The under-resourced 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 a lack of clear processes for requesting judicially authorized interceptions of terrorist communications, entering into plea bargains with key witnesses, and seizing assets of those suspected of benefiting from terrorism.
The Office of Civil Defense and National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council trained agencies responding to human-induced crisis, including terrorism.
The Philippines issues “e-passports,” which constitute more than 65 percent of all valid passports in circulation. At Manila’s main international airport, the Philippines participated in the INTERPOL Border Management Program and continued using its i24/7 global police communications system to verify traveler data. The Bureau of Immigration installed the Mobile INTERPOL Network Database and Fixed INTERPOL Network Database systems in major airports and seaports.
DHS’ Transportation Security Administration’s aviation security technical assistance continued on multiple fronts, including delivery of an air cargo supply chain security course, joint security assessments with Philippine counterparts, and a partnership with the Department of State’s ATA program to deliver Airport Security Management courses to Philippine agencies. The Philippine government made some advancement in the procurement of body imaging technology and explosive trace detection units for use at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The Philippines does not require advanced passenger information, but was developing regulations to require it prior to arrival and departure.
Global Security Contingency Fund training to build investigative and maritime skills in the PNP and Philippine Coast Guard continued in 2016, enhancing the ability of the Navy, PNP, and the Coast Guard to integrate operations on the border.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s International Port Security Program has actively engaged in the Philippines to assist with and assess the country’s implementation of counterterrorism measures at international port facilities. The U.S. Coast Guard continued to work with the Philippines on additional capacity-building efforts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Philippines is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and its financial intelligence unit – the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) – is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In 2016, the Philippines published the first interagency National Risk Assessment on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (2011‑2014).
The Anti-Terrorism Council, the AMLC, the National Police’s Directorate of Intelligence, Anti‑Kidnapping Group, the National Bureau of Investigations, the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC), and the Special Action Force, worked with U.S. agencies through the Joint Terrorist Financing Investigation Group to pursue investigations into suspected terrorist finance cases in 2016.
As indicated in the 2016 Regional Risk Assessment conducted by Australia’s financial intelligence unit, criminal activity provides a key source of funding for terrorist individuals and organizations in the Philippines. Furthermore, illicit funds are often smuggled across porous land and maritime borders both within the Philippines and between countries in the region. The country is also addressing ongoing gaps regarding customer due diligence according to international standards.
The Philippines has implemented the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime and Taliban (1988) sanctions.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Philippines worked with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) to apply the Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders. Government organizations, including the ATC, the Law Enforcement and Security Integration Office, and the PCTC, led collaboration on countering violent extremism, counter-radicalization and de-radicalization. In April, the ATC facilitated a national consultation on countering violent extremism (CVE), producing a set of recommendations to formulate a National Action Plan to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism. The Duterte administration has not released the National Action Plan, but cooperated with international partners and organizations to refine and improve CVE strategies.
The Philippine government worked with the U.S. Pacific Command’s Military Information Support Team, through the Combined Special Outreach Group, a joint AFP-PNP effort to share best practices and combine strategies for public messaging on peace and order and CVE outreach. The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, trained Philippine experts on rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders.
In July, the Philippine government hosted the Workshop on Developing Effective Intake, Risk Assessment, and Monitoring Tools and Strategies for Incarcerated Terrorist Offenders, sponsored by the GCTF Detention and Reintegration Working Group. In September, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s Operational Guidelines on Inmate Classification and Counseling Unit Manual were approved.
Regional and International Cooperation: Philippine officials were involved as project implementers, participants, or subject matter experts in trainings, workshops, dialogues, and working group meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, INTERPOL, ASEANAPOL (the ASEAN National Police), the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, and the GCTF. Government agencies benefited from capacity building activities provided by the ASEAN-Japan counterterrorism dialogue and the European Union. The Philippines signed a framework on trilateral cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia on immediate measures to address security in the maritime border region.
Overview: Singapore identified counterterrorism as a top policy priority and has developed a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy based on global and regional trends. This strategy includes vigilant security measures, regional and international law enforcement cooperation, counter-radicalization efforts, and efforts to prepare the populace for eventual attacks. As such, Singapore was a committed, active, and effective counterterrorism partner in 2016.
Counterterrorism remains a pillar of the non-defense security relationship between Singaporean and U.S. law enforcement and security services, and 2016 was marked by unprecedented levels of cooperation on counterterrorism efforts and expanded information sharing. Singapore’s domestic counterterrorism apparatus and its ability to detect, deter, and disrupt threats remained effective, as shown by the successful detention of several Bangladeshi foreign workers associated with terrorist activities and Singapore’s first-ever convictions for terrorist financing. Singapore has been a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS since 2014 and, in 2016, expanded its support beyond military assets to also include medical teams in Iraq.
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 arrest and detention without warrant 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 period (in increments of up to two years at a time), with the president’s consent. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to ensure strict compliance with procedural requirements under the act.
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.
The Government of Singapore has a “not if, but when” stance regarding the likelihood of terrorist attacks within the city-state. In 2016, authorities launched the “SGSecure” public awareness campaign to improve emergency preparedness, promote security awareness, and build national resiliency. In October, Singapore police led the country’s largest-ever counterterrorism exercise. This 18-hour multi-agency exercise simulated attacks on civilian targets and, for the first time, incorporated the Singapore Armed Forces.
In January, Singapore police deported 27 Bangladeshi foreign workers suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Bangladesh. In June and August, authorities sentenced six Bangladeshi foreign workers on terrorist financing charges, the first such convictions. Singapore also cooperated with Indonesian authorities in the investigation of plans by terrorist groups to launch rocket attacks into Singapore from Batam, Indonesia.
In 2014, Singapore improved its border security regime through the creation of a new Integrated Checkpoints Command (ICC) as a pilot program. 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 Department with the checkpoint functions of the Customs and Excise Department. The creation of the ICC aimed to strengthen interagency coordination; improve air, land, and sea domain awareness; and improve border security command and control to collectively counter traditional and unconventional threats. The ICC is now out of the pilot phase and is a permanent feature of Singapore’s border command structure.
To better detect possible terrorist movements via air into or transiting through Singapore, ICA is piloting the use of advanced passenger screening via the Advanced Passenger Information system and the Passenger Name Record system.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body. Singapore’s Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In September, the FATF and APG published their joint Mutual Evaluation Report of Singapore. The report noted that Singapore has a strong legislative and financial regulatory framework to counter terrorist financing. As an international financial center, the government of Singapore should continue to enhance its understanding of terrorist financing risks. The report also recommended increased coordination between the Internal Security Department and Commercial Affairs Department to ensure that potential terrorist financing activities are comprehensively investigated. While the FATF/APG report noted that Singapore had no terrorist finance criminal prosecutions at the time of the onsite visit, Singapore has since convicted six Bangladeshi individuals for terrorist financing. The report found that Singapore has an effective regime for implementing targeted financial sanctions against terrorists and froze approximately US $2 million in terrorism-related assets between 2008 and 2014, which is in line with its terrorist finance risk profile. The report recommended that Singapore improve supervision of its non-profit organization (NPO) sector, such as conducting a comprehensive sector review to better understand the types of organizations within the sector that are vulnerable to abuse, implement a risk-based approach to supervision, and continue outreach to NPOs to raise awareness of specific abuse risks.
Singapore strengthened counterterrorism investigative finance and asset recovery regime and procedures in 2016. The Attorney General’s Chambers developed and published a step-by-step guide for states requesting assistance from Singapore in recovering illicit proceeds and assets.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, 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 understanding the causes of radicalization and formulating practical rehabilitation programs. The government also encourages inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue through Interracial and Religious Confidence Circles, local 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, maintains a Facebook presence and holds outreach and educational events to counter terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts.
Singapore’s RRG, a volunteer organization, has had success in counseling detainees held under the Internal Security Act. The comprehensive program includes religious and psychological counseling and involves the detainee’s family and community. In 2016, the RRG launched a smart phone app designed to counter violent extremist voices by providing users with opportunities to ask questions and have conversations with RRG imams and counselors.
International and Regional Cooperation: Singapore is an active participant in counterterrorism cooperation efforts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. In 2016, Singapore and the United States extended the 2006 counterterrorism science and technology memorandum of understanding.
Overview: Thailand remained a productive counterterrorism partner, even as the government continued to focus on domestic political challenges as its primary security priority. The high volume of travel through Bangkok’s main airport (a regional hub), an available market of illegal goods, and relatively weak oversight of banking make Thailand an attractive facilitation hub for illicit activity. Thai security officials expressed moderate concern about the threat to Thailand from ISIS amidst continued reports of foreign terrorist fighters from neighboring Southeast Asian nations traveling to the Middle East and the continued spread of ISIS-related content on social media. In November, Thai authorities publicly acknowledged they were investigating Thais who have expressed support for Southeast Asian ISIS-affiliated groups and ISIS propaganda via social media. Security authorities emphasized there was no confirmed evidence of Thai citizens joining ISIS, and denied any evidence of operational linkages between ethno‑nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups in southern Thailand and international terrorist networks. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has publicly condemned ISIS violence.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Insurgents carried out hundreds of attacks primarily in the southern region of Thailand. Methods included shootings, arson, and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). On August 11 and 12, a series of 11 near-simultaneous bombings and arson attacks struck seven provinces in Thailand’s upper south, including the popular tourist destinations of Hua Hin and Phuket. The attacks, which killed four people and injured at least 37 people, were carried out with small IEDs triggered by cell phones. Thai police arrested one suspect in relation to the bombing, charging him with arson and possession of explosives. Police also issued arrest warrants for five other suspects who remained at-large. All of the suspects are from the restive southernmost provinces of Thailand where an ethno-nationalist separatist insurgency has been ongoing since 2004. Since the conflict began, insurgents have largely confined their attacks to the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and parts of Songkhla. In October, Thai authorities in Bangkok arrested five suspects from the same region and claimed the arrests foiled an insurgent bomb plot targeting tourist sites in the capital.
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 criminal offenses. In some cases, terrorism suspects are not charged with terrorism offenses due to political sensitivities.
Thailand’s law enforcement units demonstrated some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police, Department of Special Investigations, and elements of the Thai military – have law enforcement responsibilities on counterterrorism cases. Interagency cooperation and coordination are sporadic, information sharing is limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism responsibilities was unclear. Annual reshuffles of senior ranks of 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, Department of State Antiterrorism Assistance training programs were designed to enhance Royal Thai Police capacity to improve border security.
Land borders are relatively porous. Thailand continued to use a less reliable locally developed program to screen travelers at major points of entry. Thai immigration systems at border crossings lack real-time connectivity with INTERPOL databases on foreign terrorist fighters and stolen and lost travel documents. All passengers originating in Thailand traveling to or overflying the United States will continue to be vetted through the Secure Flight Program. Beginning in 2016, Thailand began to collect and analyze advanced passenger information and passenger name records on commercial flights. The market in fraudulent documents remained active despite government efforts to crack down on criminal counterfeit networks. Information sharing within the host government and with neighboring countries appears limited.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-regional style body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Thailand’s Counterterrorist Financing (CFT) Act, together with subordinate laws, came into effect in early 2013. The AMLO revised the CFT Act in 2015, amending its rules and procedures for notifications of designations in accordance with the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
In cases where the Bank of Thailand has discovered unauthorized remittances, the bank has coordinated with the Royal Thai Police to arrest the perpetrators. In 2016, AMLO froze the assets of eight designated persons under the Thai CFT Act.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2016, Thailand lacked a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) National Action Plan, as recommended by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action, although the draft national counterterrorism strategy includes a focus on CVE. The 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, and improve interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Buddhists. Non-governmental organizations continued 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.
Thailand’s Ministry of Justice in 2016 began a pilot project with the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute to evaluate more than 300 prisoners with ties to the insurgency in the southernmost provinces. The evaluation’s goal is to identify ways for prison officials to limit the potential for radicalization of other prisoners and to help detainees who are pending release to reintegrate into society.
Regional and International Cooperation: Thailand participated in international counterterrorism efforts, including through Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Although Thailand is not a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, it participated in its Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group.