Chapter 2. Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa
THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Overview: Significant terrorist activity and safe havens persisted in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2016. During the year, ISIS continued to occupy areas of Iraq and Syria, but had lost more than 60 percent of its territory in Iraq and approximately 30 percent in Syria by the end of 2016; it lost all of the territory it controlled in Libya by the end of 2016. ISIS branches in the Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen heightened sectarian tensions, while these and the Libya branch conducted numerous attacks in the region. Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates also maintained safe havens amidst the fragile political and security climate across the region, particularly in Yemen and Syria, and conducted attacks in multiple countries.
ISIS’s core continued to operate in Iraq and Syria, from which it projected its “caliphate.” ISIS maintained a formidable force in Iraq and Syria, including thousands of foreign terrorist fighters from more than 100 countries, while Raqqa continued to serve as ISIS’s administrative “capital” and its headquarters for most external plotting operations. At the end of 2016, ISIS had not had a significant battlefield victory in either country since May 2015. For more than two years, the United States has led a 73-member coalition to liberate territory in Iraq and Syria from ISIS, cut off ISIS’s financing, disrupt its plots, counter its narrative, and stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. More than 14,000 air strikes have targeted ISIS’s key leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, training camps, and its economic infrastructure. In Iraq, ISIS lost several key cities in Anbar, including Ramadi and Fallujah, and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) – with Coalition air support – launched a broad offensive in Ninewa in October that resulted in ISF penetration into eastern Mosul by the end of the year. Two of ISIS’s key operational and transit hubs were also retaken in Syria – Jarabulus by Turkish-backed opposition forces, and Manbij by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Significant pressure is also being put on Raqqa, the de facto “capital” of ISIS, after the SDF launched an offensive to isolate the city in November.
In North Africa, the conflict in Libya remained the most pressing regional problem. Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) demonstrated its willingness to partner with the United States in the fight against ISIS. Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj invited U.S. air support in the fight against ISIS and cooperated with international counterterrorism efforts. Most significantly, local Libyan forces – with the support of U.S. air strikes – removed ISIS from its stronghold of Sirte. Although more than 1,700 ISIS terrorists were killed during the Sirte counterterrorism operations, many members of the terrorist organization fled to Libya’s western and southern deserts, abroad, or into neighboring urban centers. Other terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Shari’a Darnah, Ansar al-Shari’a Benghazi, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) retained a presence in Libya. AQIM’s focus was to fight against General Khalifa Haftar and his “Libyan National Army” forces even as Haftar and his forces publicly opposed the GNA. In the second half of 2016, AQIM increased its personnel and weapons support to the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council and the Benghazi Defense Brigades.
In Algeria, the government pursued an aggressive counterterrorism campaign against all terrorist activity within its borders. AQIM, AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS elements including the Algerian branch known as Jund al-Khilafah-Algeria (JAK-A, Soldiers of the Caliphate), were active terrorist organizations within Algeria and along its borders but struggled to accomplish their goals due to Algeria’s largely effective counterterrorism pressure. In Tunisia, government counterterrorism efforts intensified in 2016, although terrorism remained a serious challenge. Although there were no reported attacks in urban or tourist centers in 2016, attacks persisted in the Tunisian mountains and along the border with Libya, such as the large-scale ISIS-affiliated attack on the town of Ben Gardane in March. The government developed a national counterterrorism strategy in November and reached out to the international community, particularly to the United States, to bolster its counterterrorism capability.
In Egypt, terrorists conducted numerous deadly attacks on government, military, and civilian targets throughout the country. Several high-profile attacks at the end of the year indicated the threat level remained high despite a focus on counterterrorism by the government. ISIS continued its terrorist campaign in the Sinai through the local ISIS-affiliate, ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP, formerly Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis). The Egyptian Armed Forces conducted a counterterrorism campaign against ISIL-SP in North Sinai, known as Operation “Right of the Martyr” starting in September 2015 through 2016.
In Yemen, the ongoing conflict between the Government of Yemen, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthi-led opposition continued the security vacuum that has enabled al‑Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS’s Yemen branch to deepen their inroads across much of the country. Despite losing its control of the port city of Mukalla in April 2016 to local Yemeni and Saudi-led coalition forces, AQAP used its tribal connections to continue recruiting, conduct attacks, and operate in areas of southern and central Yemen with relative impunity. It released several videos reiterating its intent to attack the West. Although significantly smaller than AQAP, ISIS’s Yemen affiliate was able to conduct large-scale attacks targeting Yemeni soldiers in Aden and Mukalla.
Israel again faced terrorist threats from Palestinian terrorists from Gaza and the West Bank. Since 2015, a series of lone-offender attacks by Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank has increased tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli and Palestinian security forces continued their coordination in an effort to mitigate the ongoing violence. Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and multiple terrorist attacks were launched along Israel’s security barrier with Gaza. Israeli counterterrorism officials reported that Hamas and other Gaza terrorists made significant advances in their military capabilities. Terrorists continued their arms and dual-use smuggling efforts through the Sinai into Gaza via tunnels, although the Government of Egypt undertook efforts to prevent such smuggling from its side, which Israeli officials welcomed.
Other threats to Israel included Hizballah in Lebanon and Syria; al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its affiliates, and ISIS and its affiliates along its borders – such as ISIL-SP and the Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed group (JKW, formerly the al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. [See Chapter 3, State Sponsors on Terrorism, for more information about Iranian activities.]
Overview: Algeria continued an aggressive campaign to eliminate all terrorist activity within its borders, and sustained its policing efforts to thwart terrorist activity in urban centers. Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS elements including the Algerian branch known as Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (JAK-A, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), were active terrorist organizations within Algeria and along its borders. These groups aspired to establish their interpretations of Islamic law in the region and to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests.
Regional political and security instability contributed to Algeria’s terrorist threat. Terrorist groups and criminal networks in the Sahel attempted to operate around Algeria’s nearly 4,000 miles of borders. Continuing instability in Libya, terrorist groups operating in Tunisia, fragile peace accord implementation in Mali, as well as human and narcotics trafficking, were significant external threats.
Algeria is not a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS; however, Algeria actively supported the effort to defeat ISIS in other ways, such as counter-messaging, capacity-building programs with neighboring states, and co-chairing the Sahel Region Capacity-Building Working Group (SWG) of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).
Although there was one reported kidnapping by terrorists as a tactic to compel provision of supplies of food, there were no reports of kidnappings for ransom by terrorist groups in Algeria in 2016. The Algerian government maintained a strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: JAK-A, which has sworn allegiance to ISIS, claimed responsibility for attacks on security forces, including two lethal attacks. Algerian government efforts continued to restrict the group’s ability to operate. Within the region, AQIM continued attacks using improvised explosive devices, bombings, false roadblocks, and ambushes. Through November 2016, open sources reported 36 terrorist attacks. Attacks in 2016 included:
- On March 18, projectiles struck a gas plant operated by Statoil and BP in Krechba, in the southern Algerian desert. AQIM released a statement claiming the attack, which produced no casualties.
- On April 15, four soldiers were killed during a combing operation in the Constantine province.
- On October 29, a policeman was killed in the eastern city of Constantine. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via its propaganda arm, Amaq.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On June 19, the President signed a new law adding articles to the Algerian penal code and expanding criminal liability in the areas of foreign terrorist fighters, those who support or finance foreign terrorist fighters, the use of information technology in terrorist recruiting and support; and internet service providers who fail to comply with legal obligations to store information for a certain period or to prevent access to criminal material. The legislation was intended to implement UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015), and the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al‑Qa’ida sanctions regime.
The government stated that penal code reforms adopted in December 2015 had reduced the use of pretrial detention in 2016, but overuse of pretrial detention remained a problem.
Military forces and multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security services addressed counterterrorism, counter-intelligence, investigations, border security, and crisis response. These included the various branches of the Joint Staff; the army; the 140,000 members of the National Gendarmerie; and the Border Guards under the Ministry of National Defense (MND); and approximately 210,000 national police, or General Directorate of National Security, under the Ministry of Interior. Military forces and security services conducted regular search operations for terrorists, especially in eastern Algeria and in the expansive desert regions in the south. Public information announcements from the MND provided timely reporting on incidents during which MND forces captured or eliminated terrorists and seized equipment, arms, ammunition caches, and drugs.
Border security remained a top priority to guard against infiltration of terrorists from neighboring countries. Official and private media outlets reported on measures to increase border security, including closed military border areas, new observer posts in the east, reinforced protection of energy installations, additional permanent facilities for border control management, new aerial‑based surveillance technologies and upgrades to communication systems. The Algerian government reported it had established a regularly updated database regarding foreign terrorist fighters, which is deployed at all border posts and Algerian diplomatic missions overseas.
The Government of Algeria closely monitors passenger manifests for inbound and outbound flights and scrutinizes travel documents of visitors, but does not collect biometric information. Algeria uses a computerized fingerprint identification system, undertakes training, and is equipped to recognize fraudulent documents. The Government of Algeria used INTERPOL channels, alerts, and diffusion notices to stay informed on suspicious travelers at land, air, and maritime borders.
To enhance its capacity to deal effectively with security challenges within its borders and defend against threats to regional stability, Algerian law enforcement agencies participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program and other training offered by third countries. Algerian participants attended and hosted numerous workshops conducted under the aegis of the GCTF. The U.S. Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, funded by the Department of State, concentrated on capacity‑focused consultations and mentoring in forensics, border security, criminal investigation, and evidence collection at crime scenes.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, known as the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit (CTRF), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In February, the FATF removed Algeria from its list of jurisdictions subject to FATF monitoring under its ongoing global anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance process. The FATF cited Algeria’s significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime. Similarly, in April, the MENAFATF announced that it was moving Algeria from “follow up” status to a biennial reporting status, and praised Algeria’s compliance with international AML/CFT standards.
On June 19, the President signed a new law expanding the Algerian penal code in the areas of foreign terrorist fighters, and those who support or finance foreign terrorist fighters, in an effort to comply with UNSCR 2178.
CTRF regularly publishes administrative orders signed by the Minister of Finance, directing the immediate freezing and seizure of the assets of persons and entities listed by the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Although the system for freezing and seizure is in place, to date these orders have not yet resulted in the actual freezing or seizure of assets of listed persons.
The banking system in Algeria is underdeveloped and tightly monitored by Algerian authorities. Processes within the banking system are bureaucratic and require several checks at various points of the money transfer process, and a large informal cash-based economy has developed. The scale of the informal market has made its eradication extremely difficult, and multiple fiscal initiatives by the government have failed to co-opt illegal traders into formalizing their businesses. Reportedly, a network of informants and Algerian undercover officers monitor significant unregulated cash transactions, but given the informal nature of the system, it is difficult to police adequately.
In recent years, Algeria has taken steps to address several AML/CFT deficiencies. In 2015, Algeria amended the law to expand the definition of the financing of terrorism to include the criminalization of financing an individual terrorist or terrorist organization for any purpose. By amending the AML/CFT law, progress was also made on addressing customer due diligence, requiring all financial institutions to not allow the opening of anonymous or numbered bank accounts. Further, financial institutions were obligated to report to the CTRF suspicious transactions when funds are suspected of being associated or connected with a crime or suspected of being related to terrorism or used by terrorists, terrorist organizations, or terrorist financiers.
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 Algerian government reports that its policies underscore the value of state oversight for religious education, including by the training and credentialing of imams as a way to promote social stability and ensure they do not incite violence or promote intolerance through their teaching and preaching. The Algerian government appoints, trains, and pays the salaries of imams. The penal code outlines punishments, including fines and prison sentences, for anyone other than a government-designated imam who preaches in a mosque. The Algerian government monitors mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibits the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. Government officials publicly affirm Algeria’s Sunni Maliki tradition of Islam, and characterize it as upholding the values of tolerance, brotherhood, and acceptance of others.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs warns Algerians against foreign violent extremism (including ISIS), and heeding fatwas (judicial rulings) that originate outside Algeria. Plans announced in 2015 to establish an “Academy of Fatwas” and an “observatory” to guard against untrained imams and importation of values “alien” to Algeria’s religious tradition remain at the proposal stage. The government promotes programs on television and radio that gave “repentant” terrorists a platform to dissuade others from joining violent extremist organizations.
A national taskforce on cybercrime, established in October 2015, continues to work with cybercrime units of the police and gendarmerie to prevent online recruitment. In addition, the government established memoranda of cooperation among the Ministries of Interior, Communications, Education and Religious Affairs, and set up specialized web sites to counter “fatwas” issued by extremists.
Viewing broad-based socioeconomic opportunity as a way to prevent radicalization to violence, Algerian government programs target youth and the unemployed by providing tuition, job placements, and paid internships to university students.
The Government of Algeria airs content through Radio Quran aimed at countering religious extremism, specifically violent forms of Salafism. Mini lectures with the stated intent to “defuse” intolerant or violent discourse air regularly, and the most relevant lectures were broadcast two to three times per week.
The MND released communiques from its website on captured or eliminated terrorists, indicating where the operation occurred and where arms were recovered, with no further commentary or analysis. The MND excluded group affiliation to deny terrorists publicity. Algerian leaders publicly condemned terrorism in televised addresses and statements to the press. Posting photographs and videos of terrorist acts on the internet is prohibited. MND officials and the MND website reminded citizens to verify their sources and statistics related to security matters with the MND communications office.
Under the 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, Algeria offers amnesty to former terrorists who lay down their weapons and disavow violence. Exceptions are made for perpetrators of particularly egregious acts, such as rape, murder, and bombings. Per the Charter, the government extends judicial assistance and social and job reintegration measures to repentant terrorists, victims of terrorism, and families of terrorists across the country.
International and Regional Cooperation: Algeria is an active member and participant in the African Union (AU), the GCTF, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League. It is a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law. Algeria participated in counterterrorism-related projects implemented by the UN Office on Drug and Crime’s Terrorism Prevention Branch; participated in CEMOC (Comite d’État-Major Opérationnel Conjoint) with Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to promote security cooperation in the region; and hosted CEMOC’s Liaison and Fusion Center for information sharing. Algeria also provides significant funding to the AU’s Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa.
Algeria sits on the UN Counter-Terrorism Center’s Advisory Board and hosts the headquarters of AFRIPOL, a pan-African organization to foster police training and cooperation. As a founding member of the GCTF, Algeria served as co-chair of the SWG, which promotes regional and international cooperation and provides a venue for experts to discuss capacity-building gaps specific to the Sahel region and identify solutions. Under the auspices of the SWG, Algeria hosted a regional workshop on the role of the criminal justice system in countering terrorism and on developing and implementing national plans of action to prevent violent extremism. In 2016, Algeria also convened international workshops on the role of democracy in countering terrorism, and on Terrorists’ Use of the Internet.
In 2016, Algeria continued strong diplomatic engagement to promote regional peace and security. Algerian officials reported that security cooperation along the Algeria-Tunisia border had prevented several terrorist attacks. On the diplomatic front, Algeria chaired the implementation committee for the peace accord in Mali. Algeria continued to press publicly and privately for groups and stakeholders to support the UN political process in Libya. Algeria also participated in various Sahel-Saharan fora to discuss development and security policies, the evolution of regional terrorism, and donor coordination.
Algeria is an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a U.S. multi-year interagency regional program aimed at building the capacity of governments in the Maghreb and Sahel to confront threats posed by violent extremists. Both Morocco and Algeria participate in the TSCTP; the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Mediterranean; and the GCTF; however, political disagreement over the status of Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2016.
Overview: During 2016, the Bahraini government continued to make gains in detecting, neutralizing, and containing terrorist threats from violent Shia militants and ISIS sympathizers. Shia militants remained a key threat to security services, and their attacks in 2016 resulted in the death of one police officer and one civilian. The government also continued implementing counterterrorism laws the legislature approved in 2013, including revoking the citizenship of suspected and convicted terrorists. Opposition-leaning activists asserted at least some of these revocations were politically motivated, however. The government also offered diplomatic support to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, participating in the October Counter-ISIS conference in Washington and other working-level meetings – such as those of the Political Directors, Small Group, and Communications Committee – although Bahrain has not contributed substantively to coalition military efforts since 2014. Bahrain also indirectly supports coalition operations through hosting the Fifth Fleet and Naval Central Command.
In December, ISIS affiliates released a video in which the operatives called for attacks against the Bahraini government and U.S. interests in the region.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: The number of terrorist attacks against security forces declined in 2016 after several high-profile strikes the previous three years. At least three attacks resulted in casualties or injuries; only one of which involved explosives. Suspected Shia militants continued to instigate low-level violence against security forces using real and fake improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Bahrain regularly experiences low-level violence between Shia youth – using Molotov cocktails and other homemade devices – and predominantly Sunni security forces in mostly-Shia villages. Attacks in 2016 included:
- On April 16, youth used Molotov cocktails to attack a police patrol vehicle in the predominantly Shia village of Karbabad, resulting in the death of a police officer and injuries to two others.
- On May 22, the Mukhtar Brigades Shia militant group claimed credit for the shooting of a police officer in the predominantly Shia village of Sitra. The officer survived the attack.
- On June 30, an IED in the village of East Eker killed a Bahraini woman and injured her three children. The woman was likely collateral damage and not the intended target; no one claimed responsibility for the attack and militants have not previously targeted civilians.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Antiterrorism Law of 2006, and amendments in 2013, as well as Articles 155 and 168 of the penal code, form the bulk of Bahrain’s terrorism legislative framework. A 2004 legislative decree created a new division within the Public Prosecutor’s Office that specializes in terrorism cases. In 2013, the government amended the Charity Fundraising Law of 1956 to tighten terrorist finance monitoring and penalties and strengthen the government’s ability to monitor and impede the use of social media to promote terrorism.
Bahrain did not offer any significant adjustments to its legal regime in 2016, although in April it labeled 68 groups as terrorist entities, including three domestic Shia militant organizations and ISIS. Activists alleged that the government has used the 2013 amendments to the Antiterrorism Law, particularly portions related to citizenship revocations, to pursue politically motivated cases against the mainstream, nonviolent opposition and Shia Community.
The Ministry of the Interior is the lead government agency that detects and prevents terrorism, and arrests suspects in terrorism-related acts, with the Bahrain National Security Agency providing intelligence support. The Bahraini Coast Guard monitors and interdicts seaborne weapons and terrorists. The major deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security are the lack of interagency coordination and limited training opportunities to develop requisite law enforcement skills. Police regularly plan and mobilize large-scale security operations to prepare for and enhance security during major events.
Bahrain has attempted to upgrade its border security and screening procedures at its two primary points of entry: the Bahrain International Airport and the King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain’s third point of entry is the Khalifa bin Salman Port, where there is also appropriate screening. Bahrain cross-checks biographic information of incoming and outgoing travelers and can prevent individuals from entering or leaving the country. It is able to work with airlines for advance passenger information protocols, but usually not until incoming flights are airborne. Bahrain works with international organizations such as INTERPOL to identify and apprehend wanted persons; activists and NGOs have asserted that the government has used the INTERPOL red notice system to pursue politically motivated cases against the mainstream opposition and Shia activists without a history of involvement in violent acts. In 2016, Bahrain and the United States enhanced their abilities to share terrorism screening information.
Bahrain has initiated and continued to pursue numerous high-profile terrorism cases related to Sunni and Shia violent extremists. In 2016, a court convicted 24 citizens, with 16 tried in absentia, of forming an ISIS cell and revoked their citizenships. Most citizenship revocations and other prosecutions based on terrorism charges involved Shia militant individuals and organizations. Notable examples included the cases of the “Imam Army” and “Basta” terrorist organizations, where suspects are accused of conspiring with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Qods Force and other terrorist entities to launch domestic attacks.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bahrain is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Bahrain is also a member of the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) and hosted a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Counter-Hizballah Workshop in 2016. Bahrain participated in three CIFG meetings in 2016 with delegations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and Central Bank of Bahrain.
Bahrain did not pass any significant counterterrorist financing legislation in 2016, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) signed an MOU with counterparts in the United Kingdom to increase information sharing and capacity building. One of the end goals of the project is to develop a financial crimes division within the PPO, which the office aims to implement after several of its members complete training in London.
Bahrain criminalizes terrorist financing in accordance with international standards and has the ability to immediately freeze suspicious financial assets. The Central Bank has implemented regulations stipulating that financial institutions and other relevant authorities do not have any dealings with UN-sanctioned entities, and financial institutions must screen all account activity against the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list as well as applicable UN Security Council resolutions. The government routinely distributes the UN Security Council lists of designated individuals and entities to financial institutions. The government also obliges non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports and regulates and monitors them to prevent misuse and terrorist financing.
In Bahrain, the potential politicization of terrorist finance and money laundering issues threatens to conflate legitimate prosecutions of militants with politically-motivated actions against the mainstream, nonviolent opposition and Shia community, including Shia clerics. The lack of trust between the government and opposition after several years of political paralysis may continue to complicate any government efforts to prosecute legitimate financial crimes, including the financing of terrorism.
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: In 2016, the government began drafting a National Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy in line with the UN Secretary-General’s Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action. Additionally, numerous officials from the government, legislature, and non-governmental organization (NGO) community have put together programming targeting youth and other vulnerable populations, including a May conference that focused on protecting youth from extremist influences.
A sense of economic and political disenfranchisement has persisted among sectors of the Shia community for years and remained a primary driver of violent extremism in 2016. Many Shia leaders claimed discrimination in government employment and awarding of government scholarships has worsened since the Arab Spring-inspired protests of 2011.
There is little support for violent anti-government activity in the Sunni community, but a limited circle of individuals has become radicalized in the past several years and either joined local violent extremist factions or left to fight with ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. In December, ISIS said 14 Bahrainis had died fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Within the Sunni community, a small number of extremist religious preachers have helped radicalize these individuals, although Bahraini Sunnis looking to join violent extremist groups are also motivated by regional events and a desire to counter what they perceive to be growing Iranian influence.
The government has attempted to dilute the influence of religious leaders in political life and has forced both Sunni and Shia clerics to sign a document, originally authored in 2009, that commits them to certain standards when delivering Friday sermons. The government has rationalized several of the actions it took in 2016, including the dissolution of the country’s preeminent opposition group, as attempts to dilute the influence of actors who incited violence and radicalization in the Shia community. Some activists and NGOs have claimed, however, that the government wants to silence peaceful dissent.
The government has also attempted to build outreach through initiatives such as the community police, which recruits mostly Shia Bahrainis to bridge the divide between predominantly Shia villages and the regular – mostly Sunni (and non-Bahraini origin) – police force. The community police program emerged as one of several initiatives after the 2011 unrest, but the government has not published statistics on the force’s composition or track record. Additionally, many in the Shia community continue to view anyone who works directly or indirectly for the security services with suspicion.
The government says it is working to establish a National Rehabilitation Center to reintegrate prisoners with extremist views back into society, but has not given a timetable for its implementation. There is also no overall strategic messaging campaign to counter terrorist narratives, although government leaders often publicly speak about tolerance and reducing sectarian rhetoric.
International and Regional Cooperation: In 2016, Bahrain and other GCC members led efforts with both the Arab League and Organization for Islamic Cooperation to designate Hizballah as a terrorist group. Also in 2016, Bahrain deepened its security cooperation with other GCC members, engaging in a largescale multilateral counterterrorism exercise (“Arab Gulf Security 1”) that featured joint drills between police forces of several states. The Bahraini government frequently attends conferences related to multilateral counterterrorism cooperation.
Overview: In 2016, the Egyptian government continued to confront active terrorist groups that conducted deadly attacks on government, military, and civilian targets throughout the country. While the overall number of attacks against civilian targets declined through the middle of the year, several high-profile attacks at the end of the year indicate the threat level remains high. Two ISIS affiliates, ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP) and a distinct group calling itself Islamic State Egypt (IS Egypt), continued to pose a threat. Egypt also faced anti-regime violence from groups, including Liwa al-Thawra and the Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM) organization; both have claimed responsibility for attacks in Egypt. The Revolutionary Punishment and Popular Resistance organizations were less active than they had been in the past. While ISIS‑affiliated groups likely received some external support and direction, there is no evidence of a significant presence of foreign terrorist fighters in Egypt.
President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi remained focused on counterterrorism efforts in Egypt. The Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) continued the counterterrorism campaign against ISIL-SP in North Sinai (known as Operation “Right of the Martyr”) to defeat the terrorist threat and prevent the establishment of a terrorist safe haven. The Egyptian government claimed to have killed thousands of terrorists. Rights groups and international media reported allegations that the armed forces used indiscriminate force during military operations that targeted widespread terrorist activity in the northern Sinai Peninsula, resulting in killings of civilians and destruction of property. The government did not report any civilian casualties during operations in the Sinai. (There is no independent confirmation of these allegations as northern Sinai remains closed to U.S. officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the press.)
Further, the EAF sustained efforts to seize and destroy tunnels used for smuggling on the border between Egypt and Gaza but at a slower rate compared to last year due to the establishment of a border buffer zone, which significantly reduced tunnel activity in this area.
On August 4, ISIL-SP leader Mohamed Fereij Zeyada (aka Abu Doaa Al-Ansary) was killed in an operation south of Sheikh Zoweid. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to be the largest threat facing Egyptian security forces in North Sinai. To circumvent EAF telecommunication jamming, militants developed IEDs that detonate using pressure plates and wire triggers.
Egypt is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and its Counter-ISIS Finance Group.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Groups claiming to be affiliated with ISIS and other terrorist groups carried out attacks throughout Egypt, but particularly in the Sinai. Methods included vehicle‑borne improvised explosive devices, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The following list is illustrative and details only a fraction of the incidents that occurred.
- On January 21, security forces raided an apartment in the Haram district of Giza, acting on previously gathered intelligence. When security forces entered the apartment, the occupants detonated a number of IEDs, which caused the death of seven members of the security forces and the injury of others. Both IS Egypt and Revolutionary Punishment claimed the attack.
- On May 7, assailants attacked a microbus carrying police officers in Helwan, a suburb of Cairo. The perpetrators shot and killed eight police officers. Both IS Egypt and Popular Resistance claimed the attack.
- On October 23, gunmen shot and killed EAF Brigadier General Adel Rajaie as he left his home in Obour city, just outside of Cairo. Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for the assassination.
- On December 9, an explosion targeting a checkpoint in the Haram district of Giza killed six police officers and severely injured three others. On the same day, another bombing targeting a police vehicle in Kafr El-Sheikh, in northern Egypt, killed one civilian and injured three police. Both bombs appeared to have been activated remotely. The HASM movement claimed responsibility for both attacks.
- On December 11, a suicide bomber killed 28 Coptic Orthodox worshipers and injured dozens more at El-Botroseya Church in central Cairo, located adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. The Egyptian government accused Muslim Brotherhood fugitives in Qatar of providing financial and logistic support while IS Egypt subsequently claimed the attack and warned of additional attacks to come.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Egypt continued to implement two significant counterterrorism laws issued by Presidential decree in 2015 and ratified by Parliament in 2016: the “Terrorist Entities Law,” which established a mechanism for designating organizations or individuals as terrorist entities; and a sweeping new counterterrorism law that significantly increased the penalties for terrorism-related crimes. The law also imposes a steep fine, equal to many times the average annual salary of most local journalists, for publishing “false news” that contradicts official government reports on terrorism, which some civil society organizations worry could be used to stifle dissent and lead to under-reporting on acts of terrorism.
In November 2016, the Legislative and Legal Affairs committee of the Parliament planned to discuss an amendment to Egypt’s criminal procedures law that would expedite judicial appeals procedures to ensure swift justice in terrorism-related cases; however, these planned changes were delayed. In the wake of the December attack against El-Botroseya Coptic church, the Egyptian government planned to convene a major conference to discuss amendments to the criminal procedures law, including initiatives to allow the Cassation Court to consider cases as soon as they are appealed and issue verdicts quickly instead of referring them for retrial in criminal courts. Several politicians have also called for Parliament to refer all terrorism cases to military courts.
The National Security Sector, a division of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), is primarily responsible for counterterrorism functions in the Nile Valley, but also works with other elements of the MOI, the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, and the EAF. There was limited interagency cooperation and information sharing among the various counterterrorism elements within the Egyptian government in 2016.
Egypt continued to take actions to improve its border security. At border crossings and airports, Egyptian authorities checked for the presence of known security features within travel documents, such as micro-printing, UV features, and digital schemes. They also scanned and cross-referenced documents with criminal databases that alert them when there is derogatory information present. Egypt maintains a terrorist watchlist with a simple listing provided to Egyptian immigration officials at the ports of entry and detailed information maintained by the security services. In response to the downing of Metrojet flight 9268 in October 2015, the United States issued enhanced screening requirements for cargo flying from or through Egypt to the United States. These restrictions remained in place during 2016. Egypt bolstered security procedures and updated screening equipment at all of its international airports, including cargo screening at Cairo International Airport.
Egypt’s most significant physical border security concerns were along the borders with Gaza and Libya, although smuggling was also a problem along the border with Sudan. The EAF aggressively sought to destroy underground tunnels that connect Gaza and Sinai. The EAF continued to maintain the de-populated buffer-zone along the border with Gaza, which extends to 1.5 kilometers from the border. Egypt maintained an increased military presence along the Libya border; the government used cargo and passenger vehicle x-ray scanning devices at the Libyan border crossing to inspect traffic traveling both into and out of Egypt. The EAF was also working to procure a suite of mobile surveillance technologies to improve its situational awareness along the border with Libya.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Egypt is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body and also a member of the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. Egypt’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Egyptian Money Laundering and Terrorist financing Combating Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The Government of Egypt has shown increased willingness to improve its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism legal framework. During 2015, Egypt enacted a number of laws to strengthen measures to counter terrorist financing to align with international standards and to enhance its legal framework to identify terrorists and terrorist organizations.
Egypt enacted a criminalization system for terrorist financing, in accordance with international standards, and has comprehensive procedures to implement financial sanctions pursuant to the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Egypt remains vulnerable to terrorist financing, however, because of the large informal cash-based economy, undocumented small scale financial transactions, an estimated 90 percent of the population that does not have formal bank accounts, and the proximity to several terrorist organizations such as ISIL-Sinai. The Central Bank of Egypt and the Federation of Egyptian Banks have aimed to promote financial inclusion by incentivizing individuals and small and medium size enterprises to enter the formal financial sector. Additionally, Egypt enacted measures including digitization of government payments, introduction of smartcards, and increased banking services with mini‑branches, more ATMs, and mobile phone applications. Despite legislative efforts, smuggling of antiquities and narcotics remained a concern, and exploitation of banking technologies and social media for terrorism funding also remained an issue. For example, ISIL‑SP solicited funds using Twitter to finance terrorist activities in Egypt, relying on anonymous prepaid value cards.
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: Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa, an official body that issues religious edicts, has taken the lead in establishing a General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide to counter violent extremist religious messaging via religious channels. Dar Al-Iftaa sends scholars to engage communities considered vulnerable to violent messaging; trains new muftis; organizes international outreach and speaking tours throughout Muslim majority countries and the West; publishes books and pamphlets to challenge the alleged religious foundations of violent extremist ideology; runs rehabilitation sessions for former violent extremists; and confronts violent extremists in cyber space.
Al-Azhar University is revising its pre-university curricula by removing material that could be misinterpreted to promote violent extremism. Al-Azhar’s online observatory monitors, reports on, and responds to extremist messaging and fatwas on the internet.
The Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) is legally responsible for issuing guidance to which all imams throughout Egypt are required to adhere, including weekly instructions on a provided theme that aims to prevent extremist language in sermons. The Ministry is also required to license all mosques in Egypt; however, many continued to operate without licenses. The government appoints and monitors the imams who lead prayers in licensed mosques, and the government pays their salaries.
International and Regional Cooperation: Egypt continued to participate in the Global Counterterrorism Forum, co-chairing (along with the United States) the Criminal Justice and Rule of Law Working Group. Egypt holds a non-permanent seat on the UNSC through the end of 2017, and presides over the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee. It is also a member of the African Union.
Overview: Iraq made impressive progress in 2016 toward defeating ISIS, which had occupied large areas of the country since mid-2014. The series of successive ISIS defeats continued with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) liberation of Ramadi in February, elimination of ISIS presence in Hit, Karma, Jazira al-Khalidiya, and Rutbah through the spring, recapture of Fallujah in June, seizure of Qayara Airbase in July, and launch of a broad offensive in Ninewa in October, resulting in ISF penetration deep into eastern Mosul at the end of the year assisted by Coalition air power. As it retreated, ISIS killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians, publishing macabre videos of the murders to terrorize Iraqis, and forcing Mosul residents to remain as human shields to discourage airstrikes. ISIS also demonstrated its continuing ability to conduct massive terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Shia-majority areas, killing at least 300 civilians in coordinated bombings in Baghdad in July and killing at least 80 Iranians and Iraqis (the bulk of whom were Shia Arba’in pilgrims) in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in November.
By the end of 2016, ISIS had lost much of the territory it captured in 2014 and early 2015. While ISIS continued to offer fierce resistance in Mosul’s city center and a few other strongholds, it lost some of its ability to generate revenues or resupply itself militarily. The ISF had reclaimed most of Anbar (with only the Qaim-Rawa corridor remaining ISIS-controlled), nearly all of Salah al-Din, Kirkuk (except for Hawija), and Ninewa (except for Mosul and Tal Afar). This represented a dramatic, positive advance from the situation in Iraq in 2015.
Still, even as the Government of Iraq – supported by the 73-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS – made significant progress in its campaign to expel ISIS from Iraq, severe internal security threats endured. Iraqi officials made little progress on managing the country’s ethnic, religious, and sectarian fissures, and the passage of legislation formalizing the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) proved a divisive step that exacerbated the doubts of many Sunnis about the government’s willingness to rule for the benefit of all citizens.
The U.S.-led Defeat-ISIS Coalition focused on training, equipping, advising, and assisting the ISF, including Kurdish Peshmerga, in coordination with the Government of Iraq. Twenty coalition states joined the United States in deploying military personnel to assist the Iraqi government in training, along with “advise and assist” missions. Coalition partners trained more than 38,500 ISF, while coalition members conducted 4,300 air strikes in Iraq, including in support of Mosul’s liberation. Coalition states contributed more than $1 billion to UN‑managed stabilization projects and humanitarian support in 2016, including at the Iraq Donor Conference in July, bringing total humanitarian assistance to more than 4.5 billion since the current crisis began in 2014. Iraqi officials also participated in Counter-ISIS Ministerial and Lines of Effort working group meetings throughout the year.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist groups continued to mount a large number of attacks throughout the country. ISIS’s use of captured and improvised military equipment gave it sophisticated capabilities in line with a more conventional military force, including the reported use of tanks, armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, artillery and mortars, and self-developed unmanned aerial drones, capable both of surveillance and attacks using primitive air-drop bomblets or booby-trapped components. According to estimates from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, acts of terrorism and violence killed more than 7,000 civilians and injured more than 12,000 in 2016.
Many of Iraq’s armed Shia groups are backed by Iran, including Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq (AAH), and the Badr Organization. These Iranian-backed groups continued to operate in Iraq during 2016, which exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq and contributed to allegations of human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians, particularly in Fallujah, where residents claim hundreds of male residents remain unaccounted for after the city’s liberation in June. KH, AAH, and other militias associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force have been combating ISIS alongside the Iraqi military. In November, the Council of Representatives passed legislation formalizing the PMF as part of the ISF, although which militias will be formally enrolled or how they will be enrolled (as individuals or as units) in the legalized PMF had not been determined at year’s end. The inclusion of KH – a U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organization – in the legalized PMF could represent an obstacle that could undermine shared counterterrorism objectives.
The following is an illustrative sample that highlights only a small number of the most egregious terrorist attacks conducted in 2016:
- Throughout January, near-daily car bombs killed more than 120 Iraqis in Baghdad.
- On February 28, two suicide bombers detonated explosives in a market in Sadr City, Baghdad, killing at least 60 people.
- On March 25, a suicide bomber at a crowded soccer match in Babil killed 41 people, including the town’s mayor.
- On April 4, a suicide bomber in Basra killed five people and injured five others on a busy commercial street.
- In two May incidents in Balad, gunmen killed 28 people and injured 50 others gathered to watch football matches in city cafés.
- On May 15, ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a natural gas processing plant in Taji, killing 14 people and severely damaging the facility.
- On May 17, a series of ISIS-claimed car bombs killed more than 100 Iraqis in Baghdad.
- On July 3, a truck bomb killed at least 300 civilians in Karrada in Baghdad and injured more than 200 more, and two other bombs in Baghdad killed at least 10 more people.
- In September, frequent car bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed at least 70 civilians in Baghdad.
- In October, frequent car bombs and IEDs killed at least 90 civilians in Baghdad.
- On November 24, a truck bomb killed at least 80 Iranian and Iraqi civilians, most of them returning home from the Arba’in pilgrimage.
- On December 11, two car bombs killed at least eight civilians in Falluja.
- On December 25, separate bombings killed at least 11 civilians and wounded 34 others in and around Baghdad.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: With substantial training and equipment from the Coalition, the ISF strengthened its capabilities to provide local security and defeat terrorist threats. Independent ISF operations throughout Iraq showcased marked improvements in ISF capacity over the course of the year. Border security remained a critical gap; border crossings with Syria remained in ISIS hands and the Government of Iraq had no capability in 2016 to prevent smuggling across the Iraq-Syria border.
Iraq enacted legislation delineating powers, mandates, and duties of the Counter Terrorism Service in October, and passed legislation formalizing incorporation of the PMF into the ISF in November. The PMF law (passed by the Council of Representatives in November and published in December) presented challenges due to its likely inclusion of Iran-affiliated militia groups into the ISF, but it also provides avenues to govern the conduct of these groups and to ensure all armed actors are accountable to Iraqi law.
Iraq continues to support the Terrorist Interdiction Program’s Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) in an effort to secure its borders and identify fraudulent travel documents. The Government of Iraq has the capability to conduct biographic and biometric screening at multiple land and air ports of entry. Iraq also continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which has improved selected and vetted Ministry of Interior units’ contributions to the counter-ISIS fight.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Since 2005, Iraq has been a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Iraq is under review by the FATF, due to a number of strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. Iraq has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including passing an updated AML/CFT law in 2015, and issuing a set of regulations in accordance with the new law in 2016, to help bolster its compliance with the international FATF standards.
In 2016, the Government of Iraq, including the central bank, law enforcement, and judiciary took measures to disrupt ISIS’s financial activity, including: enforcing a national directive to prohibit financial transactions with banks and financial companies located in ISIS-controlled areas; cutting off salary payments to government employees located in ISIS-controlled areas to prevent those salaries from being “taxed” by ISIS; prohibiting exchange houses and transfer companies located in ISIS-held areas and those suspected of illicit activity from accessing U.S. banknotes in the central bank’s currency auctions; sharing a list of banned exchange houses and money transfer companies with regional regulators; revoking the license and freezing the assets of a U.S.-designated exchange house; and taking judicial action against over a dozen individuals and companies suspected of illicit financial activity. These actions ranged from business closures to the arrest of suspects.
Iraq is a member of the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. The Government of Iraq, including the Central Bank of Iraq’s financial intelligence unit, collaborated with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to further develop its AML/CFT regime and strengthen its capacity to implement international standards for financial sector oversight.
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/2014/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Iraq recognized that defeating ISIS requires exposing the group’s true criminal nature and disconnecting the counter-ISIS fight from Iraq’s internal political tensions. Formation of the Iraqi War Media Cell in 2016 represented a significant step in countering ISIS disinformation and propaganda.
International and Regional Cooperation: Iraq is a member of multilateral and regional organizations including the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.
Overview: Israel was a committed counterterrorism partner in 2016. Israel again faced terrorist threats from Iranian-support groups such as Hizballah in Lebanon. Other threats included Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; al-Qa’ida (AQ) and its affiliates, and ISIS and its affiliates along its borders, such as ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP) and the Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed group (JKW, formerly the al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) in the Syrian Golan Heights. In addition, since 2015, Israel has faced numerous incidents of terrorist attacks committed by individuals with no clear affiliation to terrorist organizations, termed “lone offender” attacks.
Israeli security officials and politicians remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to Israel from Hizballah and Iran, highlighting that Iran, primarily through the efforts of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, continued to fund and supply Hizballah. Israeli experts believed that Iran has transferred to Hizballah advanced weapons systems such as anti-aircraft and anti-ship cruise missile systems, and was continuing to transfer long-range rockets into Lebanon. Also, Israeli officials were concerned about the proliferation of conventional and non‑conventional weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. According to the Government of Israel, Hizballah has stockpiled more than 130,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon since the 2006 Lebanon War.
Israeli counterterrorism officials said Hamas and other Gaza terrorists made quantitative and qualitative advances in their military capabilities. Israel assessed that Hamas and PIJ have regained most of the military capabilities that were severely damaged during operation “Protective Edge” (July 7 to August 26, 2014), and have, in some cases, expanded their capabilities, including by constructing new offensive tunnels and acquiring other advanced capabilities such as an arsenal of medium-to-long range rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles. Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, although no Israeli fatalities were reported.
While Israel was not involved in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, it shared information to help track and stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters through information exchanges on counterterrorism issues with numerous governments. In support of the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, Israel regularly updated its list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism to better align with UNSC sanctions lists.
In 2016, Israel and the United States held numerous interagency counterterrorism dialogues to discuss the broad range of threats in the region and to determine areas of collaboration to address these challenges.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Israel experienced numerous terrorist attacks in 2016 involving weapons ranging from rockets and mortars to small arms and knives. The wave of violence that began in late 2015, termed the “knife intifada,” gradually decreased during the year; nonetheless, numerous Israelis and Palestinians were injured in these attacks. The following list details only a fraction of the total terrorist incidents that occurred during the year.
- In January, an Israeli Arab gunman opened fire on several businesses in downtown Tel Aviv, killing two people and wounding seven others. He subsequently killed a taxi driver while fleeing the scene of the attack. Israeli officials identified the attacker as 31-year-old Nasha’at Melhem from the northern Israeli town of Ar’ara. Following a week-long nationwide manhunt, Melhem was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces.
- In March, a Palestinian man went on a stabbing spree in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, killing a U.S. citizen and wounding 10 other people. The attack lasted approximately 20 minutes and ended after police shot and killed the assailant. Israeli authorities identified the assailant as 22-year-old Bashar Masalha, from the West Bank village of Kalandiya.
- In June, two Palestinian men opened fire on a popular market in downtown Tel Aviv, killing four people and wounding seven others. Responding police arrested both assailants, later identified as Muhammad and Khalid Mukhamra, cousins from the West Bank town of Yatta. An Israel Security Agency (ISA) investigation determined that ISIS online propaganda provided inspiration for the attack and friends of the assailants assisted them with preparations.
- In November, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units responded to machine gun and mortar fire from JKW militants (an ISIS-aligned group) across the Syrian border. Israeli forces crossed the Israeli security fence, while remaining within Israeli territory, and called in an airstrike which killed four militants.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Israel has a robust legal framework to counter terrorism and promote international legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists.
The Israeli Knesset passed new counterterrorism legislation in 2016 that broadened the range of activities subject to enhanced criminal sentencing. These activities include tunnel-digging, stone throwing, incitement, and planning intended to assist terrorist organizations and individuals. The Combatting Terrorism Law was designed to empower law enforcement authorities to preempt the establishment of terrorist cells and attack planning. The new provisions contained in the law codified numerous military and emergency orders issued under general emergency powers in place since the founding of the State of Israel. They include: the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 1948, the Anti-Terrorist finance Law of 2005, and various regulations issued under pre-statehood emergency defense authorities of 1945.
Non-governmental human rights organizations protested the Law’s broad definition of terrorism, arguing it serves to codify counterterrorism powers that critics compared to martial law. Additional concerns regarding the scope of Israeli counterterrorism legislation were directed towards the criminalization of activities related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly that could affect the Arab population of Israel.
The ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks. Elite Israeli units engaged in counterterrorism operations included Yamam (Israeli Border Police) and IDF special operations units, such as Sayaret Matkal and Duvdevan (Urban Warfare Counterterrorism Operations).
Israeli Border police have a “hot return” policy for visitors suspected of ties to terrorist or criminal organizations. The border fence constructed along the border with Egypt, and fences along the West Bank and Gaza, assisted Israeli security forces in preventing migrant inflows and mitigating security threats. The West Bank and Gaza barriers were augmented by cameras, sensors, and active patrols by Israeli Border Police and the IDF.
Israel’s airport security was considered robust by international security experts, particularly with regard to its security screening and inspections program. The Israeli Ministry of Interior maintained a voluntary biometric passport control system at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which was available for Israeli passport holders over the age of 18 years. This system facilitated both entry into and exit from Israel via an automatic kiosk for Israeli citizens who successfully passed a background check and provided a scan of their hand.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Israeli financial intelligence unit, the Israeli Money Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority (IMPA), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Israel was also welcomed as an observer to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the organization’s plenary meeting in February 2016, and Israeli anti-money laundering (AML) experts have begun to participate in FATF peer reviews of other countries’ anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism regimes.
Israel’s counterterrorist finance regime continued to be enhanced through enforcement operations and the inclusion of new groups under national terrorist finance laws. The well‑regulated Israeli banking industry worked to address suspected terrorist activity. Israeli experts and officials continued to raise concerns about the issue of state-sponsored funding of Hamas, and said that Hamas funded terrorists in the West Bank preparing to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israel, Israelis, or Israeli interests.
Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities, as did the funding of Hizballah through charities and illicit activity. In one high-profile case in August, Israeli police charged Mohammad al-Halabi – the Director of the NGO World Vision in Gaza – with diverting material and financial assistance to Hamas; the charity itself was not implicated in the case.
Israel regularly updates the list of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals involved in terrorism, to implement the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Israel also has a domestic sanctions regime in place with the Anti-Terrorist finance Law of 2005, which allows the Israeli Security Cabinet to declare a foreign organization to be classified as a foreign terrorist organization in coordination with findings presented by a foreign country or by the UNSC.
The new counterterrorism law that entered into force on November 1 significantly reduced the time it takes to adopt international designations. The UN sanctions lists were registered in the formal government registry. Every domestic and UN designation was published in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic, English), and run in three different newspapers, as required by law. In addition, designations were published on the website of the IMPA and distributed by email to the IMPA’s mailing list, which included banks, lawyers, and finance professionals.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Israel supported several organizations that used educational and interreligious projects to build bridges between citizens of different religions and beliefs. These interfaith initiatives benefitted a wide range of age groups and were conducted in numerous fora, including from elementary schools to universities.
Israel’s national program, “City without Violence,” supported municipalities and local authorities conducting programs to counter violence, crime, and violent extremism.
Israeli politicians and the public were increasingly concerned about online incitement’s role in exacerbating the recent wave of violent attacks by so-called lone offender terrorists. The Israeli government blamed social media companies and online platforms for not doing enough to prevent the proliferation of online content inciting terrorism. The Israeli government also considered legislation to obligate companies, such as Google and Facebook, to do more to prevent incitement. Israel’s new counterterrorism law established a new criminal offense for demonstrating solidarity with a terrorist organization or with an act of terrorism, and incitement to terrorism, including via the internet and social media; the new criminal offense replaced and consolidated two existing penal code offenses for incitement to terrorism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Israel continued its counterterrorism cooperation with a range of regional and international institutions, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Israel cooperated with numerous countries to thwart terrorist attacks and plots against Israelis or Israeli interests abroad.
Overview: The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank where Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine remained present. The PA Security Forces (PASF) constrained the ability of those organizations to conduct attacks, including through arrests in February and April of Hamas members in the West Bank who were planning attacks against Israelis. The PA exercised varying degrees of authority over the West Bank due to the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) continuing presence in certain areas, per Oslo-era agreements. The Israeli Security Forces (ISF) also arrested members of suspected terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Extremist Palestinians continued to conduct acts of violence and terrorism in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The heightened period of violence that began in October 2015 abated significantly in April 2016. However, sporadic lone offender stabbing, shooting, and vehicular attacks against Israelis continued. A majority of perpetrators did not have any known organizational affiliation. Attacks in 2016 resulted in the deaths of five Israeli citizens, including two dual U.S.-Israeli nationals, and three ISF officers.
Extremist Israelis, including settlers, continued to conduct acts of violence as well as “price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed anti-settlement) in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In March, Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian home south of Bethlehem and spray-painted “Death to Arabs” on the walls. The UN reported 101 incidents of settler violence in 2016, compared to 221 in 2015. Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported 19 incidents of settler violence during the October ‑ November Olive Harvest, compared to 15 in 2015. There were no reports of fatalities.
Hamas continued to maintain security control of Gaza. There is evidence that Hamas continued to prepare for future conflict with Israel. Several Gaza-based terrorist and militant groups continued to launch rockets against Israel from Gaza. Gaza remained a base of operations for several Salafist splinter groups, such as Jaysh Al Islam, and clan-based terrorist groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks. Hamas confronted Salafists in Gaza by arresting and detaining a number of them this year, but at the same time Hamas likely maintained ties to Salafists in the Sinai. Despite claims of responsibility from individuals or groups in Gaza purporting affiliation with ISIS, there is no definitive link confirming membership on a large scale in Gaza.
2016 Terrorist Incidents:
- In February, three Palestinian assailants shot and killed an Israeli National Police (INP) officer and injured a second in Jerusalem’s Old City. INP shot and killed the attackers.
- In April, a Palestinian member of Hamas detonated a bomb on a bus in Jerusalem, injuring approximately 21 people. The assailant died of injuries from the explosion.
- In March and July, suspected Israeli settlers conducted two arson attacks against Palestinian homes in the West Bank village of Douma, damaging homes of the relatives of the Dawabsheh family, whose house in Douma was set on fire by settlers in July 2015 and resulted in the deaths of three Palestinians.
- In June, a Palestinian assailant stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American dual national in her home in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. A private security guard fatally shot the attacker.
- In October, a Palestinian member of Hamas shot and killed an Israeli civilian and INP officer, and injured 12 others, while carrying out a drive-by shooting in Jerusalem. INP shot and killed the attacker.
The United States continued to assist the PA’s counterterrorism efforts by providing training and equipment to the PASF in the West Bank. The United States also assisted the PA criminal justice system to conduct more thorough investigations and prosecutions of terrorist-related activity, among other criminal acts, and to ensure safe incarceration of those held for trial or after conviction for such crimes.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means. President Abbas supported a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank. In July, President Abbas instructed the PASF to intensify measures in the West Bank to ensure the safety and security of people; security services subsequently increased efforts to disrupt criminal activity, including the proliferation of illegal weapons.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The PA continued to lack legislation specifically tailored to counterterrorism, although existing Palestinian laws criminalize actions that constitute terrorist acts. The PASF were active throughout the year in seizing illegal weapons and closing down weapons manufacturing facilities in the West Bank.
The PA arrested terrorists, including Hamas elements suspected of terrorism, in the West Bank, and the PASF and public prosecutors received training to enable better investigations of terrorism-related crimes. The PA continued to develop its civilian justice institutions (e.g. judiciary, police, prosecutors) to improve both investigative and prosecutorial functions. The United States provided assistance to enable the PA to reduce case backlogs, improve warrant executions, and upgrade forensic services.
The Preventive Security Organization (PSO) is the key PA institution by mandate and law that works to prevent internal terrorist events and investigates security-related criminal conduct. In practice, the General Intelligence Organization and the Military Intelligence Organization also play a critical role in this effort. The PSO conducted investigations in coordination with public prosecutors, but this cooperation could improve, especially the PSO’s ability to conduct criminal investigations and gather admissible evidence. The United States assisted the PSO and the Security Forces Justice Commission to help the PA move the prosecution of all civilian cases, including those involving terrorism and security-related offenses, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the civilian courts, and enhance cooperation between security service investigators and public prosecutors.
Per the Oslo-era Accords, Israel controlled border security in the West Bank.
The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’ control of the area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and through areas of the West Bank for which the Government of Israel retained responsibility for security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements. Moreover, ISF incursions into Palestinian‑controlled Area A at times disrupted ongoing PASF counterterrorism operations.
The PA advanced its forensic capabilities with the official opening of the Palestinian Civilian Police forensic laboratory in November. The laboratory is capable of conducting basic analyses/examinations in firearm and tool mark evidence, document examination, and drug and chemical analysis. The PA already has a basic ability to examine and compare unknown prints to known prints.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: In 2015, the PA became a full member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. President Abbas issued Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist financing Decree No. 20 in December 2015, which criminalizes terrorist financing and defined terrorists, terrorist acts, terrorist organizations, foreign terrorist fighters, and terrorist financing. It also makes terrorism and terrorist acts predicate money laundering offenses, although the decree does not fully meet international standards as it does not criminalize all forms of material support or the financing of an individual terrorist in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act. Because the legislature has not convened since 2007, the PA remained unable to make legislative improvements (without decree) required to bring the current law up to international standards.
The Palestinian Financial Follow-Up Unit (FFU) is a fully functional financial intelligence unit with 19 employees and a computer system linking it with 15 banks licensed to operate in the West Bank. Seven banks are local and eight are foreign, operating through a network of 302 branches in the West Bank and Gaza. There are 311 money changers. The banks file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and currency transaction reports electronically through this system. In 2016, banks filed 113 STRs, compared to 108 in 2015. Although the FFU has adequate staffing, authority, and equipment, restrictions in the law hinder its operational effectiveness. The 2007 Anti-Money Laundering Law No. 7 restricts information sharing between the FFU and any law enforcement agency, with the exception of the Attorney General’s Office. While the FFU may pass information to any requesting authority according to the 2015 Decree, the Attorney General’s Office is the primary recipient of the FFU’s information. Moreover, the PA has no effective control outside of Area A. The absence of PA law enforcement and regulatory power in Areas B and C increased vulnerability.
Countering Violent Extremism: The PA continued to counter violent extremism in the West Bank through security operations to prevent attacks, the PASF’s outreach to Palestinian communities to alert them to signs of youth at risk of extremism, and monitoring social media for indicators of extremism and intent to carry out violent acts. During an interview broadcast in March, President Abbas said he sent the PASF to schools to look for knives and to caution Palestinian youth against undertaking attacks against Israelis. The PASF thwarted hundreds of lone offender attacks, according to public statements by PA and Israeli government officials.
Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.
The PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence. While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence. Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it. In April, President Abbas condemned an attack on a Jerusalem bus and said he was against all forms of terrorist activity that affect Israelis and Palestinians. In November, he said, “Incitement can lead to violence, and we must end it in every place.” During a speech to the Seventh Fatah General Congress in November, Abbas expressed his commitment to fight terrorism and to cooperate with regional and international parties in this endeavor, while reaffirming a “culture of peace and tolerance and the renunciation of violence and extremism.” According to the PA’s Palestinian Broadcasting Company’s code of conduct, it does not allow programming that encourages “violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex.” In practice, however, some instances of incitement took place via official media. There were also some instances of inflammatory rhetoric and the posting of political cartoons glorifying violence on official Fatah Facebook pages.
The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in approximately 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes and prohibits incitement to violence. The PA’s ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon the location of the Mosques and it had limited authority to control the content of sermons in Israeli‑controlled Area C. A senior PA religious official met in October with prominent Israeli rabbis to discuss ways to increase religious tolerance in the region.
As part of a policy codified in 2003, the PA provided financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in an effort to reintegrate them into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions.
International and Regional Cooperation: PA justice and security leaders continued to participate in regional conferences and meetings to counter terrorism. PASF personnel attended a variety of international training courses related to counterterrorism at training facilities in Jordan, Europe, and the United States.
Overview: Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2016. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach. Jordan faced a marked increase in terrorist threats, both domestically and along its borders. Jordanian security forces thwarted several plots and apprehended numerous violent extremists, but the year ended with the deadliest terrorist incident the country has witnessed in over a decade. Fourteen people were killed during a series of clashes between gunmen and security forces in and around the southern city of Karak on December 18. The dead included a Canadian tourist, two Jordanian civilians, seven security personnel, and four attackers. The incident began when the perpetrators attacked security personnel investigating reports of an explosion in their rented apartment, which was followed by a five-hour standoff at Karak Castle, a site popular with tourists. Security operations in the vicinity two days later led to a shootout between gunmen and Jordanian security forces, resulting in the death of four security personnel.
Attacks in 2016 predominantly targeted Jordan’s security institutions: the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF), General Intelligence Directorate (GID), and Public Security Directorate (PSD). Jordan continued to be a target for terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’ida, for several reasons, including its proximity to regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the state’s official rejection of Salafi-Jihadi interpretations of Islam, and its membership in the Defeat-ISIS Coalition.
Border security remains an overarching priority for the Government of Jordan, given fears that violence from the conflict in neighboring Syria will spill over into its territory. Government of Jordan concerns are amplified by the presence of ISIS-aligned group Jaysh Khalid bin Waleed (JKW) in southwest Syria, just miles from Jordan’s border.
There are many Jordanian nationals among foreign terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria. While the number of Jordanian foreign terrorist fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria declined in 2016 ‑ consistent with global trends and as a result of Jordan’s continued border security efforts – the threat of domestic radicalization remains.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Jordanian citizens were linked to terrorist cells and conducted a number of terrorist attacks in Jordan. The attack against a GID sub-facility in Baqa’a in June, the assassination of a Jordanian journalist in Amman in September, and the assault launched by a suspected ISIS cell in Karak in December, all involved Jordanian citizens. High-profile attacks included:
- On June 6, a lone gunman attacked a GID sub-facility near the Palestinian refugee camp of Baqa’a, in the early morning hours. Five personnel were killed.
- On June 21, suspected ISIS members attacked a Jordanian border post near Rukban, along Jordan’s northeast border, with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. The attack resulted in the deaths of seven security personnel, with several more wounded.
- On December 18, 14 people, including four attackers, were killed in the southern city of Karak and the nearby town of Qatraneh when gunmen opened fire on PSD at multiple locations. The attackers eventually holed up in Karak Castle for a five-hour gunfight with authorities.
- On December 20, four security personnel were killed in a standoff with suspected terrorists near Karak.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The State Security Court (SSC) is the primary legal apparatus with jurisdiction over crimes that touch on national security, including terrorism cases. Amendments to the SSC law, adopted in 2014, attempted to limit the court’s jurisdiction to five crimes – treason, espionage, terrorism, drug-related offenses, and currency forgery, although the SSC jurisdiction was extended to a broad interpretation of these crimes. The amendments also placed civilian judges on the SSC bench, although all prosecutors remain military officers. During 2016 Jordanian authorities took legal action against numerous individuals accused of terrorism under Jordanian law. SSC verdicts related to terrorism are published almost daily in local media. Some of the more prominent cases follow:
- On July 13 the SSC filed charges against 21 suspected ISIS affiliates in connection with the pre-emptive March raid on an alleged ISIS safe house in Irbid. The defendants were charged with carrying out terrorist acts, using weapons that resulted in the death of a Jordanian soldier, possessing weapons and explosives, and “propagating ISIS ideology,” a charge often used for online activity.
- On August 4, the SCC sentenced to death the perpetrator of the June 6 attack on a GID sub-facility near Baqa’a that resulted in the death of five security personnel. A second defendant was charged with selling a weapon to the shooter and sentenced to one year in prison.
- On December 20, the SSC sentenced to death the man accused of murdering Jordanian journalist Nahed Hattar on September 25. The attacker was charged with carrying out a deadly terrorist attack, incitement, premeditated murder, and possession of an illegal firearm.
- The SSC prosecuted several individuals in 2016 for “propagating ISIS ideology.” Sentences for such cases typically last two to three years.
The Government of Jordan adopted its first counterterrorism law in 2006, in the wake of the 2005 Amman hotel bombings. This law was subsequently amended in 2014 in response to increasing threats to Jordan from violent extremist organizations operating domestically and across the border in Iraq and Syria. The new amendments enacted harsher sentences in terrorism cases and broadened the scope and definition of activities considered terrorism to facilitate the Government of Jordan’s ability to prosecute material and ideological support for terrorism. Following passage of the 2014 amendments, Jordan’s counterterrorism law broadly defined terrorism to include speech-related offenses deemed to “harm relations with a foreign state, undermine the regime, or expose Jordan to harmful acts.” Human Rights-focused NGOs criticized the law’s implementation on the grounds it restricts freedom of expression and peaceful dissent against the government. Since the amendments came into effect in 2014, authorities have arrested several journalists and religious leaders for speech-related offenses.
GID is the primary government agency responsible for counterterrorism, and it operates with support from various elements within the JAF, PSD, and Gendarmerie. Although Jordan’s civilian and military security agencies are more professional and effective than others in the region, increased terrorist threats strained their incident response capabilities and coordination mechanisms in 2016. The Government of Jordan is implementing measures to improve interagency coordination among security agencies during responses to terrorism-related events. Notably, during the December attacks in Karak, the Government of Jordan activated the National Center for Security and Crisis Management under the direction of King Abdullah II; the facility served as the coordination hub for the GID, JAF, PSD, and Gendarmerie response to the incidents.
Jordan continued to reinforce its border defenses and surveillance capabilities in response to terrorist and criminal threats emanating from its 230 mile border with Syria and 112 mile border with Iraq. In 2016, the JAF maintained an increased presence along the borders with Syria and Iraq, and continued implementation of the Jordan Border Security Program to improve the JAF and Jordan Customs’ surveillance and interdiction capabilities to deter, detect, and interdict terrorist and other illicit activity on the frontier and at ports of entry (POEs). Jordan conducts official screening of travelers at POEs, including at airports, and uses biometric systems in line with international standards. Jordan also routinely provides advanced passenger information to partner nations, and shares names with INTERPOL watchlists and databases. Jordanian authorities continued to use the U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) at unofficial border crossing sites along the Syrian border to complement the border screening system at official POEs. Jordan also participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.
On March 1-2, Jordan’s security services launched a preemptive raid on a suspected ISIS safe‑house in the northern city of Irbid. The operation lasted more than 12 hours and resulted in the death of one JAF officer and seven suspected terrorists. Jordan’s security services had previously arrested 13 individuals with suspected links to the cell and rounded up several more in the weeks following the raid.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Jordan is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and also a member of the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. Jordan’s financial intelligence unit, the Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist financing Unit (AMLU Jordan), has been a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units since 2012.
AMLU Jordan routinely receives and responds to requests for information from counterpart units. Under the obligations of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, other relevant resolutions regularly disseminate the names of designated individuals and entities to financial institutions. AMLU Jordan also monitors U.S. designations under executive order (E.O.) 13224, and shares this information internally with the Technical Committee. The number of suspicious transaction reports received by AMLU Jordan in 2016 nearly doubled from 2015 – a reflection of AMLU Jordan’s efforts to educate currency exchangers, real estate developers, and commercial banks on identifying potentially suspicious transactions. AMLU Jordan transferred a number of cases for prosecution; however, information on prosecution outcomes was not available.
Countering Violent Extremism: King Abdullah II continued to promote his “Amman Declaration” of 2004, calling for tolerance and peace within the Islamic community, and rejecting “wanton aggression and terrorism.” The King has repeatedly voiced Jordan’s commitment to countering violent extremist messaging and rhetoric, noting at the 2016 UN General Assembly that, “The central and most vital battleground for this defining war of our generation is the mind. The despicable, damaging ideology of hate… must be confronted with a counter-narrative of hope, tolerance, and peace.” The Jordanian government’s countering violent extremism (CVE) interventions included counter-messaging and religious education, awareness‑raising, and rehabilitation support for former violent extremists. Jordan worked with the UN Development Programme to develop a holistic National Strategy on Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism, which is expected to establish roles and responsibilities for government entities and promote the involvement of non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector in CVE initiatives.
Regional and International Cooperation: Jordan is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and is a member of the Arab League, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Jordan continued to host and conduct training for Palestinian Authority Security Forces and Civil Defense, in addition to other police forces from around the region.
Overview: The Kuwaiti government disrupted several terrorist plots in 2016 and expanded its efforts to counter violent extremism. It also expanded its capacity to counter the financing of terrorism, imposing additional scrutiny on charitable organizations’ financial transactions. ISIS accounted for the primary threat, inspiring two lone-offender attacks, one against Kuwaiti police officers and another against U.S. military service members. In both cases, the attackers used a moving vehicle as a weapon, without employing other weapons or explosives. Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) posed a secondary threat. A member of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Kuwait continued to support Coalition forces deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, and was also a leader in the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s humanitarian assistance line of effort. Kuwait co-leads the Coalition’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter working group. On October 21, Kuwait co-chaired the first bilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States, in which both sides pledged to bolster their security partnership by countering terrorism and terrorist financing, particularly through enhanced information sharing.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Kuwait experienced two terrorist incidents:
- On February 25, a 21-year-old Kuwaiti national ran over five police officers, killing one officer and injuring the rest. News media reported the attacker had confessed to planning to participate in “jihad” in Syria; official reports described him as under psychiatric evaluation.
- On October 6, a 28-year-old Egyptian expatriate worker deliberately rammed a large flatbed construction vehicle into a smaller pick-up vehicle carrying three U.S. military service members. None of the U.S. personnel were injured.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: While Kuwait did not have a comprehensive counterterrorism legal framework, it continued to prosecute crimes involving terrorism under its general criminal law (law #31 of 1970), and also prosecuted crimes involving both terrorism and the use of explosives under law #35 of 1985. Although law #106 of 2013 was introduced as anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation, Kuwaiti officials observed that it contained articles that could be – and subsequently were – used by courts to prosecute terrorist attacks without a terrorist-financing component.
In March, Kuwait – along with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization.
In July, a member of the National Assembly (the parliament) presented a bill to criminalize “any acts of support or affiliation with terrorist organizations,” with an emphasis on ISIS. The draft calls for prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years for convicted defendants. Other members of Parliament suggested adding Hizballah and the Iraqi Dawa Party to the list of terrorist organizations included in the draft legislation. The National Assembly did not pass the bill.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) held primary responsibility for terrorist incident reporting and response. MOI elements responsible for criminal investigations, national security, border security, and electronic security demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. The MOI’s semi-autonomous arm, Kuwait State Security, handled some aspects of terrorism-related investigations. In general, law enforcement units investigated citizen complaints regarding human rights violations and took disciplinary action against personnel involved. There were some allegations that investigations were insufficient in some cases involving torture accusations. Terrorist incidents with a military dimension or those taking place in Kuwaiti waters, fell under the purview of the Ministry of Defense. Kuwaiti officials confirmed the existence of specific plans to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against soft targets, such as major hotels, stadiums, tourist resorts, and cultural sites. Most of those locations already maintained a visible police presence in the form of stationary security points and patrols.
In 2016, the government stopped several attempts by foreign nationals to enter illegally. In August, for example, the authorities intercepted and arrested 10 Iranian nationals attempting to enter Kuwaiti waters illegally aboard a ship. Kuwait employed biometric systems at all ports of entry, checking the identity of travelers against its own terrorist-screening database. The government launched a major effort aimed at bringing the security of Kuwait International Airport up to internationally-recognized standards.
In January, a criminal court sentenced to death two of the 26 suspects accused of amassing, on behalf of Iran and Hizballah, a large cache of ammunition, weapons, and explosives at a farm near the Iraqi border, which the authorities raided in August 2015. It also handed down prison sentences ranging up to 20 years to 12 defendants and acquitted 12 others.
In March, following the collective GCC designation of Hizballah as a terrorist organization, the authorities terminated the residencies of an unspecified number of Iraqi, Lebanese, and Syrian expatriates (reported in the media to number around 1,100) for suspected affiliation with Hizballah. Enforcement measures included immediate deportation, orders to depart Kuwait within a grace period, denial of visa-renewal requests, and denial of admission at the port of entry.
In May, the Supreme Court upheld a lower-court death sentence against the primary defendant in the June 2015 bombing of the Imam Sadeq mosque. In July, the Appeals Court upheld three of the jail verdicts against other defendants in the same case, commuting 11 additional verdicts to shorter jail sentences or fines and acquitting the remaining 12 defendants.
In July, the authorities announced the disruption of three ISIS cells planning to attack a Shia mosque and several police stations. One of the cases reportedly involved two Kuwaiti-national foreign terrorist fighters, a mother and a son, who were lured back to Kuwait from Syria by the authorities.
In August, a judge who had issued death sentences to defendants in the 2015 Imam Sadeq mosque bombing case received anonymous death threats, and the Supreme Court building, likewise, received anonymous bomb threats. In response, the authorities made several arrests, increased security protection for the judge, and heightened security precautions around the building.
Also in August, security forces arrested a Philippines national for pledging allegiance to ISIS, after she confessed to entering Kuwait under the pretense of working as a domestic employee to attack targets of opportunity. In late August, the Public Prosecutor detained a Kuwaiti computer hacker for recruiting youths to join ISIS. Charges against him included traveling abroad to fight a foreign government.
In October, Kuwaiti security forces detained an Egyptian national who rammed a truck carrying explosives and ISIS-related paraphernalia into a car carrying five U.S. military personnel. At year’s end, the subject remained in custody on terrorism charges and faces up to life in prison.
In November, the Appeals Court sentenced a Kuwaiti to seven years in jail for “embracing the ideas and methodology of ISIS and encouraging others to join the group.” This was the first time a Kuwaiti court specifically penalized ideological affiliation with a terrorist organization – uncoupled from an act of terrorism – and specifically flagged recruitment as a criminal offense.
In December, the Criminal Court sentenced a Kuwaiti foreign terrorist fighter to five years in jail for joining ISIS in Syria. The subject confessed to having assisted ISIS by using his engineering expertise to market oil extracted from wells under its control.
Kuwaiti officials stressed that the absence of a systematic mechanism for terrorist watchlisting and information sharing with other GCC members hampered efforts to detect and arrest foreign terrorist fighters before they arrived in the country.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kuwait is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. The Government of Kuwait took important steps to build its countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) capacity and oversaw CFT through a cabinet-level committee chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) representing 11 ministries and agencies. The Kuwaiti government empowered the Public Prosecution Office to handle CFT cases; developed its financial intelligence unit, the Kuwait Financial Investigations Unit (KwFIU); and intensified charity supervision through the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL) and the MFA. Although the Government of Kuwait has recently taken these steps and other important capacity-building efforts to address terrorist financing deficiencies, a number of UN-designated terrorist financiers continued to operate in Kuwait.
The KwFIU continued its progress towards joining the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units; its on-site inspection for Egmont Group membership took place in December 2016, following up on a 2014 application for membership.
In 2016, the Appeals Court upheld sentences against an Australian national, four non-Kuwaiti Arabs, and three Kuwaitis for illegally raising funds and recruiting enlistees on behalf of a terrorist organization. The verdicts included prison sentences for the defendants, asset freezes for a Kuwait-based export-import company – which was allegedly used as a front for the defendants’ illicit financial dealings – and confiscation of the defendants’ personal assets.
MOSAL took steps to regulate and monitor charitable fund-raising, including closing two domestic charities for non-compliance and illegal fundraising on behalf of foreign beneficiaries. In addition, all fundraising campaigns intended for foreign beneficiaries require pre-approval from the MFA. The MOI is responsible for responding to violations.
During Ramadan, MOSAL only allowed charitable donations to be collected via debit card or electronic funds transfer transactions, as opposed to cash donations, to enable financial authorities to monitor fund transfers and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. Simultaneously, the Central Bank of Kuwait publicly announced those licensed charities permitted to accept donations via bank transfers and MOSAL closed eight unlicensed organizations during Ramadan for collecting donations without prior authorization.
Countering Violent Extremism: The government was in the final phase of preparing a “national plan to reinforce moderation,” a collaborative effort among the MOI, MOSAL, and ministries of information, education, Islamic affairs, and youth. Pending approval by the Council of Ministers (the cabinet), the plan would implement 48 specific initiatives aimed at constraining radicalization and reinforcing national security. These interagency initiatives, the first of their kind, included measures addressing drug abuse, forming youth clubs to promote tolerant interpretations of Islamic teachings, and encouraging citizens and expatriates alike to recognize and report early signs of radicalization in children and adolescents. The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Awqaf and Islamic affairs continued to warn imams to keep their sermons consistent with the general law on political speech and avoid discussing political issues during their sermons or at any other time while in the country.
Kuwaiti officials acknowledged that connecting with youth via new social media platforms was the biggest challenge to their efforts to spread tolerance and fight radicalization to violence. To address this, the government started a joint research effort with the media department of Kuwait University to detect early signs of youth radicalization on social media.
International and Regional Cooperation: Kuwait participated in counterterrorism efforts in a number of international fora, particularly the GCC. It supported broad global counterterrorism aims in co-hosting (along with Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States) the July 20 Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq’s Stabilization in Washington, DC. A member of both the Global Counterterrorism Forum and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and Proliferation, Kuwait participated in several security initiatives and attended a number of counterterrorism-themed international meetings in 2016.
Overview: Lebanon was a committed partner in the counter-ISIS fight during 2016, and its ground forces represented one of the most effective counterterrorism forces in the region. U.S. forces partnered closely with Lebanon’s full defense and law enforcement security apparatus as Lebanon continued to face significant internal and external terrorist threats in 2016, and a number of terrorist attacks occurred throughout the year. Lebanon also faced threats from unconventional attacks against the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other security services from both ISIS and al-Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria) terrorists, who operated along the porous, un-demarcated eastern border with Syria. The continued presence of these Syria‑origin Sunni extremists in Lebanese territory underscored that border security is central to maintaining Lebanon’s stability and the importance of enabling the Lebanese government to exercise its full sovereignty, as mandated by UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1701.
Hizballah, with considerable support from Iran, remained the most capable terrorist group in Lebanon. The group was a powerful political actor and enjoyed popular support among Lebanese Shia and a degree of political support from some allied Christians. Hizballah justified its stockpile of arms for its “resistance” to Israel, and increasingly to protect Lebanon from extremist Sunni groups, including ISIS. Hizballah also continued its military role in Syria in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime and proved to be a critical force in supporting the regime. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has had a presence in Lebanon since the early 1980s and reportedly coordinated closely with Hizballah on military operations and training.
Despite the lack of a fully operational central government for much of the year due to Lebanon’s presidential vacancy, various institutions of the Lebanese state, including the LAF, Internal Security Forces (ISF), Directorate of General Security (DGS), Directorate General of State Security (DGSS), and Central Bank continued to cooperate with international partners in countering terrorism and scored notable successes in the disruption of terrorist networks and in combating terrorist forces. The United States remained Lebanon’s closest counterterrorism partner; U.S. assistance focused on maintaining border security and strengthening Lebanon’s security institutions to better counter terrorist threats.
Lebanese authorities were challenged not only by the significant economic burden of hosting over one million Syrian refugees, but also by fears of potential militant recruitment and infiltration among the refugee population. ISIS and al-Nusrah Front’s exploitation of informal refugee settlements further hardened Lebanese attitudes towards Syrian refugees. Terrorists also operated out of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian camps, particularly the largest, Ain el-Helweh.
Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and participates in all four of the Coalition’s civilian working groups. The Lebanese security forces sought to impede the flow of Sunni foreign terrorist fighters both to and from Syria by working to secure the border and by conducting counterterrorism operations. The LAF, ISF, and DGS were also actively engaged in monitoring potential ISIS and other Sunni extremist elements in Lebanon, disrupting their activities and networks, and arresting those suspected of plotting terrorist attacks. The government expanded its efforts to counter ISIS messaging, particularly through online communication and social media campaigns promoting tolerance online. In accordance with UNSCR 2178, the Lebanese government increased security measures at airports, border crossings, and ports to prevent the flow of ISIS and al-Nusrah Front fighters to Syria and Iraq; however, Lebanon lacks laws criminalizing foreign terrorist fighter activity and the government has not taken action to prevent Hizballah fighters from traveling to Syria or Iraq.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Lebanon suffered from a number of terrorist incidents in 2016, ranging in type and alleged perpetrator. Five of the most significant events are listed below:
- On January 8, Syrian militants affiliated with ISIS conducted a drive-by shooting at the house of an ISF Information Branch officer near the town of Aarsal. The killing was reportedly in retaliation for the officer’s undercover work against ISIS in Aarsal.
- On April 12, unknown militants assassinated a senior Fatah official with a bomb outside Ain el-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest and most volatile Palestinian camp.
- On June 12, a bomb exploded outside a Blom Bank location in downtown Beirut, damaging the bank’s structure, but causing no injuries. The bomb was widely considered to be a message from Hizballah to the banking sector over implementation of Central Bank circulars focused on Hizballah.
- On June 27, a series of eight suicide bombings killed five people and wounded at least 28 others in the Christian village of al Qaa in the Bekaa valley. It is unknown who perpetrated the bombings.
- On August 31, a bomb outside Zahle killed one person and injured several others in the Bekaa Valley. The bombing was thought to be targeting Shia participants traveling to an Ashura celebration event in Southern Lebanon.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Lebanon does not have a comprehensive counterterrorism law, but several articles of Lebanon’s criminal code are used to prosecute acts of terrorism. Implementation of these articles is at times hindered by Lebanon’s complex confessional political system and also by Hizballah’s restriction of access to attack sites within areas under its control. The cabinet did not consider legislative initiatives that could potentially threaten Hizballah’s operations, as the presence of Hizballah and its political allies in the government make the requisite consensus on such actions impossible. State security agencies remained functional in countering non-Hizballah terrorism.
The LAF, ISF, DGS, and DGSS are the primary government agencies responsible for countering terrorism. Despite notable counterterrorism successes in 2016, the law enforcement capacity of these agencies was overstretched due to the magnitude of the country’s terrorism-related threats. Although cooperation among the services was inconsistent, all services have taken steps to improve information sharing and are receptive to additional training to expand capacity.
Lebanon has been a participant in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program since 2006; this assistance has focused on border security as well as building law enforcement’s investigative and leadership capabilities. The Department of State has also provided assistance to improve the capabilities of the ISF through a multi-year program that includes construction of training facilities and establishment of a secure radio communications system; provision of vehicles, protective gear, and other types of equipment; and upgrading of Lebanon’s biometrics capabilities. The ISF has worked to prevent Sunni violent extremist recruitment and the direction of terrorist activities by prison inmates and has built a new facility at Lebanon’s main prison to house high-threat prisoners.
The LAF has primary responsibility for securing Lebanon’s borders, but worked collaboratively with other agencies to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and illicit goods. The services have increased security measures at airports, border crossings, and ports to prevent the flow of ISIS and al-Nusrah Front fighters to Syria and Iraq, with a special emphasis on detecting counterfeit passports. The DGS, under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), controls immigration and passport services, and uses an electronic database to collect biographic data for travelers at the airport; however, it does not collect biometric data at land borders. Lebanon collects and disseminates Passenger Name Records (PNR) on commercial flights, and is preparing to begin collecting advanced passenger information in 2017.
The Lebanese security services disrupted multiple terrorist networks and made several high‑profile arrests in 2016. On November 25, the army conducted a raid into Aarsal to capture a high-level ISIS figure, and conducted a similar raid on September 22, in Ain el-Helweh, to apprehend another notable ISIS figure. In July and August, more than 30 militants associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups turned themselves in from Ain el-Helweh, citing pressure from the LAF and local Palestinian groups. In addition to the arrests, the LAF also disrupted an ISIS plot to attack Western targets in and around Beirut. The LAF increasingly claimed that violent extremists used Syrian refugee settlements as cover for their activities and as places of refuge.
The United States maintains close ties with the Lebanese security services and often receives and provides support in a wide variety of cases. While the majority of these involve terrorism, bilateral cooperation has expanded to missing persons, child custody disputes, and financial crimes. There are, however, several individuals on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list still located in Lebanon. Lebanese authorities maintained that amnesty for Lebanese nationals involved in acts of violence during the 1975-1990 civil wars prevented terrorism prosecutions of concern to the United States.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Lebanon is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Lebanon’s financial intelligence unit, the Special Investigation Commission (SIC), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Lebanon also participates in the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. Lebanese government officials and financial leaders repeatedly met with U.S. government officials regarding the intent and implementation of actions consistent with the U.S. Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) of 2015. The Central Bank of Lebanon directed Lebanese banks to fully comply with HIFPA.
Lebanon strengthened its overall efforts to disrupt and dismantle money laundering and terrorist financing activities, including those of Hizballah. In October, Lebanon’s parliament passed a new tax law strengthening Lebanon’s Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. The Central Bank issued a circular that directed Lebanese financial institutions to comply with the HIFPA. The Central Bank’s Special Investigation Committee (SIC) issued additional HIFPA-related circulars and AML/CFT controls at designated non-financial businesses and professions. The SIC also issued “freezing without delay” regulations in compliance with the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
Cooperation between the SIC and local enforcement authorities on terrorist financing cases improved, including through the training of a joint task force with representatives from Customs, the ISF, the SIC, and the judiciary. The SIC referred 29 alleged money-laundering cases to the General Prosecutor, which resulted in 12 prosecutions but no convictions. The SIC did not have figures available for 2016 regarding total cases it received of alleged terrorist financing. The ISF received 48 money laundering allegations from INTERPOL, arrested three persons, and referred five cases for investigation.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INSCR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Several government institutions have programs that seek to counter violent extremism, but the government does not have a national strategy in place. Civil society actors, security institution personnel, and other government actors attended an embassy‑funded three-day event focused on fighting online violent extremism. The LAF is developing a comprehensive counter-messaging strategy that amplifies moderate voices and uses television spots, social media, billboards, and SMS texts to counter violent extremist narratives.
International and Regional Cooperation: Lebanon is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League. Lebanon continued to voice its commitment to fulfilling relevant UNSCRs, including 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006), and 1701 (2006). The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international body investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, received Lebanon’s annual contribution of approximately $32.5 million.
The LAF partnered with several nations on a bilateral basis to receive training programs that focused on strengthening its counterterrorism capabilities.
Overview: U.S. counterterrorism policy in Libya is focused on degrading ISIS and other terrorist groups and reducing the threat they pose to U.S. interests in North Africa and Europe. In 2016, Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces demonstrated that it could be a capable partner with the United States in the fight against ISIS. The GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, requested U.S. air support into the fight against ISIS and cooperated consistently and productively with international counterterrorism efforts. In January, U.S. strikes removed two ISIS camps and a foreign terrorist fighter facilitator in Libya’s west. Libya’s greatest counterterrorism success during the year was the removal of ISIS from its Libyan stronghold in Sirte, a key U.S. objective accomplished in close cooperation with U.S. Africa Command’s Operation Odyssey Lighting campaign. GNA-affiliated forces seized the last group of buildings held by ISIS in Sirte in December, removing ISIS from its operational stronghold and temporarily disrupting its long-term ability to conduct and support regional operations in North Africa, the Sahel, and Europe. GNA reports suggested that more than 700 fighters from GNA-aligned forces were killed and 3,200 were wounded during the seven‑month-long campaign against ISIS. Although up to 1,700 ISIS militants’ bodies were recovered in Sirte, many members of the terrorist organization are thought to have escaped into the vast desert in Libya’s west and south, while others may have fled abroad or into neighboring urban centers.
While Sirte was ISIS’s center of governance in Libya, concentrations of its fighters were also reported in Darnah and Benghazi during the year. Many fighters in those cities were driven out by year’s end, mostly as a result of clashes with the “Libyan National Army” (LNA). ISIS fighters fleeing from Sirte may have escaped to remote desert camps, especially near Sabha and Bani Walid, but some reports indicated that others fled towards Darnah and other urban centers in Libya.
Other terrorist organizations, including Ansar al-Shari’a-Benghazi (AAS-B), Ansar al-Shari’a Darnah (AAS-D), and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), retained a presence in Libya in 2016. These groups continued to take advantage of the absence of effective governance in many parts of the country, although the LNA has significantly degraded their capabilities in some areas.
AQIM’s priorities are in southern Libya where it has connections with local authorities and militias, to which it provides financial and personnel support.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: The following list of terrorist incidents is designed to highlight major attacks believed to be perpetuated by terrorist groups against Western, Libyan government, and civil society targets. The list of incidents below is not exhaustive or comprehensive, some of the incidents have no claims of responsibility, and it does not include the numerous acts of violence perpetrated by armed militias and other parties to the conflict in Tripoli and other cities.
- On January 7 in Zliten, a suicide truck bomb killed 60 people and wounded 200 people at the al‑Jahfal police training camp. ISIS was suspected of the attack.
- On June 13 in Sirte, three people were killed and dozens injured after an attack on soldiers and medical workers at a hospital. ISIS claimed responsibility.
- On August 2 in Benghazi, 22 people were killed by a car bomb that targeted security forces in a residential area. Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries claimed responsibility.
- On September 7 in Darnah, four fighters aligned with the LNA were killed by a landmine in Daher Hamar in western Darnah. ISIS claimed responsibility.
- On October 29 in Benghazi, a car exploded after being hit by a missile in Benghazi’s Kisha Square. The explosion killed four civilians, including the head of the Libyan Anti‑Corruption Organization, Mohammad Boukaiqis. Thirteen others were injured. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On December 2 in Sirte, several women committed suicide bombings that killed four Libyan soldiers and two other women. ISIS claimed responsibility.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Libya lacks a comprehensive counterterrorism law, although the Libyan penal code (under Title 2, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 170 and Title 2, Chapter 2, Article 207) criminalizes offenses prejudicial to state security, including terrorism, the promotion of terrorist acts, and the handling of money in support of such acts. In 2013, the General National Congress (GNC) – at that time Libya’s official government – adopted laws no. 27 and 53 outlining a plan to disband non-state militias and integrate them into state security forces; however, neither law was implemented. Libya has ratified the African Union’s Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, which requires states to criminalize terrorist acts under their national laws.
The GNA, despite internal conflict, proved capable of confronting the terrorist threat in Sirte, requested assistance from the United States, and joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS; however, neither the internationally recognized Tripoli-based GNA nor the legislative House of Representatives in Tobruk produced a strategy to counter the terrorist threat. The Libyan government did not pass any new legislation to confront the growing threat of terrorism throughout the country.
Due mainly to the internal political conflict and the role of numerous militias, Libyan law enforcement personnel lacked the capacity to detect, deter, respond to, or investigate terrorist incidents. There were no reported terrorism-related prosecutions in 2016. In most parts of Libya, security and law enforcement functions were provided by armed militias rather than state institutions. National police and security forces were fragmented, inadequately trained and equipped, and lacked clear reporting chains and coordination mechanisms. Security and law enforcement officials, including prosecutors and judges, were targeted in kidnappings and assassinations, resulting in the continued suspension of court operations in Benghazi and Darnah. Libya’s military was similarly weak and fragmented, with units often breaking down along local, tribal, or factional lines. Counterterrorism operations conducted by Libyan Special Operations Forces have so far failed to significantly reduce the level of terrorist violence, bombings, assassinations, or kidnappings.
The GNA lacked a comprehensive border management strategy and was unable to secure the country’s thousands of miles of land and maritime borders, enabling the illicit flow of goods, weapons, antiquities, narcotics, migrants, and foreign terrorist fighters that posed serious security challenges to the region. Libyan border security forces were generally poorly trained and underequipped and frequently participated in illicit cross-border trade. Border security infrastructure damaged and looted during the 2011 revolution has not been repaired or replaced, and the ongoing conflict has affected border security infrastructure along Libya’s border with Tunisia. Security at Libya’s airports was minimal with limited document screening and no utilization of passenger name record systems or biometric technology. Libya also lacked the resources, manpower, and training to conduct sufficient maritime patrols to interdict or deter illicit maritime trafficking and irregular migration.
According to the International Organization of Migration, 181,436 arrivals were recorded by sea in 2016 to Italy through the central Mediterranean route, mainly transiting from Libya to Italy. A total of 18,904 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast and 4,576 died. The majority of the migrants used the porous southern borders of Libya to traverse from sub-Saharan African countries and embark on boats along the Libyan shores. Existing legislation outlining the responsibilities of various government agencies in the area of border management is vague and often contradictory, resulting in ad hoc and poorly coordinated efforts.
The European Union (EU) Border Assistance Mission to Libya is mandated to plan for a possible future EU mission providing advice and capacity building in the areas of criminal justice, migration, border security, and counterterrorism at the request of the Libyan authorities. The mission is located in Tunis and has maintained contact with the relevant Libyan authorities.
Libya has expressed the desire to cooperate in the investigation of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests, including the September 2012 killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens at U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, although Libyan capacity to provide support in this regard has been limited. In 2013, the Libyan Ministry of Justice signed a Declaration of Intent to facilitate law enforcement cooperation with the United States on investigations, including that of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Libya is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and also the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group. Libya has implemented a national identification database system to improve transparency in government salary payments; however, there is little reliable data on Libya’s anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) efforts.
While the Libyan government and financial institutions generally lack the ability to identify and interdict illicit financial flows, the Central Bank and the financial intelligence unit (FIU) has made critical strides to build its AML/CFT capacity. In 2016, the Central Bank issued Customer Due Diligence regulations for Libyan financial institutions. Libya does not currently have a CFT law and lacks the ability to freeze the assets of UN-designated individuals, per its obligations under the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, but has drafted a comprehensive AML/CFT law and expects to enact the law in 2017. In addition, the Libyan government has operationalized its FIU and reorganized its structure to prioritize AML and CFT.
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.
Regional and International Cooperation: After increased armed civil conflict in July 2014, nearly all diplomatic missions in Libya, including the UN Support Mission in Libya, withdrew from the country. In 2016, there were few foreign diplomats present in Tripoli on a permanent basis, although several European countries’ diplomats began to visit Tripoli and other parts of Libya more frequently after the GNA’s March 2016 seating in the capital. The political conflict and lack of an international presence in Libya severely limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism activities. Most bilateral engagement programs, which previously sought to increase the capacity of Libya’s law enforcement and defense institutions, have been on hold since 2014.
Countering Violent Extremism: Libya has not adopted a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism. Continuing online threats, kidnappings, and assassinations of activists who speak out against violent extremists contributes to a culture of intimidation and self-censorship.
Overview: Morocco has a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. The government has treated counterterrorism as a top priority since the country experienced suicide bombing attacks in Casablanca in 2003, and that focus has been reinforced by attacks in 2007 and 2011. In 2016, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts effectively mitigated the risk of terrorism, although the country continued to face threats, largely from small, independent violent extremist cells. The majority of the cells claimed to be inspired by or affiliated with ISIS.
During the year, authorities reported the disruption of multiple groups with ties to international networks that included ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al-Nusrah Front (al‑Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria). According to local media, Moroccan security forces dismantled 18 terrorist cells and conducted 161 terrorism-related arrests in 2016, including of Algerian, Chadian, French, and Italian nationals. The government remained concerned about the potential return of Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters who could conduct attacks at home or potentially in Western Europe. Moroccan authorities reported approximately 1,500 Moroccan nationals are foreign terrorist fighters. As a result of increased international cooperation and vigilance by Moroccan authorities, and consistent with global trends on foreign terrorist fighters, only a few Moroccans departed for Iraq or Syria in 2016.
Morocco is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and participates in all of the Coalition Working Groups. In April 2016, Morocco took over the GCTF co-chair role from Turkey. Morocco and the Netherlands serve as GCTF co-chairs and the co-chairs of the GCTF Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Morocco enacted comprehensive counterterrorism legislation in 2003. In 2015, Morocco expanded existing legislation to address the foreign terrorist fighter threat by widening the definition of terrorist offenses to cover terrorist acts or attempts to join a terrorist group and involvement in recruitment and training activities, making it compliant with UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014). This law also extended the jurisdiction of national courts to allow the prosecution of foreign nationals who commit terrorist crimes outside Morocco if they are present on Moroccan soil.
Moroccan law enforcement units aggressively targeted and effectively dismantled terrorist cells within the country by leveraging intelligence collection, police work, and collaboration with regional and international partners. The Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), a central institution established in 2015, is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for counterterrorism law enforcement. Reporting to the General Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DGST), the BCIJ operates under the supervision of the public prosecutor of the Court of Appeals. The Penal Procedure code grants DGST agents the rank of judicial police officers, allowing them to conduct investigations, questioning, and arrests. The Penal Procedure code also grants DGST officers the recourse to electronic tracking and telephone surveillance upon receiving written consent from the Court of Appeals or a judge.
The General Directorate for National Security (DGSN) is primarily responsible for handling border inspections at established ports of entry such as Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport, where most border crossings occur. Law enforcement officials and private carriers have worked regularly with the United States to detect and deter individuals attempting to transit illegally. Moroccan government authorities worked directly with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Regional Carrier Liaison Group and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Investigations Attaché office at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca to address watchlisted or mala fide travelers. Moroccan airport authorities have excellent capabilities in detecting fraudulent documents, but currently lack biometric screening capabilities. In addition, the police, customs officers, and Gendarmerie Royal operate mobile and fixed checkpoints along the roads in border areas.
Morocco continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program to support the development of Moroccan law enforcement expertise in the areas of crisis management, border security, and terrorism investigations, and to strengthen regional counterterrorism capabilities to deny space to terrorists and terrorist networks. Under the Trilateral Initiative framework, in 2016 the Governments of Morocco and the United States hosted a course in critical incident management for members of the Senegalese security services. Morocco also continued to partner with the United States to improve the police criminal investigation process through the development and implementation of chain of custody and evidence management procedures; forensic evidence collection and analysis, including DNA analysis; and mentoring and training. Morocco participated in GCTF and Department of Justice programs to improve technical investigative training for police and prosecutors. DGSN, Moroccan Customs, and the Royal Gendarmerie were active partners and participants in DHS‑sponsored training events on border security and financial investigation. Finally, Moroccan government officials participated in several U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation-led courses to improve capacity in intelligence analysis and cybersecurity.
While no terrorist incidents occurred in Morocco in 2016, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts and cooperation with international partners led to numerous disruptions of alleged terrorist cells and prosecutions of associated individuals, including these cases:
- On February 19, the BCIJ announced the dismantlement of a 10-member cell that had pledged allegiance to ISIS and planned to use a 16-year old Moroccan as a suicide truck bomber to attack institutions and prominent Moroccans. The BCIJ seized weapons, ammunition, and bomb making material. The cell operated in multiple cities, including Essaouira, Meknes, and Sidi Kacem.
- On May 13, the BCIJ arrested a Chadian national in Tangier, who was allegedly recruited by ISIS to organize a terrorist cell composed of Algerians and Moroccans to attack Western diplomatic buildings and tourist sites in Morocco. On November 11, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
- On July 19, the BCIJ arrested 52 suspected terrorists in cities throughout Morocco, who were suspected of targeting prisons, security establishments, festivals, and recreation centers. The BCIJ seized firearms, knives, ISIS flags, ammunition, and instructions on making explosives.
- On October 4, the BCIJ arrested 10 women and seized a collection of chemicals and bomb-making materials in Rabat. The group allegedly planned to carry out suicide bomb attacks in multiple locations.
- On November 4 in the northern city of Tetouan, the BCIJ dismantled a terrorist cell composed of five pro-ISIS individuals who had conducted paramilitary training in nearby forests. The Ministry of Interior stated that members of this cell planned to join ISIS in Libya, Iraq, or Syria.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Morocco is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Unité de Traitement du Renseignement Financier (UTRF), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Morocco criminalizes money laundering violations in accordance with international standards and actively uses the statutes to detect terrorist financing. Through September 2016, UTRF received 297 suspicious transaction reports. UTRF has signed memoranda of understanding facilitating information exchange with regional FIUs. The UTRF is also working to update current legislation to better implement UNSCR 1373 (2001) and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Finally, in alignment with the 2012 FATF Recommendations, the UTRF is preparing a national risk assessment to plan and execute more effective counter measures against terrorist financing.
Moroccan officials are demonstrating success in detecting terrorist financing. In November, a joint BNPJ and BCIJ operation arrested two Turkish nationals and a Moroccan who were involved in diverting a national telephone operator’s communication lines to sell stolen services to raise funds for ISIS. The group had ties with ISIS operational leaders and intended to fund ISIS activities and facilitate the return of foreign terrorist fighters to Europe
Countering Violent Extremism: Morocco has a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism that prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere and messaging. Morocco has accelerated its creation of education and employment initiatives for youth – the population identified as most vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment – and has expanded the legal rights and political and social empowerment of women. To counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, Morocco has developed a national strategy to affirm and further institutionalize Morocco’s widespread adherence to the Maliki-Ashari school of Sunni Islam. In the past decade, Morocco has focused on upgrading mosques, promoting the teaching of relatively moderate Islam, and strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (MEIA). The MEIA has developed an educational curriculum for Morocco’s nearly 50,000 imams and Morocco is training hundreds of imams from African and European nations at its international imam training center in Rabat. The MEIA-affiliated Mohammedan League of Ulema (Rabita Mohammedia) produces scholarly research, ensures conformity in educational curricula, and conducts youth outreach on religious and social topics.
In July, King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Higher Council for African Ulema in Fez, a center bringing together religious scholars from more than 30 African countries to promote scholarship and counter extremist ideologies in Islam. To counter the radicalization of Moroccans living abroad, the Moroccan Council of Ulema for Europe and the Minister Delegate for Moroccans Living Abroad undertook similar programs to promote moderation within Moroccan expatriate communities in Europe.
The Department of State has supported the efforts of the Moroccan General Delegation of the Penitentiaries and Reinsertion Administration (DGAPR) to reform and modernize the management of its prison system, including increased focus on rehabilitation and successful reintegration into civilian life. The State Department has also assisted the DGAPR in creating and implementing a prisoner classification tool to ensure inmates are living within the lowest required security environment based on the threat they represent. This helps keep violent extremists segregated from the mainstream prison population, limiting their ability to influence and recruit other inmates. These improvements all serve to deter radicalization to violence and recruitment of inmates. A U.S. Agency for International Development project – Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement in Today’s Youth (FORSATY, which loosely translates to “my opportunity” in Arabic) – addressed youth marginalization in areas known for recruitment by terrorist organizations, helping them stay in school, develop skills, and become active in the community.
International and Regional Cooperation: Morocco is the current co-chair and a founding member of the GCTF and a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism. Morocco also co-chairs the GCTF Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group, which provides a critical platform for developing practical initiatives to help coordinate and build on efforts at the national, regional, and international levels to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and address the complex issues related to their return. Morocco was a founding member of the Malta-based International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) and regularly participates in IIJ programs.
Morocco is a stable security-exporting partner in North Africa and is the only African nation to contribute military assets to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition campaign in Syria and Iraq. Morocco trains security and law enforcement officials from friendly nations such as Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal. As a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally and a Mediterranean Dialogue (5+5) partner in the EU’s Barcelona Process, Morocco participates in the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Mediterranean. Morocco also participates in multilateral regional training exercises, such as the maritime-focused PHOENIX EXPRESS and the FLINTLOCK security operations exercise and hosts the annual multilateral AFRICAN LION exercise and MAGHREB MANTLET disaster response exercise. These engagements have enhanced border security and improved capabilities to counter illicit trafficking and terrorism.
Morocco is an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a U.S. multi-year interagency regional program aimed at building the capacity of governments in the Maghreb and Sahel to confront threats posed by violent extremists. Both Morocco and Algeria participate in the TSCTP, 5+5 Dialogue, and the GCTF; however, political disagreement over the status of Western Sahara remained an impediment to bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation in 2016.
Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner that actively worked in 2016 to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks or using the country as a safe haven. The Omani government remains concerned about the conflict in Yemen and the expansion of safe haven there by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS in Yemen, which present potential threats to Oman’s border. Omani officials regularly engaged with U.S. officials on the need to counter violent extremism and terrorism, but rarely publicly broadcast their counterterrorism efforts. The Government of Oman sought training and equipment from the United States and from other countries to support its efforts to control Omani land, air, and maritime borders. Oman also used U.S. security assistance to improve its counterterrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures. A member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Oman issued a series of official statements condemning terrorist attacks in 2016.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Royal Decree 8/2007 outlines specific penalties, including the death penalty and life imprisonment, for various terrorist acts, including establishment or leadership of a terrorist group, attempts to join a terrorist group, attempts to recruit for a terrorist group, development of an explosive or weapon, or takeover of any mode of transportation for purposes of terrorism.
Counterterrorism investigations, crisis response, and border security capabilities were limited by local capacity and a challenging operating environment due to Oman’s extensive coastline and its long and remote borders with Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Nevertheless, Oman’s many agencies with counterterrorism jurisdiction communicated and coordinated daily. The Sultan’s Special Forces and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) Special Task Force are Oman’s primary counterterrorism response forces. The Omani Internal Security Service and Royal Office also play key roles in securing Oman from terrorist threats.
The Government of Oman recognized the need to improve its capabilities and took advantage of U.S. counterterrorism and law enforcement training and assistance. In 2016, the ROP, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry participated in the State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, designed to assist Omani personnel to enhance interdiction capabilities at official ports of entry on land and at sea. Prominent in the EXBS training program were 10 weeks of training for the ROP Coast Guard on visit, board, search, and seizure operations, and the development of six ROP Coast Guard instructors to lead future iterations of the course.
Oman also participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which included training on airport security management, border security, interdicting terrorist activities, and instructor development for Omani security officials representing the Royal Oman Police and a number of civilian agencies.
The major deterrents to more effective law enforcement and border security are limited resources, nascent interagency coordination, and the need for continued training to develop advanced law enforcement skills. Oman’s border with Yemen features rugged, mountainous terrain, which further challenges border security efforts. Omani authorities continued to make progress on construction of a fence along the border with Yemen to prevent illegal entry into Oman. The Omani and U.S. governments continued to engage in frequent border-security related training endeavors.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Oman is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Oman revised its countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) law with Royal Decree 30/2016 in 2016. The revised CFT law requires financial institutions, private industry, and non-profit organizations to screen transactions for money laundering or terrorist financing and requires the collection of Know Your Customer data for wire transfers. The revised CFT law also consolidated CFT authority within the National Center for Financial Information and established the center as an independent government entity. While progress has been made, a number of gaps remain, including issuing a decision on mechanisms for implementing the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, issuing anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism regulations to the sectors identified in the law, and designating wire transfer amounts for customer due diligence procedures.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Grand Mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmed al-Khalili, published an essay in October 2014, calling on all Muslims to reject extremism and promote tolerance, themes he has repeatedly amplified in his popular and widely broadcast weekly television program. The government continued to promote an advocacy campaign entitled “Islam in Oman” designed to encourage tolerant and inclusive Islamic practices in 2016. The project highlighted the commonalities between Islam’s sects and between Islam and other religions. A Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) program entitled “Tolerance, Understanding, Coexistence – Oman’s Message of Islam” was part of the government’s effort to enhance interfaith dialogue; MERA also promoted tolerance at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in November to celebrate the International Day for Tolerance.
International and Regional Cooperation: Oman participates in the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Strategic Cooperation Forum, and participated in the U.S.-GCC Riyadh summit in April and the U.S.-GCC Strategic Commodity Identification Training Instructor Cadre Development meetings in April and October. Oman regularly votes in favor of counterterrorism measures in the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the GCC, and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. Oman became the 41st country to join the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism in late December.
Overview: The United States and Qatar maintained a strong partnership in the fight against terrorism in 2016 and collaborated to foster closer regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and rule of law activities. U.S. agencies have an active and fairly productive dialogue with their Qatari counterparts and worked closely for the exchange and evaluation of terrorist-related information. Qatar is a full partner and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and has provided significant support in facilitating U.S. military operations in the region. In addition to hosting 10,000 U.S. servicemen and women on two military installations critical to coalition efforts, Qatar offered to host a base to train‑and‑equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. Qatar’s public role in support of Coalition efforts and the U.S. military has thus far not exposed Qatar to any known terrorism-related attacks. Terrorist activity historically has been low in Qatar; restrictive immigration policies and security services capable of monitoring and disrupting terrorist activities have maintained the status quo. Qatar supported the Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Alliance to Combat Terrorism through agreeing to participate in regional training exercises with alliance members.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Qatari government has in place legislation enacted in 2004, 2010, and 2014 to address terrorism, terrorist financing, and related offenses, which complements other criminal laws. The 2004 Law on Combating Terrorism sets forth broad provisions for defining and prosecuting terrorist-related activities in Qatar against the State of Qatar, including prohibitions on providing information, training, supplies, weapons, financing, and material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations. The law does not provide presumption of innocence, right to a fair public trial, access to counsel, timely presentation before a public prosecutor, or defined legal periods of detention. The law also prohibits creating, directing, or using lawful entities, associations, or organizations to commit terrorist activities. The 2004 law also criminalizes collaboration with or joining organizations or groups located abroad, which commit a terrorist crime, even if not against the State of Qatar; and outlaws obtaining military training from such organizations or groups abroad. The 2014 Cybercrime Prevention Law criminalizes terrorism-linked cyber offenses.
The State Security Bureau (also known as the Qatar State Security) maintains an aggressive posture toward monitoring internal extremist or terrorism-related activities. The internal security-focused Ministry of Interior (MOI) is well-positioned to respond to incidents with rapid reaction forces and trained internal security forces that routinely pursue and engage in structured counterterrorism training and exercises. Both the State Security Bureau and the MOI are responsive to the Emiri Diwan and prime minister-level command and control structures, and efforts have been made to streamline interagency coordination and civil defense operations. The Office of Public Prosecution is tasked with prosecuting all crimes, including any related to terrorism, and plays a significant role in terrorism investigations as the prosecutors conduct investigative interviews. Oversight and management of industrial security is now consolidated under the MOI, with integrated responsibility for protecting the critical energy infrastructure, ports, and airport.
Qatari authorities have requested and expressed their intent to participate in the Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance program, to boost domestic security capabilities. Qatar continued to participate in and host multilateral Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) events. Also in 2016, Qatar funded efforts by the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime to help address violent extremism and radicalization to violence among youth and vulnerable populations. Qatar also maintains an interagency National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NATC) within the MOI composed of representatives from more than 10 government ministries and official institutions. The NATC is tasked with formulating Qatar’s counterterrorism policy, ensuring thorough and transparent interagency coordination within the government, fulfilling Qatar’s obligations to counter terrorism under international conventions, and participating in international or UN conferences on terrorism.
Qatar maintains its own watchlist of suspected terrorists that it uses to screen passengers on international flights. Qatar also conducts vetting and background checks on all applicants for work visas. The Qatari government uses biometric scans for arrivals at the Hamad International Airport. Qatar engages in information sharing between its state-owned airline and foreign governments, including collection and dissemination of advance passenger information and passenger name records on commercial flights, and has agreed to enhance information sharing arrangements with the United States. During 2016, MOI authorities cooperated with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to enhance screening capabilities of the approximately 50 million travelers that pass through Hamad International Airport each year.
During 2016, MOI authorities also engaged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for additional training in the area of judicial capacity building; this MOU is intended to encourage and strengthen information sharing mechanisms between Qatar and the United States and leverage DOJ expertise to share best practices. In 2016, the United States and Qatar enhanced their abilities to share terrorism screening information.
Overall, Qatar’s security services workforce is limited in scope and bandwidth, and in most agencies, is reliant on manpower from third countries to fill rank-and-file law enforcement positions. This limitation applies across the board with all Qatari government institutions (except for the Qatar State Security and elite units of the MOI’s internal security force) and reflects the demographics of the nation. Due to the demographics of Qatar’s security services, advanced security training is not made available for non-Qataris in some cases and to an extent contributes to ineffective police operations. Qatar, however, has procured and deployed a state of-the-art electronic surveillance capacity, which enhances Qatari security services’ effectiveness in the detection and monitoring of terrorist suspects.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Qatar is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and the Qatar Financial Information Unit is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Qatar has made significant progress on deficiencies identified in its MENAFATF Mutual Evaluation Report in 2008. According to the Second Biennial Update Report, Qatar is deemed “Compliant or Largely Compliant” with all but recommendation 26, which accounts for regulation and supervision of financial institutions. Qatar’s Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist financing Law of 2010 require Qatar’s Public Prosecutor to freeze the funds of individuals and organizations included on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list. The Qatar Central Bank works with financial institutions to confirm asset-freezing compliance with respect to these UN obligations on entities and individuals, including Qatari citizens.
The Government of Qatar has made progress on countering the financing of terrorism (CFT), but terrorist financiers within the country are still able to exploit Qatar’s informal financial system.
In 2015 and 2016, Qatar prosecuted and convicted Qatari terrorist financiers for the first time. As part of ongoing reforms to curb terrorist financing, the State of Qatar issued the Cybercrime Prevention Law and the Law Regulating Charitable Activities in 2014. Qatar continued to be an active participant in U.S.-sponsored training and capacity building focused on CFT issues.
Non-profit organizations are not obliged to file suspicious transaction reports, but, based on the charities law that was passed in 2014, every charitable project must be approved by the Charities Commission, a government interagency body that monitors charitable giving to prevent terrorist financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: The core of Qatar’s strategy to counter violent extremism is investment in education. Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stated during the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit that “neglecting education means that whole generations would become more vulnerable to human trafficking or falling prey to terrorism.” Qatari leaders have made strong public statements in 2016 on the importance of countering violent extremism by addressing prevention, dialogue, and trust to communities most affected by the conflicts in the region.
While Qatar has invested heavily in promoting primary and secondary education abroad, its domestic spending to counter violent extremism is focused disproportionately on tertiary education, including at the national Qatar University, the new Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, and, most notably, the many institutions housed at Qatar Foundation, including the six branch campuses of American universities housed at Education City. Within this context, the Qatari government expanded its youth-focused countering violent extremism (CVE) programs directed at its citizens, as well as the vast, and far less privileged, population of third country nationals living within Qatar (including an influx of residents from Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank, Syria, and Pakistan).
Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) continued its partnership with the United States for the second year in promoting CVE education through the Young Writers Program (YWP). Through this program, students from 122 government schools in areas with less exposure to Western culture participated in writing programs that exposed them to CVE programming through essay writing on subjects affecting their society.
For youth in Qatar, QF’s programs, such as the Qatar STEAM Fair (recently renamed the National Scientific Research Competition) and Qatar Debate, are aimed at raising the level of education and knowledge exchange among average, non-elite Qataris in the more conservative Ministry of Education school system. The STEAM Fair, which is sponsored by QF’s Research and Development Office, aims to create a core of future STEM and STEAM leaders and attracts thousands of Qatari public high school students each year to participate. QF also sponsors a Stars of Science program, an “edu-tainment reality” television show. Its stated mission is to provide a launching pad for the region’s aspiring science and technology entrepreneurs and serve as an instrument to foster creative and innovative thinking in the region while inspiring hope in the next generation of Arab youth. One of the show’s key aims is to provide “hope to youth in a region of suffering.”
Qatar continued its financial support for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), highlighting this fund as the first global initiative aimed at enhancing skills, potential, and resources of both the public and private sectors to support local projects, such as education, vocational training, civic engagement, media, and defense of women’s rights in an attempt to increase resilience against violent extremists’ agendas that create real barriers to economic and political development.
International and Regional Cooperation: Qatar is an active participant in the United Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League on counterterrorism activities. Qatar is active in all of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition Working Groups and is also a founding member of the GCTF.
Overview: Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a strong counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of both U.S. and Saudi citizens within Saudi territories and abroad. Saudi Arabia remained a key member and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as evidenced by its co-leading the Counter-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-Finance Working Group (CIFG) alongside the United States and Italy. The Saudi government condemned ISIS’s activities and participated in coalition military action to defeat the group in Syria and Iraq.
The Saudi Arabian government continued to build and reinforce its capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremist ideologies. Both ISIS, and, to a lesser extent, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Pensinsula (AQAP), continued to encourage individual acts of terrorism within the Kingdom. ISIS inspired and launched individual lethal attacks in the Kingdom primarily targeting Saudi security forces and Shia residents. Despite the attacks, Saudi Arabia maintained a high counterterrorism operational tempo, made a number of highly publicized arrests of terrorist suspects, and disrupted active terrorist cells across the Kingdom. Saudi security forces also continued to confront the threat from AQAP, although the group’s activity was diminished. ISIS attacks against Saudi security forces, Shia mosques and community centers, and Western targets in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2016 underscored the ongoing threat posed to Saudi Arabia and the region by ISIS, which Saudi Arabia worked closely with both Western and GCC partners to address.
Saudi Arabia implemented UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) 2178 and 2199, and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime; expanded existing counterterrorism programs and rhetoric to address the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters; and leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist Financing (CT Law) and Royal Decree A/44 to counter the funding of violent extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. The government also launched several new countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives to blunt the appeal of extremist messaging and improve oversight of Islamic charitable and proselytization (da’wa) activities at home and abroad.
According to the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI), as of December, there were 2,093 Saudis fighting with terrorist organizations in conflict zones, including ISIS, with more than 70 percent of them in Syria.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other international human rights organizations criticized what they characterized as the Saudi Arabian government’s use of the 2014 terrorism law to suppress political expression and dissent, citing broadly written language that criminalizes “acts that disturb public order, defame the reputation of the state, or threaten the kingdom’s unity.”
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Deadly attacks by ISIS-affiliated groups against Saudi targets occurred despite continued Saudi efforts to detect and disrupt terrorist activity aimed mostly against Saudi security forces and the minority Shia community. Figures released by the Saudi Arabian government indicate there were 34 terrorist attacks in 2016. These included:
- On January 29, four worshippers were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the Eastern Province when a 22-year-old Saudi national blew himself up at the entrance to the Shia Imam Rida Mosque in al-Ahsa after security officers stopped him. A second alleged bomber was arrested at the scene after exchanging gun fire with security forces. Separate ISIS-affiliated cells in Medina, Mecca, Jeddah, and Shaqra were uncovered before carrying out large planned attacks, according to media reports. In all cases, the Saudi government worked to clarify the circumstances regarding these attacks and responded quickly to ensure proper security measures were in place, coordinating with U.S. counterparts.
- On July 4, coordinated bombings struck three cities across Saudi Arabia: a suicide bomber struck near the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, wounding two security officers and killing the bomber; an attack on a security post near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, killing four guards; and an attack near a Shia mosque in the Eastern Province city Qatif, killing only the bomber.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Saudi Arabia enacted its current counterterrorism law containing 41 articles in 2014 that strengthened its existing counterterrorism provisions; international and local human rights organizations have claimed that this law has been applied to nonviolent offenses and used to prosecute political activists for social media posts critical of government policy. The Saudi MOI General Investigations Directorate (GID) is responsible for conducting counterterrorism investigations in the Kingdom and, upon its discretion, will cooperate with other elements of the Saudi government to further investigate specific cases. Once the investigation is complete, the case is usually transferred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecutions Office for the duration of the trial. The Saudi government continued its programs to improve physical border security through the employment of biometric systems, aerial reconnaissance, thermal imaging, and remote unattended sensors along its borders. The Ministry of Justice continued its reform process, including codification of crimes and associated sentences.
Neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members in Saudi Arabia, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about suspected terrorist activity. The government offered rewards for information on terrorists, and Saudi security services made several announcements throughout the year pertaining to the arrest of large numbers of ISIS and AQAP terrorists and supporters. The government announced more than 190 arrests of ISIS-affiliated terrorists in 2016, according to an official press release.
In a widely publicized press statement, the MOI said security officials successfully prevented a terrorist attack targeting al-Jawhara Stadium at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah during a match between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on October 11. The terrorists allegedly planned to detonate a car full of explosives parked in the stadium’s lot. This incident led to the identification and arrest of four individuals with links to ISIS in Syria. The same statement highlighted the arrest of four Saudi nationals after law enforcement officials raided their terrorist cell, based in Shaqra. They allegedly had been planning to target security forces based on orders from an ISIS leader in Syria.
Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to disrupt terrorist activities in the Kingdom by tracking, arresting, and prosecuting terrorist suspects. According to the GID, Saudi security forces arrested more than 1,390 suspects accused of terrorism in 2016. The suspects were of different nationalities: 967 of those arrested were Saudi nationals, followed by 154 Yemenis, 76 Syrians, 45 Egyptians, and 38 Pakistanis.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Saudi Arabia earned observer status in the FATF in June 2015 and is working to obtain full membership in the organization, pending a successful mutual evaluation. Saudi Arabia, along with Italy and the United States, co-leads the CIFG. Its financial intelligence unit, the Saudi Arabia FIU (SAFIU), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
The Saudi Arabian government further directed domestic authorities to impose financial sanctions on individuals and entities providing support to or acting on behalf of Hizballah, al‑Qa’ida (AQ), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), and the Taliban. Saudi Arabia affirmed its commitment to countering terrorist financing in the Kingdom and sought to further establish itself as a leader in disrupting terrorist finance within the Gulf region. In 2016, Saudi Arabia increased its public designations of individuals and entities for violating the Kingdom’s laws criminalizing terrorist financing and support. In February, Saudi Arabia designated three individuals and four entities acting on behalf of Hizballah’s commercial procurement network. In March 2016, Saudi Arabia and the United States took steps to disrupt the fundraising and support networks of AQ, the Taliban, and LeT by imposing financial sanctions on four individuals and two organizations with ties across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. In October, Saudi Arabia and the United States took joint action to simultaneously designate two individuals and one entity acting on behalf of Hizballah.
The MOI continued to provide specialized training programs for financial institutions, prosecutors, judges, customs and border officials, and other sectors of the government as part of its effort to enhance programs designed to counter terrorist financing. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has standing requirements for all financial institutions within the Kingdom’s jurisdiction to implement all of the FATF’s recent recommendations on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing.
Despite serious and effective efforts to counter the funding of terrorism within the Kingdom, some individuals and entities in Saudi Arabia probably continued to serve as sources of financial support for terrorist groups. While the Kingdom has maintained strict supervision of the banking sector, tightened the regulation of the charitable sector, and stiffened penalties for financing terrorism, funds are allegedly collected in secret and illicitly transferred out of the country in cash, sometimes by pilgrims performing Hajj and Umrah. To address this issue, the MOI continued efforts to counter bulk cash smuggling in 2016. Regional turmoil and the sophisticated use of social media have enabled charities outside of Saudi Arabia with ties to violent extremists to solicit contributions from Saudi donors, but the government has demonstrated a willingness to pursue and disrupt such funding streams.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INSCR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Saudi Arabia laid the groundwork for a long-term countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy, partly as a response to international media criticism that alleged Saudi Arabia’s export of extremism abroad. The Saudi government launched a new Center for Ideological Warfare designed to blunt ISIS’s ideological appeal and counter extremist messages by discrediting what Saudi officials characterized as “distortions” of Islamic tenets.
The Saudi Arabian government also increased oversight of proselytization and Islamic charitable activities, especially during Hajj. The Saudi Arabian government appointed new leadership in various Islamic organizations to bolster CVE efforts. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MOIA) announced restrictions on foreign travel of Saudi-based clerics for charitable and proselytization activities, requiring them to obtain the government’s permission before traveling. Additionally, the MOIA promulgated regulations restricting Saudi clerics’ internal activities, for instance, requiring clerics to obtain permission before making media appearances even on Saudi networks. These are all part of centrally-coordinated efforts driven by the Saudi Arabian government’s leadership to limit the ability of individuals with questionable credentials or affiliations to propagate extremist messages at home and abroad.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia enhanced its existing CVE programs on counter-radicalization and rehabilitation. Efforts included organizing seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist interpretation and ideology as well as launching an international conference on media and terrorism. Public awareness campaigns were aimed at reinforcing the values of the state’s interpretation of Islam and educating Saudi citizens about the dangers of violent extremism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting events. The Saudi government expanded these programs to address the rising threat to youth from recruitment efforts by groups like ISIS and to dissuade its citizens from engaging as foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq.
The MOI continued to operate its de-radicalization program, including the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue to counter internet radicalization, as well as its extensive rehabilitation program at the Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center that seeks to address ideological and psychosocial causes of terrorism.
During 2016, the Saudi government continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks. While the Saudi government has reported progress, some textbooks continue to contain teachings that promote intolerance and violence, in particular towards those considered to be polytheists, apostates, or atheists. Under the rubric of the National Transformation Program and Vision 2030, the Ministry of Education worked to consolidate and reduce religious courses to increase the focus on secular education, limiting the ability of teachers to propagate extreme religious interpretations in the K-12 curriculum.
The MOIA continued to train and regulate imams, prohibiting them from incitement of violence, and continued to monitor mosques and religious education, imposing new regulations prohibiting posters and other publicity about potentially extremist causes and organizations in local mosques. Some privately funded satellite television stations in the Kingdom continued to espouse sectarian hatred and intolerance.
International and Regional Cooperation: Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues. The Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from countering violent extremist ideology to media and terrorism.
Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals continued to participate in joint programs around the world, including in Europe, the United States, and a GCC joint military exercise focusing on counterterrorism and border security drills in Bahrain.
After the establishment of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism in December 2015, the government hosted its first meeting of military chiefs on March 27. Representatives from 39 countries focused on ideological, financial, military, and media aspects to counter terrorism.
Overview: The Tunisian government’s counterterrorism efforts intensified in 2016, with successes including weapons seizures, arrests, and operations against armed groups throughout the country.
The al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)-aligned Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade continued small scale attacks against Tunisian security personnel, while an ISIS-affiliate conducted a large-scale attack on the Tunisian-Libyan border town of Ben Guerdan in March, during which 49 terrorists, seven civilians, and 11 members of the security forces were killed. While terrorist attacks took place along the Libyan border and the western Tunisian mountains, there were no reported attacks in urban or tourist centers.
Tunisia reached out to the international community, particularly to the United States as its prime security partner, to seek support in transforming its security apparatus into fully professional and competent counterterrorism forces. U.S. security assistance to Tunisia grew in 2016, but Tunisia needs more time and international support to complete the overhaul of its military and civilian security forces. The government, which boasts a broader political base after the September change in government, is led by largely secularist Nida Tounes and Islamist-oriented Nahda, which have made counterterrorism a top priority.
Tunisia adopted a National Counterterrorism Strategy in November. The strategy, which is intended to take a comprehensive approach to the fight against terrorism, was drafted by the Ministry of Interior (MOI). The military and civilian security forces continued to make counterterrorism their first priority, leading to the dismantling of several terrorist cells and the disruption of a number of attack plots.
Terrorism remained a serious challenge for Tunisia, which included the potential for terrorist attacks and the influx of arms and violent extremists from neighboring countries. The government grappled to adapt to terrorist threats, focusing on groups such as Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) and AQIM, which continued its activities in the western mountainous regions of the country where it attacked security forces and targeted civilians.
Instability in Libya has allowed violent extremist groups, including ISIS, to continue operations, requiring the Tunisian government to increase its focus on its border with Libya and to adapt to terrorist tactics that targeted foreign civilians and urban areas. The disproportionate numbers of Tunisians who have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq remained another cause for concern. The return of foreign terrorist fighters is a challenge the Tunisians worked to address in 2016.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist organizations, including ISIS, AQIM, and AAS-T, were active in Tunisia throughout the year. The incidents below highlight some of the more significant terrorist attacks.
- On March 7, Tunisia’s security forces successfully repulsed a large-scale attack by ISIS‑affiliated terrorists on the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdan. The MOI reported that 49 suspected terrorists were killed and nine detained during the attack and subsequent operations by security services. Thirteen security forces members and seven civilians were killed in the course of events. The attackers were Tunisian nationals who had trained in Libya.
- On May 11, four National Guardsmen were killed while conducting a raid on a terrorist hideout in the Smar region of the Tataouine Governorate, when a terrorist detonated a suicide vest.
- On August 29, a Tunisian military convoy in Kasserine ran over a mine and was then ambushed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack; three security service members died. On August 31, two terrorists were killed during a subsequent raid by security forces and the army on a house where terrorists connected to the initial attack were hiding. In the course of this operation, one civilian was killed and a security officer was injured.
- On November 7, an Army corporal was killed when 20 terrorists stormed his home in Kasserine. Additional forces were immediately deployed to the area and search operations were conducted. On November 9, Tunisian Army forces located and killed Talal Saïdi, the leader of Jund al-Khilafah, the group responsible for the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Parliament passed a counterterrorism law in 2015 that modernized Tunisia’s security legislation, striking a better balance between the protection of human rights and fighting terrorism, and implemented obligations under UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 and the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Human rights organizations objected to the law for its vague definition of terrorism and the broad leeway it gives to judges to admit testimony by anonymous witnesses. Tunisia also worked to strengthen criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law to address the threat posed by radicalization and terrorism. On June 1, 2016, a new criminal procedure code intended to decrease pre-trial detentions and prison overcrowding entered into force. Tunisia also worked with the Department of State to develop a national court management system to facilitate collaboration between judges, court administrators, and other justice sector stake holders, including civil society. The Directorate General of Prisons and Rehabilitation (DGPR) also worked with the Department of State to integrate community corrections principles such as probation, parole, and the establishment of community reintegration centers to better prepare newly released inmates and mitigate recidivism and radicalization.
The MOI and the Ministry of Defense (MOD) share responsibility for detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism in Tunisia. The MOD leads Tunisia’s security efforts in “military exclusion zones” in mountainous areas close to the Algerian border, a buffer zone along portions of the border with Libya, and in the southern tip of the country.
The MOI is the lead counterterrorism agency in the rest of the country, particularly for urban areas. The Anti-Terrorism Brigade (BAT) and the National Guard Special Unit – elite units under the Ministry’s National Police and National Guard, respectively – take the lead for counterterrorism operations. The National Unit for the Investigation of Terrorist Crimes leads investigations and liaises with the judicial system on prosecutions. With assistance from the Department of State and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Security Pole for Countering Terrorism and Organized Crime (also known as the Tunisian Fusion Center) is becoming an all-source analytical center which disseminates actionable intelligence and responds to requests for information from Tunisia’s security services. The MOD also has its own nascent intelligence fusion center which requires further development. The MOD recently established linkages to the MOI’s Tunisian Fusion Center. At the tactical level, MOI and MOD forces worked together in some locations, coordinating their efforts in Joint Task Forces established in the military exclusion zones.
For protecting tourism zones, Tunisia worked with international partners to provide first responder and security training for hotel staff and promote cooperation between security forces and private security. The Ministry of Tourism also worked with Germany in developing a handbook on policies and procedures for security personnel working at soft targets such as tourist sites.
Tunisia has an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and maintains fingerprint records for identification cards, criminal records, and latent prints. Tunisia currently has only one AFIS system. Tunisia also maintains a DNA database and has expressed an interest in becoming a Combined DNA Index System member.
Border security remained a priority, and Tunisian authorities collaborated with their Algerian counterparts to stem the flow of weapons and insurgents across their common borders and across their borders with Libya. The MOD took the lead in constructing a series of barriers and trenches in 2015 along more than 220 kilometers of the border with Libya to stem the flow of arms, terrorists, and contraband between the two countries. Tunisia has asked for and received support from Germany and the United States to install electronic surveillance equipment to augment the new barrier.
The year saw continued arrests and raids by security forces as well as regular seizures of weapons near the Tunisia-Libya border. Significant law enforcement actions and arrests included:
- On January 8, National Guard units detained 11 Tunisian men and women near Ben Guerdan who were attempting to enter Libya to join terrorist groups.
- On October 16, counterterrorism forces from the Tunisian National Guard foiled a plot to assassinate a major political figure. Press reports stated that the terrorists’ target was Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub. Approximately 40 people were taken into custody with 20 still at-large following the arrests.
- In November, Tunisian police arrested four individuals suspected of planning attacks in the capital. According to a spokesman for the MOI, the group was planning attacks against a commercial center and a National Guard post.
Tunisia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. MOI personnel received ATA training in the areas of tactical crisis response, counterterrorism investigations, protection of soft targets, and command and control. Tactical units were granted tactical and enabling equipment. Department of State programs also supported improved quality of and access to, the justice system, training for and implementation of new criminal codes, improved prison functionality, and other training and support for the Ministry of Justice. In close collaboration with the MOI, the Department of State designed a US $12 million new police academy modernization project, which includes curriculum development. The Ministries of Interior and Justice were also provided armored vehicles, ambulances, surveillance cameras, and other equipment to enhance internal and border security. The Tunisian Armed Forces consider counterterrorism and border security their principal mission, and have successfully employed U.S.-funded patrol craft, vehicles, weapons, and training in border security and counterterrorism operations.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tunisia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and also of the Counter-ISIS Finance Working Group. Tunisia underwent a MENAFATF mutual evaluation in 2016. Its financial intelligence unit, the Tunisian Financial Analysis Committee, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
Over the past three years, Tunisia has endeavored to implement and promote anti-money laundering/counterterrorist finance efforts with its institutional partners. As a result, banks regularly report suspicious transactions and have done so increasingly since the 2011 revolution. Other designated nonfinancial businesses and professions, including real estate agents, lawyers, accountants, and notaries, have lagged behind in reporting suspicious transactions primarily due to a lack of awareness of anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws and regulations.
Tunisia’s 2015 law on combating terrorism and money laundering created a unit of judges specialized in terrorism cases and sends investigations to the Criminal Investigation Department of Tunis, rather than to units at the governorate level. The penal code provides for the seizure of assets and property tied to narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. Tunisia has a mechanism to implement the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, including requiring entities subject to AML/CFT provisions to consult lists on the Ministry of Finance website and to freeze listed individual and group assets; however, the financial sector and regulators are not consistently consulting and implementing the UNSC 1267 list. Tunisia freezes and confiscates assets, but the timeframe for taking action varies depending on the case.
Countering Violent Extremism: Tunisia made a concerted effort to improve socioeconomic conditions in the country through economic development and education programs to prevent radicalization. The government also attempted to prevent the radicalization of Tunisians by minimizing their exposure to inflammatory rhetoric in mosques by replacing imams deemed extremist, although local populations in several cases resisted the changes. The National Counterterrorism Strategy reportedly expanded the fight against terrorism to all ministries, including those that focus on culture, education, media, and religious affairs, and assigned each ministry concrete actions to accomplish. The Ministry of Governmental Organizations and Human Rights is the lead ministry for developing a countering violent extremism counter‑messaging capacity. The Ministry of Communications is also involved in messaging.
International and Regional Cooperation: Tunisia participates in multinational and regional efforts to counter terrorism, such as those at the United Nations, the Arab League, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), and the African Union. It is a founding member of the GCTF‑inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) and participated in numerous IIJ trainings and workshops, which were focused on improving criminal justice actors’ capacity to prevent and address terrorism-related crimes. Tunisia also served as one of the pilot countries under the GCTF-endorsed International Counterterrorism and CVE Capacity-Building Clearinghouse Mechanism, which is being developed as a means to help countries and donors optimize civilian counterterrorism and CVE capacity-building programs.
Tunisia is an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, a multi-year U.S. interagency regional program aimed at building the capacity of governments in the Maghreb and Sahel to confront threats posed by violent extremists. Tunisia is also part of the Security Governance Initiative between the United States and six African partners that offers a comprehensive approach to improving security sector governance and capacity to address threats, first announced in 2014. Tunisian authorities continued their coordination on border security with Algerian counterparts, although cooperation with Libya was nearly impossible due to the absence of an effective Libyan central government.
Overview: The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increased its counterterrorism prosecutions in the last year, with the Federal Supreme Court’s State Security Court hearing more than three dozen separate terrorism-related cases. Most cases involved defendants accused of promoting or affiliating with UAE-designated terrorist organizations, including ISIS, al‑Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Nusrah Front, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The court applied the UAE’s strict counterterrorism laws, together with its Cyber Crime and Anti-Discrimination legislation, in the adjudication of these national security cases. International human rights non-governmental organizations and activists have claimed that the UAE uses the counterterrorism and cyber crime laws as cover to pursue cases against political dissidents and activists.
In line with previous years, the UAE government maintained a robust counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) partnership with the United States through its collaboration with U.S. law enforcement; support of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS; and counter‑messaging initiatives, such as the Sawab and Hedayah Centers. It also hosted the Sunnylands Conference where key stakeholders discussed counter-messaging strategies. The UAE government remained co-chair of the Coalition Communications Working Group along with the United States and the United Kingdom (UK), and also co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) CVE working group with the UK.
The UAE deployed forces in Yemen to counter the spread of AQAP and ISIS in Yemen at the same time as it partnered with the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism. Along with its Yemeni partners, the UAE military successfully ejected AQAP from the port city of Mukalla in April – depriving AQAP from millions in monthly income – and from the coastal towns of Balhaf and Bir Ali in December. UAE forces remained in Yemen to support local forces in counterterrorism operations.
The government’s security apparatus continued monitoring suspected terrorists in the UAE, and successfully foiled terrorist attacks within its borders. UAE Customs, police, and other security agencies improved border security and worked together with financial authorities to counter terrorist finance. UAE-based think tanks and research institutions – including the Emirates Policy Center, the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, the Tabah Foundation, the Future Institute for Advanced Research and Studies, B’huth, and Hedayah – held conferences, seminars, and roundtables on countering terrorism and violent extremism.
UAE government officials worked closely with their U.S. law enforcement counterparts to increase the UAE’s counterterrorism capabilities.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2016, the UAE increased prosecutions in terrorism-related cases using its existing Counterterrorism Law (Federal Law No. 7) of 2014, Cybercrime Law of 2012 (Federal Law No. 5), and Anti-Hatred and Discrimination Law of 2015 (Federal Law No. 2). The president of the UAE recently decreed a number of amendments, however, intended to impact these types of cases. For example, the government issued Federal Law No. 11 of 2016, amending Federal Law No. 3 of 1983, which specified that all cases involving the UAE’s national security would be referred directly to the Federal Supreme Court. The amendment provides that the Federal Supreme Court will no longer hear national security cases in the first instance, but that the Federal Court of Appeal (located in Abu Dhabi) will have primary jurisdiction. This change in the law is significant because it now allows both the prosecution and defense to appeal verdicts to the Federal Supreme Court. Prior to the change, the Federal Supreme Court was the court of first and last instance in such cases, as verdicts could not be appealed by either party.
In October, the president of the UAE issued Federal Decree No. 7 of 2016, amending certain provisions of the penal code as provided in Federal Law No. 3 of 1987. Capital punishment or life sentences will be given to individuals who set up, run, or join any organization, group, or gang plotting to overthrow the government and seize power in the UAE. Promoting these organizations verbally, in writing, or by any other means, will carry a jail term ranging between 15 and 25 years. Furthermore, deliberate acts against a foreign country intending to harm diplomatic relations of the country or endanger its citizens, employees, money, or interests, will be punishable with a life sentence.
The State Security Directorate (SSD) in Abu Dhabi and Dubai State Security (DSS) remained primarily responsible for counterterrorism law enforcement efforts. Local, emirate-level police forces, especially Abu Dhabi Police and Dubai Police, were frequently the first responders in such cases and often provided technical assistance to SSD and DSS, respectively. Overall, the UAE security apparatus demonstrated capability in investigations, crisis response, and border security, and forces were trained and equipped to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents.
According to official press, the Federal Supreme Court’s State Security Court heard more than three dozen terrorism-related cases in 2016, making it the most active year to date in terrorism prosecutions. The majority of prosecutions were against alleged affiliates of ISIS, AQAP, al‑Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria), and Hizballah. Both locals and foreigners received sentences ranging from six months to death.
The most prominent terrorism trial of the year involved the Shabab al Manara group and included 41 defendants, 38 of whom were Emirati. The defendants were prosecuted for their association with terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’ida, and for planning terrorist attacks in the UAE. At the conclusion of the trial in March, the State Security Court sentenced 11 defendants (two in absentia) to life imprisonment, two defendants to 15 years imprisonment, 13 defendants to 10 years imprisonment, two defendants to five years imprisonment, six defendants to three years imprisonment, and four defendants to six months imprisonment. The Court acquitted seven defendants and ordered the deportation of four others after the completion of their sentences. Furthermore, the Court ordered the dissolution of the Shabab al Manara Group, the closure of its headquarters, the confiscation of electronic devices used in cybercrimes, weapons, ammunition, materials used in making explosives, and wireless devices, and the closure of any websites affiliated with the group.
In May, Mohammed al Habashi, the husband of Ala’a al Hashemi, who was executed for killing an American teacher on Reem Island in 2014, was sentenced to life in prison for a string of terrorist offenses, including plotting to blow up Yas Marina Circuit and a local IKEA store. Al Habashi was also found guilty of planning an assassination and making bombs.
As in previous years, the Government of the UAE worked closely with the United States, through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to improve its border security posture. Abu Dhabi Police’s Criminal Investigations Division’s robust law enforcement information sharing with DHS Homeland Security Investigations helped counter transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups. In an effort to meet the growing demands associated with the massive increase in international travel, Abu Dhabi Police continued to adapt its law enforcement programs to counter related transnational crimes. The UAE Federal Customs Authority (FCA) also received a mandate from the Government of the UAE to federalize the seven emirate Customs agencies. The FCA requested DHS assistance to standardize all aspects of the new Federal Customs, to include training, uniforms, equipment, non-intrusive inspection equipment, hiring, techniques, policies, etc.
UAE points of entry utilized an internal name-based watchlist system which was populated by local immigration, deportation, corrections, and security agencies to identify individuals who were prohibited from entering the country or were sought by UAE authorities; some NGOs and human rights activists claimed that political dissidents, academics, and journalists who had written critically about UAE policy were included on such lists and barred from entry. INTERPOL and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) watchlists were incorporated into the UAE’s internal watchlist.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The UAE’s financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The UAE also participated in the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group.
The UAE remained a regional and global financial and transportation hub, and terrorist organizations exploited it to send and receive financial support. Operational capability constraints and political considerations sometimes prevented the UAE government from immediately freezing and confiscating terrorist assets absent multilateral assistance. The UAE requires financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions to review and implement the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime on a continuous basis.
Except for those specifically established for financial activities, which were well-regulated, the UAE’s numerous free trade zones varied in their compliance with and supervision of anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) international best practices. Exploitation by illicit actors of money transmitters, including licensed exchange houses, hawalas, and trading firms acting as money transmitters, remained of significant concern.
The UAE continued its efforts to enhance its regulatory measures to strengthen its domestic AML/CFT regime and was increasingly willing and able to implement its laws and regulations. In November, the UAE government cooperated with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to disrupt the activities of a Yemeni exchange house supporting and facilitating financing for AQAP. According to media reports in May, however, the late UN-designated Taliban leader Mullah Mansour frequently traveled to Dubai for fundraising purposes.
Countering Violent Extremism: As part of its mission to counter violent extremism in the UAE and to promote tolerance, the government created the post of Minister of State for Tolerance in February. In June, the government launched the ‘National Program for Tolerance’ as part of its Vision 2021 initiative. The program focuses on five pillars: strengthening the government’s role as an incubator of tolerance; the role of the family in nation-building; promoting tolerance among young people and preventing fanaticism and violent extremism; enriching scientific and cultural tolerance content; and contributing to international efforts to promote tolerance.
The UAE government continued to support Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), which it hosts in Abu Dhabi. A co-lead of the Defeat‑ISIS Coalition Communication Working Group, with the UK and the United States, the UAE established the Sawab Center as a collaborative partnership to counter ISIS’s online messaging. In its second year of operation, the Sawab Center has made significant strides in marshalling an online community to counter ISIS narratives, accruing more than one million followers. The Sawab Center launched several successful campaigns in Arabic and English on its Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms including a campaign highlighting the essential role of the family in countering the spread of extremism, youth making positive contributions to society, ISIS’s ill treatment of women and children, returned foreign terrorist fighters and defectors, and national pride.
Prominent UAE officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology and highlight the dangers of violent extremism. Vice President of the UAE, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, among others, were active on social media platforms in condemning terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Pakistan, Turkey, the United States, and other countries.
International and Regional Cooperation: The UAE was a vocal and active participant in counterterrorism efforts at both the regional and international levels, including the GCTF. In March, the UAE joined other countries in the GCC to label Hizballah a terrorist organization. In October, police forces from the UAE participated in Arab Gulf Security 1, the first joint security exercise of the GCC, alongside forces from the other five members of the Arab regional bloc, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. In September, Minister of Interior Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, signed an agreement on strategic cooperation in countering serious crime and terrorism. The agreement aimed to promote cooperation through the exchange of information and expertise between the UAE and the European Union’s law enforcement agency to counter all types of crime. The UAE was the first country in the region to sign this agreement. The UAE also continued to play a vital role in global counterterrorism efforts through its deployment of forces in Somalia and Yemen, to counter terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab, AQAP, and ISIS in Yemen.
Overview: Throughout 2016, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS in Yemen (ISIS-Y) have continued to exploit the political and security vacuum created by the ongoing conflict between the Yemeni government under President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi-Saleh rebel forces. Yemen’s peaceful political transition was interrupted in the fall of 2014 when the Houthi militant groups allied with forces loyal to ex-President Ali Abdallah Saleh entered the capital, and subsequently seized control of government institutions – sending the Hadi-led government into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition of 10 member states initiated an air-campaign in March 2015. The country remained deeply divided at year’s end, with pockets of violent conflict. The Houthi-Saleh rebel forces continued to control much of the north-west, including the capital. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government has re-established an intermittent presence in the southern port-city of Aden and has made strides to push back terrorist groups in southern provinces with coalition support, although it was unable to fully re‑establish rule of law in the territory it holds.
Because of the instability and violence in Yemen, the internationally recognized government under Hadi cannot effectively enforce counterterrorism measures. A large security vacuum persists, which gives AQAP and ISIS-Y more room in which to operate. AQAP and ISIS-Y have also manipulated the conflict as part of a broader Sunni-Shia sectarian divide. By emphasizing this sectarian divide, AQAP and ISIS-Y have managed to increase their support bases and strengthen footholds in the country.
AQAP, in particular, has benefitted from this conflict by significantly expanding its presence in the southern and eastern governorates. It has successfully inserted itself amongst multiple factions on the ground, making the group more difficult to counter. AQAP has managed to exacerbate the effects of the conflict, fighting against the Houthi-Saleh alliance, while at the same time working to prevent Hadi’s government from consolidating control over southern governorates. In April 2016, Yemeni forces, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, successfully pushed AQAP out of Yemen’s fifth largest city of Mukalla. During the year-long occupation, AQAP amassed unprecedented resources by raiding the central bank and levying taxes. The loss of this safe haven deprived the group of millions of dollars of revenue. At year’s end, efforts were ongoing by the Yemeni government, in coordination with its partners from the UAE, to push AQAP out of several of its other safe havens in the South.
By comparison, ISIS-Y remained limited to small cells. While its exact composition was unknown, ISIS-Y had considerably fewer members and resources than AQAP. Eight self‑proclaimed ISIS-Y groups/provinces have claimed attacks on social media since 2015, although only a few provinces have sustained regular attacks into 2016 and were active at year’s end. While ISIS-Y has demonstrated a violent operational pace, it has yet to occupy significant territory or challenge AQAP’s status as Yemen’s predominant Sunni Islamist terrorist group. ISIS-Y maintains connections to the ISIS core in Syria and Iraq, but a faction within ISIS-Y chose to publicly disagree with the group’s leadership regarding its tactics in early 2016, indicating a large rift within the group.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP and ISIS-Y terrorists carried out hundreds of attacks throughout Yemen in 2016. Methods included suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. The following list details only a small fraction of the incidents that occurred:
- On March 4, four nuns from Missionaries of Charity – the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta – were killed during an attack on their Christian convent and nursing home in Aden. The nuns were among 16 killed by the gunmen who attacked the church‑run retirement home and kidnapped an Indian priest. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On May 23, two suicide bombings killed at least 40 army recruits in Aden and wounded 60 others. The attack took place as recruits stood in line to enlist. ISIS-Y claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On June 28, at least 42 people were killed in a series of suicide car bombings in Mukalla, after the Yemeni government and Saudi-led Coalition had retaken the city. ISIS-Y claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were targeted at security personnel over the month of Ramadan. Several civilians were also killed and injured in the attack.
- On August 29, a suicide car bomb targeted an army training camp in Aden and killed at least 60 people. ISIS-Y claimed responsibility for the attack. The attacker drove his vehicle into a gathering of new recruits at a camp in northern Aden.
- On December 10, at least 50 Yemeni soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a military base located near Aden. The soldiers had been lining up to receive salary payments; more than 70 more were injured. ISIS-Y also claimed responsibility for this attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Yemen does not have comprehensive counterterrorism legislation and no progress was made due to the state of unrest and the government remaining outside of Yemen for most of 2016. During this timeframe, AQAP lost some territory but continued to exercise considerable control relative to before the conflict. ISIS-Y continued to have the ability to carry out violent attacks throughout the South. The Saudi-led coalition supported the Yemeni government’s efforts to build police and law enforcement capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations.
Draft counterterrorism legislation has been pending in the parliament since 2008. This legislation has remained at a standstill due to the lack of a legitimate parliament. [Note: The Houthis convened a Houthi-GPC parliament in 2016, but it is not considered legitimate or internationally recognized.] Prior to the political instability in the capital, the draft was under review by the three parliamentary subcommittees responsible for counterterrorism law issues (Legal and Constitutional Affairs; Security and Defense; and Codification of Sharia Law). This law would facilitate the detention of suspects and include mandatory sentencing for a number of terrorism-related crimes.
Prior to March 2015, the National Security Agency and President’s Office drafted a National Counterterrorism Strategy. This draft was reviewed by a Ministerial Committee, but the committee was unable to finalize its task due to developments in the country. Therefore, Yemen’s National Counterterrorism Strategy had not been officially adopted or implemented by the end of 2016.
Yemen employs the U.S.-provided Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) in an effort to secure borders and identify fraudulent travel documents. In spite of the conflict, Yemen has been able to maintain traveler screening at a limited number of points of entry.
In past years, the Yemeni government’s Coast Guard forces played a critical role in interdicting weapons and other illegal materials destined for Yemen-based terrorist groups, although Yemen’s maritime borders remained extremely porous due to a lack of capacity. In 2016, Yemen’s military, including the coast guard, was degraded as a result of the current conflict. Although AQAP lost control of Mukalla in April 2016, the coast remained highly vulnerable to maritime smuggling of weapons, materials, and goods used to finance AQAP and other terrorist activities. In the past, U.S. partners provided training and technical assistance in a number of counterterrorism-related areas, although the conflict in-country precluded these efforts in 2016.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Yemen is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body; however, Yemen did not participate in MENAFATF meetings in 2016. There was no information from Yemen’s financial information unit (FIU), which operates out of the Houthi‑controlled Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) in Sana’a. The FIU and its functions were not transferred to the Yemeni government-controlled CBY in Aden.
Countering Violent Extremism: Throughout 2016, the Government of Yemen leadership stressed the importance of countering violent extremism as the country moves forward towards a peace deal. The Government of Yemen will need to focus on the details of such a plan once conditions allow.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Government of Yemen continued to cooperate with and be advised by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United States, and other donor countries as it focused on working towards a peaceful solution to the conflict. Despite the challenges, the Government of Yemen remained an international partner as it worked to reestablish rule of law within the territory it holds.