Chapter 2. Country Reports: South and Central Asia
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Overview: Although al-Qa’ida (AQ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been seriously degraded, remnants of AQ’s global leadership, as well as its regional affiliate al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate from remote locations in the region that the group has historically exploited for safe haven. International, Afghan, and Pakistani forces continued to contest AQ’s presence in the region, and Pakistan’s continued military offensive in North Waziristan further degraded the group’s freedom to operate. Pressure on AQ’s traditional safe havens has constrained the leadership’s ability to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside of South Asia.
Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan. Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) retained full responsibility for security in Afghanistan, and prevented the Taliban from capturing a provincial capital in 2016, although it suffered an unprecedented number of casualties in an intense fighting season. The ANDSF and Coalition Forces, in partnership, took aggressive action against terrorist elements across Afghanistan. A peace agreement between Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin and the Afghan government in September was the first signed by an insurgent group since the 2001 fall of the Taliban.
While terrorist-related violence in Pakistan declined for the second straight year in 2016, the country continued to suffer significant terrorist attacks, particularly against vulnerable civilian and government targets. The Pakistani military and security forces undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten U.S. interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups, such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in 2016, which continued to operate, train, organize, and fundraise in Pakistan.
ISIS’s formal branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islamic State’s Khorasan Province, remained active in 2016, although counterterrorism pressure from Afghan and U.S. Forces removed hundreds of fighters from the battlefield and restricted the group’s ability to control territory. Nevertheless, the group was able to conduct a number of high-profile, mass-casualty attacks in Kabul against sectarian and Afghan government targets. The group also claimed a number of mass-casualty attacks in Pakistan’s settled areas, likely conducted in collaboration with anti-Shia terrorist groups like Lashkar i Jhangvi.
India continued to experience attacks, including by Maoist insurgents and Pakistan-based terrorists. Indian authorities continued to blame Pakistan for cross-border attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. In January, India experienced a terrorist attack against an Indian military facility in Pathankot, Punjab, which was blamed by authorities on JeM. Over the course of 2016, the Government of India sought to deepen counterterrorism cooperation and information sharing with the United States. The Indian government continued to closely monitor the domestic threat from transnational terrorist groups like ISIS and AQIS, which made threats against India in their terrorist propaganda. A number of individuals were arrested for ISIS-affiliated recruitment and attack plotting within India.
Bangladesh experienced a significant increase in terrorist activity in 2016. Transnational groups such as ISIS and AQIS claimed several attacks targeting foreigners, religious minorities, police, secular bloggers, and publishers. Most notably, ISIS claimed responsibility for a July 1 attack on a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, which resulted in 22 deaths. The Government of Bangladesh primarily attributed these attacks to domestic terrorists and political opposition.
People from Central Asia have travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight with militant and terrorist groups, including ISIS. Central Asians, like western Europeans, have been drawn to the fighting in Iraq and Syria for myriad reasons and fight on several sides. Central Asian leaders remained concerned about their involvement, but there was little evidence of Central Asian fighters returning home in significant numbers intent on attacking. Foreign terrorist fighters from Central Asian nations were suspected of committing attacks in third countries, however, including the June attack at the Istanbul, Turkey airport.
Overview: Primary responsibility for security in Afghanistan transitioned in January 2015 from U.S. and international forces, operating under the then NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Mission, to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), while U.S. forces maintain the capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan as outlined in the U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement. In 2016, the majority of counterterrorism operations were carried out in partnership with, or solely by, Afghan forces. Additionally, the United States supported Afghan efforts to professionalize and modernize Afghanistan’s security forces through the contribution of almost 7,000 U.S. troops to the NATO Resolute Support Mission, a non-combat mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces to improve their readiness and capabilities.
The fighting between the ANDSF and the Taliban throughout 2016 was characterized by the capture and recapture of facilities and territory by both sides, with the ANDSF maintaining control of major population centers – provincial capitals and the majority of district centers – while the Taliban gained or maintained control of substantial territory in less populated, rural areas (although it was able to regularly exert pressure on population centers), thereby creating an environment of persistent insecurity. Despite repeated sieges, the Taliban were unable to fully capture and hold provincial government capitals in Farah, Helmand, Kunduz, and Uruzgan. The Taliban, and the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN), also increased high-profile terrorist attacks targeting Afghan government officials – including justice officials – and members of the international community.
ISIS’s radical and violent ideology, combined with larger payments to fighters and their families, attracted disaffected elements of insurgent and terrorist groups in Afghanistan, however, a vast majority of Afghans, including Afghanistan-based militants such as the Taliban, rejected ISIS’s ideology and brutal tactics. Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) presence was primarily limited to some areas of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. The ANDSF and U.S. counterterrorism operations killed hundreds of ISIS-K fighters, including ISIS-K leader Hafiz Saeed Khan in July 2016 in Nangarhar Province. On numerous occasions, Taliban and ISIS-K fighters clashed over control of territory and resources. ISIS-K conducted a number of high-profile attacks during the second half of 2016.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: Insurgents across Afghanistan used a variety of tactics to expand their territorial influence, disrupt governance, and create a public perception of instability. According to ANDSF statistics, ANDSF casualties were 30 percent higher in 2016 than in 2015. Insurgents continued to use large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) and complex attacks involving multiple attackers laden with suicide vests working in teams to target ANDSF, Afghan government buildings, foreign governments, and soft civilian targets to include international organizations. Kabul remained a focus of high-profile attacks. Baghlan, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand, Kunar, Nangarhar, and Uruzgan were the most dangerous provinces for ANDSF and civilians. U.S. citizens and foreigners continued to be targeted in kidnapping operations.
High-profile incidents included:
- On January 4, the Taliban claimed responsibility for detonating a VBIED near U.S. facility Camp Sullivan in Kabul, destroying several buildings and damaging the outer wall.
- On January 20, a Taliban suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into a minibus carrying employees of Afghanistan’s largest television network, Tolo TV. The blast killed seven Tolo employees and injured 25.
- On April 19, HQN attackers detonated a VBIED on a National Directorate of Security (NDS) compound adjacent to the International Zone housing foreign embassies, killing 64 people and wounding 347 Afghans. This was the largest terrorist attack in an urban area since 2001 in terms of overall casualties.
- On June 20, an ISIS-K member detonated a suicide vest next to a bus carrying Nepali security guards from the Canadian Embassy, killing 16 people.
- On July 23, an ISIS-K member detonated a suicide vest at a peaceful demonstration by the Hazara ethnic minority group in Kabul, killing 80 people and wounding 231 people.
- On August 1, the Taliban detonated a 3,000 pound VBIED at the Northgate Hotel in Kabul. One Afghan National Police officer died in the subsequent fighting.
- On August 8, two American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) professors, one American and one Australian, were kidnapped in Kabul while traveling in their vehicle.
- On August 24, three insurgents attacked the AUAF in Kabul, killing seven students, seven teachers, three police officers, and two security guards. At least 35 other people were wounded, and all three of the attackers were killed. No group claimed responsibility for this attack, although many alleged it was the Taliban.
- On September 5, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 30, including several senior security officials, and wounded more than 90 people when explosives were detonated near the Ministry of Defense.
- On October 11, three ISIS-K terrorists assaulted the Ziarat-e-Sakhi mosque in Kabul as Shia Muslims commemorated Ashura, killing 17 individuals and injuring 58 others.
- On November 10, insurgents attacked the German Consulate in the provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif. The terrorists are widely believed to have belonged to the Taliban or its HQN affiliate. Terrorists killed one civilian and wounded 35 people when they used a VBIED to penetrate the security wall at the consulate. No German nationals were wounded, although the Consulate was severely damaged and will not reopen.
- On November 12, an Afghan employee at Bagram Airfield detonated a suicide vest inside the base at the behest of the Taliban, killing three U.S. soldiers, two U.S. contractors and wounding 14 people (13 U.S. citizens and one Polish national).
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Afghan Attorney General’s Office investigates and prosecutes violations of the laws that prohibit membership in terrorist or insurgent groups, violent acts committed against the state, hostage taking, murder, and the use of explosives against military forces and state infrastructure, including the Law on Crimes against the Internal and External Security of the State (1976 and 1987), the Law on Combat Against Terrorist Offences (2008), and the Law of Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives (2005).
In early 2014, the Justice Center in Parwan (JCIP) at Bagram Airfield began adjudicating cases of individuals detained by Afghan security forces who were never held in Coalition Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) detention. The JCIP is the only counterterrorism court in Afghanistan that has nationwide jurisdiction. Notable cases tried during 2016 included:
- Fazal Rabi, who was convicted of providing financial and logistical support to the HQN and the Taliban, while based in Pakistan. He was sentenced to 10 years confinement by the primary court on August 8. His case was awaiting an appellate court trial at year’s end.
- Shaiuqullah was arrested in connection with rocket attacks on Bagram Airfield, which resulted in the death of a U.S. Defense Logistics Agency civilian. Shaiuqullah was found guilty of the lesser charge of membership in a terrorist organization by the primary court on May 9. He was sentenced to three years’ confinement. The case was with the appellate court at year’s end, which has ordered the NDS and Afghan prosecutors to provide more direct evidence supporting the murder charge.
- Anas Haqqani, who was detained in 2014, was sentenced to death by the primary court on August 29 for recruiting and fundraising on behalf of the HQN. Anas is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban. The case remained in the Afghan legal system at the end of 2016.
On several occasions, U.S. law enforcement agencies assisted the Ministry of Interior, NDS, and other Afghan authorities to take action to disrupt and dismantle terrorist operations and prosecute terrorist suspects.
Afghanistan continued to process traveler arrivals and departures at major points of entry using the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES). The system has been valuable for Afghanistan’s law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities in investigative and analytical efforts, and has been successfully integrated with INTERPOL’s i‑24/7 system.
Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges in protecting the country’s borders, particularly in the border regions with Pakistan. The Afghan Border Police leadership has stated its numbers and weaponry are insufficient to successfully secure border areas where they face difficult terrain, logistical challenges, and a heavily armed and determined insurgency.
Afghan civilian security forces continued to participate in the Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance program, receiving capacity-building training and mentorship in specialized counterterrorism-related skillsets such as crisis response.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Afghanistan is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Afghanistan remains on FATF’s list of “jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies” (the “gray list”). Specifically, insufficient cooperation and lack of capacity among government agencies continued to hamper terrorist finance investigations in Afghanistan.
In 2016, the FATF called on Afghanistan to “provide additional information regarding the implementation of its legal framework for identifying, tracing, and freezing terrorist assets [and] continue implementing its action plan to address the remaining anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies.” Afghanistan’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA), a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, expressed its intent to reach the FATF action plan milestones.
Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in Afghanistan. In 2016, the attorney general issued an order immediately freezing assets of individuals and entities designated under UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1988. The Afghan government distributes UN sanctions lists under the 1267 and 1988 sanctions regimes to financial institutions via a link on FinTRACA’s website. To ensure full compliance with international standards on asset freezing, FATF recommended increased awareness among various relevant authorities about its obligations under the country’s CFT law.
Afghan officials indicated that because al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and terrorist organizations from the Central Asian republics transfer their assets person-to-person or through informal banking system mechanisms like the hawala system, it is difficult to track, freeze, and confiscate assets. On occasions when more formal illicit transactions have come to the attention of the Afghan government, either via FinTRACA or security agencies, these entities reportedly worked promptly to both freeze and confiscate those assets.
The country’s counterterrorist finance law considers non-profit organizations as legal persons and requires them to file suspicious transaction reports. Similarly, money services businesses (MSBs), like hawaladars (brokers who informally transfer money within the hawala system), are required to register with and provide currency transaction reports to FinTRACA. Although these reports are not always consistently filed, supervision of hawalas and other MSBs is improving. FinTRACA revoked 61 business licenses and imposed $45,000 in fines on MSBs in 2016 for failure to comply with anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing laws.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, please see the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: Since taking office in 2014, President Ghani has actively engaged on countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts, requesting that the Ulema Council, the recognized scholars and authorities on Islam in Afghanistan, condemn insurgent attacks and issue calls for peace in mosques throughout the country. President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah reached out in the beginning of their tenure (2014) to civil society groups to understand the challenges of violent extremism and explore ways to counter these challenges. In an effort to stem discontent, President Ghani also visited a number of prisons and detention facilities to address inmate complaints about poor conditions and inequitable clemency programs. Afghan religious leaders and government officials attended conferences at the Hedayah Center, an International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi.
Since late 2015, the Afghan Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) has been working, with international donor support, to develop a national strategy to counter violent extremism. The ONSC created an inter-ministerial working group to develop and implement the strategy, and supported a series of provincial-level conferences on CVE designed to elicit feedback from provincial leaders on the best way to prevent and counter violent extremism in their communities. This feedback will be integrated into the final government strategy.
The lack of oversight over religious activities at mosques remained an issue as only 50,000 out of 160,000 mosques are registered with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education. Weak regulation of religious institutions has led to a number of unregistered mosques with associated religious schools (madrassas) operating independently of the government.
While executing the fighting season campaign against the Taliban, President Ghani has simultaneously encouraged the Taliban and other insurgent groups to join a peace process. Supported by the United States and other members of the international community, the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP), launched in 2010, was the government’s main tool for the implementation of peace activities, including the demobilization and reintegration of former insurgents, provincial-level peace outreach, engagement with the Ulema on CVE, and national-level reconciliation initiatives with senior Taliban leadership. Since its inception, the APRP claims to have reintegrated more than 11,074 former combatants, including 1,051 key commanders.
In 2016, the Afghan government transitioned away from the APRP towards a new, as yet unfinished project to create a broader Afghan National Peace and Reconciliation (ANPR) strategy. ANPR aims to: (1) promote reconciliation with insurgent groups; (2) build domestic and international consensus on the peace process; and (3) institutionalize a “culture of peace.”
The Afghan government signed a peace agreement with the Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group in September, which was broadly supported by political groups. Successful implementation of the HIG agreement in 2017 and beyond, which was the first signed by an insurgent group after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, could set an example for other insurgent groups to follow.
Regional and International Cooperation: The Afghan government consistently emphasized the need to strengthen joint cooperation to fight terrorism and violent extremism in a variety of bilateral and multilateral fora. Notable among them is the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, in which regional countries have committed to counterterrorism cooperation. Afghanistan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates lead the Counterterrorism Confidence Building Measure within the Process. The Afghan government also works closely with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the United Nations Regional Center for Preventative Diplomacy for Central Asia to facilitate regional cooperation on a range of issues, including counterterrorism. Afghanistan is also an observer state within regional security organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization; Afghanistan joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS as its 66th member.
Overview: Bangladesh experienced a significant increase in terrorist activity in 2016. The Government of Bangladesh has articulated a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism, made numerous arrests of terrorist suspects, and continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the international community. The Government of Bangladesh often attributed extremist violence to the political opposition and local militants. Both al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and ISIS claimed responsibility for a significant number of the attacks that took place in Bangladesh. Terrorist organizations used social media to spread their radical ideologies and solicit followers from Bangladesh. Bangladesh was featured in multiple publications, videos, and websites associated with ISIS and AQIS.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: ISIS claimed responsibility for 18 attacks in Bangladesh in 2016, the most significant being the attack on July 1 on the Holey Artisan Bakery, an upscale restaurant in the diplomatic enclave frequented by the expatriate community. The five Bangladeshi attackers killed 20 hostages and two police officers using guns, explosives, and sharp weapons. The hostages were mostly foreigners, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, one U.S. citizen, one Indian, and two Bangladeshis. According to accounts of the incident, the attackers spared hostages who could demonstrate that they were Muslim by reciting verses from the Koran. The other attacks were generally machete attacks on individuals from minority groups or law enforcement entities.
AQIS claimed responsibility for two attacks in 2016: (1) the April 6 murder of an online Bangladeshi activist and (2) the April 25 murder of a U.S. embassy local employee and his friend. In both cases, the assailants used machetes. Throughout the year, Bangladesh suffered several other small-scale attacks for which there were no public claims of responsibility, including the July 7 bomb blast at an Eid-gathering in Sholakia that killed four people – including two police officers – and injured seven.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bangladesh’s criminal justice system is in the process of fully implementing the Antiterrorism Act of 2009 (ATA) as amended in 2012 and 2013. Although Bangladesh’s ATA does not outlaw recruitment and travel in furtherance of terrorism, the broad language of the ATA provides several mechanisms by which Bangladesh can implement UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014), related to addressing the foreign terrorist fighter threat. Despite lacking laws specific to foreign terrorist fighters, Bangladesh has arrested suspected foreign terrorist fighters or facilitators of such fighters on other charges under existing law. Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry, which is also called for by UNSCR 2178. Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry. The international community devoted particular attention to aviation security and on June 28, Germany joined the United Kingdom and Australia in banning direct cargo shipments from Bangladesh due to security concerns. Bangladesh shared law enforcement information with INTERPOL but does not have a dedicated terrorist watchlist. Bangladesh does not have an interactive advanced passenger information system. The Department of State is working with Bangladesh to assist in developing a screening infrastructure to better secure its borders.
The newly-formed Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTCU) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police began operations in February and gained a national mandate in August. On February 19-20, the CTTCU arrested two suspected members of the local terrorist group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which is affiliated with AQIS, leading to the discovery and destruction of a bomb-making factory. In the aftermath of the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, law enforcement have captured or killed numerous suspected militants in several raids. These include the July 26 raid in the Kalyanpur neighborhood of Dhaka, where police killed nine suspected militants. Police reported recovering ISIS paraphernalia and explosives and other weapons on site. On August 27, police reported killing ISIS’s operational head in Bangladesh, Tamim Chowdhury, in a raid in Narayanganj. The CTTCU and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) conducted significant raids on September 10 in Azimpur and October 8 in Gazipur, directed at suspected members who reportedly have links to ISIS. Observers believe at least some of the raids are staged by law enforcement, particularly the RAB.
Bangladesh continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program and received counterterrorism-focused training for law enforcement officers. Bangladesh also received Department of Justice prosecutorial skills training, and community policing support in targeted areas of the country. U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) continued security and stability engagements with a number of Bangladesh security forces – including the Bangladesh Coast Guard, Bangladesh Navy Special Warfare and Diving Salvage (SWADS) unit, the Bangladesh Army 1st Para Commando Battalion, and the Border Guards Bangladesh. The prime minister demonstrated a willingness to draw upon military assets when she called in the 1st Para Commando Battalion and SWADS to assist with the Holey Bakery hostage crisis.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bangladesh is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The Bangladesh Bank (the central bank) and the BFIU lead the government’s efforts to comply with the international anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards and international sanctions regimes.
A 2016 APG Mutual Evaluation report stated that Bangladesh is technically compliant with international AML/CFT standards, but that the country’s effectiveness in implementing regulations requires significant improvement. The report found that the main terrorist finance threat to Bangladesh is from domestic groups that operate using small-scale funding derived through micro-financing methods. While the country faces significant domestic terrorist finance risks, Bangladesh law enforcement and intelligence agencies demonstrate a strong understanding of these risks. Furthermore, the BFIU is empowered to obtain information from other agencies and demonstrates high quality analysis and product dissemination capabilities. Still, the judicial sector is under-resourced for carrying out prosecutions and obtaining convictions and the banking and non-banking sectors require further implementation of preventative measures such as customer due diligence and suspicious transaction reports.
The terrorist finance provisions of the ATA outlaw the provision, receipt, and collection of money, services, and material support, where “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the same has been used or may be used for any purpose by a terrorist entity.” The ATA prohibits membership in and support of prohibited organizations, i.e., organizations engaged or involved in terrorist activities, including the organizations listed in the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. The Bangladesh Bank also publishes domestically-designated as well as UN-sanctioned individuals and groups on its website. The ATA includes a broad provision providing for mutual legal cooperation on terrorism matters with other nations and a comprehensive forfeiture provision for assets involved in terrorism activities. Implementation of the ATA and other laws remains a significant issue; however, as demonstrated by the absence of a significant number of terrorist financing and money laundering convictions.
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, Bangladesh organizations continued cooperative activities through the Community Support Mechanism (CSM) under the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), a public-private global fund to support local, grassroots efforts to counter violent extremism. The CSM signed grants with three local organizations as principal recipients of GCERF funds. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy, Resistance, and Prevention work with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism. The police are engaging religious leaders in the fight against violent extremism by helping to counter militant propaganda with appropriate scripture-based messages and engaging imams to speak to surrendered militants to explain that the Koran does not support terrorist violence. The police also are continuing community policing efforts. Law enforcement authorities are working with local universities to identify missing students and to curb radicalization of university students. Local research institutions, including private think tanks and both public and private universities, have begun to engage in CVE-related research.
Overview: Counterterrorism cooperation between India and the United States continued to increase in 2016, with both sides committing to deepen bilateral engagement against the full spectrum of terrorism threats. Indian leadership expressed resolve to redouble efforts, in cooperation with the United States and with other like-minded countries, to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism. India and the United States pledged to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including al-Qa’ida (AQ), ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar e‑Tayyiba (LeT), and D-Company, including through greater collaboration on designations at the UN.
Indian and U.S. leaders directed officials to identify new areas of collaboration through the July U.S.-India Counterterrorism Joint Working Group, applauded finalization of a bilateral arrangement to facilitate the sharing of terrorism screening information, and called upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of terrorist attacks against India to justice.
During 2016, U.S. and Indian officials exchanged terrorist threat information in intelligence and law enforcement channels. U.S. Department of Justice officials worked with Indian interlocutors – including at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) – to enhance capacity for addressing use of the internet for terrorist purposes and to assist Indian investigations in terrorism-related cases. U.S. and Indian officials continued to strengthen cooperation on domestic terrorist designations, including implementation of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1373 (2001), and on international designations, pursuant to the UN Security Council (UNSC) ISIL (Da’esh) and al‑Qa’ida sanctions regime. The United States and India worked together to designate JeM leader Maulana Masood Azhar, although the listing was blocked in the UN 1267 Committee. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security continued to work with Indian counterparts to counter IED threats. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and India’s Ministry of Finance continued to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
While India has not joined the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, it has publicly recognized the serious threat ISIS poses to global security and affirmed efforts to degrade and defeat this threat in accordance with UNSCRs 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015). Indian officials have stated that their government takes threats posed by ISIS seriously and Indian law enforcement agencies arrested at least 68 ISIS supporters in 2016. In some instances, clerics and family members supported government-led de-radicalization efforts. In October, the Ministry of Home Affairs appointed a Senior Advisor to Curb Online Radicalization.
2016 Terrorist Incidents:
- On January 2, terrorists attacked Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab, killing eight security personnel and one civilian. Security forces killed five attackers and India’s Ministry of Home Affairs subsequently sanctioned the prosecution in absentia of JeM leader Maulana Masood Azhar and three others for alleged involvement in the attack.
- On June 25, alleged LeT terrorists attacked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pampore, Jammu and Kashmir; killing eight officers and injuring 20. Indian security forces killed two attackers.
- On August 5, suspected Bodo militants (armed Christian separatists who seek to obtain a sovereign Bodoland for the Bodo people in Assam) attacked a marketplace in Kokrajhar, Assam, killing 14 people and injuring 15 people.
- On September 18, terrorists attacked an Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, killing 19 Indian soldiers and injuring more than 30 people. Indian security forces killed four attackers allegedly affiliated with LeT.
- On October 3, terrorists attacked an Indian army camp in the Baramulla District, Jammu and Kashmir, killing one officer. Security forces killed two attackers allegedly affiliated with JeM.
- On November 29, militants attacked an army base in Nagrota, Jammu and Kashmir, killing seven Indian soldiers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: India made no major changes to its counterterrorism laws in 2016 and continued to address terrorism-related activities through existing statutes, including the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (1967), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Convention on Suppression of Terrorism Act (1993), and various state-level laws. The UAPA presumes the accused to be guilty if the prosecution can produce incriminating evidence indicating the possession of arms or explosives or the presence of fingerprints at a crime scene, regardless of whether criminal intent is demonstrated. State governments held persons without bail for extended periods before filing formal charges under the UAPA. Other state-level counterterrorism laws reduce evidentiary standards for certain charges and increase police powers to detain an accused and his or her associates without charges and without bail for extended periods, sometimes lasting several years.
During 2016, India undertook measures to address the terrorist threat, including through efforts to improve the exchange of terrorism screening information and through law enforcement cooperation in individual cases. In July, a Mumbai court sentenced Indian Mujahideen/LeT affiliate and accused 2008 Mumbai attack conspirator Zabiuddin Ansari (aka Abu Jundal) to life imprisonment for his involvement in a 2006 criminal case. In July, India and Bangladesh agreed on steps to improve procedures for extraditing suspects involved in terrorism and organized crime. In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned radical cleric Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation as “an unlawful organization.”
Since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, India has sought to enhance its counterterrorism capabilities. Interagency coordination and information sharing remained a challenge, and local police forces continued to suffer from poor training and equipment. India has launched initiatives to address some of these challenges, including through a Multi-Agency Centre for enhancing intelligence gathering and sharing.
Indian officials participated in U.S.-sponsored law enforcement and security training at the central government and state levels to enhance India’s capabilities in critical incident management, infrastructure security, community-oriented policing, crime scene investigations, explosive ordnance detection and countermeasures, forensics, cyber security, mega city policing, and other areas. Indian police and civilian security officials at both the state and federal levels received 12 capacity-building training courses under the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program in technical areas related to counterterrorism and law enforcement. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security, through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, conducted training programs and exchanges with Indian law enforcement personnel.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: India is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and two FATF-style regional bodies – (1) the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and (2) the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. India’s Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND) is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. The government regulates the money services business (MSB) sector, requiring the collection of data for wire transfers and the filing of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) by non-profit organizations. While the Indian government supervised, regulated, and monitored these entities to prevent misuse and terrorist financing, a large unregulated and unlicensed MSB sector remained vulnerable to exploitation by illicit actors.
In November, Prime Minister Modi announced the de-monetization of 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes and asserted that one purpose of this initiative was to curb terrorist activity funded by counterfeit notes, black money, and stockpiled cash reserves. Although the Government of India aligned its domestic anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws with international standards by enacting amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in 2012, and in 2016 initiated a National Risk Assessment for AML/CFT to assess the country’s terrorist financing risk, it has yet to implement the legislation effectively, especially with regard to criminal convictions. Law enforcement agencies typically open criminal investigations reactively and seldom initiate proactive analysis and long‑term investigations. While the Indian government has taken action against certain hawala financing activities, prosecutions have generally focused on non-financial businesses that conduct hawala transactions as a secondary activity. Additionally, the government has not taken adequate steps to ensure all relevant industries are complying with AML/CFT regulations. The reporting of terrorism-related STRs has shown an increasing trend in recent years, with FIU-IND receiving 112,527 STRs between July 2015 and May 2016.
The degree of training and expertise in financial investigations involving transnational crime or terrorism-affiliated groups varied widely among the federal, state, and local levels and depended on the financial resources and individual policies of various jurisdictions. U.S. investigators have had limited success in coordinating the seizure of illicit proceeds with Indian counterparts. While, in the past, intelligence and investigative information supplied by U.S. law enforcement authorities led to numerous seizures of terrorism-related funds, a lack of follow-through on investigative leads has prevented a more comprehensive approach. India continues to comply with international sanctions pursuant to the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
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: During 2016, India continued to support efforts to counter violent extremism. Following the naming of a special envoy for counterterrorism and extremism in June 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs in October appointed a senior advisor to curb online radicalization. The Indian government advanced some countering violent extremism efforts, provided tacit support for civil society efforts to counter violent extremism, continued initiatives to provide “quality and modern education” in madrassas, and maintained programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate former terrorists and insurgents into mainstream society. These programs targeted disaffected sectors of Indian society that have been sources of violent insurgency.
Indian government officials continued to raise concerns over the use of social media and the internet to recruit, radicalize, and foment inter-religious tensions. In particular, officials expressed concern about ISIS’s ability to recruit online, following incidents in which Indians were attracted to join or support the group.
International and Regional Cooperation: India is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and participated in GCTF and other UN forums on counterterrorism in 2016. India also used multilateral fora and bilateral visits to highlight terrorism concerns and their impacts. During the 2016 BRICS (a grouping of emerging economies that includes Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa) Summit and the 2016 BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand) Leaders’ Retreat, India led efforts to produce declarations condemning terrorism and calling for joint efforts to counter it. During visits with Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom, Indian leaders and their counterparts likewise focused on terrorism issues and counterterrorism efforts. Led by India, the 2016 Heart of Asia ministerial meetings condemned terrorist groups including ISIS, LeT, and JeM for their contribution to terrorist violence in the region.
India continued to cooperate with its neighbors on counterterrorism matters. During 2016, India and Bangladesh continued to strengthen their cooperation under their bilateral Coordinated Border Management Plan to control illegal cross-border activities.
Overview: Kazakhstan experienced two violent attacks in 2016, the first major deadly attacks since 2011. Government leaders classified both events as acts of terrorism and blamed external influence, although law enforcement investigations found no evidence of direct association with foreign terrorist organizations. Kazakhstan expressed interest in expanding counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, particularly in countering violent extremism (CVE). The government has long feared the potential return of foreign terrorist fighters from Iraq and Syria, but the June and July attacks re-focused government attention on home-grown violent extremists. The government amended counterterrorism legislation to better counter the threat, although analysts argued the government’s repressive approach to CVE could backfire. Kazakhstan participated in the C5+1 regional cooperation framework between the United States and the Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), which includes a CVE-related program.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: On June 5, militants in the western city of Aktobe stormed a gun store and attempted to break into the armory at the National Guard barracks. The government said the attackers killed five civilians and three members of the National Guard. On July 18, a lone gunman attacked a police station in Almaty and a nearby office of the Committee on National Security (KNB), Kazakhstan’s main security and intelligence agency, killing eight law enforcement officials and two civilians. The government was quick to identify both attacks as acts of terrorism and blamed the incidents on followers of Salafism. Government forces killed 18 alleged Aktobe attackers and detained nine others. Some of those initially sought by law enforcement as suspects were later cleared, and characterized as cases of mistaken identity. The government initially said the group was inspired by ISIS, although later reports suggested the influence was limited to online videos and propaganda. In November, the Almaty attacker told a court he committed the attack because “they do not live according to the laws of Allah.”
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kazakhstan has a comprehensive legal counterterrorism framework that includes provisions focused on CVE and foreign terrorist fighters. Provisions make it illegal for citizens to fight in foreign wars. The government takes a two-pronged approach to the few returning foreign terrorist fighters, pursuing rehabilitation for some, while arresting and prosecuting others. Alongside its regional partners, Kazakhstan participated in multilaterally-supported regional engagements to further develop standard operating procedures to counter emerging terrorist threats.
President Nazarbayev signed into law amendments to five legal codes and 19 laws on counterterrorism and extremism on December 22, 2016. Some of the amendments provide additional powers to security and law enforcement bodies, including simplifying procedures for conducting special search operations, granting security agencies increased control of visas and residency permits, and limiting the use of encrypted communications. Almost a fifth of the amendments simply add two years to sentencing rules in the criminal code. The amendments broadened restrictions on gun ownership and increased liability for gun store owners. An analysis from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, requested by the Parliament during discussion on the amendments, noted Kazakhstan’s broad and vague legal definitions of extremism, which the new legislation failed to clarify, could lead to the arrest and prosecution for offenses not considered criminal by international standards. Local analysts criticized amendments that required homeowners to register guests who stay more than 10 days and a provision giving the government an internet and mobile phone network “kill switch” in the event of an “emergency,” defined as everything from terrorist attacks to unapproved public rallies. Other amendments require government approval for production and dissemination of all religious literature and informational material and narrowed the personal use exemption for imported religious materials. They also call on Ministry of Religious and Civil Society Affairs to regulate religious tourism and oversee participation in the Hajj.
Law enforcement units demonstrated a strong capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. The government responded to both attacks in 2016 quickly and prioritized protection of civilians in efforts to arrest the attackers. The government’s counterterrorism plan allowed for enhanced interagency cooperation, coordination, and information sharing, but the extent to which this actually occurred remained unknown. There were four special counterterrorism detachments under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and one under the KNB. In advance of EXPO 2017 in Astana, security services have bolstered resources and capacity to protect soft targets.
Kazakhstan’s Border Guard Service (BGS), part of the KNB, uses specialized passport control equipment, allowing officers to check for fraudulent documents. BGS officers received training by the State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security program to identify traffickers and terrorists, as well as K-9 unit training for counterterrorism operations. Kazakhstan remained a partner nation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program. In recent years, Kazakhstan has strengthened security on its southern border by adding radar systems, inspection equipment and vehicles, and specialized mobile inspection groups. The government proactively worked to prevent Kazakhstanis from traveling to fight abroad in Syria and Iraq, although authorities did not release specific numbers of total fighters it arrested in 2016.
Courts delivered numerous sentences for promotion of “extremism” and terrorism, militant activities in Syria, and recruitment and plotting terrorist acts. While the government does not release annual statistics of counterterrorism-related arrests, the deputy chairman of the KNB told Parliament in September the government had thwarted 64 terrorist plots in the past five years and convicted 445 terrorists, including 33 who had returned from conflict zones.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kazakhstan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Kazakhstan’s unregulated financial sector is relatively small. In 2016, Kazakhstan made improvements in compliance with FATF standards for the criminalization of money laundering and terrorist financing and was removed from the EAG’s “enhanced monitoring procedures” list.
The government has passed legislation that criminalizes terrorist financing in accordance with international standards, mandating financial institutions to freeze known terrorist assets without delay. Kazakhstan’s legal and regulatory framework does not explicitly detail freezing procedures for financial institutions.
The government monitors and regulates money/value transfer and other remittance services and requires the collection of data for wire transfers (i.e. requires originator and recipient name, address, and account number). Following passage of amendments to the Law on Payments in August, NGOs must submit financial reports on all foreign funds and assets received, as well as the activities they conducted with those funds. Additionally, authorities routinely distributed the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions list to financial institutions.
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 government often pointed to foreign influence as a primary driver of violent extremism. Following the June and July attacks, President Nazarbayev and other officials asserted the perpetrators were adherents of radical movements who received instructions from abroad. However, some local experts asserted additional factors, such as criminal history, poverty, and lack of opportunity may have led to the attackers’ radicalization.
Government officials and independent analysts publicly indicated that individuals in the prison system are vulnerable to terrorism recruitment, and noted many of the Aktobe attackers and the Almaty shooter had prior criminal backgrounds. In 2013, Kazakhstan adopted a five-year state program on fighting religious “extremism” and terrorism. This program is not the equivalent of a national CVE strategy, and the program relies heavily on the government-affiliated Spiritual Association of Muslims in Kazakhstan (SAMK) to promote “traditional Islam.”
The government’s CVE initiatives focus on preventing radicalization, with efforts to educate and provide alternatives to youth through social programs and economic opportunities. Initiatives to build rule of law and civil society are lacking, although the government funds several CVE‑focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 2016, the newly-created Ministry of Religious and Civil Society Affairs was drafting a concept paper on how the government will engage civil society to counter “extremist ideologies.” The Minister of Religious and Civil Society Affairs told a panel of religious experts that partnerships between civil society and government are the best approach to counter extremist ideologies. Religious experts from the Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) and in regional offices were directed to reach out to at‑risk youth directly. The government and NGOs continued rehabilitation and reintegration work with individuals convicted of extremism-related offenses and their relatives, although the results of the nascent programs were still unclear. The government focused prevention efforts on detainment and prosecution of recruiters, and proselytizers sharing “extremist” ideas. Most convicted recruiters were placed in general-regime penal colonies for three to six years.
There does not appear to be a national counter-violent extremism messaging program, although religious leaders reached out to youth via websites such as E-Islam. Religious experts created groups on social networks such as Facebook and VKontakte, where they posted information and answered user questions about religious “extremism.” CRA officials provided training for local imams, NGOs, and media. In addition, the government began a billboard advertising campaign warning Kazakhstanis not to become “pawns” of ISIS.
Regional and International Cooperation: The prosecutor general’s office and the CRA cooperate with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on countering violent extremism and terrorism through workshops.
Kazakhstan participates in counterterrorism activities within the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which has established a joint task force for preventing the propagation of terrorist and “extremist” ideas online. Kazakhstan is a member of the Community of Independent States’ (CIS) Anti-Terrorism Center, which hosts a data bank of banned terrorist and extremist organizations accessible to law enforcement and financial intelligence bodies of the member states.
According to press sources, President Nazarbayev and Kazakhstani officials discussed counterterrorism cooperation with numerous partners, including China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, and others, although there was little publicly available information about the specific aspects of this cooperation.
Overview: The Kyrgyz Republic’s counterterrorism strategy continued to focus on rooting out existing violent extremists, countering the spread of violent extremism, limiting the flow of Kyrgyz national foreign terrorist fighters, and preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities. While the Kyrgyz Republic is seriously concerned about ISIS and other regional terrorism threats, it has not contributed to Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS efforts, due largely to a lack of resources. The Kyrgyz Republic also has not provided assistance to U.S. counterterrorism operations, although it has continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts via a number of exchanges, trainings, and programs. The Kyrgyz Republic actively participated in the C5+1 regional cooperation framework between the United States and the Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), which includes a program related to CVE.
While terrorist attacks remained rare, the August 30 suicide bombing against the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, the discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the capital, and multiple reports of “extremist”-related arrests, underscore the ongoing terrorist threat facing the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (GKNB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) conducted dozens of raids targeting individuals suspected of affiliation with banned “extremist” groups or recruitment activities. The government restricts public information on national security issues, making it difficult to assess the efficacy of its counterterrorism operations and the wider extent of the threat.
The Kyrgyz Republic remained vulnerable to transnational threats, especially in the remote south, where boundary issues with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and porous borders could facilitate the establishment of terrorist safe havens. People and illicit goods continued to move relatively freely into and out of the country. According to GKNB statistics, approximately 600 Kyrgyz citizens, including 100 women, have left the country to join ISIS or other terrorist groups. Most experts believe the true number is higher. According to government estimates, approximately 70 percent of Kyrgyz citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria are ethnic Uzbeks.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: There was one confirmed terrorist incident in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2016. On August 30 a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device inside the compound of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek. The blast reportedly injured three local embassy employees and caused considerable damage to the facility. According to media reports, the bomber was the only person killed. The GKNB claimed the bombing was carried out by an ethnic Uighur and organized by Syria-based groups affiliated with al-Nusrah Front. Six Kyrgyz citizens, four of whom are ethnic Uzbeks, were arrested in connection with the bombing. The GKNB said that four other ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz citizens involved in planning the attack remained at large in Turkey or Syria at year’s end.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Kyrgyz Republic has two primary laws that govern counterterrorism operations. The “Law on Countering Terroristic Acts,” defines terrorism and provides the MVD and GKNB the authority to identify terrorist threats and prevent attacks. The “Law on Countering Money Laundering,” addresses terrorist financing. Kyrgyz law criminalizes activities that support terrorism, extremism, and radicalization if the activities threaten public security, recruit individuals, or include children and has specific provisions targeted at foreign terrorist fighters. In August, the president signed into law an amendment that allows deprivation of citizenship for Kyrgyz citizens convicted of receiving terrorist training abroad and/or participating in armed conflict abroad. The government also added two new counterterrorism articles to the criminal code. One article criminalized taking under-aged children to conflict zones; the other criminalized public endorsement of “extremist” activity, which now carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. There were no reports in 2016 of the government using counterterrorism laws to prosecute political opponents.
The MVD 10th Department and the GKNB are the lead counterterrorism agencies in the Kyrgyz Republic. The GKNB-led Counterterrorism Center has demonstrated the ability to quickly react to bomb scares or other potential terrorist threats, but overall, Kyrgyz security services face capacity issues, are overly bureaucratic, and struggle with corruption, thus limiting their capacity to counter threats. The government does not maintain a terrorist screening watch list or have biographic or biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. Information sharing with other countries occurs rarely and usually only by request in the context of corruption or organized crime investigations. The government does not collect advance passenger records on commercial flights.
There were reportedly dozens of counterterrorism operations in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2016. Most were small operations that resulted in arrests of suspected extremists due to their possession of “extremist” materials. There were at least 10 significant operations targeting suspected terrorists, however. These operations reportedly resulted in the arrest of 17 terrorist suspects, including four foreigners, and the death of one suspect. At least seven of the detained men reportedly received terrorist training abroad. In five of the operations, law enforcement agencies seized firearms, ammunition, bomb-making materials, grenades, and IEDs. The GKNB claimed that at least three of these operations disrupted planned terrorist attacks. On September 20, the GKNB control-detonated two IEDs near a shop in Bishkek. It was not clear if this incident was linked to terrorist or criminal activity.
Impediments to more effective Kyrgyz law enforcement activity against terrorism included interagency rivalries, a lack of coordination between the GKNB and MVD, and budgetary constraints. Inefficient Soviet-era bureaucratic structures, corruption, low salaries, and frequent personnel turnover also hampered law enforcement efforts. Counterterrorist police units were still largely untested in real-life situations.
Kyrgyz law enforcement continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, receiving capacity-building training in border security and other counterterrorism-related skill sets.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The State Financial Intelligence Service, the country’s financial intelligence unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
The government passed an amendment to the country’s anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism law in August 2016 that criminalizes the financing of terrorism and imposes stricter sanctions against those committing terrorism-related offenses in accordance with international standards. The Kyrgyz Republic also follows most international financial industry requirements related to monitoring and regulating money transfers, and in 2016 the government signed more than eight international cooperation agreements on exchanging information on money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Kyrgyz Commission on Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) was largely inactive in 2016. While the Kyrgyz Republic has adopted regulations to implement UN Security Council resolution 1373 and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, mechanisms for effective implementation of these resolutions have not been fully established. There were no reports in 2016 indicating that the government pursued any terrorist finance cases, or identified or froze any terrorist assets. The Kyrgyz government’s CFT efforts are hampered by multiple factors, including but not limited to, resource constraints, underdeveloped procedures for investigation and enforcement, and lack of interagency cooperation and information sharing.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Kyrgyz Republic continued to make public statements in 2016 recognizing the need to counter violent extremism. In December, the vice prime minister for law enforcement and border security convened an interagency meeting to begin work on a government-wide CVE program. The government also launched several new CVE-relevant programs, including:
- The opening of a new religious-issues information/consultation center and hotline to help prevent radicalization. The center is staffed by specialists in theology, psychology, and law, who can answer questions or otherwise discuss religious issues with Kyrgyz citizens.
- Authorization for the creation of a standard methodology to determine if religious material confiscated during law enforcement operations constitutes “extremist” material. This methodology will be utilized by a team of theologians, linguists, and legal experts working within the Ministry of Justice.
- Passage of a law in April that requires prisons to separate those convicted of terrorism and extremism from the general prison population to deter recruitment in Kyrgyz penitentiaries.
The government expressed concern about the growing level of religiosity in the country combined with a lack of educated religious leaders. Government officials and local experts stated that this combination creates a vacuum that is being filled by online imams and other online resources that propagate violent extremism and/or recruit for violent extremist groups. The government maintained that most Kyrgyz are radicalized outside the country. According to government officials and local experts, significant drivers of violent extremism included:
- Lack of economic opportunities, which force a large portion of the population to seek employment opportunities in Russia, where they are particularly susceptible to recruitment.
- Grievances associated with a sense of injustice among and discrimination against ethnic minorities, particularly ethnic Uzbeks.
The non-governmental organization (NGO) and donor community has published research on drivers of violent extremism in the region, and to a lesser extent within the Kyrgyz Republic. Public statements of government officials on CVE are generally consistent with the existing body of Kyrgyz-specific CVE research.
The Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA), is developing a new curriculum for high school-aged students on “moderate” Islam and identifying terrorist recruitment tactics. The government is also working with SCRA and Muslim leaders to develop a new national religious strategy which includes CVE measures. In 2016, the government worked with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations and foreign governments, including the United States, to facilitate CVE training and other CVE-relevant assistance programs. The government typically does not discourage or interfere with non-governmental programs that work with religious communities at risk of radicalism.
The Kyrgyz Republic lacked an effective rehabilitation and reintegration program for the general prison population, much less for those convicted of terrorism or extremism-related crimes. The government has acknowledged a need for such a program, but the primary effort on penal reform to date appears to be plans for the segregation, rather than rehabilitation, of violent extremists. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is working with the Ministry of Justice to incorporate CVE elements into planned penal reforms.
The GKNB continued its public awareness campaign in the Kyrgyz language press to discredit the efforts of ISIS recruiters. The MVD, together with local religious leaders in the south, conducted meetings with schoolchildren and their parents to explain terrorist recruitment tactics and the legal consequences for foreign terrorist fighters from the Kyrgyz Republic if they choose to return. NGOs, the donor community, and foreign governments carried out multiple programs aimed at counter-messaging, including youth-generated messaging and training for journalists on how to effectively report on violent extremism. The Kyrgyz government was involved in several of these programs.
Regional and International Cooperation: The Kyrgyz government continued to seek training and technical assistance from international organizations and foreign governments to bolster its capacity to prevent domestic terrorist attacks. In 2016, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in counterterrorism activities and trainings organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States Antiterrorism Center, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Antiterrorism Center, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Kyrgyz Republic also participated in five CSTO and two SCO counterterrorism military exercises in 2016, two of which were held in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Due primarily to resource constraints, the Kyrgyz Republic does not typically support international or multilateral efforts to prevent or counter violent extremism. The Kyrgyz Republic routinely signs bilateral agreements with international partners as part of high level visits. The agreements frequently include general statements on cooperation on counterterrorism but there is seldom any resulting implementation outside of the examples listed above.
Overview: Since 2010, concerns about the activities of a small number of extremists who support violence and are involved with transnational terrorist groups have increased. Young Maldivians, especially those within the penal system and otherwise marginalized members of society, are at risk of becoming radicalized and some have already joined terrorist groups. According to reporting in the Maldivian media, radical Maldivians have made connections to terrorist groups throughout the world and a small but steady stream of Maldivians have left the country to train and fight with these groups. In June, Defense Minister Adam Shareef Umar told the press approximately 50 radicalized Maldivians were fighting with terrorist organizations in Syria. The United Nations and other media reports estimated the number of Maldivians becoming foreign terrorist fighters at approximately 200. In February 2016, a family of 12 that had allegedly gone missing in India was confirmed to be in Syria.
The prosecutor general’s office reported three cases of arrests for participating in a war abroad. In February, authorities arrested three Maldivian men at the Turkey-Syria border and returned them to Maldives, where they were charged with attempting to travel to Syria to fight with terrorist groups. No action was taken against a fourth man who failed in his attempt to travel to Syria. In June, Maldivian authorities said three Maldivians traveled to Syria despite having been placed on a government watchlist. Another case submitted in December is against a man who was arrested and charged with participating in a war in Pakistan. These incidents illustrated the continuing pattern of Maldivian nationals having the intent of becoming foreign terrorist fighters transiting through third countries.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2015 Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) defined acts of terrorism and set forth penalties of between seven to 25 years imprisonment for those convicted of these acts or inciting others to do so. The PTA’s other provisions criminalized committing terrorist acts or joining or fighting in a conflict abroad; granted the government permission to suspend certain constitutionally guaranteed rights for persons “detained or arrested on suspicion” of committing acts of terrorism; established legal procedures for handling terrorism-related cases; and granted permission for the issuance of a monitoring and control order by court order upon reasonable suspicion, which was defined as the “Minister’s belief based on logical or reasonable evidence or reasoning that one or many of the acts transpired or may occur.” A monitoring and control order permitted the government to determine a suspect’s place of residence; search him/her and his/her residence; disclose, inspect, and seize a suspect’s assets; monitor his/her telecommunications; and impose a travel ban. The PTA had originally required the president to publicly release a list of designated terrorist groups, but the parliament amended the provision in March to allow the list to remain secret. The government continued to use the PTA to arrest and prosecute political opponents and restrict political and media activity unrelated to terrorism.
Maldives continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which provided trainings on fraudulent document recognition, protecting soft targets, and airport security management. Numerous other western countries provided training in a variety of aspects of police work related to counterterrorism, including a table top exercise on soft targets. The leadership of the Maldivian Police Service (MPS) recognized the need for improvement and made requests for assistance to bring its abilities up to international standards.
Maldives established a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2016 with the mandate to coordinate interagency efforts on counterterrorism and to liaise with international security partners. The NCTC was led by the Maldivian National Defense Force (MNDF) with participation from the MPS, customs and border protection, immigration, and other agencies. Responsibility for counterterrorism efforts was divided among the MPS and MNDF, the latter of which has navy, marines, and coast guard branches. In 2016, information sharing among the agencies was limited.
The Maldivian government has installed the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) at Maldives’ main international airport and at Male seaport, and in December agreed to an upgrade of the system. In an effort to stem the number of Maldivians traveling to Iraq and Syria to join terrorist groups, the MPS began randomly questioning Maldivian citizens traveling by air to Turkey.
Maldivian officials worked with U.S. government personnel to develop and implement programs designed to counter radicalization, improve counterterrorism capability, and enhance the operational effectiveness of the MNDF.
The prosecutor general’s office reported approximately 21 people were charged in 2016 under the Counterterrorism Act.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Maldives is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In 2016, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), the country’s central bank, suspected that funds were being raised domestically to support terrorism abroad since a large percentage of suspicious transaction reports received by the MMA were connected to Maldivian citizens. It reported that funds were transferred through informal money transfer networks (hawala) between the islands, although the extent to which these systems were employed to transfer illicit funds was unclear. The MMA also lacked reliable information regarding amounts involved.
In June, Maldives passed the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act, which criminalized money laundering and terrorist financing. Maldives prosecuted no cases under the Act in 2016, but the Maldivian prosecutor general’s office was confident the law would enable police and prosecutors to better identify links between suspected terrorists and their finance networks based upon the very wide investigatory powers authorized by the Act.
The Maldivian government monitored banks, the insurance sector, money remittance institutions and finance companies, and required the collection of data for wire transfers. Financial institutions other than banks and intermediaries in the securities sector, however, were not subject to anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations. Insurance companies and intermediaries, finance companies, money remittance service providers, foreign exchange businesses, and credit card companies therefore operated outside of the AML/CFT framework. The MMA had earlier established a financial intelligence unit, the Capital Market Development Authority, which lacked the technical capacity to analyze vast amounts of new data on financial transactions. In 2016, a former manager at the Bank of Maldives presented evidence that indicated state institutions were allegedly being used in money laundering.
The Maldivian government implemented the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, and monitored and regulated alternative remittance services. The Maldivian government did not report any efforts to seize terrorist assets in 2016.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Maldivian government continued to recognize that counterradicalization to violence efforts are a critical component to long-term success against violent extremism. Since 2011, the government has sought to counter the influence of violent extremist ideology by actively intervening in religious life. These interventions included mandating persons wanting to serve as imams to undergo a six-month state-approved training and disseminating government-approved sermons, which the imams were required to use for Friday prayers. Media sources reported incidents where the government has not taken action to investigate those spreading violent extremist ideology. In September, a group of masked men distributed materials that urged Maldivians to commit violence after a mass Eid prayer at the Maafanu stadium in Male.
A government-sponsored Islamic university in the capital city of Male opened in the last quarter of 2015 and in 2016 held several workshops for “moderate” Islamic scholars. The university’s goal was to promote the academic study of religion and “moderate Islam” as a counterweight to extremist discourses and messaging. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs held seminars for student groups and a religious dialogue on the topic of jihad. An Indian university signed an agreement with the Maldivian Defense Ministry to conduct counterterrorism and extremism awareness training. In cooperation with an NGO, DoD personnel implemented the second phase of a de‑radicalization program in conjunction with the Government of Maldives for individuals vulnerable to extremist recruitment. The program included vocational training programs designed to increase future employment opportunities.
Regional and International Cooperation: Maldives is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and is a party to the SAARC regional convention on the suppression of terrorism.
In 2016, India signed a defense cooperation plan with Maldives, which includes setting up a bilateral counterterrorism mechanism with intelligence sharing. In October, the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, in association with the United Nations and the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, hosted an international symposium on countering terrorism and violent extremism. Experts from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United States attended the event and shared best practices.
The MNDF was a member of the Global Special Operations Force network, which collaborates on common security challenges and actively supports multilateral and regional security cooperation efforts, such as global programs that focus on counterterrorism and de‑radicalization.
Overview: Throughout 2016, domestic political unrest continued to plague Nepal as members of Madhesi groups from the country’s southern Terai area agitated for amendments to the constitution promulgated in September 2015. While the protests were mainly peaceful, agitators sometimes employed violent tactics. Ten years after the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency, most Maoist factions have joined the legitimate political process, and the Communist Party of Nepal‑Maoist Center leads the Nepali government as of late 2016. But some participants of the former Maoist insurgency remained outside of the political process and occasionally used violence or threats to meet their objectives. Neither the ethnic protestors in the Terai nor the Maoist splinter groups have any known links to international terrorist groups.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: In June, a splinter Maoist group led by Netra Bikram Chand, also known as the Biplav group, used crude incendiary devices to destroy cell phone towers in several districts and to attack offices of two international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot districts. In September, another Maoist splinter group was suspected of planting crude improvised explosive devices at a number of schools in the Kathmandu Valley.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Nepal lacks a law specifically criminalizing terrorism or the provision of material support to terrorist networks. If an act of terrorism were to take place, Nepali courts would likely prosecute the perpetrators on the basis of laws pertaining to its constituent crimes, e.g. murder, arson, etc. Most Nepali officials view Nepal as at low-risk for an international terrorist incident. Accordingly, there is little impetus to introduce new laws.
A serious international terrorist event inside Nepal targeting foreigners would pose new and serious challenges for the Nepal Police and the justice sector and would strain the country’s investigative and judicial capacities. Under the current legal regime, a terrorist attack would likely be charged under its constituent crimes, such as murder or arson, while Nepal’s anti‑money laundering statute would encompass financial support for the offense. Nepal has limited experience with countering and investigating transnational crime, performing formal mutual legal assistance, and handling extradition requests. The country’s ability to process modern forms of evidence (e.g., cyber, DNA, explosives) to international standards is also limited, but it is poised to expand with the Nepal Police Special Bureau’s establishment of a cybercrime investigation unit and the Nepal Police Criminal Investigation Division’s inauguration of a digital forensics lab in December 2015. Nepali law enforcement agencies have demonstrated interest in receiving outside technical assistance and training. Nepal cooperates with other South Asian countries when they request assistance in investigating suspected terrorists, mainly through identification and tracking.
While Nepal has specialized units to investigate and respond to terrorist incidents (Nepal Police Special Bureau), law enforcement units have limited capacity to effectively detect, deter, or identify terrorist suspects. An open border with India and relatively weak airport security present vulnerabilities.
Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport lacks state of the art baggage screening technology and relies on physical pat-downs and metal detectors for passenger screening. Weak controls restricting access of airport employees are present throughout the facility, and initial and recurrent background checks on employees may not be rigorous.
Nepali police officers participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. In 2016, the ATA program funded five training courses to improve counterterrorism capabilities within Nepali law enforcement agencies. More than 100 Nepali officers attended the 2016 ATA courses, which included: terrorism public awareness training consultation; hospital based management of mass casualty incidents; management of terrorist investigations training; fraudulent document recognition-behavioral analysis train-the-trainer; and best counterterrorism practices-community policing training.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Nepal belongs to the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. While the Government of Nepal has made progress in constructing an anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime, additional work is required to develop expertise in financial crimes investigations, case management, interagency and departmental coordination, and border control. In 2014, Nepal enacted implementing regulations to address key deficiencies in its AML/CFT regime, including the seizing, freezing, and confiscation of terrorist assets, to comply with UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1373 and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al‑Qa’ida sanctions regime. Nepal is taking steps to bring its legislation into compliance with international standards, but corruption, a large and open border, limited financial sector regulations, a large informal economy, and a lack of resources and capacity continued to hamper efforts to counter illicit financial flows.
Nepal’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Information Unit (FIU-Nepal) is a member of the Egmont Financial Group of Intelligence Units. In 2014 it adopted AML/CFT software that can store suspicious financial transactions data, but the software was not fully operational by the end of 2016 due to a lack of compatible software among reporting entities to electronically submit data. Instead, reporting entities continued to submit hard copy reports to the FIU-Nepal. Additionally, key parts of the Nepali government responsible for AML/CFT lacked the ability to share data electronically. Cooperation and information sharing among government agencies remained a key obstacle to more effective AML/CFT efforts.
Nepali law criminalizes terrorist financing for any purpose, including through money laundering and financial transactions related to terrorism. The FIU-Nepal and the Department of Money Laundering Investigations (DMLI) lacked expertise, access to data, and other resources, however. During 2016, the DMLI and the Department of Revenue Investigation did not have any open investigations for suspected terrorist financing. There were no instances in 2016 of the government freezing or seizing assets for counterterrorism reasons.
The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the central bank of Nepal, licenses and monitors money services businesses (MSBs) that receive remittances. MSBs in Nepal may receive inbound remittances, but funds must be distributed to recipients through banks, which are required to collect data on the originator. The government has limited ability to determine whether the source of money sent as remittances from abroad is licit or illicit, and has difficulty investigating informal money transfer systems such as hundi and hawala because the normally small nature of their businesses makes them hard to detect.
The NRB’s FIU-Nepal directives do not cover non-profit organizations unless specific information indicates that they are involved in money laundering or terrorist financing. Only commercial banks are required to submit suspicious transaction reports (STRs). NGOs must register with the Social Welfare Council and obtain permission from the Ministry of Finance to receive donations. The government lacks information on how many NGOs comply with this regulation.
Officials have identified trade-based money laundering, specifically the use of under- and over‑invoicing by businesses as a major source of money laundering. Nepal’s open border with India and inadequate security screening at border entry points make it difficult to detect the smuggling of currency, gold, and counterfeit notes, all of which are potential sources of funding terrorism.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to 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 Government of Nepal generally does not view violent extremism, specifically the violent extremist ideology originating from conflict and instability in the Middle East, as a significant threat to Nepal. There were no government strategic communications programs to counter violent extremist ideology, nor were there government or civil society programs in Nepal to counter terrorist recruitment or rehabilitate former violent extremists.
International and Regional Cooperation: Nepal is a signatory of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.
Overview: Pakistan remained an important counterterrorism partner in 2016. Violent extremist groups targeted civilians, officials, and religious minorities. Major terrorist groups focused on conducting terrorist attacks in Pakistan included the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat‑ul‑Ahrar (JuA), and the sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed several major attacks against Pakistani targets, likely conducted in collaboration with other terrorist groups. Groups located in Pakistan, but focused on conducting attacks outside the country, included the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network (HQN), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
The number of terrorism-related civilian deaths in 2016 was approximately 600, far lower than the peak years of 2012 and 2013, when terrorist acts killed more than 3,000 civilians each year (according the South Asia Terrorism Portal). Terrorists used a range of tactics – stationary and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, and rocket-propelled grenades – to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions, and places of worship. The Pakistani government continued to implement the national action plan against terrorism with uneven results. Progress remained slow on regulating madrassas, blocking extremist messaging, empowering the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), cutting off terrorist financing, and strengthening the judicial system. Despite its extensive security infrastructure, the country suffered major attacks, particularly in Balochistan.
The Pakistani military continued operations in Khyber and North Waziristan to eliminate anti‑state militants. Security forces in urban areas, including the paramilitary Sindh Rangers in Karachi, arrested suspected terrorists and interrupted plots. In the aftermath of a high-profile terrorist attack at a Lahore park, the Rangers were also called temporarily into southern Punjab for law enforcement operations against militant groups. Many commentators credited the military operations for the reduced number of terrorism-related civilian deaths in Pakistan.
The Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but failed to take significant action to constrain the ability of the Afghan Taliban and HQN to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens and threaten U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.
The Pakistan government has not joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, although it designated ISIS as a terrorist organization in 2015. Police and security forces detained and killed a substantial number of ISIS-affiliated terrorists.
2016 Terrorist Incidents: There were numerous terrorist attacks throughout Pakistan in 2016. The following list includes the incidents with the largest number of casualties.
- On March 27, a suicide bomber killed at least 74 people at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. JuA claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On August 8, a bomb killed at least 70 people at a hospital in Quetta where lawyers had gathered to mourn the assassination of a prominent lawyer. JuA and ISIS-K separately claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On September 16, a suicide bomber killed at least 36 people at a mosque during Friday prayers in the Mohmand Tribal District. JuA claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On October 24, three militants stormed a police training center in Quetta and killed at least 60 people with gunfire and suicide vests. A LeJ affiliate and ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On November 12, a suicide bomber killed more than 50 people at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Bilal Noorani in Balochistan. A LeJ affiliate and ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Pakistan continued to implement the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) of 1997, the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the 2014 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, and 2014 amendments to the ATA, all of which allow enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers for terrorism cases. Special courts under the ATA hear terrorism cases. The law allows preventive detention against suspects.
Under the 21st amendment to the Pakistani Constitution, passed in January 2015, military courts were empowered to hear terrorism cases through 2016. The government reinstated the death penalty for terrorism offenses after the Peshawar school attack in 2014. In August 2016, the Pakistani Supreme Court rejected an appeal and approved 16 death sentences for terrorism handed down by a military court, the first ruling by the Supreme Court that addressed capital sentences by military courts.
Military, paramilitary, and civilian security forces conducted counterterrorism operations throughout Pakistan. The NACTA received a significant budget in July. The Intelligence Bureau has nationwide jurisdiction and is empowered to coordinate with provincial counterterrorism departments. The Ministry of Interior has more than 10 law enforcement‑related entities under its administration, although some are under the operational control of the military. Each province has a counterterrorism department within its police force.
While the counterterrorism and anti-crime operations of the paramilitary Rangers in Karachi led to reduced levels of violence in the city, the media published allegations that the Rangers also targeted certain political parties for political reasons. The Sindh provincial government agreed to extend the mandate of the paramilitary Rangers for counterterrorism and anti-crime operations for 90 days on October 17.
The Punjab Counterterrorism Department raided a religious minority Ahmadi organization in Rabwah on December 5, ostensibly acting under counterterrorism laws against hate speech.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is responsible for border control at airports, seaports, and some land crossings. The paramilitary Rangers are responsible for border patrol in Punjab and Sindh, while the Frontier Corps do so in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Balochistan, with the help of provincial police and tribal militias. Pakistan collects biometric information at land crossings with its International Border Management Security System. Authorities had limited ability to detect smuggling via air travel. The Federal Board of Revenue’s Customs Service attempted to enforce anti-money laundering laws and foreign exchange regulations at all major airports, in coordination with the Airport Security Force and the FIA. Customs’ end use verification project managed the entry of dual-use chemicals for legitimate purposes, while attempting to prevent their diversion for use in IEDs.
The continuous military operations in Khyber and North Waziristan eliminated significant numbers of militants and removed safe havens for terrorist groups such as TTP. On September 1, the military’s head of public relations announced that more than 300 ISIS members had been arrested and claimed the group’s attempt to establish itself in Pakistan had been foiled. However, ISIS’s regional affiliate, ISIS-K, claimed subsequent attacks and authorities announced further arrests of suspected ISIS militants. On September 26, NACTA announced it had frozen the bank accounts of 8,400 individuals and was working to revoke their travel documents, based on their inclusion on the Schedule IV list of ATA for suspected ties to terrorism.
On December 5, a military court sentenced Naeem Bukhari to death for “heinous offenses related to terrorism.” Bukhari was the alleged planner of the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi, in addition to many other terrorist acts. However, officials told the media the criminal charges leading to the sentence did not include the Daniel Pearl killing. Law enforcement officials continued to pledge assistance in apprehending U.S. citizen fugitives in Pakistan, but the process was cumbersome, requiring the U.S. Department of Justice to hire private attorneys to work with Pakistani prosecutors to move cases forward.
The trial of seven suspects in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack remained stalled, with many witnesses for the prosecution remaining to be called by the court. The lead defendant, alleged LeT operational commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, remained free on bail.
Specialized law enforcement units often lacked the equipment and training needed to implement the enhanced investigative powers provided by counterterrorism legislation. Interagency information sharing was sporadic with no integrated database capability. NACTA did not make significant progress in operationalizing the Joint Intelligence Directorate, intended to coordinate civilian and military counterterrorism information sharing. ATA courts moved slowly in processing terrorism cases due to the overly broad definition of terrorism offenses in the ATA. Some ATA courts attempted to transfer cases that were not terrorism-related back to the regular courts. Prosecutors had a limited role during the investigation of terrorism cases, and jurisdictional divisions among military and civilian security agencies hampered investigations and prosecutions, which sometimes also lacked sufficient evidence. Terrorist groups intimidated witnesses, police, victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges. All of these factors contributed to high acquittal rates in ATA courts.
The Department of State carried out some counterterrorism training in Pakistan, but had to conduct certain programs in third countries due to the government’s non-issuance of visas for trainers. In September, the Ministry of Interior cancelled all training inside Pakistan under the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance program.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Pakistan is a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Pakistan criminalizes terrorist financing through the ATA. However, there has not been a significant number of prosecutions or convictions of terrorist financing cases reported by Pakistan in recent years due to a lack of resources and capacity within investigative and judicial bodies.
In 2015, FATF removed Pakistan from its review process due to progress on countering the financing of terrorism (CFT). In October 2016, FATF noted concern among members that Pakistan’s outstanding gaps in the implementation of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime had not been resolved, and that UN-listed entities – including LeT and its branches – were not being effectively prohibited from raising funds in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s CFT laws, its freezing of several relevant bank accounts from March 2015 to March 2016, and other limited efforts to stem fundraising by LeT, the group and its wings continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds in the country in 2016. Pakistan’s ban on media coverage also did not appear to reduce the ability of LeT to collect donations.
Pakistan’s national action plan includes efforts to prevent and counter terrorist financing, including by enhancing interagency coordination on CFT. Pakistan’s National Terrorists Financing Investigation Cell, operated by the Federal Investigations Agency, Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank, and intelligence agencies, tracks financial transactions between the national and international banking systems. Additionally, NACTA coordinates with all relevant agencies to counter terrorism and terrorist financing.
The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2010 designates the use of unlicensed hundi and hawala systems as predicate offences to terrorism and also requires banks to report suspicious transactions to Pakistan’s financial intelligence unit, the State Bank’s Financial Monitoring Unit. Although unlicensed hawala operators are illegal in Pakistan, these unlicensed money transfer systems persist throughout the country, especially along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, and were open to abuse by terrorist financiers operating in the cross-border area.
Countering Violent Extremism: NACTA held a workshop with non-governmental organization (NGO) participation in July as part of the process of creating a National Counter Extremism Policy and aimed to finalize the policy by early 2017. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the military’s public relations wing shaped media messages to build support for the military’s counterterrorism initiatives. The government operated de‑radicalization camps offering “corrective religious education,” vocational training, counseling, and therapy. A Pakistani NGO administered the widely-praised Sabaoon Rehabilitation Center in Swat Valley, which was founded in partnership with the Pakistani military and focused on juvenile violent extremists.
International and Regional Cooperation: Pakistan participated in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meetings on counterterrorism and in other multilateral groups where counterterrorism cooperation was discussed, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (as an observer), the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Pakistan participated in UN Security Council meetings on sanctions and counterterrorism.
Overview: The 2009 military defeat of the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) marked the beginning of a new era for the country. The Sri Lankan government maintained a strong military presence in post-conflict areas and continued to voice concern about the possible reemergence of pro-LTTE sympathizers, but the democratically-elected government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized its commitment to seek political reconciliation with the Tamil community, including through talks with the Tamil diaspora.
In January, Defense Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi noted reports of approximately 36 Sri Lankans who traveled to Syria, with some joining ISIS, but he asserted ISIS and other terrorist groups were not physically present in Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Defense stated the security forces and intelligence agencies were on full alert against the possibility of ISIS or its affiliates emerging in the country.
The security services’ focus on a possible LTTE resurgence and the government’s new focus on emerging threats, such as reports of Sri Lankan foreign terrorist fighters joining ISIS and other terrorist groups, led the government to maintain a flexible counterterrorism policy. In 2016, the police recovered two separate stocks of explosives and a suicide kit, leading to the arrest of approximately 25 people, including five former LTTE leaders. In November, Minister of Justice Wijedayasa Rajapakshe announced to parliament that approximately 32 well-educated Sri Lankan Muslims of four families had joined ISIS in Syria. His statement sparked controversy within the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
Counterterrorism cooperation and training with the United States in 2016 was limited, but the bilateral security and defense relationship continued to grow. An advanced U.S. P-8 maritime patrol aircraft with long-range maritime patrol capabilities conducted an exercise in December with the Sri Lanka Air Force and Navy on safe-guarding the international shipping lanes. This training also enhanced the government’s capacity to interdict potential foreign terrorist fighters attempting to transit through the country.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Counterterrorism legislation in Sri Lanka was historically focused on eliminating the LTTE, although concerns about foreign terrorist fighters increased in 2016. The Government of Sri Lanka continued to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), enacted in 1982 as a wartime measure, which gives security forces broad powers to search, arrest, and detain individuals. The government pledged to end the broad application of the PTA and is in the process of drafting a new counterterrorism act (CTA) to replace the PTA. As part of the drafting process, the government consulted civil society groups and international partners, who criticized early drafts of the CTA as not fully conforming to international standards. At the end of 2016, the government had not yet released a final draft for public comment or presented it as a bill for cabinet approval.
In June, President Sirisena publicly issued a presidential directive to police and security forces setting out appropriate procedures for arrests and detentions under the PTA. The Department of Prisons detained at least 50 prisoners under the PTA without charges, with at least 15 still in custody for over a year.
Sri Lanka’s law enforcement capacity was robust and continually improving, and its political leadership has launched a broad modernization effort. Interagency cooperation and information sharing is strong, with specific plans to respond to attacks on some soft targets. Law enforcement leadership recognized the need for improvement and actively sought assistance to raise capacity up to western standards, particularly in modernization of police computer systems and new technology. Leadership eagerly seeks out any opportunity to send officers to specialized training courses. The Special Task Force is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police Service specializing in counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations and a major security arm of the state involved in the security of top government and foreign government officials, protecting sensitive terrorist targets, and suppressing activities that pose a threat to national security.
Border security remained a significant issue for the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lankan government expanded its partnership with the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Energy on securing its maritime border. The U.S. Coast Guard, under the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program, continued to train Sri Lankan Coast Guard and Navy personnel on border and export control matters, and the Government of Sri Lanka continued to cooperate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection through the vontainer security initiative, megaports, and related initiatives.
Sri Lanka hosted the Eleventh Regional workshop for Judges, Prosecutors, and Police Officers on Effectively Countering Terrorism in South Asia in October. Sri Lankan law enforcement, border security, and customs officials participated in the event, and judicial personnel attended a special session on counterterrorism legislation.
The Government of Sri Lanka continued to collaborate with the European Union Immigration Department on an advanced passenger information system, which transmits passenger information to Sri Lankan immigration officials upon arrival. The data generated from these collection systems will be significant assets to the Sri Lankan government in its efforts to control and counter illegal migration. The Department of Immigration and Emigration, with technical support of the International Organization for Migration, and funding from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, completed implementation of a 2015 initiative to capture biometric data from all new passport applicants.
In November, Sri Lanka removed the ban on an additional 69 individuals previously on the terrorism watch list that had been established by the Rajapaksa-led government and criticized by civil society for being excessively broad in scope. Eight organizations and 86 individuals remained on the list at the end of 2016.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sri Lanka belongs to the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Sri Lanka’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Although it is neither an important regional financial center nor a preferred center for money laundering, Sri Lanka remains vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing. Key contributing factors included a lack of transparent tender mechanisms in government projects, history of terrorist activity, tax evasion, and a large informal economy. Sri Lanka’s risks also involve cross-border illicit flows because of its geographic location.
Sri Lanka has criminalized terrorist financing in accordance with international standards. The Central Bank amended customer due diligence (CDD) regulations in 2016 to address gaps identified by a recent APG evaluation.
A substantial overseas workforce, primarily in the Middle East, sends remittances back to Sri Lanka, and the CDD regulations passed in 2016 began regulating money transfer services. Although anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism laws cover non-financial entities such as real estate agents, jewelers, and dealers in precious metal, no regulator has issued “know your customer” policies covering these institutions. Sri Lanka has not yet issued regulations to cover non-profit organizations.
In 2016, the FIU signed agreements with Sri Lanka customs, the Department of Inland Revenue, and the Department of Immigration and Emigration to facilitate investigations and prosecutions on money laundering and terrorist financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Sri Lanka continued to operate a one-year long rehabilitation program for former alleged LTTE combatants, participation in which was mandatory for a majority of the prisoners formerly held under the PTA who were released on bail. The former Rajapaksa government estimated it rehabilitated approximately 12,000 former LTTE cadres during its tenure. The number of persons undergoing this program has dropped dramatically in recent years, including in 2016. The De-Mining group DASH (Delvon Association for Social Harmony) employs both former Army soldiers and former Tamil fighters and widows to work side by side in de-mining teams. Limited access by independent bodies to known rehabilitation camps precluded reliable evaluations of the government’s efforts.
International and Regional Cooperation: Sri Lanka continued to cooperate with a number of donor countries, including the United States, to improve its land and maritime border security. Sri Lanka is a partner nation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and is a signatory of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism. Government officials have expressed interest in continuing to increase Sri Lanka’s regional cooperation on counterterrorism.
International donors continued to fund reconciliation programs in Sri Lanka in 2016, including $1.7 million from the United States, to facilitate interaction among and between communities in the north, east, and south, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s ongoing social cohesion and reconciliation work.
Sri Lanka joined Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Thailand in October at the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Summit, which focused on counterterrorism cooperation. Also in October, Sri Lanka and India held the fourth annual iteration of bilateral naval training focused on anti-piracy, weapons firing, and cross-deck helicopter operations exercises. Sri Lankan military personnel also participated in joint training exercises with India focused on counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations to achieve better military-to-military cooperation and inter-operability.
Overview: The Government of Tajikistan remained focused on countering violent extremism, monitoring the possible return of Tajik foreign terrorist fighters, and addressing the potential threat to the country posed by instability in northern Afghanistan. According to open-source reporting, approximately 1,000 Tajik citizens have joined ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. With growing concern that terrorist groups in Afghanistan may be able to cross porous border areas into Tajikistan – particularly with the drawdown of U.S. troops – the government has attempted to increase its military and law enforcement capacity to conduct tactical operations. As part of this effort, the government has sought assistance from the United States, as well as other partners. Tajik government efforts to strengthen its responses to terrorism and radicalization in Tajikistan led to the adoption in 2016 of a comprehensive strategy to counter violent extremism.
In November, four men pled guilty to charges that they intended to blow up police and security buildings and hoist an ISIS flag. The men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 15 years.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Tajik government prosecutes terrorists under the Laws on Combating Terrorism, Anti-Money Laundering, Currency Regulation, Notary, and the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. In 2016, Tajikistan introduced amendments to the penal code criminalizing public support of terrorism and “extremist” activities. Under the amendments, citizens who publicly urge terrorist acts or who publicly justify terrorist activities face jail terms of between five and 10 years. The punishment increases to 10 to 15 years in jail for those who make such public statements of incitement or support through mass media.
A slumping economy and long-standing corruption reduced Tajikistan’s resources to interdict possible terrorists. Tajikistan has established a coordinating headquarters for law-enforcement bodies countering terrorism and “extremism,” but interagency cooperation and information sharing capabilities remained limited.
Tajikistan continued to make progress in improving border security with bilateral and multilateral assistance, although effectively policing the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border remained a difficult task requiring more resources and capabilities than were available to the Tajik government. As a result, there were periodic reports of illegal border crossings, usually by drug smugglers. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime, in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Department of State, provided interdiction-related training to Tajikistan (and Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, The Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan) in support of the Border Liaison Office program. A number of U.S. Central Command programs continue to provide material support, training, and infrastructure development assistance to Tajik security forces focused on border security, counter-narcotics, and counterterrorism. The State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program provided both training and material support related to border control, contraband interdiction, and counter-proliferation capability to Tajikistan.
The Government of Tajikistan made a number of terrorism-related arrests during the course of the year. According to the prosecutor-general, 31 citizens were detained while attempting to leave the country to join ISIS, and criminal proceedings were opened against 166 Tajiks alleged to have fought with the group. The government claimed that most Tajiks who have joined ISIS were radicalized abroad, usually in Russia. Human rights organizations alleged that the government in some instances used terrorism charges as a pretext to target independent voices, including dissidents living abroad.
Tajik law enforcement officers continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, receiving capacity-building training in counterterrorism-focused skill sets.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Tajikistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Tajikistan’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Monitoring Department (FMD), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of entities reporting to the FMD increased significantly. Still, the FMD’s capacity to conduct prompt and thorough analyses of reported transactions is limited due to difficulties in accessing relevant government authorities’ databases, which would allow for a comprehensive analysis.
Terrorist financing is criminalized by Tajikistan’s Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Anti‑Terrorist financing, but there has not been a significant number of prosecutions or convictions of terrorist financing cases reported by Tajikistan in recent years. Tajikistan has made improvements in implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1373 and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime, as financial institutions are legally mandated to freeze funds of individuals and entities on UN sanctions lists, as well as domestic designations lists without delay.
In 2016, Tajikistan provided information to the EAG on steps it took to develop national anti‑money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation and to conduct a national risk assessment, as part of the country’s efforts to improve its AML/CFT framework in line with FATF standards.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2016, the Tajik government adopted a national strategy to counter violent extremism and terrorism. The strategy replaced an earlier version, which did not address foreign terrorist fighters or the use of social media. The strategy was introduced at the end of 2016, after a lengthy interagency drafting process. Under the strategy, the prosecutor-general must provide the president with a yearly report on the implementation of the strategy. Some civil society groups have voiced concern that the strategy will be used as a tool to further limit political expression in Tajikistan, and that the strategy’s heavy focus on law enforcement ignores the drivers of violent extremism.
Tajikistan’s countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts have focused heavily on religious “extremism”; the government tightly controls religious expression. A nascent public-messaging program exists, including government efforts to use reintegrated violent extremists to speak out publicly against terrorist groups. Imams from Tajikistan have also traveled abroad to speak to Tajik migrants in Kazakhstan and Russia about the dangers of radical religious thought. The Government of Tajikistan has expressed its readiness to cooperate with international partners on CVE. During 2016, government officials participated in a number of seminars and workshops on CVE and terrorism conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Nevertheless, the government’s prevention efforts center primarily on law enforcement action and the detention and prosecution of “extremist” recruiters and proselytizers.
Regional and International Cooperation: Tajikistan is a member of the OSCE, where it focuses on border security issues, and it is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Additionally, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan announced their intention in August 2016 to build a joint counterterrorism center in Tajikistan. In October, Tajikistan and China conducted a week-long joint counterterrorism exercise near the border with Afghanistan. Joint Tajik-Russian counterterrorism exercises were held in Tajikistan on three separate occasions in 2016. In October, member states of the SCO held “Cooperation 2016,” a joint counterterrorism drill.
Overview: The Government of Turkmenistan continued its efforts to improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to counter terrorism, ensure border security, and detect terrorist financing, by working with international organizations and participating in training in these areas. The government did not report any terrorist incidents, and authorities continued to maintain pervasive surveillance of the population.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The country’s legal system as it pertains to counterterrorism is based around the 2003 counterterrorism law that defines which crimes are considered terrorist in nature. This law is supplemented by articles 271-273 of the criminal code, which pertain to terrorist acts and terrorist financing and are used to prosecute terrorism-related offenses.
The State Border, Customs, and Migration Services and the Ministries of National Security, Internal Affairs, and Defense perform counterterrorism functions and share information through an interagency commission. The country’s law enforcement units do not regularly conduct proactive investigations and have a poor record of accountability and respect for human rights. Prosecutors, however, play a significant role in the investigation phase of a case, and specialized law enforcement units exist to conduct investigations. These units possess specialized equipment but often use the equipment only for official ceremonies and demonstrations as opposed to daily operations. Turkmenistan participated in training programs sponsored by the U.S. government and international organizations, which included programs on responding to counterterrorism threats at large public events and proper use of baggage x-ray and passenger screening at aviation checkpoints.
The State Border Service continued to operate frontier garrisons on Turkmenistan’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran, and managed eight radiation portal monitors along its borders donated by the Department of Energy through its Second Line of Defense program. The monitors helped to detect, deter, and prevent the dissemination of explosives and radioactive materials. The State Migration Service possesses biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. The government has not recently allowed U.S. radiation experts to visit the border region, despite a signed memorandum of understanding to allow such periodic visits to recalibrate the equipment; instead, the government has said it will allow third-country nationals from the region to do this work.
There is significant political will in Turkmenistan to counter terrorism and ensure border security. Corruption, however, hampered effective law enforcement. Additionally, international cooperation with the government can be hampered by the government’s insistence on an official policy of neutrality and by a bureaucracy that operates according to opaque rules, which frequently deem information traditionally made available to the public to be “state secrets.”
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkmenistan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Financial Monitoring Department (FMD) of the Ministry of Finance, the country’s financial intelligence unit, was created in 2010. In 2016, Turkmenistan expressed interest in gaining admission to the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
While Turkmenistan criminalizes terrorist financing in accordance with international standards, there were no reported prosecutions of terrorist financing cases in 2016. The FMD monitors and regulates alternative remittance services, requires the collection of data for wire transfers, and monitors non-profit organizations to prevent misuse and terrorist financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Turkmenistan's law enforcement and security agencies exercise strict control over the population. The government views some forms of Islam with suspicion. Since the country's independence, mosques and Muslim clergy have been state‑sponsored and financed. Any violent extremist groups existing in Turkmenistan would be small, underground, and disparate. The government imprisoned an unknown number of members of Muslim groups it categorizes as “extremist” for advocating theologically different interpretations of Islamic religious doctrine. The authorities have referred to these persons as “Wahhabis.” According to the non-governmental organization Forum 18, prisoners categorized as “Wahhabis” are confined to special sections of prisons and are not allowed to receive visits or exchange correspondence with the outside world.
Rather than create effective counter-messaging, the government routinely controls the importation, publication, and dissemination of religious literature.
International and Regional Cooperation: Turkmenistan supports some regional and international efforts to fight terrorism. Law enforcement officials participated in Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and UN Office of Drugs and Crime training on border security. Government officials also participated in regional training on radicalism and countering violent extremism provided by the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia. Turkmenistan continued to participate in the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Center.
Overview: With the death of President Islam Karimov in September and the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as president in December, Uzbekistan is experiencing its first significant political transition since independence. Uzbekistan’s security policy has prioritized counterterrorism along with countering narcotics trafficking.
With the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Government of Uzbekistan continued to express concern about the potential for spillover of terrorism from bordering Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors. Uzbek officials expressed confidence that Uzbekistan can control its border with Afghanistan, but doubted its neighbors’ ability to do so. The Government of Uzbekistan is particularly concerned with infiltration of violent extremists through Uzbekistan’s long borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In the past, Uzbekistan did not foster close cooperation with its neighbors on security matters. President Mirziyoyev, however, has prioritized improving relations with Uzbekistan’s neighbors in his statements and may change Uzbekistan’s stance towards regional collaboration. Uzbekistan has actively participated in the C5+1 regional framework of cooperation between the United States and the Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), which includes a program related to countering violent extremism (CVE).
The Government of Uzbekistan restricts information on internal matters, making it difficult to analyze the extent of the terrorist threat and the effectiveness of Uzbek law enforcement efforts to counter it. Uzbekistan does share U.S. interests in combating ISIS, but did not formally join in Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS efforts and does not participate in similar efforts as a longstanding matter of policy.
An ethnic Uzbek allegedly participated in the terrorist attack at the Istanbul airport in Turkey on June 28. In November, two Uzbeks were arrested in Turkey for preparing to be ISIS suicide bombers. Russia’s Federal Security Service also reported that it foiled several terrorist plots planned by groups of Central Asian extremists, which included Uzbek nationals. An Uzbek national who worked as a nanny in Moscow beheaded a child in a possible terrorist act in February. Additionally, Uzbeks have participated in attacks in Afghanistan and Syria. The Government of Uzbekistan did not issue comments regarding reports of these incidents.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The overarching legislation governing terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions is the “Law on Combating Terrorism” passed in 2000. Uzbekistan also criminalizes terrorism under Article 155 of the criminal code. This legislative basis identifies the National Security Service (NSS) as the lead counterterrorism law enforcement agency, with primary responsibility for the coordination and supervision of all interagency efforts.
In 2016, Uzbekistan amended the criminal code to include prison sentences of eight to 10 years for individuals acting as terrorist recruiters or trainers. New measures also instituted sentences of up to eight years for propagating ideas of religious “extremism” and three to five years for displaying symbols of “extremist” or terrorist organizations. The Government of Uzbekistan additionally enacted regulations establishing compensation for damages resulting from counterterrorism operations.
Beyond these measures, Uzbekistan passed a judicial reform package to reinforce the independence of the judiciary and defendants’ rights in October. Notably, this reform shortened the maximum period of suspect detention from 72 to 48 hours, pre-trial detention from one year to seven months, revised judges’ appointment terms, and transferred responsibilities for court financing from the Ministry of Justice to the Supreme Court.
Despite these positive developments, the Government of Uzbekistan routinely uses security concerns related to terrorism as a pretext for detention of suspects, including of religious activists and political dissidents. For example, in 2016, the Government of Uzbekistan prosecuted an ethnic Armenian Christian, Aramais Avakian, on terrorism charges based on dubious evidence in an internationally publicized case. Uzbekistan also periodically blocks social media sites and networking platforms, such as Skype, to purportedly prevent the spread of terrorist messaging. The April amendments to the criminal code prohibiting the spread of “extremist” propaganda via the internet are vaguely worded and can be used to suppress criticism or dissent.
Uzbekistan does not publicly share any information regarding operational counterterrorism activities. Both the NSS and the Ministry of Interior (MIA) have dedicated counterterrorism units, with specialized equipment. For example, the MIA explosives lab has advanced chromatography equipment obtained with U.S. support.
Uzbekistan’s border control infrastructure varies widely, from a highly militarized stretch on the Afghan border to loosely controlled zones along the borders with its Central Asian neighbors. Most border posts and airports are equipped with biometric data scanners. Uzbekistan began issuing biometric passports in 2011 and plans to convert all passports to the new biometric version by July 1, 2018. Uzbek law enforcement maintains its own terrorist watchlist and contributed to INTERPOL databases. The state airline collects and disseminates advance passenger information. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration conducted several inspections of the Tashkent airport in 2016.
The Government of Uzbekistan has not reported taking specific actions to implement UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015). The government has voiced concerns, however, about the return of foreign terrorist fighters and the recruitment of Uzbeks by ISIS and other groups operating in Syria and Iraq, as well as terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union. Enhanced security measures that include frequent document checks and house-to-house resident-list checks seek to identify potential foreign terrorist fighters transiting or active in Uzbekistan. According to press reports, Uzbek law enforcement detained approximately 550 people on suspicion of involvement in “extremist” or terrorist activities during the first half of 2016. In the majority of trials related to terrorism covered by the press, suspects were charged with the spread of extremist materials or association with banned organizations, particularly Hizb ut-Tahrir and ISIS. All publicized trials resulted in convictions.
Both law enforcement and the judicial system in Uzbekistan are subject to political influence and corruption. The government’s approach to stifling terrorism, such as detaining suspects without strong evidence and invasive document checks, are not necessarily effective in detecting terrorism networks and could contribute to anti-government sentiment. Secrecy surrounding counterterrorism efforts and compartmentalized information sharing among stakeholder law enforcement agencies also could diminish Uzbekistan’s capabilities to effectively counter terrorism.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Uzbekistan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The EAG conducted its most recent mutual evaluation of Uzbekistan in 2009. In the 2016 follow-up report, EAG found Uzbekistan to be adequately progressing in implementing its recommendations.
Uzbekistan criminalizes terrorist financing under Article 155 of the criminal code. In April 2016, the Article was amended to introduce prison sentences of eight to 10 years for terrorist financing. In the same month, Uzbekistan also amended its basic anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law to introduce and define the terms “freezing of funds or other assets” and “suspension of a transaction,” mandating that all financial entities check parties to a transaction against lists of persons involved or suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. Additional amendments to the terrorism law designated Uzbekistan’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Department for Combating Tax and Currency Crimes and Money Laundering of the Office of Prosecutor General, the body responsible for money laundering and terrorist financing investigations, as a counterterrorism agency.
Despite these amendments, Uzbekistan’s AML/CFT regime does not clearly define the FIU‑maintained procedures that govern the freezing of assets or suspension of transactions. The Government of Uzbekistan has not released the procedures or relevant statistics related to amount of assets frozen in 2016. This led international experts to conclude that financial institutions may face difficulties in fulfilling their obligations due to lack of procedural clarity, raising questions as to the effectiveness of implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1373 and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
Legislation governing the creation of lists of those involved or suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, which are maintained by the FIU based on information provided by a number of ministries, has not been updated since 2009. It does not establish a specific mechanism for review and incorporation of information received from foreign countries, beyond inclusion of information passed by other foreign affairs ministries. Nor does it establish a procedure for delisting requests. The FIU announced in October that it would release a single consolidated list on its website in 2017.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Uzbekistan does not differentiate in its legislation or public statements between violent extremism and “extremism,” which it defines as any non-state sanctioned religious expression. Public officials avoided discussions of extremism or Uzbekistan’s counter-“extremism” strategy with foreign interlocutors. In 2016, the Government of Uzbekistan did not release or acknowledge conducting research on the drivers of violent extremism. U.S.-commissioned research has shown that Uzbeks are most likely to radicalize while working as migrants abroad. Within Uzbekistan, law enforcement effectively curtails unsanctioned religious or political organizing and access to unauthorized religious materials. However, Uzbek migrants working in relatively open Russia or in other countries can become targets of violent extremists’ online or in-person recruitment.
To counter violent extremism, the government works through local government organizations – such as neighborhood, women’s, and religious committees – to conduct outreach and educate citizens about the dangers of extremist ideologies. Representatives from these organizations monitor for suspicious behavior and conduct interviews with at-risk individuals.
There were few known reintegration efforts underway in Uzbekistan as there was no significant population of returning foreign terrorist fighters in 2016. The government has raised concerns over the potential radicalization of Uzbek migrants, however, without undertaking any concrete steps to facilitate reintegration.
Official media produced counter-messaging through public service announcements and media reports about the dangers of “Islamist extremism” and joining terrorist organizations, and have posted them on social media platforms like YouTube. Public religious figures, such as the Grand Mufti of Uzbekistan, frequently made public speeches condemning “extremist” ideology. In his first public speech as president, Mirziyoyev highlighted the dangers of “extremism” and urged parents, teachers, and neighborhood leaders to offer guidance to young people.
International and Regional Cooperation: Uzbekistan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Tashkent hosted ministerial meetings of both organizations in 2016 and declaratively welcomed closer cooperation between member states in fighting terrorism and “extremism.” The SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure is located in Tashkent, but its activities appeared to be limited. The Government of Uzbekistan has worked with multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on security issues.
Uzbekistan prefers bilateral over multilateral security cooperation. According to the media, Uzbek law enforcement has cooperated with Russian counterparts in sharing information about terrorist suspects. Russian and Uzbek religious organizations have also held joint seminars devoted to countering “extremism.” It is unclear how closely Uzbekistan cooperates on counterterrorism with other countries. While Uzbek officials often welcome collaboration, the Government of Uzbekistan does not release detailed information about such efforts.