Chapter 1. Country Reports: Europe
Europe faced a number of ongoing terrorist threats and concerns in 2017, including from foreign terrorist organizations operating out of Iraq and Syria, foreign terrorist fighters returning to Europe to conduct attacks, and homegrown terrorists who were inspired or remotely directed by ISIS. Despite increased military pressure in 2017, ISIS inspired and took credit for terrorist attacks against European symbolic targets and public spaces. Within Europe, ISIS inspired self-directed terrorists primarily in France, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, at times adopting the tactic of ramming large motor vehicles into crowds of civilians.
Many European countries remain concerned about returning foreign terrorist fighters. Concurrently, terrorist groups espousing left wing and nationalist ideologies, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Turkey-based Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, respectively, continued strikes against police and military targets in Turkey and fundraising activity throughout the rest of Europe.
European countries contributed immensely to worldwide counterterrorism efforts in 2017. Thirty-nine European countries, the European Union, and INTERPOL collaborated within the force-multiplying framework of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. As a result, the Coalition, which had already liberated Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit, successfully completed military campaigns to liberate Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria. European officials and civil society members participated in counterterrorism and countering violent extremism policies and programs within multilateral and regional fora, such as the United Nations, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies agreed to a Counterterrorism Action Plan in May, enhancing the Alliance’s counterterrorism role by: joining the Defeat-ISIS Coalition, increasing information sharing, forming a new terrorism intelligence cell at NATO Headquarters, and appointing a coordinator to oversee NATO’s counterterrorism efforts.
A number of European governments also participated in the U.S.-Europol Law Enforcement Coordination Group (LECG), which was established in 2014 to improve international cooperation in countering Hizballah’s terrorist and illicit activities. The LECG met twice in 2017, in Washington in May and in Europe in December. Almost 30 governments participated in the December meeting, including representatives from Europe, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa, along with Europol and INTERPOL. This is a growing recognition of the need to cooperate on efforts to counter Hizballah’s global terrorist networks.
NATO and the EU launched the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in April 2017. The Center serves as a major facilitator among individual nations and key organizations to bolster resilience and ability to counter hybrid threats by working with academia, the private sector, and governments.
The OSCE’s annual counterterrorism conference in May focused on rehabilitation, reintegration, and the prevention of radicalization to violence. Moreover, the OSCE has developed and implemented a methodology for counterterrorism tabletop training seminars as a contribution to regional security. In November, the Committee of Experts on Terrorism of the Council of Europe held a plenary meeting in Strasbourg to agree on guidelines to prevent lone actor terrorist attacks and enhance cooperation on countering use of the internet for terrorist purposes by establishing a platform for governments, internet companies, and non-governmental organizations to exchange information, while respecting human rights and the rule of law.
Overview: Albania was a strong supporter of counterterrorism efforts in 2017 and continued its participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, making significant donations of weapons and ammunition.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts, financing of terrorism, conducting transactions with persons on United Nations (UN) sanctions lists, recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts, incitement of terrorist acts, and establishing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations. Albania is establishing and sustaining a port security oversight system to more fully comply with requirements under the International Maritime Organization’s International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
Albanian law enforcement increased its efforts to counter potential terrorist threats. The recently expanded Albanian State Police Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) and the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program to match Albanian government requirements for equipment and training with U.S. expertise and resources. As a result, the ATU developed its own plans and programs for improving equipment, training, and development, and renovated the central ATU facility. Through participation in the ATA Program, the ATU received training on interviewing terrorist suspects. Other Department of State funding provided counter-surveillance training, vehicles, intelligence analysis training, surveillance equipment, and computer workstations for investigators. Despite a scarcity of resources, the ATU also participated in several successful interdictions of known or suspected terrorists.
DOJ’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program, funded by the Department of State, continued to provide mentorship, assistance, and training to prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts, and judges from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia. These officials work on foreign terrorist fighter and terrorism-related cases through the Balkan Regional Counterterrorism program located in Tirana.
Corruption and barriers to information sharing among government agencies, insufficient intra-agency coordination, and a poorly functioning judicial system continued to hinder Albania’s law enforcement efforts at all levels. Recent constitutional and legal reforms to the judiciary are underway, beginning with the vetting of Albania's 800 judges and prosecutors for corruption, proficiency, and ties to organized crime. As of December 2017, the vetting commission and international monitoring operation began work on the first 57 personnel files. Other reforms will begin after this first group is vetted.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The General Directorate for the Prevention on Money Laundering, Albania’s financial intelligence unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.
Albania continued to work with the FATF and MONEYVAL to address identified weaknesses in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism regime. As a result, Albania made major improvements to its legal framework for identifying, tracing, and freezing terrorist assets; enhanced international cooperation; extended customer due diligence; and required the filing of suspicious transaction reports and currency transaction reports.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Government of Albania implemented a “Schools for Safer Communities” program aimed at educating teachers throughout Albania about the risks of radicalization to violence among youth. It included processes for teachers to recommend interventions for students on the path to radicalization to violence. The Albanian cities of Cerrik, Elbasan, Librazhd, and Tirana are members of the Strong Cities Network.
Regional and International Cooperation: Albania is a member of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Regional Cooperation Council for Southeast Europe, the Council of Europe, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Albanian criminal justice actors participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other counterterrorism information sharing exchanges. In December, Albania co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: Austria continued to prioritize counterterrorism measures throughout 2017. U.S.-Austrian law enforcement cooperation remained strong. Austria’s Office for State Protection and Counterterrorism (BVT) – the key counterterrorism agency within the Ministry of the Interior – reported ongoing radicalization to violence efforts by terrorist groups.
The BVT estimated the number of Austrian foreign terrorist fighters fighting in Syria and Iraq, or wanting to travel to the conflict zone for terrorist purposes, at 300 between 2014 and 2017. During this period, authorities prevented 50 persons from leaving the country to go to conflict zones, including 22 women. Forty-four men who had traveled from Austria to Syria and Iraq are presumed dead. The BVT monitored an estimated 80 persons who had returned to Austria, and officials believed approximately 110 could still plan to return. Overall, the BVT noted that terrorist mobilization substantially declined after 2015. As of August 2017, there were 64 foreign terrorist fighters in Austrian prisons; 20 percent of them were aged 16 to 21.
Austria made the fight against terrorism a key priority for its 2017 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Austria is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and a member of the Defeat-ISIS foreign terrorist fighters and stabilization working groups. Throughout the year, the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Foreign Affairs increased efforts to counter radicalization to violence and to address the problem of foreign terrorist fighters. Law enforcement agencies focused on intelligence gathering and investigations, as well as sharing information with international partners.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Austria has an extensive legal structure to counter terrorism. Relevant statutes criminalize training in terrorist camps abroad and allow wiretapping of individual suspects or small groups with the permission of an independent judge or ombudsman. Specific regulations prohibit the use and distribution of symbols attributable to ISIS or al-Qa’ida. Regulations allow border authorities to prevent minors from leaving Austria upon suspicion they will participate in fighting activities abroad. Authorities are allowed to withdraw citizenship from an Austrian dual national citizen who voluntarily and actively participates in fighting in a terrorism-related armed conflict.
Austrian law enforcement and BVT officials routinely cooperated with U.S. law enforcement in a range of investigative areas, including joint, multilateral investigative projects and enforcement operations. Border security forces made effective use of security measures, including biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry and information sharing internally and with other European Union (EU) countries. Border security officials at ports of entry have discretion when determining which documents and passengers will be subject to screening on arrival.
Austria has taken a whole-of-government approach to implementing UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) related to counterterrorism as well as Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) good practices on foreign terrorist fighters.
In a series of high-profile trials in 2017, Austrian courts sentenced convicted terrorists to what were considered by local standards to be unusually long prison terms.
Austria has rigorous processes in place to register and screen individuals applying for asylum, lawful residence, and citizenship. Applicants’ fingerprints are checked against the EU’s asylum fingerprint database (Eurodac), and in select cases, against criminal databases as well. Individuals are again screened against national and international law enforcement databases before citizenship is approved.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Austria is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Austria’s financial intelligence unit, located in the Federal Criminal Police Office, is a member of the Egmont Group. Austria has a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework for anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). FATF approved of regulatory changes implemented in 2017, leading to a significant upgrade in Austria’s AML/CFT technical compliance rating.
Austria criminalizes the financing of terrorism in line with international standards and freezes terrorist assets in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions implemented through EU legislation. Austria has a national listing mechanism for terrorist financing, which is faster than the EU mechanism. Money or Value Transfer Services, dealers in precious stones and metals, real estate agents, and exchange houses are monitored and regulated in Austria. The number of terrorist financing cases successfully prosecuted in Austria has increased due to improved monitoring and prosecution capabilities.
Austria implements the collection of Know Your Customer data for wire transfers through implementation of the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive. This requires identification of clients who want to establish a business relationship with a financial institution, who perform a transaction of 15,000 euros (US $18,300) or more, or where there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing.
While Austria has taken measures to require closer monitoring of non-profit organizations (NPOs), they are still not required by law to file suspicious transaction reports (STRs). As a consequence, STRs from NPOs are rare.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Austria continued its CVE efforts largely in response to the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon. In addition, the Austrian government undertook or continued several other initiatives. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Islamic Faith Community, continued its information campaign in mosques, Islamic organizations, community centers, and prisons. The initiative included education outreach to encourage Austrians to differentiate between Islam and what Austria describes as violent extremism. In an effort to counter radicalization to violence and improve integration in the newly arrived refugee population, the Integration Office within the Foreign Ministry developed an educational program focused on German language acquisition and education on Austrian values, such as equality and democratic principles. The Austrian government maintained a counseling center and a de-radicalization hotline aimed at friends and family members of potential terrorists.
International and Regional Cooperation: Austria is a member of various international and regional security platforms, including the UN, EU, OSCE, the Salzburg Forum, and the Central European Initiative. Austria regularly leads law enforcement training programs with Salzburg Forum countries and the Balkan states. In its role as OSCE chairman in 2017, Austria organized an OSCE Counterterrorism Conference in May with a focus on rehabilitation, reintegration, and prevention of radicalization to violence. Austria also focused on engaging and empowering youth in preventing radicalization to violence. In December, Austria co-sponsored UNSCR 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: In 2017, Azerbaijan was a strong counterterrorism partner to the United States. Azerbaijan’s government actively worked to detect and defeat terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials across its land and maritime borders and within the South Caucasus. Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services conducted operations to disrupt and prevent terror attacks, arrested and prosecuted suspected terrorists, and prosecuted returning Azerbaijanis who had joined terrorist groups fighting outside Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani counterterrorism cooperation significantly reduced the risk of terrorist attacks against tourist locations frequented by U.S. citizens and U.S. economic interests in Azerbaijan.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Azerbaijan expanded the legal definition of terrorists and terrorism. According to the amended law, “A terrorist is one who, directly or indirectly, takes part in a terrorist activity as an organizer, instigator, assistant, or actor, or one who masterminds a terrorist act or attempts to carry it out or assists an organized criminal group with carrying out terrorist acts.” The law previously described a terrorist as “one who takes part in the carrying out of a terrorist activity in any way.” The amended law provides that “a terrorist organization is an organization created for the purpose of carrying out terrorist acts or considering the option of terrorism probable in carrying out its activities. If a structural unit of an organization engages in terrorist activities with the permission of management, the organization is considered to be a terrorist organization.”
Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services have demonstrated the capacity to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism in Azerbaijan’s territory. Responsibility for counterterrorism is vested in several government agencies. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is Azerbaijan’s primary law enforcement agency, and its Organized Crime Unit is tasked with leading the Ministry’s counterterrorism efforts. The MIA cooperates closely with the State Security Service (SSS), Azerbaijan’s domestic intelligence and counterterrorism service. The SSS is responsible for identifying and preventing criminal activities by terrorist groups, and countering international terrorism and transnational crimes. The State Border Service (SBS) and State Customs Committee (SCC) jointly manage border security, and interdict terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials – including weapons of mass destruction – across Azerbaijan’s land and maritime borders. The SBS is responsible for defending oil platforms against terrorism. The Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for prosecuting suspects accused of terrorism, conspiracy to commit and aid terrorism, and other terrorism-related crimes. The government continued to cite “countering violent extremism” as a justification for incarcerating members of the secular and religious political opposition whom it alleges are “religious extremists.” We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Report on International Religious Freedom for 2017 for further information.
Azerbaijan used terrorist and criminal watchlists and biographic/biometric screening at some ports of entry. Azerbaijan’s law enforcement and security services shared information among themselves, and with regional and international partners.
In 2017, Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services reported preventing several potential terrorist attacks, including:
- On January 27, Azerbaijani SSS officers killed suspected “religious extremist” Jeyhun Ojagov. The SSS reported Ojagov had resisted arrest.
- On February 1, the SSS conducted a raid and killed four members of a group the SSS said was linked to terrorist organizations operating in foreign countries planning terrorist acts in Azerbaijan.
- On August 28, the SSS reported its officers killed terrorist suspect Yashar Javadov while trying to arrest him. The SSS reported Javadov bought weapons and explosives with funds received from a foreign terrorist organization.
- On October 27, the SSS detained Azerbaijani citizens Hasrat Aliyev, Emil Nasrullayev, Elshad Dadashov, and Zaur Eynalov on suspicion of fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Azerbaijan is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The government’s Financial Monitoring Service is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2017, Azerbaijan continued implementing its “National Action Plan for 2017-2019 on combatting criminally acquired money, legalization of other properties, and financing of terrorism.”
On June 29, Azerbaijan’s Parliament ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Azerbaijan does not have a formal national CVE strategy, but state bodies such as the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations and the Caucasus Muslim Board work to prevent radicalization to violence in Azerbaijan’s religious communities. The State Committee conducts informational campaigns around the country on the dangers of terrorist recruitment. In 2017, the Azerbaijani government cooperated with a U.S. government assessment of the level of risk posed by terrorist organizations and the potential for terrorist ideologies to gain ground in Azerbaijan.
International and Regional Cooperation: Azerbaijan maintained membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other international bodies. Azerbaijan hosted the 4th Annual World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, aimed at building societies based on equal opportunities as well as an inclusive framework of tolerance and respect for diversity. Azerbaijan also continued supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organization counterterrorism initiatives as one of the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace countries.
Azerbaijan continued efforts to improve Afghan security and stability by co-chairing the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process; as its co-Chair, Azerbaijan hosted senior officials’ meetings and a Ministerial Conference. Azerbaijan also hosted a working group meeting that highlighted the role of narcotics traffickers in financing terrorism.
Overview: Policy reforms, improved information sharing, and additional resources for counterterrorism efforts enhanced Belgian authorities’ ability to investigate and prevent terrorist attacks. Belgium’s complex, highly decentralized government structure continues to be a challenge for internal information sharing and cooperation. The greatest terrorism threat in Belgium comes from ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorists. The large number of Belgian foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq led to concern about attacks by returned fighters, although fewer have returned than anticipated. Belgium is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Belgium also assumed leadership of the European Union (EU) Training Mission in Mali in 2017, which aims to support and rebuild Malian armed forces to better counter local al-Qa’ida-linked terrorists
2017 Terrorist Incidents:
- On June 20, soldiers shot and killed an attempted suicide bomber at Brussels Central train station after the attacker’s bomb failed to detonate. There were no additional casualties.
- On August 25, a man with a knife attacked and injured two soldiers near Brussels’ Grand Place. The attacker was shot and killed at the scene.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Belgium plays a significant role in international efforts to disrupt, prevent, detect, and punish acts of terrorism. The United States and Belgium maintained a close, cooperative counterterrorism partnership through two ongoing Joint Investigative Teams. Belgium’s legal system does not permit plea agreements, which contributes to an overburdened court system. The primary actors in Belgian law enforcement are the Belgian Federal Police and its multiple counterterrorism units, the Civilian and Military Intelligence Services, Office of the Federal Prosecutor, and the Crisis Center. The interagency Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis plays an analytic threat assessment role, particularly with regard to foreign terrorist fighters, and advises the government on setting the national threat level. The Belgian National Security Council also plays a significant role in the intelligence and security structure. Belgian law enforcement and intelligence services disrupted a number of terrorist plots in 2017.
In 2017, Belgium approved a constitutional amendment to extend the amount of time a terrorist suspect can be detained before being charged from 24 hours to 48 hours. Belgium also passed legislation to expand the definition of “terrorist activities,” and facilitate terrorism-related deportations of legal residents. Belgium partially implemented the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive into Belgian law, and has been a proponent for extending PNR to international, rail, bus, and maritime travel.
In May, the federal government announced 28 security measures it plans to enact; 14 directly relate to counterterrorism. These measures were in addition to the 30 counterterrorism measures proposed by the Government of Belgium in 2015, which the government was still working to implement. Some of the new proposals included allowing the use of civilian informants, issuing stronger sentences for certain crimes, developing biometric identification, and including homegrown terrorists in the dynamic database of foreign terrorist fighters.
On October 24, a Parliamentary Investigative Commission concluded an 18-month investigation into the March 22, 2016 Brussels terrorist attacks. The investigation produced three reports in 2017 on topics including assistance to victims of the attacks, Belgium’s security architecture, and radicalism in Belgium. The reports contained many recommendations, including increasing funding for intelligence services, improving information sharing between agencies, and requiring imams to be trained in Belgium and to speak either Dutch or French.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force and Belgium’s financial intelligence unit, the Cellule de Traitement des Informations Financieres, is a member of the Egmont Group. On September 18, Belgium passed a law to implement EU Directive 2015/849. This Directive aims to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, and allows for sanctions to be imposed on institutions that assist in either. This law replaces the January 1993 anti-money laundering law. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Parliamentary Investigative Commission’s final report on radicalism suggested Islamist fundamentalism was among the key drivers of terrorism in Belgium’s Muslim community. The report recommended greater federal oversight of mosques, new requirements for imam training, and increased intelligence sharing between law enforcement, immigration, and social services.
Belgium’s federal, regional, and local governments remained engaged in CVE efforts. In June, the regional government of Flanders approved a new action plan aimed at early detection and prevention of radicalization to violence. The plan called for additional training for front-line practitioners, establishing a network of Islamic experts to support practitioners, a telephone hotline for concerned individuals, and additional funding for community projects aimed at promoting social cohesion. The government of the French Linguistic Community created two new agencies to train front-line practitioners and provide individualized assistance for victims of terrorism. Local municipal governments began to exchange best practices on developing and managing local integrated security cells. In December, the federal government’s Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis expanded access to its database of hate preachers and terrorist suspects to judicial, regional, and local partners.
Prisoners charged or convicted with terrorism-related offenses are transferred to prisons with specialized sections for radicalized inmates. Although prison de-radicalization remained a priority in 2017, the Parliamentary Investigative Commission found little improvement from 2016. Radicalization to violence is a growing challenge in Belgian prisons. The Ministry of Justice is developing e-learning programs for prison staff to help address this issue in the interim.
The Belgian cities of Antwerp and Vilvoorde are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Parliamentary Investigative Commission’s Report on Belgium’s security architecture called for increased cooperation with international partners, particularly Turkey and other EU member states. Belgium participates in EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and Council of Europe counterterrorism efforts. Belgium is a member of the advisory board of the UN Counterterrorism Center.
Belgium has also been an active proponent of Europol databases and EU-wide information sharing. As an EU member state, Belgium has contributed trainers and capacity-building expertise to EU counterterrorism assistance programs in Sahel countries, and the Belgian Federal Police provided training to counterparts in the Maghreb. From July 2016 to January 2018, Belgium led the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM) to build Malian armed forces’ capacity to reduce terrorist threats. In addition to continued troops support to EUTM, Belgium provides troops and overall force command to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stability Mission in Mali.
Belgium participated in all EU efforts to interdict foreign terrorist fighter travel across land and maritime borders, encouraged efforts to strengthen Schengen zone external borders, assumed a leading role in the European Strategic Communication Network (formerly the Syria Strategic Communications Advisory Team), and promoted the implementation of EU and domestic PNR systems. UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Belgium’s Michèle Coninsx as Executive Director of the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directoratein August, with Coninsx assuming the post in November. In December, Belgium co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remained a cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to increase its counterterrorism capacity in 2017. Legislative loopholes and lenient sentencing, however, remained major challenges. Some operational domestic coordination exists, but interpersonal and interagency infighting and stovepiping undermined effective cooperation. Extremist ideology and regional nationalist extremist groups remained potential sources of terrorism in BiH, and little progress was made on rehabilitation and de-radicalization. BiH is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: BiH did not pass any major counterterrorism legislation at the national level in 2017. The sub-state entity Republika Srpska adopted a new criminal code that aligns terrorism offenses with international standards and criminalizes membership in foreign paramilitary and para-police forces. At the state level, BiH also has laws prohibiting membership in para-military and para-police organizations, but sentencing remained a major challenge. Foreign terrorist fighters frequently received sentences below the minimum prescribed by the BiH criminal code, a result of judges taking mitigating circumstances into account. If sentenced to one year or less of incarceration, a convicted terrorist may opt to pay a fine rather than serve time in custody.
Although the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposed a draft list of amendments to strengthen foreign terrorist fighter/counterterrorism legislation in 2017, there was little political will, including in the MoJ, to secure buy-in. The amendments have been stalled since June. A proposal to remove the option for convicted foreign terrorist fighters and terrorists to pay a fine in lieu of jail time, or to secure early release (both of these amendments were included in the MoJ draft), was under consideration in parliament at the end of 2017.
A member of parliament proposed increasing foreign terrorist fighter minimum sentencing from five to eight years, although this would not address the mitigating circumstances issue. A Ministry of Security working group was in the preliminary stage of developing comprehensive amendments to the criminal code on these issues, but there was little political will to proceed given an upcoming election in October 2018.
The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) is the lead law enforcement unit performing counterterrorism functions. With approximately 25 officers working on counterterrorism cases, its effectiveness is limited. In 2017, the BiH Ministry of Security proposed legislation to increase the number of counterterrorism-focused SIPA officers to approximately 50 by upgrading the relevant unit to a department.
Law enforcement cooperation continued to suffer from interpersonal and institutional infighting. A BiH Prosecutor’s Office-led task force met only two times in 2017, and public disagreements between the Acting Chief Prosecutor, Minister of Security, and SIPA leadership undermined strategic progress on counterterrorism initiatives. At the operational level, law enforcement and prosecutors meet and work jointly on certain cases. However, shortages of counterterrorism investigators and interagency cooperation often led to investigative disruptions and the release of suspects after a brief detention.
There were no significant changes since 2016 on border security.
BiH continued its efforts to disrupt terrorist activity in 2017 through arrests:
- On November 29, police arrested Emir Hodzic – who previously served a one-year sentence for a foreign terrorist fighter conviction – for possession of illegal weapons, including a rocket launcher.
- In June, police arrested Enes Mesic when he attempted to illegally cross the border to Serbia, where police suspected he planned to conduct a terrorist attack. Mesic had been sentenced to three years in prison two months earlier in April for terrorist activities, but was not immediately incarcerated, highlighting another problem with the BiH justice system. In addition to Mesic, six other convicted terrorists were rearrested or returned into custody after the State Court did not imprison them immediately after sentencing.
BiH continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism. For example, the BiH government worked with the United States on the extradition of Mirsad Kandic, an ISIS facilitator living in Sarajevo.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: BiH is a member of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. BiH’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Intelligence Department, is a member of the Egmont Group. BiH completed its FATF Action Plan in September, which included making progress on customer due diligence and suspicious transaction reporting, as well as increasing regulation on financial and non-financial institutions. During the FATF plenary in October, FATF was granted an on-site visit to ensure implementation of these reforms. This is the next step in removing BiH from the FATF “grey list.” For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In 2017, the main religious communities in BiH (Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, and Orthodox) worked together through the Interreligious Council to promote tolerance and confront acts of bigotry or violence directed at any of these communities. The BiH Ministry of Security named its first state-level coordinator for international and domestic efforts to prevent violent extremism, largely in response to an increasing number of international programs and resources targeting violent extremism in BiH. Working in close partnership with the International Organization for Migration and other well-known international organizations, BiH supported efforts to strengthen resiliencies within identified at-risk communities, developed the capacity of religious leaders and civil society actors to counter expressions of intolerance, and piloted comprehensive community-led intervention procedures at the local and municipal level. The BiH cities of Bihac, Bijeljina, Doboj, Jablanica, Prijedor, Srebrenik, and Tuzla – and the municipality of Centar (Sarajevo) – are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: BiH’s criminal code and related legal framework are generally consistent with United Nations (UN) and European Union counterterrorism standards. The State Prosecutor’s Office also works frequently with counterparts in Serbia and Montenegro. BiH is a member of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Regional Cooperation Council for Southeast Europe, and the Council of Europe.
Overview: The United States and Bulgaria strengthened counterterrorism cooperation through the Bilateral Counterterrorism working group established in 2015. In addition, Bulgaria is in the process of completing an update to its 2015-2020 National Strategy for Countering Radicalization and Terrorism. Bulgaria is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and has repeatedly responded to requests for assistance.
Bulgaria worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to improve its biometric screening of individuals entering and transiting the country.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Bulgaria prosecutes terrorism under several general provisions of the penal code, which has been amended multiple times since it was first enacted in 1968. In 2015, the National Assembly adopted amendments to the penal code that provide for the prosecution of individuals, including foreign terrorist fighters, who support and plan the commission of terrorist acts in Bulgaria and abroad. In 2016, the Bulgarian National Assembly approved new counterterrorism legislation, which provides a legal mechanism for a whole-of-government response to terrorist threats. The bill defines three levels of terrorist threats and four levels of response readiness. The bill also regulates the role of the military in counterterrorism activities and delineates the cooperation between the central and local governments. Amendments to the legislation provided the military with powers to search individuals, private property, check identification, enter homes in the owners' absence, and arrest or use physical force and arms if needed to prevent or manage the consequences of a terrorist act. In 2017, Bulgaria implemented new legislation directing that public buildings, including schools, transportation hubs, tourism sites and facilities, and houses of worship develop counterterrorism risk assessments and prevention and response measures in the event of a terrorist attack. The Council of Ministers provides overall guidance on counterterrorism activities, and has adopted a counterterrorism strategy and a national plan.
The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has operational units responsible for deterring, detecting, and responding to terrorist incidents, including the specialized unit for combating terrorism, security police, and special police forces, which successfully completed a multi-year training mission with a U.S. special operations liaison element. The State Agency for National Security (DANS) has intelligence-gathering units responsible for counterterrorism. DANS also houses the National Counterterrorism Center, which was designed as an interagency body during crisis incidents. Specialized law enforcement units are generally well equipped and supported with relevant training, but their focus has been primarily on Sofia, while other regional centers lack resources. In 2015, the specialized court for organized crime and its prosecutors’ office received jurisdiction to prosecute and try all terrorist cases in the country. The court is working to develop expertise in handling such cases. The court is hearing the case against two suspected accomplices in the 2012 Burgas airport bombing, although procedural issues have caused multiple delays in the trial with the most recent delay occurring in November 2017.
After the migrant crisis in 2014-2015 and the spate of terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years, Bulgaria tightened its border control rules and began screening all travelers at its border crossings. Within the European Union (EU), Bulgaria shares advanced passenger information appearing on the biographical data page of passports and has begun collecting and using Passenger Name Record data in air traveler screening. Based on bilateral police cooperation agreements, Bulgaria also shares this data with non-EU countries for law enforcement purposes on an as-needed basis.
In October 2017, the Government of Bulgaria apprehended a dual Bulgarian-Syrian national and three accomplices for suspected ties to ISIS and for taking part in terrorist and terrorism-related activities.
U.S. government agencies continued to work closely with Bulgarian counterparts through a variety of counterterrorism programs aimed at enhancing Bulgaria’s capacity and capabilities. The Department of State partnered with Bulgaria to implement key programs in the areas of border security, aviation security, and interagency cooperation. Through participation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, Bulgaria received training on interviewing terrorist suspects, critical incident management, and integrating counterterrorism strategies at the national level. In 2017, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation provided a post-blast investigations course to Bulgaria’s Special Counterterrorism Force and a big data analytics course to DANS.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bulgaria belongs to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Bulgaria’s Financial Intelligence Directorate (FID) has primary responsibility for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures for all reporting entities and is a member of the Egmont Group. The Bulgarian National Bank also has a special supervision directorate to investigate banks for compliance with AML/CFT requirements.
In 2016, the parliament passed amendments to the Measures against Financing of Terrorism Act, introducing direct application of United Nations (UN) lists, as well as mechanisms to increase the efficiency of Bulgaria’s national list of persons subject to the anti-terrorist financing measures. Bulgaria criminalizes terrorism financing in accordance with international standards. Since there is no publicly available information on terrorist-related assets frozen or seized, it is hard to assess the effectiveness of Bulgaria’s process. Thirty-one reporting entities, including banks, real estate brokers, and financial and exchange houses, are required to file regularly with FID currency transaction reports for all transactions valued at more than US $17,000. There are penalties for non-compliance (administrative sanctions), and enforcement is generally effective. Bulgaria requires the collection of know‑your‑customer data for wire transfers. All non-governmental organizations are obliged to report suspicious transactions.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): At the end of 2015, a new government strategy and action plan on countering radicalization to violence and terrorism was approved by the Council of Ministers. At the end of 2017, the Bulgarian government was conducting an update of this strategy with a greater emphasis on providing prevention tools and resources to frontline practitioners such as teachers and police officers. The strategy spells out mechanisms for improved cooperation with civil society, business organizations, local communities, and religious leaders. It also aims to strengthen existing government counterterrorism efforts by involving all possible agencies and by optimizing interagency coordination.
The Grand Mufti of Bulgaria has been a voice of tolerance and moderation and has stressed that government efforts must complement CVE community efforts.
International and Regional Cooperation: Bulgaria is a member of and active contributor to counterterrorism initiatives at the UN, the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation. In December, Bulgaria co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: The Republic of Cyprus collaborated closely with the United States, the European Union (EU), and other countries – bilaterally and multilaterally – in international counterterrorism efforts in 2017.
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided de facto into the Republic of Cyprus government controlled area, composed of the southern two-thirds of the island, and the northern third not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, which is administered by the Turkish Cypriots. The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in Cyprus patrols the UN buffer zone, also called “the Green Line,” which separates the two sides. The buffer zone is largely open to civilian traffic and remains a significant route for the illicit transit of people, narcotics, and other contraband.
The division of the island has impeded counterterrorism cooperation between the two communities and between the Republics of Cyprus and Turkey, which do not maintain diplomatic relations.
Cyprus is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and regularly participates in the Coalition’s Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Counter-ISIS Finance working groups.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In April 2017, Cyprus signed the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention for the Prevention of Terrorism. Draft laws regulating the use of surveillance of private communications by law enforcement and undercover activities by police officers were submitted to the House of Representatives.
The Cyprus National Police Service increased patrols of identified soft targets and critical infrastructure. The police have proactively engaged owners and managers of soft targets and representatives of the tourist industry to raise awareness about potential terrorist threats, as well as provide specialized training to private security guards.
Cyprus was preparing for implementation of the EU Directive on Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. A draft law was being finalized at year’s end and the government had begun discussions on the technical implementation of the PNR directive. Cyprus also started the process to implement EU directive 2017/541 on combatting terrorism, which will require amendments to national counterterrorism laws.
Cypriot officials participate in regular European Commission meetings on aviation security to ensure implementation of security measures required of all EU member states. Cyprus has also deployed new passenger screening technology that exceeds the current EU requirement.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In July, the country enacted an amendment to its national counterterrorism laws to address recommendations by the 2015 FATF Fact Finding Initiative.
Countering Violent Extremism: In addition to continuing activities cited in prior iterations of this report, Cyprus provided all secondary school directors with training on identifying radicalized behavior. The Ministry of Justice and Public Order also trained the staff of the Cyprus Youth Board.
International and Regional Cooperation: There were no significant changes since the 2016 report.
Overview: The Kingdom of Denmark (which includes the autonomous constituent countries of Greenland and the Faroe Islands) devoted significant assets to counterterrorism programs and initiatives to counter violent extremism, domestically and abroad. Denmark cooperates closely with the United States, the United Nations (UN), and the European Union (EU) on counterterrorism initiatives, including within the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
According to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET), at least 145 Danish citizens and residents voluntarily left Denmark to fight in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2012. PET remained concerned that Danish fighters returning to Denmark with terrorist training would seek to radicalize others. PET was also concerned about the potential for small groups or individuals to commit terrorist acts. Danish security agencies worked together to prevent terrorist attacks and counter ISIS’s attempts to recruit foreign terrorist fighters in its territory. According to the PET-administered Center for Terror Analysis (CTA), up to 10 percent of foreign terrorist fighters from Denmark are female.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Denmark continued to use its 2006 terrorism legislation that allows information sharing between its agencies responsible for counterterrorism and foreign terrorist fighters – the PET and the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS). This year the government began to implement its National Action Plan to Prevent and Counter Extremism and Radicalization, approved in October 2016. Efforts to counter terrorism are also shared among the Danish National Police, the Public Prosecution Service, and the Danish Prison and Probation Service. Danish security and law enforcement agencies share information via the CTA, which – as the Danish government’s intelligence fusion center – constitutes the focal point for reporting from the Danish National Police, PET, DDIS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Danish Emergency Management Agency. The Danish police and the Danish defense forces share responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks in Copenhagen and on the borders.
Denmark implemented electronic passport checks at its points of entry for individuals arriving from outside of Schengen countries. Checkpoints for identity documents at Denmark’s border with Germany were established in response to Sweden’s decision to impose document checks at its border with Denmark in January 2016. Random checks for identity documents at many border crossings remained in place.
To free up police resources for anti-gang efforts, the military supplemented the police at the borders and as security for the Jewish synagogue in Copenhagen. In May, the government banned six religious figures, who had been deemed a threat to public order due to their alleged role in promoting “hate speech,” from entering the country for two years, including one U.S. citizen.
Counterterrorism-related actions by law enforcement included:
- In March, Hamza Cakan (aka Enes Ciftci) was stripped of his Danish citizenship and sentenced to six years in prison for joining a terrorist group in Syria. He will be returned to Turkey after serving his prison term.
- In September, PET and the Danish police arrested and charged a man and a woman for purchasing and sending materials to support ISIS.
- In November, a court sentenced a 17-year-old woman to eight years’ imprisonment for plotting to bomb two schools, one of which was a private Jewish school in Copenhagen. The woman was originally arrested in January 2016.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Denmark is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Its financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Money Laundering Secretariat, is a member of the Egmont Group and cooperates closely with other Nordic FIUs. Denmark has a robust legal framework to combat the financing of terrorism. PET is the lead organization for investigation in this area.
The Danish government continued anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing initiatives in East Africa and Yemen as a part of its foreign assistance. Denmark continued its efforts to counter illicit financial flows with national banks and other financial institutions in Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. In June, parliament passed a law to strengthen efforts to prevent the Danish financial system from being involved in money laundering and terrorist financing. The law dictates that companies and financial institutions must increase their focus on the risk associated with currency trading and conduct a risk analysis annually.
According to an evaluation conducted by the FATF in August, Denmark has a legal system in place to apply targeted financial sanctions, but “implementation has technical and practical deficiencies in large part due to delays at the EU level...and the absence of any specific measures to freeze the assets of EU internals.”
In January, the Minister of Employment announced it was stopping payment of unemployment benefits to identified ISIS foreign terrorist fighters. In December, the media reported that Danish aid money may have been used to support the Nour al-Din al-Zinki extremist group through a program the government coordinated with the Free Syrian Police. The foreign minister suspended support for the program while the case is being investigated.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Danish Parliament continued funding its CVE Action Plan. The plan calls for a multi-level approach that includes information sharing between schools, social services agencies, municipalities, and the police. The coordination between these entities takes place in “info-houses” throughout the 12 police districts that act as storehouses of knowledge regarding radicalized behavior among youth. A national hotline was established where residents can seek advice and guidance if they know of someone on the path to terrorism.
In May, the City of Aarhus and the East Jutland Police Department partnered with the Strong Cities Network (SCN) to host a three-day training event for 500 stakeholders from 50 countries. Through SCN, Denmark helped launch a prevention network in six municipalities in Jordan and Lebanon. The Danish cities of Aarhus, Copenhagen, Viborg, Guldborgsund, and Gentofte are all SCN members.
In June, the government presented its new foreign and security policy strategy for 2017‑2019. The strategy includes policies to block websites with terrorist propaganda and design programs to discourage continued radicalization of persons involved in gangs or showing signs of extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Danish government is committed to working within the UN framework, through the EU, and with other international and regional organizations. Denmark is a member of and actively participates in the GCTF, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, INTERPOL, the Bern Club, and the European Counterterrorism Center. In December 2015, voters rejected a proposition to end the country’s opt-out from the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs area, which would have permitted Denmark to continue to cooperate with Europol after May 2017. However, through a cooperation agreement, Denmark maintains its access to Europol’s databases and will have observer status at board meetings. In December, Denmark co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters. Denmark also implemented programs to support national strategies to combat terrorist finance and to counter violent extremism in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Overview: France remained an important counterterrorism partner of the United States in 2017. It is a longstanding and important member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. France continued to conduct counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, other parts of the Sahel region, and the Lake Chad region.
The terrorist threat in France remained high and terrorists allegedly inspired by or affiliated with ISIS perpetrated multiple small-scale attacks in 2017. As first observed in 2016, the profile of realized attacks has shifted from the large-scale, externally directed plots of 2015 to more modest attacks perpetrated by solitary local actors with little, if any, direct guidance from established terrorist organizations. French law enforcement and intelligence thwarted a number of attacks in 2017 and arrested scores on terrorism-related charges, but government officials emphasized that self-radicalized lone actors using rudimentary weapons present a threat much more difficult to detect and disrupt.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: Multiple small-scale suspected terrorist attacks took place in 2017. Most targeted French security forces, although a knife attack in Marseille killed two civilians. Assailants used firearms in one attack. For example:
- On February 3, a 29-year-old Egyptian citizen wielding a machete was shot and seriously wounded by a French army patrol near the Louvre Museum in Paris after he attacked and lightly wounded one of the soldiers. Despite having posted several tweets indicating support for ISIS, the attacker told investigators he had no links to the group and “acted on his own will.”
- On April 20, a 39-year-old French citizen used an automatic rifle to fire on a police van stationed on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, killing one officer and wounding two others and a tourist before being shot dead. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Police found a note on the attacker’s body praising ISIS.
- On June 19, a 31-year-old French citizen deliberately rammed his car containing two gas canisters and ammunition into a convoy of gendarmerie vehicles on Champs‑Elysées. The perpetrator died but caused no other casualties. He reportedly sent a letter pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the organization later claimed responsibility for the attack in July.
- On August 9, a 36-year-old Algerian citizen drove his vehicle into a domestic military detachment patrolling a suburb west of Paris, injuring six soldiers. French authorities pressed charges for “attempted murder of security forces in connection with a terrorist enterprise,” claiming the attacker "had radical beliefs and showed interest in the Islamic State group.”
- On October 1, a Tunisian citizen stabbed two women to death at Marseille’s main train station before being shot and killed by security forces. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: New counterterrorism legislation enacted October 31, 2017, replaced and codified certain aspects of the expired state of emergency that had been initiated in the wake of the November 2015 attacks in Paris and Seine‑Saint‑Denis. The law grants expanded powers to conduct searches, restrict and monitor the movements of suspected extremists, close religious institutions for disseminating extremist ideas, enhance security measures at public events, and expand identity checks near France’s borders. The core provisions of the bill will expire at the end of 2020 unless renewed by parliament. The law also formalized France’s passenger name record system, as required by a 2016 European Union (EU) directive, and increased the maximum sentence for adults convicted of encouraging minors to commit a terrorist act or join a terrorist organization to 15 years in prison, among other measures.
President Macron announced several security-related reforms since taking office in May. Macron reinforced and expanded the authorities of the National Intelligence Council (CNR), a DNI-like body established in 2008. President Macron appointed a former chief of domestic intelligence to head the CNR and plans to double its staff from 15 to 30 analysts and advisors. In September, the Ministries of Interior and Defense announced a reorganization of Operation Sentinelle, which includes the domestic deployment of approximately 7,000 French army personnel to bolster security at high-threat sites after the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. These changes aim to make Sentinelle a more flexible and reactive force, rather than a static deterrent. In October, the interior ministry announced details of a community policing program proposed by President Macron during his presidential campaign. Also in October, France extended border controls in place since November 2015 with its Schengen neighbors for an additional six months.
French authorities made multiple terrorism-related arrests and claimed to have thwarted at least 20 specific plots in 2017. France’s domestic intelligence and security agency and judicial police antiterrorism unit were responsible for most significant arrests. Police discovered two plots after neighbors reported suspicious behavior to authorities. Most of the arrests involved individuals and groups with direct or indirect links to ISIS. In October, authorities arrested 10 far-right terrorists suspected of planning an attack against politicians, migrants, and mosques.
In November, Abdelkader Merah, brother of the al-Qa’ida-linked terrorist Mohamed Merah, who was responsible for the 2012 Toulouse attacks, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for criminal terrorist conspiracy. Prosecutors had sought a life term. The court found that Abdelkader Merah indirectly supported the attack and contributed to his brother’s radicalization, but that he was not directly responsible for the deaths.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: France is a member of the Financial Action Task Force and its financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. There are no significant changes to the information provided on countering the financing of terrorism in the 2016 report.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): A critical senate report on France’s de-radicalization efforts released in July led to greater scrutiny of the service providers contracted by the government to implement its prevention and reintegration programs. The Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization refocused its efforts on disengagement, reintegration, and prevention as opposed to de-radicalization. It continues to employ multidisciplinary social service teams to provide counseling and support to individuals at risk of radicalization to violence as well as their families. In June, after all participants left the program, the Committee closed the voluntary residential Citizenship and Reintegration Center it had opened nine months earlier. President Macron called for an inter-ministerial committee to meet in December to begin designing a new comprehensive government plan to counter radicalization to violence. In November, Macron pledged additional resources for economically disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout France to address conditions that terrorists exploit for recruitment. The French cities of Bordeaux, Montreuil, Paris, and Sarcelles are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: France is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Sworn in in 2013, France’s Jean-Paul Laborde’s tenure ended as Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate in July. France plays a strong role on the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. In December, France co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters. In September, France co-led with the United Kingdom and Italy a UN General Assembly high-level side event on “Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet” focused on technology industry engagement. The French government undertook joint counterterrorism operations with several EU partners and played an active role in counterterrorism capacity building in other countries, particularly in the Sahel region, both bilaterally and through the EU.
Overview: Georgia, a longstanding member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, continued its strong engagement with the United States across a range of counterterrorism-related issues. It participated in numerous bilateral exercises and remained a solid U.S. security partner. In May, U.S. and Georgian leadership signed the Agreement of the United States of America and the Government of Georgia Concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Information, establishing a legal foundation for bilateral intelligence sharing that will strengthen counterterrorism cooperation and enhance the Georgian military’s interoperability with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Georgia continued to enhance its counterterrorism legislation in 2017. Georgia introduced legislation with a view to reform and increase management oversight of covert investigative operations and the use of electronic surveillance. The parliament adopted other amendments in 2017, including granting authority to law-enforcement bodies to request electronic communications directly from the agency conducting the surveillance and strengthening security protections for individuals involved in criminal cases. The government also implemented a new law on international protection. The law was designed to allow the government to refuse refugee, asylum, or other international protection to persons reasonably considered involved in acts of terrorism and/or have connections to terrorist organizations or groups the government deemed “extremist.”
Overall, the Georgian government is generally capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorist incidents. The State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG) has the lead in handling terrorism-related incidents and is generally well equipped and well trained. In 2017, Georgia’s law enforcement bodies signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Improving the Efficiency of Interagency Cooperation in the Law Enforcement Sphere, which provides for the creation of an Operational Headquarters on Management of Extreme Situations, in the event of a terrorist act.
Georgia improved infrastructure in five land border sectors (four along the Azerbaijani border and one along the Turkish), and added four along the Turkish border. Georgia also established the Risk and Threat Assessment Unit, which operates in line with the European Common Integrated Risk Analysis Model, and signed the Tactical Memorandum with the NATO Maritime Command, promoting cooperation and information sharing between NATO and Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Center. This makes Georgia a non-operational partner of the NATO-led Operation Sea Guardian, one of NATO’s activities to counter terrorism. The government passed additional safety measures in the aviation sector as the State Program on Safeguarding Civil Aviation Security Against Acts of Unlawful Interference legislation was adopted, in conformity with the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, and standards and recommended practices established by International Civil Aviation Organization. Finally, the government approved and implemented the Joint Action Plan on the Management of Crisis – Extreme Situations in the Field of Civil Aviation.
On November 21-22, the SSSG’s counterterrorism unit led an operation in a residential building in Tbilisi, intending to detain four suspected terrorists who opened fire on the Special Forces. One member of the terrorist group was detained, two were killed, and a fourth suspect detonated an explosive, killing himself. The Georgian government later identified one of the dead as international terrorist Akhmet Chataev. One Georgian officer was killed and four others were wounded. On December 26, following judicial authorization, the SSSG counterterrorism department launched an early‑morning counterterrorism raid in Pankisi Gorge. Authorities detained four individuals based on their alleged connection to Chataev. One man was critically wounded in the raid and later died. As of late December 2017, investigations into both raids were ongoing.
In July, Georgia launched an investigation and subsequent criminal proceedings against a Georgian citizen who was allegedly fighting with ISIS.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Georgia’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia, is a member of the Egmont Group. Georgia’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism legal framework remains largely in compliance with international standards, in particular with updated FATF recommendations.
In late 2017, the Government of Georgia adopted the Rules of Providing Information and Filling the Illegal Income Legalization and Terrorism Financing Risk Supervisory Reports by the Commercial Banks, with the intent to improve reporting forms.
Based on reports provided by Georgia’s Financial Monitoring Service, the SSSG launched an investigation into a potential terrorism financing case involving a foreign citizen attempting to open an account in a local private bank who was suspected of having links with an entity operating in Syria. The investigation was ongoing at the end of 2017. Three terrorism-financing cases from 2016 remained ongoing in 2017.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In 2017, the Georgian government continued its CVE efforts in vulnerable populations by focusing on initiatives in equality and integration, education, civic and political participation, media and access to information, gender equality, and preserving minority culture and identity.
The Georgian government launched a three-month internship pilot program for ethnic minority students that included over 65 students interning in 20 state agencies and local self-government bodies. Another project initiated in 2017 was the “Young European Ambassadors” program, aimed at providing various minority target groups with information on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations in their native languages. The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection organized multiple cultural events in both the Pankisi Gorge and Akhaltsikhe, promoting cultural diversity through various fora. The Ministry of Internal Affairs launched a pilot program focusing on community policing in one district in Tbilisi with the hope of identifying gaps and implementing the program on a broader scale.
International and Regional Cooperation: Georgia is actively engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. Georgia also cooperates closely with NATO; participates in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, including its Foreign Terrorist Fighters working group; the Council of Europe Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, and the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. In December, Georgia co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
In 2017, Georgia signed the Operational Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Europol, an agreement with Germany on the Exchange and Mutual Protection of Classified Information, and an agreement with the European Union on Security Procedures for Exchanging and Protecting Classified Information. Separately, Georgia signed bilateral treaties focused on further law enforcement cooperation with Greece and Sweden. Georgia has similar cooperation agreements in place with 28 countries. In 2017, more than 150 representatives from the SSSG and other relevant law-enforcement agencies participated in more than 30 counterterrorism-related trainings, seminars, conferences, and capacity-building exercises organized with the support of their international partners.
Overview: In 2017, Germany significantly increased the number of its terrorism-related investigations, arrests, and prosecutions, and to a lesser extent, increased prosecutorial and law enforcement resources to handle the increased caseload. Law enforcement targeted a range of terrorist groups including violent Islamist extremists (approximately 90 percent of cases, and the greatest threat according to German officials), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Turkish Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), and domestic left wing and right wing actors. The government increased monitoring of Gefaehrder (i.e., dangerous persons who have not been accused of crimes but have come to the attention of law enforcement), began deportations of foreign terror suspects, and actively investigated returning foreign terrorist fighters. Terrorism was a major issue for all political parties in the September national elections, and counterterrorism will continue to be a top priority. Germany is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the international community.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: On July 28, a United Arab Emirates-born Palestinian refugee who had been denied asylum allegedly killed one and injured five others with a machete while shouting Allahu akhbar in a Hamburg grocery store. Reportedly radicalized shortly before the attack, the defendant was known to the police and assessed as mentally unstable rather than a security risk. The incident sparked widespread calls for stronger enforcement of deportation laws and discussion of the difficulty of identifying threats.
On November 27, the Mayor of Altena in North-Rhine Westphalia was seriously injured in a knife attack. His attacker said the mayor’s refugee-friendly policies were the motive for the attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Germany bolstered its existing counterterrorism laws with several pieces of legislation, including: expanded use of mobile license plate reading systems to assist police and border security personnel; legalization of electronic ankle bracelet monitors; implementation of European Union (EU) Directive 2016/681 concerning Passenger Name Record (PNR) data; implementation of EU regulations to strengthen EU-wide law enforcement data sharing and align data protections with Europol regulation 2016/794; authorization of online search and source telecommunication surveillance; and enhanced prosecution tools for hate crimes and online propaganda posted by terrorist organizations. In August, the Constitutional Court upheld a law permitting expedited deportations of persons on the Gefaehrder list.
Counterterrorism investigations are conducted by both federal and state-level law enforcement agencies and coordinated through the Joint Counter-Terrorism Center, which is composed of 40 internal law enforcement and security agencies. The Ministry of Justice estimates there were 1,119 active terrorism investigations during January to November 2017, a sharp increase from 238 in 2016. Some cases were offshoots of refugee processing (for example, asylum seekers claiming to be threatened by violent Islamist extremists) and many will likely be dropped. Law enforcement agencies significantly expanded use of the Gefaehrder designation, used to monitor “extremists,” and completed the first deportations of known terrorists. Thirty-six Gefaehrder were deported in 2017, the majority to Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Tunisia.
Germany continues to participate in international efforts to enhance border security. In 2017, Germany introduced a new passport with enhanced security features, tested wider biometric collection upon entry in connection with the EU Smart Border pilot, and began preparations to introduce the EU Entry Exit System and EU Travel Information and Authorization System. It is on track to collect and analyze PNR by the May 2018 EU deadline.
Significant law enforcement actions included:
- On October 3, Federal Police arrested a 19-year-old Syrian refugee in Schwerin (in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) on suspicion of planning an attack using bomb-making components purchased online.
- On November 21, six Syrian refugees were arrested in a series of coordinated raids in four states on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. German law significantly limits pre-trial and/or preventative detention, and the six were released two days later.
- Two high profile 2017 cases highlight increased sentences for terrorism convictions. Four defendants associated with the 2012 Bonn Rail Station Bombing Plot were convicted on charges that included founding and/or membership in a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit murder, and weapons violations. The main defendant received a life sentence with no possibility of parole, which is rare in Germany. The accomplices received between nine years and nine months and 12 years, which are atypically long sentences.
- In a separate case, prominent Salafist preacher Sven Lau (36) received a five-and-a-half year prison term for providing support to the ISIS-connected terrorist organization, Jamwa (“Army of Emigrants and Supporters”), including providing financial aid to Jamwa’s Syrian operations, recruiting foreign fighters, and providing night vision goggles obtained from German Army inventories.
Germany continued to examine the December 19, 2016 Christmas Market terrorist attack, and two state parliaments (North-Rhine Westphalia and Berlin) established special parliamentary inquiry committees into law enforcement’s performance in the case. Shortcomings identified by the Berlin inquiry – including lack of law-enforcement coordination among different agencies and states, failure to monitor a known criminal who carried false identification papers, and poor collection of physical evidence – were discussed in a press conference. A state senator called for a formal Federal Bundestag inquiry. In March, the Federal Justice Ministry appointed a temporary victims’ representative and at least US $1.9 million in compensation was paid to victims and their families.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force and its financial intelligence unit (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group. In June, Germany transferred its FIU to the Customs Office. The government adopted legislation implementing EU-Directive 2015/849 against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing, which establishes a transparency register of beneficial owners, extends anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws to all goods traders, adopts the EU High Risk Third Country List, expands the list of sanctionable situations, and raises fines from a maximum of US $118,000 to US $1.18 million. Germany remained a strong advocate of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In 2017, Germany expanded funding for existing CVE programs and earmarked a total of approximately €218 million (US $255 million) for programming targeting all types of violent extremism. The majority of programs are federally funded and implemented locally through non-governmental organizations. Several federal states also have CVE offices. In March, the German Cabinet announced a new €101 million (US $118 million) National Prevention Strategy against Islamist Extremism, part of the €218 million (US $255 million) total CVE funding. The program is led jointly by the Federal Interior and Family Ministries and implemented with the states, remaining federal ministries, Federal Commission for Migration, Refugees and Integration, and other stakeholders. Focusing on local communities, schools, refugee integration centers, and mosques, the program will give special attention to prevention and de-radicalization through the internet, refugee integration, and prisons. In July, the government released the inaugural report of the Federal Extremism Prevention Strategy. In 2017, local research institutions, including universities and private think tanks, began to engage in CVE-related research. As of the end of 2017, the German cities of Augsburg and Dresden were members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: In December, Germany co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters. Besides its memberships in the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Germany is also a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. In response to UNSCR 2309 on aviation security, the German government was funding initiatives in Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria aimed at improving aviation security.
Overview: The Greek government remained a cooperative counterterrorism partner in 2017, increasing information sharing under auspices of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and other bilateral agreements, and making arrests of terrorism suspects. Greece experienced intermittent small-scale terrorist attacks. Greece is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: Greece experienced small-scale attacks conducted primarily by domestic terrorist organizations, which targeted government officials and property in Greece as well as European creditors.
- On March 14, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei claimed responsibility for sending a number of explosive devices in mail parcels to Greek and European leaders, institutions, and multinational companies, including to the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. The German Finance Ministry’s mail department intercepted the device before it reached Minister Schaeuble. Police also attributed to the group a March 16 parcel bomb that exploded at International Monetary Fund headquarters in Paris, injuring one person. In March, Greek police intercepted eight more parcel bombs intended for EU leaders, institutions, and multinational companies.
- On April 19, a bomb left in a bag exploded outside the entrance to a bank situated close to two busy avenues in Athens, causing minor damage to the building but no injuries. An anonymous call to a television station provided advance warning and police evacuated the area before the bomb detonated. The far-left militant Popular Fighters Group claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On May 25, a bomb in an envelope exploded in the car of former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, injuring Papademos and two others. On October 29, Greek police arrested Konstantinos Giatzoglou, a 29-year-old Greek male suspected of sending the bomb and others to European targets as part of the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei attacks.
- On November 6, an unknown assailant opened fire on riot police guarding the headquarters of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement political party and fled the scene on a motorcycle with an accomplice. No one was hurt in the attack. Police matched bullet casings from the shooting to past attacks carried out by the far-left Revolutionary Solidarity group, which later claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement.
- On December 22, a bomb exploded outside one of Greece’s main courthouses, damaging the façade and breaking several windows but causing no injuries. Police cleared the area around the court after receiving two anonymous warning calls. The far-left militant Popular Fighters Group later claimed responsibility for the incident in an online statement.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no changes to Greece’s legal framework or legislation with respect to countering terrorism since 2016. On November 12, Germany notified the European Commission of temporary internal border controls on flights departing from Greece due to an increased number of passengers arriving without Schengen visas and reports of irregular travel documents. Belgium also reportedly increased checks in December for some passengers on flights from Greece but did not formally implement internal controls. Greece’s national identification card remained extremely vulnerable to alteration and photo substitution; it has not incorporated certain security features, such as a digitized photo and biometrics. To mitigate this vulnerability, in 2015 police authorities instituted a system for conducting electronic checks of civil registries and national databases to confirm documents submitted as part of the application for identification cards and passports. The Greek government has committed to address this vulnerability through the introduction of a biometric national identification card.
The porous nature of Greece’s borders remained a concern, particularly given the challenge the refugee and migration crisis presents in Greece. Six of the individuals responsible for the 2016 attacks in Paris and Brussels passed through Greece. Greece worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve its screening of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees entering Greece. Personnel from the Hellenic National Police (HNP) and the Hellenic Coast Guard participated in DHS-sponsored training related to border screening, interdictions, and investigations in May. The FBI trained HNP officers on counterterrorism analysis in August and December.
Greek authorities took action against terrorists in high-profile arrests:
- On January 5, authorities arrested convicted member of the terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle, Panagiota (Paula) Roupa. Roupa was first arrested in 2010 for her role in a series of bomb attacks against political, police, and financial targets, including the 2007 rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy but was released from pre-trial custody, having served the maximum 18 months on remand. A condition of her release was to remain in the Attica region, but she absconded in 2012 and was convicted in absentia in 2013 to 50 years in prison.
- On October 29, authorities arrested Konstantinos Giatzoglou, the 29-year-old Greek male suspected of sending parcel bombs to European targets, including in an incident that wounded former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in May.
- On November 28, authorities arrested nine Turkish nationals suspected to be members of Foreign Terrorist Organization Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front. They were charged with a number of terrorism-related offenses, including forming and joining a terrorist organization, acquisition and possession of explosive materials and bombs as an act of terrorism, illegal possession of weapons and explosives, and forgery and use of fake public documents.
Over the objections of the U.S. government, the prison council of Greece’s high-security prison for the first time granted convicted terrorist Dimitris Koufontinas a two-day furlough November 9-11. Koufontinas is serving 11 life sentences plus 25 years for the murder of 11 people and his leadership role in the terrorist group November 17 that targeted and assassinated members of the U.S. Mission to Greece, as well as British and Turkish diplomats, Greek politicians, and Greek citizens. Koufontinas stated to the press his intention to apply for another furlough after 60 days, as permitted by law.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Greece is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, and its financial intelligence unit, the Hellenic Anti-Money Laundering and Anti‑Terrorist Financing Commission (HAMLC), is a member of the Egmont Group. The Foreign Ministry’s Sanctions Monitoring Unit ensured that Greece met its commitments to enforce international sanctions, including terrorism-related sanctions. The HAMLC inspected more than 2,000 suspicious transactions in 2017 but did not report evidence of terrorist financing in Greece. As described in the 2016 report, Greece freezes terrorist assets until completion of judicial proceedings and requires banks to report suspicious transactions of any kind, regardless of the type of entity (for- or not-for-profit). The Greek government directly monitors such entities if necessary. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): There were no significant changes in Greece’s CVE efforts since the 2016 report.
International and Regional Cooperation: Greece continued to engage on counterterrorism initiatives in international fora and participated in regional information exchange and seminars through the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center for Combating Trans‑Border Crime, and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
Overview: Italy aggressively investigated and prosecuted terrorist suspects and dismantled suspected terrorist-related cells within its borders. Authorities continued to implement counterterrorism legislation adopted in 2015 aimed at identifying and disrupting the recruitment and flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Criminal and low-level terrorist acts, such as those involving incendiary devices or small improvised explosive devices, remained a threat. Italy maintained a high level of professional cooperation with the United States and international partners in all areas, including terrorist information sharing and in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Italy was the second largest contributor of troops, after the United States, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, as well as the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s efforts to train Iraqi police and security forces in Iraq. There were approximately 1,400 personnel deployed to Iraq from Italy, including about 500 Italian troops providing site security for workers employed by Trevi, an Italian engineering firm engaged in critical repair work on the Mosul Dam. Italy continued to co-chair the Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance working group with the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Italy has identified approximately 100 foreign terrorist fighters that traveled to Iraq or Syria. Italian authorities are concerned about the risk posed by returning fighters, as well as fighters dislodged from areas formerly under ISIS control in Libya who may try to use migrant flows to reach Italy. In addition, officials are concerned that fighters returning from the Western Balkans could also pass through its territory, given the significant Balkan-origin communities in Italy.
At the conclusion of the G-7 Interior Ministerial at Ischia on October 20, Italy and the United States signed an arrangement to implement a Secure Real Time Platform on data exchange to screen arriving migrants against U.S. terrorism databases.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: On May 18, a homeless man stabbed two army officers and a police officer at a train station in Milan. The man was arrested and later investigated for alleged Facebook posts expressing pro-ISIS views. The investigation was ongoing at the end of 2017. On December 7, two anarchist groups linked to the Informal Anarchist Federation and the International Revolutionary Front claimed responsibility for a rudimentary improvised explosive device that detonated in front of a Carabinieri police station in Rome. There were no injuries.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, law enforcement took significant actions against terrorists and terrorist groups, including proactive, well-publicized disruptions, arrests, and prosecutions. The Italian government continued to make use of 2005 legislation that facilitated the detention of terrorist suspects and expedited procedures for expelling non-citizens suspected of endangering national security. As of December 12, Italy had deported 100 individuals on security grounds, up from 60 in 2016. Prominent arrests and expulsions included the following:
- Police arrested one Moroccan and two Tunisian members of an alleged cell in Perugia on March 23, following a Postal Police cyber investigation. The cell allegedly spread terrorist propaganda in Arabic and Italian, posting pictures and video of ISIS attacks on Facebook.
- On August 19, the Ministry of Interior deported one Syrian/Tunisian and two Moroccan nationals, citing national security concerns. On August 28, as part of the same action, the Ministry of Interior deported a 37-year-old Moroccan citizen for the same reason. The man had been incarcerated in an Italian prison for petty crimes.
- On October 7, at the request of French authorities, Italian police in Ferrara arrested Anis Hanachi, a 25 year-old Tunisian who is the brother of Ahmed Hanachi, the attacker who stabbed two women in Marseille on October 1. Investigators believe that Anis, who was a foreign terrorist fighter in Syria and Iraq between 2014 and 2016, indoctrinated his brother and instigated him to commit the attack.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Italy is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, and its financial intelligence unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Italy remained a co-lead of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group, along with the United States and Saudi Arabia. There have been no significant changes to its policies for countering the financing of terrorism since the 2016 report. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In February, the government reached an agreement with the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy that involved moderate imams working in six prisons to prevent radicalization to violence among prisoners. This was one of the measures recommended by a government commission in September 2016. On July 18, the Chamber of Deputies approved a bill intended to prevent radicalization to violence. Pending final approval in the Senate, the new legislation would establish a National Center on Radicalization within the Ministry of the Interior to implement the national CVE strategy, including training of police and magistrates.
International and Regional Cooperation: Italy continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. In September, Italy co-led with the United Kingdom and France a UN General Assembly high-level side event on “Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet” focused on technology industry engagement. At the October 19-20 Ischia G-7 Interior Ministerial, Italy brought together G-7 members and private information technology and social media companies to sign a declaration of intent to monitor radicalization to violence on the internet and the use of social media as a recruitment tool by terrorists. Italy was a member of the UN Security Council in 2017 and in December co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Italy strengthened its counterterrorism capacity building efforts in Libya, focusing on coast guard cooperation, investigative training for law enforcement, and border security measures.
Overview: Kosovo continued to fight the growing threat of terrorism in 2017. Approximately 403 Kosovo citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for or join ISIS or al-Nusrah Front, of which approximately 74 are deceased. Some 133 of these individuals have returned, while approximately 196 remain in these conflict zones. This number includes 40 children born to Kosovo citizens in conflict zones. The government continued to implement its comprehensive strategy and updated its action plan for countering violent extremism (CVE). In 2017, the government drafted its third counterterrorism strategy and action plan. The Minister of Interior took the role of Counterterrorism National Coordinator in November.
The CVE strategy and action plan provide a five-year roadmap for stemming the growing threat of terrorism through a whole-of-government approach, emphasizing the critical role of local stakeholders and civil society. Thus far, implementation has been uneven across government ministries and a lack of capacity and inadequate resources remained challenges. On December 5, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund approved US $2.5 million in CVE program funding that could significantly bolster the government’s capacity to implement its CVE action plan. The Kosovo Police (KP) Counterterrorism Directorate continued to enhance its investigative capacities by increasing personnel and developing a cyber-counterterrorism unit.
The security and political situation in northern Kosovo continued to limit the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that region, although the government successfully integrated Serbian judges, prosecutors, and staff into Kosovo’s judicial institutions in October, extending the country’s judicial authority and access to justice for citizens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kosovo Force (KFOR) and European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) continued to work with the KP to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders.
Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and pledged US $100,000 in support of the Coalition.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is sufficient to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or supporting terrorist activities, but prosecutors lack experience with such cases. Kosovo officials recognize the need to improve interagency cooperation.
Recognizing the threats and consequences of terrorism, the government strengthened its existing counterterrorism provisions and drafted a new counterterrorism strategy in 2017. The new counterterrorism strategy provides a comprehensive approach to preventing and combating terrorism and is one of the government’s strategic priorities. On November 30, the Kosovo Assembly held the first reading of the Law on Critical Infrastructure, which passed and aims to identify, preserve, and protect national and European critical infrastructure.
Law enforcement authorities demonstrated adequate capacity to detect and prevent individuals from joining the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The KP Counterterrorism Directorate, which is responsible for counterterrorism investigations, increased capacities to track suspects, although they still lacked resources for online investigations and surveillance.
The KP and Border Police successfully interdicted several individuals attempting to join foreign conflicts, although border security gaps remained. On August 11, KP arrested two Kosovo citizens for attempting to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The individuals left Kosovo on July 25 via the Macedonian border and arrived at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on July 26. On July 28, Turkish security forces caught them trying to enter Syria and deported them to Kosovo on August 11. On October 31, they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Border Police regularly updated their watch list of persons suspected of connections to terrorism or criminal activities; they had 4,481 hits in 2017.
Trials and investigations continued for 51 suspects and 29 cases, which included several imams arrested since 2014 on terrorism charges. In 2017, Kosovo authorities arrested five additional individuals on terrorism-related charges. Authorities issued seven new indictments on terrorism charges involving 17 individuals.
On June 8, a Defeat-ISIS Coalition drone strike in Syria killed Kosovo terrorist leader Lavdrim Muhaxheri and fellow foreign terrorist fighter Bilall Haqifi. On June 9, Kacanik municipality’s head imam, Florim Neziraj, offered condolences at the city’s main mosque for Muhaxheri.
On June 28, Pristina’s Basic Court held the first hearing for nine Kosovo citizens suspected of planning an attack at the November 2016 Israel-Kosovo soccer match in Albania and other attacks against local and international targets in Albania and Kosovo. The KP and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency were instrumental in stopping this attack.
Kosovo continued to demonstrate political will to address threats related to terrorism, and the state possesses the legal framework to do so. Although national institutions continued to strengthen their capacities, limited resources and experience continue to hinder their ability to handle terrorism cases effectively.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: On February 1, Kosovo’s financial intelligence unit became a member of the Egmont Group. There are no other significant changes since the 2016 report. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The government updated its CVE action plan, which corresponds to its 2015 National Strategy. The government appointed its third National Countering Violent Extremism Coordinator on October 30, 2017. The Kosovo Justice Ministry, supported by the U.S. government, continued its implementation of a corrections program aimed at enhancing management of terrorists, and setting up frameworks for the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of convicted terrorists. The Ministry of Interior established a reintegration department, which aims to integrate returned fighters and their accompanying families into communities. The Kosovo government took proactive steps to prepare a repatriation strategy for its citizens returning from conflict zones. The Kosovo cities of Ferizaj, Gjilan, Gjakova, Gracanica, Hani I Elezit, Kacanik, Mitrovica South, Peja/Pec, Prishtina, Prizren, Viti, Vushtrri and Zvecan are members of the Strong Cities Network.
Kosovo’s CVE strategy includes promoting counter-narratives to challenge terrorist messaging.
International and Regional Cooperation: There have been no significant changes since the 2016 report.
Overview: Macedonia cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism efforts and was a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Macedonia’s authorities assessed that ISIS members and sympathizers maintained a presence in Macedonia. Additionally, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Intelligence Agency estimated that at least 150 Macedonia nationals traveled to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of that number, 30 were killed, 40 remained there, and 80 returned home to Macedonia.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: A Joint Combined Exchange Training with U.S. Special Forces took place in January to improve Macedonia’s ability to respond to terrorist incidents. Authorities at the MOI reported they developed operational plans to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks on soft targets including stadiums and hotels.
The MOI International Cooperation Unit upgraded from the Mobile INTERPOL Network Database (MIND) to the Fixed INTERPOL Network Database (FIND), with assistance from partner nations, to systematically screen travelers and documents at border crossings against INTERPOL databases on terrorists, fugitives, and lost and stolen travel documents. Macedonia Border Police used INTERPOL and Europol watch lists that are regularly updated and they have biometric screening capability. The Border Police also shared and received information through alerts via the Joint Contact Centers with neighboring countries (Albania, Bulgaria, and Kosovo) and INTERPOL.
Additionally, the MOI’s Bureau of Public Security worked with U.S. authorities to address corruption among border officials, resource constraints, training gaps for border police officers, and issues related to border management.
Macedonia engaged in one terrorist-plot disruption operation. In April, just before the Orthodox Easter observance, Macedonia’s authorities, in coordination with a regional partner, detained persons of interest for questioning. No charges were filed as a result of the operation.
Authorities conducted approximately four terrorism investigations into suspected terrorism-related activity of approximately 50 individuals.
On November 2, the Skopje Criminal Court found 33 defendants guilty of terrorism charges and acquitted four in connection with the May 2015 armed incident in Kumanovo, which left eight police officers and 10 members of the armed group dead. The court issued life sentences to seven defendants while another 13 were sentenced to 40 years in prison. An additional 13 were sentenced to lesser terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in prison. On November 3, another defendant who had been tried separately in connection with the same 2015 incident was sentenced to life in prison.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Macedonia’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Intelligence Office (FIO), is a member of the Egmont Group and developed new indicators for financial transactions that could be related to terrorism financing in 2017. Macedonia’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism legal framework remains largely in compliance with international standards, especially after it incorporated the latest FATF recommendations. The government continued to address deficiencies noted in MONEYVAL’s Fourth Round Evaluation Report from 2014 by drafting a new law on restrictive measures. Pending approval in parliament, the draft law will harmonize domestic legislation with United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 as well as with FATF recommendations on targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism and proliferation.
Deficiencies remained in Macedonia’s confiscation regime, which remains conviction-based and hinders effective freezing and confiscation of terrorist assets. Macedonia has an agency for the management of seized and forfeited assets, but it has limited capacity and activity. In 2017, Macedonia’s FIO received two suspicious transaction reports for terrorist financing and has sent three reports to relevant institutions for further investigation.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In July, the government created and appointed a 44‑member National Committee for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Counterterrorism (CT) as well as a National Coordinator for CT/CVE with a Deputy Coordinator for CT and a Deputy Coordinator for CVE. The government tasked the Committee and Coordinators to revise the 2017-2020 National CT Strategy and to draft a new National CVE Strategy as well as CT and CVE National Action Plans. The National CT/CVE Committee and Coordinator met for the first time in November to map out a plan to draft the National CVE Strategy and Action Plan, however, the government failed to provide funding to implement this plan.
The Islamic Community of Macedonia (ICM) said that it incorporated counter narratives into Friday sermons with Muslim worshipers. The ICM also conducted one CVE training session for approximately 12 imams. Local think tanks continued to research the drivers of terrorism.
The Macedonian municipalities of Aracinovo, Cair (Skopje), Gostivar, Kicevo, Kumanovo, Ohrid, Struga, and Tetovo are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Macedonia is a willing regional and international counterterrorism partner. Fourteen members of the National CT/CVE Committee and the National CT/CVE Coordinator and Deputies participated in a three-day U.S.-funded counterterrorism-themed regional Tabletop Exercise (TTX). During the event, which was co-organized with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, participants read through a foreign terrorist fighter scenario and discussed what the government could do during the prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation phases. Participants in the TTX included delegations from Albania and Kosovo, led by those countries’ National CVE Coordinators. The Prime Minister provided opening remarks at the exercise emphasizing a whole-of-society approach to address terrorism.
Macedonia’s Border Police and Customs are members of the Southern Border Initiative, whose goal is to establish a cross-border working group consisting of border security agencies from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro to combat corruption, illicit cross-border trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism.
Overview: The Netherlands continued to respond effectively to the global terrorist threat in the areas of border and transportation security, counterterrorist financing, countering violent extremism, and bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Since March 2013, the national threat level has been “substantial” (the second highest ranking). The main terrorism threat is Islamist terrorism, with risks posed by both networks and lone actors. The Netherlands has a comprehensive national counterterrorism strategy in which policies are implemented at the local level through multidisciplinary interagency cooperation. In the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe, Dutch authorities reviewed their security measures. Some cities have placed large concrete obstacles on streets to prevent vehicles from driving into soft targets. In October, the government announced an increase of US $15 million (€12.5 million) in the annual counterterrorism budget beginning in 2018.
The Netherlands is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and co-chair of the Coalition Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group, and has liaisons embedded at various operational command centers. The Netherlands previously conducted air strikes against terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria. In 2017, it provided force protection and contributed military personnel and trainers in Iraq. The Netherlands participates in all coalition working groups. Together with Morocco it co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and, until September 2017, also co-chaired its Foreign Terrorist Fighters working group.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Netherlands implemented counterterrorism legislation in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions. Within the European Union (EU), the Netherlands pushed for implementation of the road map to improve information exchange. There has been no change in law enforcement structures, capacity, international cooperation, or border security legislation, and there were no cases of terrorism affecting U.S. citizens in 2017. The Dutch government announced it will invest an additional US $180 million in the national police in 2018. On March 1, three new counterterrorism laws entered into force:
- A law enabling the Minister of Justice and Security to revoke without court order Dutch citizenship of dual nationals who have joined a terrorist organization.
- The Temporary Law Administrative Measures, which expands the government’s toolbox of non-criminal measures to disrupt potential terrorist activities, including a requirement for certain individuals to report to police stations at regular intervals and obey area, contact, and travel bans.
- A change to the passport law that declares passports and ID cards for individuals subject to a travel ban as expired.
Significant law enforcement and judicial actions related to counterterrorism included:
- On November 13, a district court in Rotterdam convicted a Dutch woman for preparing and promoting acts of terrorism but acquitted her of participation in a terrorist organization. She had traveled to Syria in 2015 but returned in 2016. The court concluded her marriage to an ISIS fighter made her guilty of preparatory acts for terrorism, even if she did not personally participate in acts of terrorism. She was sentenced to two years in prison, with 13 months suspended.
- On November 2, a district court in Rotterdam convicted a man for preparing to commit a terrorist attack and sentenced him to four years in prison. Authorities arrested him in December 2016 after hearing of plans to attack the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam. Police found an AK-47, ammunition, illegal heavy fireworks, and instructions on how to make a bomb in his residence.
- On September 13, the Minister of Justice and Security announced the revocation in absentia of Dutch citizenship for four foreign terrorist fighters. This marked the first time the government used the new legislation that entered into law March 1. All four individuals were presumed to be in Syria.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Netherlands is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is one of the Cooperating and Supporting Nations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Unit – Nederland (FIU-NL) is a member of the Egmont Group. On January 1, new legislation entered into force expanding the reach of anti-money laundering regulations to include the possession of stolen goods. Implementation of the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive remains ongoing. The Dutch framework for countering the financing of terrorism applies to all EU‑designated terrorist organizations and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. The Netherlands successfully prosecuted two terrorist financing cases in 2017. The government’s national terrorist watch list grew to include 135 individuals and three organizations as of December 2017. In 2017 FIU-NL declared more than 3,000 transactions it received as suspicious. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Netherlands government’s 2016-2020 National Counterterrorism Strategy, released in July 2016, contains measures to strengthen communities, build resilience to radicalization to violence, and prevent persons from becoming foreign terrorist fighters. In November, the new cabinet announced prioritization of five topics: intelligence gathering, prevention, protection of physical objects and persons, preparation for incidents, and prosecution. The Dutch government uses a multi-disciplinary approach and develops tailored plans of action to intervene with individuals suspected of adhering to or being susceptible to radicalization to violence. Community police officers are the cornerstone of the local approach.
Other stakeholders include local governments, with the support of the Office of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, the public prosecutor’s office, social workers, child protective services, educators, and community leaders. This approach prioritizes the use of preventive measures, including mentoring, counseling, and access to job-training programs and other social services to steer individuals away from becoming radicalized to violence. Similar programs also rehabilitate former terrorists. To counter terrorist messaging, local governments use outreach efforts with community and religious leaders to amplify credible voices. The government generally views repressive measures, including arrest and prosecution, as steps to take only when preventive measures fail. Returned foreign terrorist fighters undergo a threat assessment by the government; some returnees are prosecuted.
The Dutch cities of The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Netherlands participates in the UN, the GCTF, the EU, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As co-chair of GCTF, the Netherlands hosts the GCTF Administrative Unit. The Netherlands has dedicated GCTF officers at four embassies. Under the auspices of the GCTF Foreign Terrorist Fighter working group, the Netherlands and the United States are co-leading the Initiative on Addressing the Challenge of Retuning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The Netherlands is on the governing board of the three GCTF‑inspired institutions: the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (Hedayah) in the United Arab Emirates, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta, and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund in Switzerland. The Netherlands also participates in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. In December, the Netherlands co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
On April 13, the Netherlands signed an agreement with the Kenyan National Coordinator for Counterterrorism on Dutch support for the new Kenyan CVE strategy. The Netherlands will support training of police officers and teachers to identify radicalization to violence and rehabilitate former terrorists. On July 19, the Netherlands signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency on sharing best practices and exchanging information.
The Netherlands continued to finance a wide variety of capacity-building projects. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed regional security coordinators at six embassies who are dedicated to capacity building to identify radicalization. The Netherlands is an active participant in the Counter Terrorism Group (the intelligence services of all EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland) to improve cooperation and information exchange between European counterterrorism services.
Overview: Norway’s internal security service continued to assess that Islamist terrorism remains the primary terrorism threat to Norway, although officials expressed concerns about increasing violent right wing threats. A small but outspoken group of Islamist extremists in and around Oslo remained active, although they did not conduct any attacks. In 2017, authorities convicted several Norwegians for supporting or aiding ISIS. The flow of Norwegian citizens or residents who traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of ISIS continued to decrease in 2017. Since the April arrest of the leader of an Islamist extremist group, no known individual has left Norway to join ISIS. Police Security Service (PST) officials continued to assess publicly that approximately 100 individuals have traveled as foreign terrorist fighters in total. Norway and the United States maintained good collaboration on counterterrorism.
Norway is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The government co-sponsored UN Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2396 on foreign terrorist fighters and is contributing to the Coalition’s five lines of effort, including with military personnel in a capacity-building mission for Iraqi security forces in Anbar. Norway provided approximately US $345 million in assistance in 2017 to address the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Terrorism is a criminal offense in Norway. Norway continued to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters and supporters of terrorism under its amended law from 2013. The law increased the maximum prison sentence to 30 years for serious terrorism offenses and made it illegal to conduct or plan to conduct a terrorist attack, receive terrorism-related training, or provide material support to a terrorist organization. In 2016, Norway passed legislation criminalizing traveling, as well as the intent to travel, to fight on behalf of a non-state actor.
The most significant terrorism-related conviction in 2017 was that of Ubaydullah Hussain, leader of the extremist group, the Prophet’s Ummah. Hussain was sentenced to nine years in prison for being an ISIS member, recruiting foreign terrorist fighters to the organization, and for providing financial and material support to ISIS. In another trial, one of the few Norwegians to have returned from Syria was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for terrorist fighting and association.
The PST is responsible for domestic security, including counterterrorism activities. A joint analysis cell called the Joint Counter Terrorism Center became fully operational in 2014. This unit includes participants from the PST and the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS), which is the external security service. Both the PST and the NIS have devoted significant resources to identifying, tracking, and taking action against Norwegian citizens intending to travel to and from Syria and Iraq to engage in fighting. The PST and NIS maintain a list of those who have traveled to Syria and Iraq, those who have returned, and those who have expressed an interest in traveling to the two countries. Norway continued to reinforce local PST units across the country that handle counterterrorism and to improve coordination among PST, local police, municipal authorities, and centers for asylum seekers.
In May 2016, Parliament approved an agreement on the sharing of fingerprint information in criminal investigations with the European Union (EU), the parties to the Prüm Convention, as well as with the United States under the Preventing and Combating Serious Crimes data-sharing agreement. Norway continued to explore an agreement on sharing Passenger Name Record (PNR) data with the EU and is simultaneously developing a national PNR system. In November 2016, Norwegian police piloted an automated biometric identification system, which officials aim to implement nationally in 2018. Immigration to Norway is facilitated and regulated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, which processes all applications for asylum, visas, family immigration, work and study permits, permanent residence, and travel documents. The Norwegian police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue passports.
In 2017, Norway implemented security measures on soft targets in the capital, Oslo, such as placing physical barriers in the streets of one of the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfares and directly outside the buildings. Additionally, police at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport have been armed on a trial basis.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Norway is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Norway’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), which operates within the National Authority for the Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, is a member of the Egmont Group. Norwegian law incorporates FATF standards and recommendations. Norway is a member of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s working group to Counter Terrorist Financing. The government also continued to operate a domestic interagency group, which included the Ministries of Justice, Finance, and Foreign Affairs to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Norway continued to implement its National Action Plan against Radicalization and Violent Extremism, published in 2014, which is a whole-of-government CVE approach. Priorities include strengthening CVE research, improving national and local cooperation on counter-radicalization efforts, helping to promote reintegration of former terrorists, and preventing recruitment and radicalization to violence online.
In 2017, Norway improved coordination among authorities responsible for managing the release from prison and reintegration of those convicted of terrorism-related offenses. PST assesses that several municipalities around Oslo fjord are home to communities and individuals most vulnerable to radicalization to violence. These municipalities have increased their efforts, including passing action plans and increasing budgets for countering violent extremism and counter-radicalization activities. The national government also hosts an annual conference on radicalization and violent extremism. Participants at the 2017 conference discussed how best to use dialogue as a method of preventing radicalization.
Norway continued to support the Youth Civil Activism Network and the Strong Cities Network (SCN). Two Norwegian cities, Oslo and Kristiansand, are members of the SCN.
Regional and International Cooperation: Norway is active in multilateral fora in efforts to counter terrorism, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the EU’s Radicalization Awareness Network, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). As Chair of the OSCE Security Committee in 2017, Norway actively supported the CVE agenda, including the role of women. Although not a member, Norway has been an active participant in Global Counterterrorism Forum working group meetings, through which it coordinates projects related to counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. Norway continued to support implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Norway provided support to phase two of The Prevention Project, which focuses on localized interventions. In 2017, Norway, together with Jordan, established the Group of Friends at the UN on preventing violent extremism and supported the publication of the UN study on foreign terrorist fighters. Norway supports the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. In December, Norway co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: The Russian Federation remained a target of international terrorist groups, particularly ISIS. The majority of Russian domestic counterterrorism activities conducted in 2017 targeted armed groups in the North Caucasus. Russian officials noted that Russia encountered increased ISIS-related activity in its domestic law enforcement activities.
In 2017, the Russian military intervention in Syria factored heavily in public counterterrorism messaging. Moscow regularly cited the threat posed by terrorists fighting in Syria to help justify its military operations there. As of October 2017, the Russian government estimated that over 3,400 Russian citizens had fought with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Russia also continued to pursue counterterrorism cooperation with foreign partners. On December 6, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia’s counterterrorist operation in Syria had come to an end “with a complete victory and defeat of the terrorists”; the Russian military, however, remained active in Syria for the rest of the year. Moscow has also expressed concern about the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province threat in northern Afghanistan, calling it one of the most significant threats to the Russian homeland. U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained limited due to a number of factors, including repeated false claims that the United States supports ISIS, Russia’s targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure through indiscriminate bombings in Syria, and concerns about Russian anti-terrorism/anti-extremism legislation that could permit the prosecution of peaceful protesters, the political opposition, independent media, and certain religious groups.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: The highest profile terrorist attack in Russia in 2017 occurred on April 3 in St. Petersburg, where a bomb detonated by a suicide bomber on the city’s metro system killed 15 people and injured 60 others. Katiba Al Imam Shamil, an alleged al-Qa’ida affiliate primarily active in the North Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the attack. Additional representative attacks included:
- On March 24, a group of eight alleged ISIS-affiliated militants attacked a Russian National Guard outpost near Grozny in Chechnya, resulting in the deaths of six soldiers and six attackers.
- On April 4, two Russian police officers were killed in a shooting in the southern city of Astrakhan; ISIS claimed responsibility. Two days later, Russian National Guard troops killed four men suspected of involvement in the attack.
- On August 19, a 19-year-old resident of the Siberian city of Surgut attacked and injured seven people with a knife before he was shot and killed by police. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On November 5, two attackers shot and killed one police officer and injured two others in the Nazran district of Russia’s North Caucasus. Firearms, ammunition, and a homemade explosive device were found at the scene after the operation.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Russia continued to build a comprehensive counterterrorism legal framework that includes provisions of the Criminal Code and various federal laws. Throughout 2017, however, the Russian government continued to use its “anti-extremism” legislation to prosecute peaceful individuals and organizations, including the political opposition, independent media, and certain religious organizations. On July 29, President Putin signed a law revoking Russian citizenship from those convicted of terrorism and extremism who became citizens through naturalization. On November 16, the State Duma passed a bill calling for life sentences for terrorist recruiters who incite a person to commit a terrorist attack, provide training on committing a terrorist attack, organize a terrorist cell, or join a terrorist group. Additionally, the Chairman of the Investigative Committee suggested introducing further legislation to block extremist materials, including internet sites.
Terrorism-related law-enforcement activities continued apace in 2017. The majority of operations occurred in the North Caucasus regions of Dagestan and Chechnya, but several high profile cases took place in major Russian cities. Significant events include:
- On August 14 outside Moscow, the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested four people on suspicion of plotting attacks on public transportation and shopping centers in Moscow using suicide bombers and explosives. According to the FSB, those arrested included two would-be suicide bombers, an expert in explosives, and an ISIS member.
- On August 31, the FSB detained two individuals in the Moscow region for plotting terrorist attacks planned for September 1. According to the FSB, one suspect pledged allegiance to ISIS, while the other claimed to be carrying out ISIS instructions. The FSB seized a powerful makeshift explosive device and bomb-making components intended for use in a suicide bomb attack.
- On September 26, Russia’s Interior Ministry, the FSB, and the National Guard arrested a member of ISIS, for whom an INTERPOL Red Notice had been issued, in Irkutsk, East Siberia. The suspected terrorist was a 30-year-old native of a former Soviet republic.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Russia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and two FATF-style regional bodies: the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), for which it is a primary funding source. Through the EAG, Russia provides technical assistance and other resources towards improving legislative and regulatory frameworks and operational capabilities in the region. Russia’s financial intelligence unit, the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring (Rosfinmonitoring), is a member of the Egmont Group. In July, Russia ratified the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure, and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (aka the “Warsaw Convention”).
In December 2017, Rosfinmonitoring’s list of persons and entities tied to “extremist activities” or terrorism increased nearly fourfold over the previous year to include almost 9,000 individuals and legal entities.
Russian financial regulators continued efforts to reduce persistently high capital outflows and fictitious transactions. The primary regulator is the Central Bank of Russia, which has revoked a large number of banking licenses over the past several years, often citing the existence of dubious transactions.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In May, Russia participated in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Vienna on “Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism.” The Russian government’s CVE work focuses on enforcement mechanisms and program administration through governmental agencies or organizations controlled by the government. The Russian government refused to cooperate in this area with independent non-governmental organizations, including Russian-based ones. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Report on International Religious Freedom for 2017 for further information.
International and Regional Cooperation: Russia is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Russia participated in numerous regional counterterror exercises, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s November 2017 Combat Brotherhood exercise held in Tajikistan. Russia also advanced counterterrorism agendas in several multilateral groups, including the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the OSCE, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Regional Forum, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. In 2017, Russia held consultations, participated in joint counterterrorism exercises, or signed formal counterterrorism agreements with Belarus, China, India, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
Overview: With no terrorist attacks in 2017 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main terrorism threats in Serbia remained the potential movement of money and weapons through its territory, returning foreign terrorist fighters, and radicalization to violence. The government took steps to improve its ability to fight terrorism with the adoption of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism for the Period 2017-2021, and continued cooperation with international partners particularly focused on law enforcement and cyber-security efforts. A member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Serbia pledged donations of medical supplies in May. However, inexperience as a donor and internal red tape have delayed delivery of these donations and will likely limit additional financial or material contributions to the Coalition.
Serbia continued to benefit from U.S. government training to build counterterrorism capacity. As a result of multiple study visits with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Serbia adopted a similar interagency counterterrorism task force. The Office of Defense Cooperation and the Special Operations Command Europe conducted two Joint Combined Exchange Trainings with the Ministry of Interior’s Counterterrorism Unit. The Office of Defense Cooperation also sponsored 13 military officers, ministry of defense officials, and security officials to attend Counter Terrorism Fellowship Program courses. The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided training and equipment to Customs and Border Police. EXBS works extensively with a Tri-Border Initiative that brings Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian agencies together for regular training, consultations, and meetings. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program provided numerous law enforcement and judicial training programs.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Serbia passed the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities Combatting Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption. The law mandates each state body have a liaison officer to assist in criminal investigations and establishes four specialized anti-corruption prosecutorial units and judicial courts.
Serbia’s law enforcement capacities need improvement, but progress is steady. The Service for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (TES), a part of the Criminal Police Directorate, proactively works on terrorism detection, deterrence, and prevention. The Government of Serbia has also established interagency working groups to handle security at both the strategic and operational levels. The Operational working group consists of TES, the Security Information Agency, and the Prosecutor’s Office. Soft targets such as hotels, stadiums, tourist resorts, and shopping centers are required to have their own terrorism contingency plans in place, with TES officers providing consultation and oversight.
The Serbian Border Police use a national border management information system called “System to Check Persons and Vehicles” to screen passengers and vehicles at all border crossing/check points and other ports of entry. This system verifies the validity of travel documents, collects biographic and biometric data, checks visa status, searches national and international databases, and stores information for future use, although the transmission of this data to the central system can sometimes take several days.
Serbia’s criminal code outlaws unauthorized participation in a war or armed conflict in a foreign country consistent with United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014) and prescribes a sentence of six months to 10 years’ incarceration. Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record programs are not yet legally authorized, although adoption of UNSCR 2396 in December 2017 now makes both obligatory for all UN member states. Serbia’s Civil Aviation Directorate is working toward integration with the European Common Aviation Area and has been cooperating with international partners to enhance capacities in accordance with UNSCR 2309 on aviation security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL). The Serbian Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering (APML) is a member of the Egmont Group. The APML participates in trainings organized by MONEYVAL, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The Serbian Government has a “National Strategy for the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding” and existing laws to comply with the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. In October, amendments were submitted to the National Assembly aimed at better aligning the Law on Freezing Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism and the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing to international standards as recommended in a 2016 MONEYVAL report.
The Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office is prosecuting a case in which seven individuals are accused of criminal offenses related to terrorism and terrorism financing. The case has been ongoing since September 2014.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Serbia’s National Counterterrorism Strategy and accompanying Action Plan outline planned CVE activities aimed at identifying early factors leading to radicalization to violence, enhancing the security culture of citizens, and intercepting threats from social media messaging. The Action Plan identified 22 CVE activities and directed several ministries to develop their own strategies for implementation, including the Ministries of Culture and Information, Education, Youth and Sports, and Interior, among others. Serbia’s Interior Minister advocated for a regional center for de-radicalization that would cooperate with other Western Balkan countries. According to government officials, the threat of radicalization to violence in Serbia’s prisons is minimal, and de-radicalization is handled on a case-by-case basis through the Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions.
The Serbian cities of Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Presevo, and Tutin are members of the Strong Cities Network.
Regional and International Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. Elements of the government, including the Ministry of Interior and the Security Information Agency, cooperate with INTERPOL and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watch lists. Serbia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace program and assisted in NATO training of Iraqi military medical personnel. Serbia routinely participates in law enforcement training from a variety of international partners. The United Kingdom is funding a large CVE research and youth engagement program in five Serbian municipalities. In November, the Serbian gendarmerie participated in a terrorist response exercise with the Canadian Embassy. In December, Serbia co-sponsored UNSCR 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Serbia has well-developed bilateral border security cooperation programs with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and a Tri-Border partnership with Bosnia and Croatia. Serbian agencies also routinely engage with Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro.
Overview: Spain experienced its first major terrorist attack since 2004 on August 17-18, 2017, when two vehicular attacks claimed 16 lives, including one U.S. citizen. Spanish authorities arrested 75 terrorist suspects in 2017, including terrorist financiers. Spanish counterterrorism cooperation with the United States was excellent. After a two-year delay, Spain launched implementation of its national plan to counter violent extremism. Spain expanded its contribution to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (Defeat ISIS Coalition), with more than 500 personnel deployed to Iraq in military and police training missions. Spain continued to exercise leadership in regional and global counterterrorism fora, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the 5+5 Defense Initiative. Central government law enforcement agencies worked to improve information sharing and coordination with the Catalan region’s autonomous police force.
On April 8, Basque terrorist group ETA announced its intent to disarm fully. ETA has observed a unilateral ceasefire since 2011, following a decades-long campaign of violence that claimed more than 800 victims.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: On August 17-18, two vehicular attacks in Barcelona and nearby Cambrils left 16 dead, including a U.S. citizen, and more than 100 injured. ISIS subsequently claimed credit for the attacks. On August 21, Catalan police shot and killed the suspected driver, Younes Abouyaaqoub, in the August 17 vehicular attack in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona. In addition to killing 14 in the vehicular attack, Abouyaaqoub killed another person in a carjacking as he fled the scene of the attack. Abouyaaqoub was part of a cell believed to have been radicalized and led by Abdulbaki Es Satty, an imam in the Catalan town of Ripoll. Es Satty had spent extensive time in Spanish prison on drug trafficking and other charges; he was killed along with one other cell member in an August 16 house explosion while attempting to produce explosives for use in the attacks. The police killed five other members of the cell following an August 18 vehicular attack in the Catalan town of Cambrils that killed one Spanish civilian.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Spain’s terrorism alert level remained at four (high) on a five-point scale throughout 2017. In the aftermath of the August attacks, Spanish authorities considered raising the level to five, which would have enabled deploying military forces to secure civilian areas, but Spain opted to adopt a series of enhanced level four measures instead. These measures included intensified border controls, increased police presence in heavily trafficked areas, and heightened counterterrorism cooperation with local police. The Spanish criminal code punishes any act of “collaboration with the activities or purposes of a terrorist organization,” including glorification of terrorism on social media, self-radicalization on the internet, training remotely, operating without clear affiliation, or traveling in support of non-state terrorist actors.
In 2017, Spanish authorities arrested 75 individuals on terrorism-related charges in 52 separate police operations. According to the Ministry of Interior, 36 Spanish citizens and residents traveled to Syria and Iraq in 2017 to support ISIS and other terrorist organizations as of November.
Spanish authorities have identified 222 Spanish foreign terrorist fighters, including 47 who are believed deceased. On December 1, Spain adopted a new National Security Strategy, which states that “jihadist terrorism is one of the principal problems confronting the international community.” The Strategy identified ISIS as the leading terrorist threat but noted terrorist groups’ “rapid mutability and adaptation to change and to the strategies pursued against them.”
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Spain is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has observer or cooperating status in the following FATF-style regional bodies: the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. Spain maintained funding levels for its financial intelligence unit, the Executive Service for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Offenses, which is a member of the Egmont Group. Spain is a member of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s Counter ISIS Financing working group. In June, the new European Union (EU) Funds Transfer Regulation entered into effect in Spain. Spanish authorities made multiple arrests on terrorist finance charges, including the June 1 arrest of an alleged ISIS fundraiser on the outskirts of Madrid and the June 23 arrest of a Danish ISIS financier in the North African enclave of Melilla. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Spain began implementation of its national CVE plan, led by the Intelligence Center for Countering Terrorism and Organized Crime. The plan was developed in 2015 but lacked funding and high-level political support for most of the last two years. It seeks to build partnerships at the local level between civil society leaders from vulnerable communities and representatives of law enforcement and other public agencies.
Separately, in October the Ministers of Interior and Justice launched a campaign supported by Google and the Spanish government called #SomosMás (We Are More), highlighting the role of minority youth leaders in countering discrimination and extremism. In the aftermath of the August 17-18 vehicular attacks, a coalition of 150 civic and religious groups organized a large rally in Barcelona to condemn terrorism and declare the solidarity of Spain’s Muslim community with the victims.
The Spanish cities of Fuenlabrada and Malaga are both members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Spain is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and supports counterterrorism initiatives in the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Spain maintained forces throughout 2017 in EU training missions in Mali and Somalia. Spanish officials participated in meetings of the Law Enforcement Coordination Group on disrupting Hizballah’s activities. Spain continues to support the 5+5 Defense Initiative bringing together European (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain) and North African (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia) countries to build capacity on counterterrorism, maritime and aviation security, and disaster management. In December, Spain co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: Sweden experienced its deadliest terrorist attack in decades in April 2017 when an Uzbek national with ISIS sympathies used a stolen truck to overrun pedestrians on a major shopping street in Stockholm, killing five people and wounding several others. The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) estimated the number of violent extremists to have increased significantly from 200 in 2010 to about 3,000 in 2017, of which two-thirds are Islamist extremists. The National Center for Terrorism Threats stated that the biggest danger to Sweden is terrorist attacks inspired by radical ideology, such as those promoted by ISIS and al-Qa’ida. SÄPO reported that returning foreign terrorist fighters posed one of the most significant threats to Sweden’s security. There is broad political unity to strengthen Sweden’s defenses against terrorism.
Sweden continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the international community. At the end of 2017, the national alert level was a three (elevated threat, no evidence of planning) on a scale of five (attack imminent, evidence of planning). The national alert level has been graded a three since 2010, except for when it was temporarily raised to a four (high threat, evidence of planning) for several months following the November 2015 attacks in Paris. Sweden is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and made humanitarian contributions to ISIS‑impacted populations in Iraq (US $23.5 million in 2017). In October, Sweden doubled the number of military trainers deployed in northern Iraq in support of Coalition efforts from 35 to 70 service men until the end of 2018.
Johan Gustafsson, a Swedish citizen who was kidnapped by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb when visiting Mali in November 2011, was released in June 2017 and returned to Sweden.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: On April 7, Rakhmat Akilov, a citizen of Uzbekistan who was illegally in Sweden after having his request for asylum denied, rammed a stolen truck into pedestrians in Stockholm, killing five people and injuring 10. Akilov had expressed sympathies with ISIS before the attack. He was in Swedish custody at the end of 2017.
On July 7, three men with ties to the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement were sentenced to up to eight-and-a-half years in prison for a series of bomb attacks in western Sweden to protest the government’s refugee policy, including a January 2017 attack against an asylum center where one man was seriously wounded. Two of the men were reported to have received paramilitary training in Russia.
On December 9, an estimated 10 to 20 persons threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Gothenburg. The incendiaries did not ignite the building, and nobody was hurt. The prosecutor stated that “our theory is that this is connected to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.” The police investigation was ongoing at the end of 2017.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Sweden’s legislation criminalizes the incitement of terrorist acts, recruiting on behalf of terrorist organizations, travel to support terrorist organizations, and providing terrorism training. After the terrorist attack in central Stockholm April 7, the government and the opposition agreed to several additional counterterrorism measures, such as facilitating information exchange between authorities, reviewing security in public spaces, broadening close circuit television monitoring, and promoting the use of electronic monitoring on suspects. The new legislation will go into effect in 2018.
The Swedish government increased SÄPO’s budget for countering terrorist threats and violent extremism by US $9.5 million for 2017, US $20.2 million for 2018, US $23.7 million for 2019, and US $23.7 million for 2020.
Sweden is party to the European Union’s (EU’s) identity verification and border management tools such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System, which results in traveler information exchanges with other member states on irregular immigration and border control. Sweden was updating legislation at year’s end to implement the EU Passenger Name Recognition Directive.
On November 12, the temporary border controls justified by the massive influx of asylum seekers in 2015 ended as the EU Commission declared it will no longer extend border controls with respect to the refugee crisis. Sweden instead prolonged unilaterally the temporary border controls until mid-May 2018 using a national security justification, permitted under the Schengen Border Code if a “serious threat to public policy or internal security” exists.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sweden is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has observer or cooperating status in the following FATF-style regional bodies: the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. Sweden’s financial intelligence unit, the National Financial Intelligence Service, is a member of the Egmont Group. The FATF’s assessment of Sweden’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing controls in April concluded that Sweden has a strong regime to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, but needs to improve its national policy coordination.
A report from Sweden’s National Defense University showed that a majority of the 300 confirmed foreign terrorist fighters who traveled from Sweden to Iraq and Syria between 2012 and 2016 received some form of welfare benefits and government grants, many under false pretenses, during their time outside of the county.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Sweden’s CVE strategy is to address the factors underlying radicalization to violence. In 2014, the government appointed a temporary National Coordinator for Safeguarding Democracy from Violent Extremism, who reported to the Ministry of Culture. The new team at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention will coordinate its efforts with national-level authorities, municipalities, and civil society. Local authorities will obtain support in developing CVE-focused risk assessments and action plans. The government tasked the Defense Research Agency with gaining better insight into terrorist propaganda and the National Agency for Education with giving teachers better tools to address CVE in the classroom. The Swedish cities of Malmo and Stockholm are both members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Sweden is a member of the EU and supports counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the European Commission’s Radicalization Awareness Network, the EU-9 (focusing on foreign terrorist fighters), the Counter-Terrorism Group, the Police Working Group on Terrorism, and Europol.
Sweden continued to contribute to counterterrorism capacity-building projects through the development assistance work carried out by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and also via funding to the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime-Terrorism Prevention Branch and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Sweden supported the EU’s work with capacity-building projects in prioritized countries and regions, such as Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, the Maghreb, and the Sahel. Sweden provided trainers to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Sweden is a member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018 and in December, co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: Turkey continued its intensive efforts to defeat terrorist organizations both inside and outside its borders, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ISIS, respectively. Turkey’s eight-month military operation, referred to as Operation Euphrates Shield, to clear ISIS from a 98-kilometer segment of the Turkey-Syria border concluded in March 2017. Turkey remained an active contributor in international counterterrorism fora, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF).
Turkey is a source and transit country for foreign terrorist fighters seeking to join ISIS and other terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq. Turkey is also an active member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and continued to provide access to its airspace and facilities for operations in Iraq and Syria. The United States and Turkey continued sharing comprehensive counterterrorism information. According to government authorities, as of October 23, Turkey’s “Banned from Entry List” included 53,781 individuals from 145 countries. Turkey deported 5,446 individuals from more than 100 countries for suspected terrorism ties.
The PKK continued to conduct terrorist attacks in Turkey. Turkey’s security forces conducted operations domestically along with airstrikes against PKK leadership positions in northern Iraq. The Ministry of National Defense claimed that, as of April, the government had killed, wounded, or captured more than 11,300 PKK terrorists since July 2015, when a two-year ceasefire between the government and the PKK ended. Turkish authorities reported more than 1,000 government security personnel have died in clashes with the PKK since the end of the ceasefire. Detentions and arrests of individuals suspected of aiding the PKK increased in 2017.
According to interior ministry data, law enforcement forces detained more than 15,000 suspects for allegedly aiding and abetting the PKK during the January 2 to October 30 timeframe. The PKK also targeted Turkish elements operating in northern Iraq. Turkish authorities in October announced that PKK elements in northern Iraq had kidnapped two Turkish National Intelligence Organization (Milli Istihbarat Teskilatı or MIT) officers.
As a counterterrorism partner of the United States, Turkey continued to receive U.S. assistance to address the terrorist threat posed by the PKK in 2017.
Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts were impacted in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt due to the government’s investigation into the movement of self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey refers to as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (“FETO”). This resulted in detentions, arrests, and dismissals of military, security, and civil servants from public office. Turkey designated “FETO” as a terrorist organization in May 2016 and later accused it of perpetrating the attempted coup. The state of emergency instituted by the Turkish government July 21, 2016, remained in effect at the end of 2017. As of November, the government had dismissed approximately 150,000 civil servants from public service for alleged “FETO” or terrorism-related links, often on the basis of scant evidence and minimal due process. Detentions of “FETO” suspects continued at year’s end, with 35,145 detained in the January 2 to October 30 timeframe, according to interior ministry data.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: Representative attacks included:
- On January 1, an ISIS gunman killed more than 35 people, including 27 foreigners, and wounded 65 others, including a U.S. citizen, in a nightclub shooting in Istanbul. Police captured the attacker, Uzbek national Abdulkadir Masharipov, in Istanbul January 16.
- On January 20, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front attacked the Istanbul police directorate and the Justice and Development party’s provincial office with rocket-propelled grenades. No casualties were reported.
- On February 17, a PKK vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack near a housing complex for judges in Sanliurfa province killed two people and wounded 17 others.
- On July 8, a PKK attack against a construction convoy in Hakkari province killed four people and wounded two others.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Turkey has a broad definition of terrorism that includes crimes against constitutional order and internal and external security of the state, which the government regularly used to criminalize what the United States would consider the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and assembly. According to the Ministry of Interior, from April 24 to October 30, authorities suspended over 28,500 social media accounts and detained over 2,000 individuals affiliated with these accounts for alleged terrorist-related propaganda.
Turkey has advanced law enforcement capacity to combat terrorism, and efforts continue to streamline interagency information sharing. Detentions and arrests of suspected foreign terrorist fighters and Turkish nationals with links to ISIS increased in 2017. According to interior ministry data, from January 2 to October 30, authorities detained over 2,090 individuals for links to ISIS. In March, the justice ministry reported that more than 1,100 ISIS members were incarcerated and another 310 convicted. Turkey will sometimes deport suspected foreign terrorist fighters to countries without advance notice.
On March 29, Turkey’s National Security Council announced the completion of the eight-month Operation Euphrates Shield, which authorities say secured the Turkey-Syria border against threats emanating from ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. On March 9, Turkish General Staff reported the operation neutralized 3,060 ISIS members.
On August 25, the Government of Turkey issued a decree pursuant to the state of emergency that placed the MIT under the Presidency. The MIT is one of several agencies involved in counterterrorism activities in Turkey. This decree increased the threshold for external oversight of MIT and its activities.
On October 6, authorities announced the completion of construction of a 911-kilometer modular wall along the entirety of the Turkey-Syria border. According to Turkish General Staff data, during the January to October timeframe, Turkish Land Forces apprehended more than 330,000 individuals, mostly irregular migrants, attempting to illegally cross Turkey’s borders.
On October 28, four individuals believed to be ISIS sympathizers were arrested in possession of firearms and explosives outside Istanbul’s Forum Shopping complex. One of the alleged ISIS individuals was wounded by police gunfire; no other casualties were reported.
The United States continued to provide bilateral and regional training programs in the areas of border, aviation, and sea-based security and investigations, in partnership with Turkish law enforcement authorities and counterparts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Turkey is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and its financial intelligence unit, the Financial Crimes Investigation Board, is a member of the Egmont Group. Turkey was subject to a review of its compliance with FATF’s recommendations related to the criminalization of terrorist financing as well as targeted financial sanctions. There have been no significant changes to the country’s counterterrorism financing regime since 2016. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Turkish National Police (TNP) undertake social projects, activities with parents, and in-service training for officers and teachers. Programs prepare medical, community, and religious officials to intervene to undermine terrorist messaging and to prevent recruitment. The Ministry of Justice implements rehabilitation and reintegration programs for convicts and former criminals.
Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency (Diyanet), tied to the Prime Ministry, also works to undermine terrorist messaging by promoting a moderate and inclusive version of Islam. All Sunni imam preachers in Turkey are employees of the Diyanet.
Turkey co-hosted the fourth annual International Countering Violent Extremism Research Conference in Antalya October 30-November 1. The Turkish city of Antalya is a member of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Turkey is an active member of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Committee of Experts on Terrorism of the Council of Europe. Turkey is a founding member of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law and provides expert support to assist training for judges and prosecutors handling terrorism cases. Turkey participates in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expert meetings on the Prevention of Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism organized by the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Secretariat.
Turkey has bilateral security cooperation agreements with more than 70 countries. The TNP contributes to counterterrorism capacity-building programs of partner countries and offers specialized international law enforcement training. During the 1997-2017 timeframe, TNP provided training to approximately 26,000 law enforcement officials from more than 60 countries. Turkey’s military has trained more than 30,000 foreign military personnel from more than 55 countries in a range of subjects, including counterterrorism operations.
In 2017, Turkey and the United States co-led the GCTF’s Soft Target Protection Initiative. The resulting good practices document, the Antalya Memorandum on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context, was endorsed at the Eighth GCTF Ministerial Meeting in September 2017. Turkey concluded its co-chair responsibilities (with the European Union) to the GCTF’s Horn of Africa Capacity Building working group in September 2017. In December, Turkey co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: In 2017, the United Kingdom (UK) suffered five major terrorist attacks and the UK government briefly raised its terrorism threat level to the highest rating (critical) twice, with the threat level remaining the second-highest rating (severe) the remainder of the year. The UK continued its military efforts against ISIS as a partner in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and worked alongside the United States on operations in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In Iraq, the UK has worked to deepen its counterterrorism relationship, pledging to invest approximately US $13.5 million over the next three years to build Iraq’s counterterrorism capability to meet the evolving threat. Programs will include training and advising Iraqi agencies and deploying law enforcement resources to develop an effective judiciary. More broadly, the UK is working with regional partners to develop border infrastructure, watchlists, and biometric capabilities to counter foreign terrorist fighter movement.
An updated UK counterterrorism strategy, known as CONTEST, was slated for release in April, but was delayed as a result of terrorist attacks and the call for a general election. According to the the Metropolitan Police, MI5 and other intelligence agencies have stopped 23 attacks since the murder of British Army soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, including 10 since March 2017.
The UK separately assesses the Northern Ireland-related terrorism threat level for Northern Ireland and for Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales). The threat level in Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland-related terrorism remained severe, while the threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Great Britain remained substantial. Northern Ireland’s 2016 action plan sought to eliminate residual paramilitary structures. To this end, in 2017, a new four-member Independent Reporting Commission was formed to provide progress reports on efforts to eradicate paramilitaries. Additionally, in 2017, the government launched a new Paramilitary Crime Taskforce to provide greater investigative and law enforcement capabilities to address the problem.
The United States worked closely throughout the year with the UK to identify and develop new capabilities that meet a wide variety of requirements for countering terrorist threats. Through a cost-sharing bilateral relationship, both countries advanced their technical ability to defeat or mitigate the evolving capabilities of terrorists and criminal organizations.
2017 Terrorist Incidents: Major terrorist incidents in 2017 included:
- In March, 52-year-old Khalid Masood drove a vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, near British Parliament, and then stabbed a police officer. Five people were killed and more than 50 injured.
- In May, 22-year-old Salman Abedi detonated a homemade shrapnel bomb at Manchester Arena. More than 110 people were hospitalized and 23 died, including Abedi.
- In June, three attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge then exited the vehicle to stab bystanders in nearby Borough Market, killing eight people and injuring 48.
- Later in June, 47-year-old Darren Osbourne drove a van into pedestrians gathered outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. At least eight people were injured and one man died.
- In September, 18-year-old Ahmed Hassan partially detonated a bomb at London’s Parsons Green tube station during morning rush hour. Although 30 people suffered injuries, authorities believe if the bomb had exploded as planned, fatalities would have been certain.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The UK structures counterterrorism policing efforts through a network of regional counterterrorism units and counterterrorism intelligence units comprised of MI5, the Metropolitan Police Service, and regional police. Counterterrorism efforts are managed through National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters, which is responsible for unified counterterrorism policy and strategy. The central operational command for regional counterterrorism units is the National Counter Terrorism Policing Operations Center, which consists of specialized teams responsible for all ports, intelligence, and operational coordination.
The UK has advanced biometric screening capabilities at some points of entry, but at others, such as ferry ports, there is no biometric screening. The UK requires international airlines to collect advance passenger information. In April, the government demonstrated strong leadership in successfully encouraging the Council of the European Union (EU) to approve a directive regulating the use of Passenger Name Record data. All major airports in the UK use e-gate technology (for passengers presenting UK, EU, European Economic Area, or Swiss passports), which incorporates facial recognition technology to match travelers with data recorded in the e‑chip of eligible passports.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UK is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has observer or cooperating status in the following FATF-style regional bodies: the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group; the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering; and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force. The UK Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group.
The UK’s Criminal Finances Act, elements of which came into force in July and October, expands UK law enforcement’s authority to investigate terrorist financing by permitting law enforcement to request more information in relation to a suspicious activity report (SAR) and allowing more time to investigate SARs. The UK is improving its ability to share terrorist financing information between the financial sector, law enforcement, and regulators through the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force. The UK implements the EU Fourth Money Laundering Directive.
The UK actively prosecutes those involved in terrorist financing. Since 2001, 63 individuals have been charged under “fundraising”-related sections of the Terrorism Act 2000, and of those, 30 individuals were convicted. Additionally, individuals suspected (but not charged) of funding terrorism were convicted of related offenses, such as fraud and money laundering.
The UK complies with obligations under the United Nations (UN) Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. Like other members of the EU, the UK implements UN listings by way of EU regulation, which involves a delay between UN adoption and listings taking legal effect. Following the passing of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 in January and associated secondary legislation in April, the UK immediately began implementing all new UN sanctions listings on a temporary basis until the EU regulations can be amended. Action was taken immediately for domestic asset freezes under UN Security Council resolution 1373.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Prime Minister announced the creation of a Commission for Countering Extremism that would “promote and defend Britain’s pluralistic values.” The commission had not been formed by the end of 2017. Birmingham and London are both members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: The UK continued to support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations. The UK develops its international counterterrorism strategy through the Joint International Counterterrorism Unit, which is partially responsible for the international recommendations in the new strategy. The UK is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and co-chaired its CVE working group until September 2017. It contributes to an international task force that assists countries with development of CVE plans. In December, the UK supported and co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.