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Denmark

Overview:  The Kingdom of Denmark, which includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands, remains an important U.S. partner in the global fight against terrorism.  As an active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the Global Counterterrorism Forum, Denmark cooperates closely with the United States on counterterrorism initiatives.  Denmark devoted significant assets to counterterrorism programs and countering violent extremism initiatives, domestically and abroad.  In January, Denmark hosted a meeting of the political directors of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

According to the Center for Terror Analysis (CTA), administered by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET), the terror threat to Denmark is “significant,” the fourth of a five-level ranking system (none, limited, general, significant, very significant).  The CTA characterizes the terror threat to Greenland and the Faroe Islands as “limited.”  CTA assesses that the primary threat to Denmark is attacks perpetrated by individuals in Denmark and neighboring countries who sympathize with ISIS.  According to PET, at least 159 people from Denmark have traveled to Iraq or Syria to join Islamic militant groups since 2012.  PET remains concerned that Danish fighters returning to Denmark with terrorism training would seek to radicalize others to violence.  CTA assesses that right-wing terror threats, often radicalized to violence online, have increased.

2020 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported terrorist incidents in Denmark in 2020.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Denmark continues to use its 2006 terrorism legislation that allows information sharing between its agencies responsible for counterterrorism and FTFs — the PET and the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (DDIS).  Efforts to counter terrorism are also shared among the Danish Police, the Public Prosecution Service, and the Danish Prison and Probation Service.  Danish security and law enforcement agencies share information through 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.

According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights — an independent, state-funded national human rights institution — there are more than 20 Danish children in displaced persons camps for family members of ISIS foreign terrorist fighters in Syria.  In 2019 the government intervened to bring two such children (one orphaned and the other with a life-threatening injury) home to Denmark.  According to a PET report released in March, bringing the children back to Denmark would not pose a security threat.  However, the government has ruled out intervening on behalf of other children, citing their parents’ choice to leave Denmark and support ISIS.

In 2020, legal developments in cases involving attacks in Denmark or Danish citizens garnered public and media attention:

  • In July, Danish courts sentenced Swedish citizens Zacharias Tamer Hamzi and Nurettin Nuray Syuleyman to five and four years in jail, respectively, for bombing the Danish Tax Agency in 2019.
  • In November, former Danish citizen Said Mansour was sentenced to death in Morocco for his role in a 2003 terrorist attack in Casablanca that killed 45 people.  Mansour, often referred to as the “bookseller from Brønshøj,” was stripped of his Danish citizenship in 2016 after a Danish court found him guilty of promoting terror.
  • In December, Turkey deported terror suspect and Danish citizen Jacob El-Ali to Denmark.  According to the terrorism charges, El-Ali traveled to Syria in 2013 to fight on behalf of ISIS.
  • Also in December, Danish citizen Ahmed Samsam returned to Denmark after more than three years in jail in Spain.  Samsam was sentenced to eight years in prison in Spain for joining ISIS.  According to Danish media and Samsam, he served as an undercover intelligence officer for PET in Syria.  The Danish government has not publicly acknowledged whether Samsam worked for PET.
  • And also in December the Danish Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s guilty verdict for Syrian citizen Moyed Al Zoebi.  The court found Al Zoebi guilty of terrorism for planning to detonate explosive devices on behalf of ISIS in Copenhagen in 2016.  Al Zoebi was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Denmark has a robust legal framework to combat the financing of terrorism.  Denmark is a member of FATF.  Its FIU, the Money Laundering Secretariat, is a member of the Egmont Group.  Denmark is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS CIFG.  According to FATF’s most recent report on Denmark, released in 2019, further steps are needed to ensure money laundering and terrorist financing prevention mechanisms fully cover Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The Danish Centre for Prevention of Extremism has the lead on implementing prevention efforts outlined in the government’s National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Extremism and Radicalization.  The Centre is tasked with strengthening prevention of violent extremism nationally, locally, and online.  Copenhagen is a member of the Strong Cities Network, a global network of mayors, municipal policymakers, and practitioners working together to counter violent extremism.  Aarhus, Copenhagen, Gentofte, Guldborgsund, and Viborg are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Denmark continued to strongly support counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the CTF, NATO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, INTERPOL, the Bern Club, and the European Counterterrorism Center.  In November, Denmark took over leadership of NATO Mission Iraq.  Denmark continues to contribute personnel to NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, and the French-led counterterrorism mission in the Sahel.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future