BUREAU OF COUNTERTERRORISM
Country Reports on Terrorism 2014
While Europe continued to face terrorist threats from a variety of sources in 2014, a primary area of concern in many countries was the emergence of the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters participating in the conflict in Syria and Iraq in the ranks of such groups as al-Nusrah Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Significant numbers of foreign terrorist fighters came from countries such as France and Belgium in Western Europe, while, on a per capita basis, certain western Balkan countries such as Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina also figured as significant foreign terrorist fighter source countries. At the same time, violent extremist groups espousing left-wing and nationalist ideologies continued to operate in Europe, such as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) in Turkey.
Returning foreign terrorist fighters were deemed responsible for terrorist attacks in a number of countries, including Belgium, where in May, a French citizen killed four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels. In March, three persons, including a police officer and a gendarme, were killed in an incident involving three young men who were believed to be foreign terrorist fighters returning to Europe from Syria. Terrorist incidents attributed to other groups were reported in a number of countries, including attacks in Chechnya in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation in October and December, attributed to the Caucasus Emirate, and in Turkey in October, attributed to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
By virtue of its location, the international transport hubs on its territory, and its long border with Syria and Iraq, Turkey remained the main transit route for foreign terrorist fighters. In 2014, Turkey increased cooperation with source countries to develop an extensive banned-from-entry list of known or suspected terrorists and introduced tougher traveler screening procedures, making it more difficult for foreign terrorist fighters to cross its borders. Turkey’s border security challenges, however, continued to be aggravated by its failure to impose visa requirements for certain major foreign terrorist fighter source countries such as Libya.
To counter the foreign terrorist fighter threat, European countries strengthened existing legislation and, where necessary, introduced new legislation aimed at criminalizing participation in terrorist elements in foreign conflicts, in keeping with commitments made under UN Security Council Resolution 2178; however, some European countries are struggling to successfully prosecute cases under the new laws. Countries such as France and Albania adopted such legislation, for example. In the Western Balkans, major law enforcement actions have been conducted resulting in arrests of persons allegedly returning from or intending to travel to Syria and Iraq, or facilitating and supporting such travel. Concern about foreign terrorist fighters was also an important factor in efforts to improve border security and improve the effectiveness of traveler screening and information-sharing among law enforcement bodies. The European Council, for example, urged the adoption of an EU Passenger Name Record system and a number of Schengen Area countries called for improvements in border security and information sharing measures under the Schengen Information System.
Individual countries implemented strategies to counter terrorism and address the foreign terrorist fighter threat, such as Norway’s National Action Plan, the Netherlands’ Comprehensive Program to Combat Jihadism, and Denmark’s Countering Violent Extremism Action Plan. Many strengthened programs to counter the messaging of violent extremism, stop radicalization to violence, and thwart the recruitment efforts of ISIL and similar groups. Community groups and religious leaders played a key part in these efforts.
While taking strong action against terrorist threats internally and in the region, European countries also made important contributions to countering terrorism worldwide. Approximately 40 European countries, plus the European Union, joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and participated actively in its efforts. The important efforts of France in West Africa, Spain in North Africa and the Sahel, and Denmark in Afghanistan, are representative of the counterterrorism contributions of individual European countries elsewhere in the world.
Overview: Counterterrorism efforts in Macedonia include the passing of a law criminalizing fighting for, aiding, or abetting foreign terrorist groups. Dozens of Macedonian citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq as foreign terrorist fighters in recent years, although there are indications that the foreign terrorist fighter law passed in September 2014 may be having some deterrent effect.
Macedonia is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Macedonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that UN Security Council Resolution 2178 has been provided to all relevant government ministries for implementation. Completed or ongoing actions that further the resolution’s objectives include the passage of Macedonia’s revised foreign terrorist fighter law, the government’s hosting of a conference for European law enforcement and intelligence officials to discuss addressing the foreign terrorist fighters threat, the creation of an interagency foreign terrorist fighters-focused body, and the development of a counterterrorism action plan.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: There were no major terrorist incidents in Macedonia. A government building housing the Prime Minister’s office was damaged in the middle of the night on October 28 by unknown perpetrators. Although no one was injured, two rounds, possibly rocket-propelled grenades, were fired at the empty and closed building. According to a letter published in local media, a group calling itself the “National Liberation Army” (NLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. Some analysts dismissed the letter as not credible because it was released almost one week after the attack and did not make any demands. A letter, allegedly from the same group, also claimed NLA responsibility for two minor explosions outside police stations in Tetovo and Kumanovo on December 9.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Macedonia’s criminal code, criminal procedure code, and law on prevention of money laundering and terrorist finance contain comprehensive counterterrorism provisions. Domestic and international acts of terror are proscribed, and in September, the country’s counterterrorism law was modified to include a provision criminalizing participating in a conflict outside Macedonia’s borders as a foreign terrorist fighter.
The U.S. government is engaged in numerous efforts to strengthen criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law. These include a number of Department of State-funded assistance projects that focus on the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) Public Security Bureau, as well as justice sector projects that support the implementation of the recently adopted Criminal Procedure Code.
Macedonia’s security sector is well equipped and disposed to deal effectively with terrorism within its borders. Primary responsibility for detecting and investigating terrorism falls to the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence within the MOI. Interdiction and arrest capabilities lie primarily with the Special Units, namely the Rapid Deployment Unit and the Special Task Unit, also within the MOI. The “Alpha” units of the Skopje Police Department (also MOI) respond to kinetic activity within Skopje (approximately half of Macedonia’s citizens live in Skopje); however, this unit is also deployed outside of Skopje. Since all of these entities are within the MOI, there are generally no problems in coordination among them.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Macedonia is a member of the 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, and has completed its fourth evaluation. Macedonia is also a member of the Egmont Group, a global association of financial intelligence units.
Macedonia is not an offshore financial center, and the Law on Banks does not allow the existence of shell banks in Macedonia. Banks do not allow opening of anonymous bank accounts and bearer shares are not permitted.
With the latest changes to the anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism law from September 2014, non-profit organizations were taken off the list of obliged reporting entities.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Macedonia is an enthusiastic counterterrorism partner both regionally and internationally, although Greece’s unwillingness to recognize Macedonia’s name sometimes limits Macedonia’s ability to fully participate in multilateral fora. Foreign Minister Poposki participated in the Foreign Terrorist Fighters roundtable for Balkan countries hosted by the State Department on the margins of the UNGA. In October, Macedonia hosted a regional conference for European law enforcement and intelligence officials to discuss counterterrorism and foreign terrorist fighter issues.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Macedonian government is developing a formal strategy to counter violent extremism (CVE) and has appointed a national CVE coordinator. There have been no significant efforts by the Macedonian government to create strategic communication or counter narratives, and there are no existing programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society.
Overview: Albania continued to be a strong supporter of counterterrorism efforts in 2014 and joined the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. In August and December, Albania donated a sizeable amount of weapons and ammunition for Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. Albania is a source country of foreign terrorist fighters going to Syria and Iraq.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts; financing of terrorism; collection, transfer and concealment of funds that finance terrorism; conducting transactions with persons in the UN list; recruiting and training people to commit terrorist actions; incitement of terrorist actions; and establishing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations.
In 2014, Parliament added three statutes to Albania’s Criminal Code aimed primarily at strengthening the government’s ability to address the problem of Albanian nationals who travel to fight in the conflict in Syria. The changes made it illegal to (1) participate in; (2) organize the participation of; or (3) call for participation in military action in a foreign country. Specifically, these statutes punish participation in “military or paramilitary organizations in an armed conflict taking place in the territory of a foreign country,” unless a person is a citizen of the foreign country, a member of the armed forces of one of the parties in the conflict, or a member of an official military mission of another country or an international military organization. The statutes also cover recruiting, training, equipping, or providing funds or other material support for people participating in these military actions. Those people guilty under these statutes are subject to maximum penalties of between three years (calling for participation) and 15 years (organizing the participation) in prison. These laws came into effect on September 3.
While Albanian law enforcement actively detects and deters illicit activities related to drugs and smuggling, it has not taken an equally aggressive approach to countering potential terrorist threats. With concern about terrorism increasing in connection with foreign terrorist fighters, however, the Albanian State Police announced plans in October 2014 to expand substantially its counterterrorism unit. A significant effort will likely be needed to equip and train the unit sufficiently to achieve the necessary level of capacity to counter terrorism effectively.
Albania does not have the capacity to collect biometric data other than that contained on biometric identity cards and passports presented at border crossing points. The Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), funded by the Department of State, provided a new information technology module to the Albanian government which gives it the capacity to incorporate online fingerprint identification functions, and is in the process of providing fingerprint scanning equipment to equip all 26 border crossing points. The border control module will allow Albanians to collect entry and exit information of international travelers.
The Customs agency has improved its performance at ports of entry and has strengthened its relationship with the Border Police.
In March, Albanian State Police acted against an alleged Syria fighter recruitment ring, resulting in the arrest of nine people for “Inciting Acts of Terrorism.” Two of the arrestees were imams at mosques on the outskirts of Tirana that allegedly promote violent extremism. As of December 31, 2014, the investigation was ongoing.
Corruption, combined with a poorly functioning judicial system, continued to hinder Albania’s law enforcement efforts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Albanian financial intelligence unit (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group. Albania is also a member of the Council of Europe 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.
Albania has adopted measures against persons and organizations listed by the UN as financers of terrorism, and it has established a preventive anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) system that includes extended due diligence and the obligation to file suspicious transaction reports and currency transaction reports.
The FATF currently lists Albania on its list of High Risk and Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions. Since June 2012, Albania has been working with FATF and MONEYVAL to address the identified weaknesses in AML/CFT. In 2013, Albania adopted a new law against financing terrorism to comply with the FATF and MONEYVAL Recommendations and has focused on its implementation in 2014, resulting in the confiscation of approximately 10 million euros (approximately US $11,189,000), a large increase from the 213,000 euros (approximately US $241,712) confiscated in 2013.
Overview: The threat of violent Islamist extremism has been slowly growing in Kosovo since its 1999 conflict, assisted in part by funding from foreign organizations that preach extremist ideologies. Approximately 150 to 200 foreign terrorist fighters from Kosovo have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or al-Nusrah Front, of which approximately 20 have been killed. Violent extremist groups actively use social media to spread propaganda and recruit followers. To date, no terrorist incidents have taken place inside Kosovo. An online posting of a video showing a Kosovo foreign terrorist fighter beheading a youth in Syria in the summer contributed to the Government of Kosovo’s decision to launch its first large-scale counterterrorism operation. The Government of Kosovo has thus far focused its counterterrorism efforts on law enforcement. Kosovar security officials began initial efforts in this year to reach out to non-security ministries, independent media, NGOs, and religious organizations to enlist their support on preventing radicalization of young people and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters. A six-month delay in forming a new government following June elections slowed such efforts, however. The new government immediately reapproved previous draft legislation prohibiting citizens from fighting in foreign conflicts.
The Government of Kosovo welcomed cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism issues. The United States has mentored and assisted law enforcement and judicial institutions on active counterterrorism cases. The United States has provided counterterrorism training opportunities through the Export Control and Related Border Security program, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training program, and the Office of Defense Cooperation.
Because the security and political situation in northern Kosovo continues to limit the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that region, the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) and EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) work with the Kosovo Police (KP) to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders. Kosovo’s ability to exercise its authority in the north has improved since the signing of the 2013 Brussels Agreement to normalize relations with Serbia, but the two countries have yet to fully implement the agreement. Although Kosovo and neighboring Serbia do not usually cooperate on counterterrorism issues, the governments have had an Integrated Border Management (IBM) plan in place since 2013 and have participated in joint U.S. government-sponsored training.
Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has taken steps to support the various lines of effort within the limits of its capabilities. It has primarily focused on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, tracking and restricting financing for terrorist groups, and providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from Syria. In 2014, Kosovo authorities arrested around 70 individuals suspected of terrorism, around 40 of whom were returned foreign terrorist fighters. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is tracking the finances of individuals and NGOs suspected of connections to terrorism. The Government of Kosovo is beginning to discuss ways to counter ISIL-related propaganda, but has taken no concrete steps. Kosovo is not a member of the UN and not an official party to UNSC Resolutions 2170 and 2178, however the Government of Kosovo has pledged to implement these resolutions unilaterally.
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 in trying such cases. Kosovo officials recognized the need to improve interagency cooperation.
Kosovo has a comprehensive legal framework that covers all criminal aspects related to terrorism. The Criminal Code of Kosovo follows the UN model on counterterrorism criminal legislation and criminalizes all forms of terrorism, including commission, assistance, facilitation, recruitment, training, and incitement to commit terrorism. It also criminalizes concealment or failure to report terrorists or terrorist groups, organization and participation in terrorist groups, and preparation of terrorist offenses against the constitutional order and the security of the state of Kosovo. It defines a terrorist group as a structured group of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorism. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code provides authorities with all the necessary powers to investigate and prosecute such cases, including the possibility to use covert measures such as wiretapping, undercover agents, disclosure of financial data, and interception of computer communications. It further gives authorities flexibility to investigate criminal activity during the planning stage in order to prevent crimes and terrorist acts. The Procedural Code also allows Kosovo courts to admit evidence from other countries, thus allowing prosecution of international terrorism in Kosovo. This framework provides the relevant authorities with the tools necessary to fight all forms of terrorism.
Kosovo authorities drafted legislation in 2014 that would criminalize participation in or support for a military group that operates outside of Kosovo.
Kosovo’s law enforcement authorities demonstrated some capacity to detect prospective foreign terrorist fighters and prevent them from joining the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Authorities are inexperienced in dealing with terrorism cases, however, and communications and information sharing remained a challenge for law enforcement. The Ministry of Internal Affairs revised its counterterrorism strategy. The Kosovo Police Directorate against Terrorism undertakes counterterrorism investigative functions, and has experienced resource constraints that interfere with its ability to track suspected individuals. Prosecutions of terrorism cases are handled by the Special Prosecution Office (SPRK), which is composed of local and international prosecutors. The law provides the SPRK with exclusive jurisdiction over terrorism cases. Prosecutors’ lack of experience in dealing with terrorism-related cases complicates efforts to prosecute. The United States is mentoring law enforcement and prosecutors on terrorism-related cases. Representatives from Kosovo attended training activities and conferences on counterterrorism-related topics sponsored by the EU and the United States.
Kosovo has issued biometric travel and identity documents since 2013. All major border crossing points, including Pristina International Airport, are equipped with computerized fraudulent/altered document identification equipment, for which a database is updated regularly with information from other countries. The electronic Border Management System does not interface with Interpol, however, and does not always function properly. The KBP and Directorate against Terrorism also use biometric equipment to enroll suspicious foreigners entering or applying for benefits in Kosovo and locals who may be affiliated with terrorism. Although the Law on Border Control obliges airlines to submit Airline Passenger Name Recognition lists to Kosovo, KBP has had technical difficulties using the information. KBP is working with the Civilian Aviation Authority to resolve this problem. KBP applies specific profiling techniques to identify persons attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL. In 2014, the KBP identified and blocked at least 12 such persons from leaving Kosovo and turned them over to the Directorate against Terrorism. Finally, with U.S. assistance, KBP is revising its curricula used to train border officers to focus more on early identification of persons affiliated with terrorism. Kosovo is not a member of the UN, Interpol or Europol; the UN Mission in Kosovo and EULEX serve as Kosovo’s intermediaries with these organizations, slowing down cooperation and preventing Kosovo from having access to their screening databases.
The Government of Kosovo mounted its largest counterterrorism operation to date in summer 2014 when it arrested 59 individuals suspected of terrorist activity. Investigations were ongoing, with no indictments filed; many of these suspects remained under house arrest at year’s end. The prosecution and the police were working together to collect evidence to indict these individuals. Kosovo authorities were working with EULEX to prosecute six other individuals arrested in June in connection with a separate case; all six suspects remained in detention at year’s end. Six terrorism suspects arrested in a November sting operation also remained in detention while authorities investigated the case.
Kosovo showed increasing political will during the year to address threats related to terrorism, and the state possesses the legal framework to do so. However, national institutions — including investigative and prosecutorial elements — have limited capacity, resources, and experience to handle terrorism cases effectively. The United States will continue to provide training and mentoring assistance to build the capacity of these institutions overall and specifically as it relates to counterterrorism cases.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Kosovo financial intelligence unit is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force or any similar regional body. Kosovo has a Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which allows it to comply with international anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorist finance (CFT) standards. This law also established enforcement mechanisms for the examination of reporting entities and narrowly defines terrorist financing. However, Kosovo is not a member of a Financial Action Task Force-styled regional body, and lacks an appropriate registration and monitoring system to track NGOs that receive funding from suspicious entities.
Kosovo adopted additional legislation and regulations exclusively pertaining to Terrorist Finance. In January, authorities adopted the Strategy on Prevention and Combating Informal Economy, Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and other Financial Crimes. Other legislation, amendments, and directives are pending on AML, CFT, and its indicators.
Kosovo has not consistently frozen and confiscated assets without delay. Kosovo has at least one case in which €499,000 (US $595,550) was frozen per a court decision. The case is in its initial stages, and the prosecutor may only freeze bank accounts for 72 hours, during which time the pretrial judge is obliged to approve or reject the freezing order. Under a judge’s temporary order, assets may be frozen for 30 days, but owners may dispute asset freezes.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: The OSCE has provided training to Kosovo law enforcement on terrorism-related topics. Kosovo’s membership in many regional and international organizations has been blocked because a number of countries do not recognize its independence, which impedes cooperation on many issues, including counterterrorism. Further, due to Serbia’s opposition and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s non-recognition, Kosovo faces difficulties in participating in regional counterterrorism initiatives.
Kosovo has undertaken several efforts in support of counterterrorism capacity building and cooperation with other states. On December 5-6, Kosovo hosted a regional conference on “Challenges in the Combat against Organized Crime and Terrorism and Cooperation in South-Eastern Europe,” with support from the United States. Chief State Prosecutors from Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia participated. The conference served as a forum to promote and increase regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The Kosovar government participated in the Foreign Terrorist Fighters roundtable for Balkan countries hosted by the State Department on the margins of the UNGA.
For more information please check the website of DOS http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2014/239406.htm