The Near East region continued to experience significant levels of terrorist activity in 2012, further complicated by ongoing regional instability across portions of North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qa’ida was not a part of the popular uprisings that led to democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa, but violent extremists looked for opportunities to exploit the political transitions underway.
- ** Iran **
- Israel (incl. West Bank & Gaza)
- Saudi Arabia
- ** Syria **
- United Arab Emirates
**- Designated as State Sponsor of Terrorism
In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya’s nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities.
Al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. AQI also took advantage of a significantly depleted security situation in Syria. Operating under its alias, al-Nusrah Front, the group sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition and attempted to hijack Syria’s struggle for democracy. The United States designated al-Nusra as an alias of AQI in December 2012.
Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against members of state security services within the Trans-Sahara region.
In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP had seized and occupied in 2011. Although weakened, AQAP was not eliminated as a threat. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees, and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.
In 2012, there was a clear resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, who remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. Attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East were linked to the IRGC-QF or Hizballah. In fact, Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Despite these persistent threats, governments across the region improved their own counterterrorism capabilities, effectively disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. The Iraqi government displayed increased capability and efficacy in pursuing multiple Sunni violent extremist groups. Though AQIM's presence and activity in the Sahel and parts of the Maghreb remains worrisome, the group's isolation in Algeria grew as Algeria increased its already substantial efforts to target it. And in 2012, Yemeni forces were successful in reducing the physical territory that AQAP had previously gained in Yemen as the result of political turmoil.
In Gaza, a sharp increase in the number of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups led Israel to launch Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. During the course of the eight-day operation, Israeli forces targeted more than 1,500 terrorist sites. Since the Egypt-brokered November 21 ceasefire, the United States has engaged with our Egyptian and Israeli counterparts to strengthen and sustain the peace, in keeping with the President’s pledge to Prime Minister Netanyahu to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. For instance, with U.S. encouragement, Egypt has increased its focus on border security and weapons interdictions. Israel has reciprocated by easing some of its economic sanctions on Gaza. The end result was a period of calm in Gaza. The United States is also in close contact with Egypt and Israel on enhancing security in the Sinai, where an August 5 terrorist attack against an Egyptian military outpost killed 16 soldiers.
Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates played an active role in the newly formed Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). At the December 2012 GCTF ministerial meeting, the Algiers Memorandum on Good Practices on Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists was adopted, and the UAE Foreign Minister announced the opening of Hedayah – the International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi. At the June 2012 GCTF ministerial, Tunisia announced that it would host the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, to provide interested governments the necessary training to strengthen criminal justice and other rule of law institutions to counter terrorism.
Overview: Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remained a significant security threat to Algeria in 2012. AQIM operated primarily in the mountainous areas east of Algiers and in the expansive desert regions near Algeria's southern border. The deteriorating security situation in neighboring northern Mali, the proliferation of weapons smuggled out of Libya, and the emergence of the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which targeted Algeria on several occasions, all contributed to the terrorist threat to Algeria. Within Algeria, AQIM remained the most active terrorist threat. The group’s Algeria-based contingent remains dedicated to the overthrow of the Algerian government. AQIM continued its historical targeting practices, largely attacking Algerian security forces. It frequently attacked local government targets and westerners in the Sahel, but as of year’s end, had not conducted an attack outside the region. Over the past year, Algerian security forces further isolated AQIM in the north and decreased the number of successful terrorist attacks, sustaining pressure on the group’s Algeria-based leadership and capturing a number of key terrorists.
Algeria has a long history of fighting terrorism, and continued its aggressive campaign against AQIM. In recent years, Algeria’s sustained military, security, and policing efforts undercut AQIM’s capabilities in northern Algeria, and largely limited the group’s operations to more rural areas. This contrasted with AQIM’s Sahel-based battalions, which historically served as support nodes for Algeria-based AQIM, but have increasingly taken advantage of chaos and rebellion to expand their areas of control and assert autonomy of action. Algerian officials frequently cited links between AQIM and narco-traffickers in the Sahel, and view terrorism as fundamentally linked to the criminal enterprises that fund the terrorist groups.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: Despite Algeria’s counterterrorism efforts, AQIM continued to execute suicide attacks, attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and ambushes in areas outside Algiers. In total, Algeria’s National Gendarmerie reported at least 175 terrorist acts in 2012. The majority of these attacks occurred in the northern Kabylie region.
As in years past, Algeria experienced a spike in terrorist incidents during Ramadan. In 2012, however, AQIM’s yearly Ramadan offensive was significantly reduced, and was publically described as the least violent Ramadan in the past decade.
- On March 3, a vehicle-borne IED was used to attack the military base in the southern city of Tamanrasset. Twenty-three people were injured in the attack. The Mali-based group MUJAO claimed responsibility for that attack.
- On June 27, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated at the gate of the Gendarmerie headquarters in the town of Ouargla, located approximately 50 miles northwest of Hassi Messaoud, situated within Algeria’s oilfield area. The attack was significant due to its proximity to oil operations and because it took place in a military exclusion zone. The device detonated at the gate of the base, killing the occupant of the vehicle and one Gendarme.
Although much lower profile than the kidnappings of westerners by AQIM in neighboring Mali, kidnappings of Algerian citizens continued to occur within the country’s borders. In October, the Algerian National Gendarmerie noted that 15 kidnappings had occurred in the northern Kabylie region throughout the year.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: Algerian security forces, primarily gendarmerie under the Ministry of National Defense, continued to conduct periodic sweep operations in the Kabylie region southeast of the capital to capture groups of AQIM fighters. Algerian law enforcement has been effective in protecting diplomatic missions and strengthening security assets when necessary. Regionally, Algeria has participated in discussions on the creation of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law.
Algerian security forces made a number of key arrests in 2012. In August, Algerian press reported that three members of AQIM were arrested in Ghardaya at a security checkpoint. These individuals included Necib Tayeb (alias Abu Ishaq Essoufi), reportedly the head of AQIM’s Legal Committee, and a member of AQIM’s “council of notables.” Local press reported that the three were traveling to neighboring northern Mali to meet with AQIM leaders. In December, press reported that Mohamed Abu Salah, the second in command to AQIM head Abdelmalek Droukdel, was arrested by Algeria near the town of Bouira. Abu Salah was reportedly in charge of AQIM communication and propaganda efforts, and his arrest would represent a significant set-back for AQIM. In total, press reported that Algerian gendarmes arrested over 300 individuals on terrorist charges, although it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of this number.
The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program provided a strong framework for improving the capabilities of Algerian institutions that fight terrorism and crime. In 2012, Algerian law-enforcement personnel participated in a variety of ATA courses designed to enhance investigative capacity, strengthen border security, and build response capacity to critical incidents. The majority of these courses combined students from different ministries in an effort to promote inter-ministerial cooperation and coordination in law enforcement.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Algeria works actively to counter terrorist financing. The Government of Algeria maintains – and advocates that others also maintain – a strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage and played a leadership role in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) efforts to raise awareness among governments to prevent the payment of ransoms to terrorist organizations. Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Since October 2011, Algeria has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies. To address those deficiencies, it has developed an action plan with the FATF.
As part of its broader efforts to combat terrorist financing and comply with the FATF recommendations, and after a review of its 2005 AML/CFT legislation, Algeria adopted a new law in 2012 on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing. The 2012 law entered into force on December 14, and requires banks and other financial institutions to improve tracking and record keeping. The law also strengthens the obligations of financial regulators to monitor and ensure that banks and financial institutions cooperate with law enforcement authorities on investigations and prosecutions. Finally, the law authorizes judges to freeze or seize funds belonging to terrorist organizations. This legislation addresses prior concerns that Algeria had no specific legislation to freeze terrorist assets, although Algeria maintained that its ratification of international terrorist financing conventions gave it the authority to do so. Algeria worked throughout 2012 to improve its Financial Intelligence Unit’s analytical and resource capacity, strengthen its authority, and increase its resources.
Algeria has a cash-based economy and a vast informal sector that poses challenges to monitoring and regulating money and value transfer services. Although the Algerian government, particularly the Central Bank, has mechanisms in place to control and collect data on wire transfers – and although Algeria requires the collection of wire transfer data – it is unclear whether legal requirements were consistently enforced. The Algerian government monitors NGO activities and financing. A 2012 law on associations included new provisions to limit foreign funding to local NGOs. The Central Bank is responsible for disseminating information about UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities to financial institutions.
Regional and International Cooperation: Algeria is a founding member of the GCTF and co-chairs the group’s Sahel Working Group, in which capacity it championed the development of the Algiers Memorandum on Good Practices on Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists.
Regional counterterrorism cooperation remained challenging, particularly in the wake of the conflicts in neighboring northern Mali and Libya. Algeria is actively combating AQIM within its borders, but its long-standing policy of non-intervention has limited its involvement in neighboring northern Mali, where several AQIM battalions collaborated with the tribal and violent Islamist extremists that seized the northern half of Mali in spring 2012. Algeria has dramatically increased border security and reportedly sent thousands of additional security forces to reinforce the border and reduce weapons smuggling. Nonetheless, the long, porous borders remain a persistent security challenge.
In September 2010, Algeria in collaboration with southern neighbors Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, formed the Comite d’État-Major Opérationnel Conjoint (CEMOC). While the role of the CEMOC military command center (based in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset) in regional security has been limited, conferences among the CEMOC Joint Chiefs of Staff have resulted in additional coordination with regard to border security strategies.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Algeria's 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation offered amnesty to former terrorists who laid down their weapons and disavowed violence. Perpetrators of particularly egregious acts, such as rape and bombings, were excluded from this amnesty. The program was controversial but succeeded in demobilizing a number of former militants.
Beginning in 2010, the Algerian government expanded its efforts at countering violent extremism by enlisting religious scholars and former terrorists to speak on its Radio Quran radio station, attempting to dissuade terrorists still fighting the government. The Algerian government appoints, trains, and pays the salaries of imams. The penal code outlines strict punishments, including fines and prison sentences, for anyone other than a government-designated imam who preaches in a mosque. The Algerian government monitors mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibits the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. The government has the authority to pre-screen and approve sermons before they are delivered during Friday prayers, but more often it provides preapproved sermon topics prior to Friday prayers. In practice, each province and county employed religious officials to review sermon content.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs' educational commission is responsible for establishing policies for hiring teachers at Quranic schools and ensuring that all imams are well-qualified and follow governmental guidelines aimed at stemming violent extremism. Algerian imams have organized talks with Islamist militants and others susceptible to violent extremist ideologies, to challenge fatwas used to justify violence. The Ministry of Youth and Sports has implemented new policies aimed at creating alternative and constructive activities for disadvantaged youth, including expanding English-language programs, sports, and access to technical facilities at the thousands of Youth Centers they manage around the country. The government also continued to collaborate with the Muslim Scouts to manage programs on civic engagement, volunteerism, and leadership throughout the country.
Overview: Following a year of political and social unrest, Bahrain continued to develop its counterterrorism capacities while trying to address its citizens’ demands for political reform. Bahrain contributed manpower to international counterterrorism operations, participated in international technical training, realigned internal responsibilities, and continued to invest in border control and security. Bahraini-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong, especially on the investigations of several suspected domestic terrorist incidents.
2012 Terrorist Incidents:
- In April, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated in the Diraz neighborhood, injuring four security officers.
- On August 22, according to Chief of Public Security Major General Tariq al-Hassan, a terrorist explosion threatened the lives of two men working security jobs in Sitra, causing burns and injuries. Preliminary information revealed that the explosion was caused by a locally made, remote controlled IED.
- On October 20, an IED exploded in Al-Ekr, causing the death of a police officer.
- On November 5, six homemade pipe bombs exploded, killing two expatriate workers and injuring a third individual.
- On November 7, a car caught fire after coming into contact with an explosive device left on the ground near the Atlas Hotel in Gudaibiya. No casualties were reported.
- On November 28, the Ministry of Interior reported that a homemade bomb exploded in a garbage bin in Adliya. No casualties were reported.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: The Bahrain National Security Agency established an agreement with the Ministry of Interior (MOI), giving the MOI authority to conduct arrest and detention operations of designated targets. The agreement, while signed in 2011, was enacted in 2012.
In June, police raided what they determined was a bomb-making facility. Follow-up investigations were conducted with the participation of forensic experts from London’s Metropolitan Police.
In the case of the “Qatar Cell,” uncovered in 2011 with the cooperation of the Qatari Security Authority, the MOI revealed that it found a terrorist cell targeting vital facilities and prominent figures. The Higher Criminal Court sentenced six defendants to 15 years imprisonment, and acquitted two other defendants. At year’s end the case was with the Higher Appellate Court of Bahrain, who has adjourned it until February 2013, for the defense argument.
Bahrain continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which focused on enhancing border security, investigations, and critical incident management capacity for law enforcement and first responders.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Bahrain is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. In 2012, there were no public prosecutions of terrorist finance cases. Ministry of Interior officials from the Financial Intelligence Unit attended a U.S.-sponsored conference in Virginia in April and a Central Bank of Bahrain compliance official attended training in October.
Regional And International Cooperation: Bahrain worked closely and cooperatively with international partners throughout the region. Since formally endorsing the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in March 2008, Bahrain has proactively worked to expand air, sea, and causeway border control points. On December 30, the Cabinet endorsed a collective security agreement of the six Gulf Cooperation Council member states. The agreement outlines mutual responsibilities to preserve security and stability in the region. One of its goals is to help combat transnational and organized crime and terrorism through information exchanges and coordination. Before implementation, the agreement must be ratified by each member state.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Government of Bahrain’s efforts to counter radicalization and violent extremism were spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs (MOJIA), which organized regular workshops for clerics and speakers from both the Sunni and Shia sects. One specific course addressed the definition of fanaticism, the adverse effects of fanaticism, and ways to guard against fanatic thought. The MOJIA also undertook an annual review of schools’ Islamic Studies curricula to evaluate interpretations of religious texts.
Overview: Egyptian security services faced an evolving political, legal, and security environment in which they continued to combat terrorism and violent extremism. In June, Egypt elected a President, replacing the military council that had ruled the country since February 2011. In August, an attack on an Egyptian military installation near Rafah resulted in the deaths of 16 Egyptian soldiers and the hijacking of military vehicles, which were then used in an attempt to attack targets in Israel. This attack brought the problem of lawlessness in the Sinai to the forefront of President Morsy’s security agenda. While the National Security Sector, which replaced the State Security Investigations Service in 2011, has struggled to fully understand and effectively combat terrorist threats, it has had some successes, such as the October raid and arrest of al-Qa’ida (AQ) aspirants in Cairo’s Nasr City neighborhood. In addition, following the September 11 breach of the U.S. Embassy compound in Cairo, the Ministry of Interior ordered improvements to security measures around the Embassy.
Egypt's Northern Sinai region remained a transit route for smuggling arms and explosives into Gaza, as well as a base and transit point for Palestinian violent extremists. The smuggling of humans, weapons, cash, and other contraband through the Sinai into Israel and Gaza supported criminal networks with possible ties to terrorist groups in the region, although media accounts of Egyptian action to collapse smuggling tunnels increased later in the year. The smuggling of weapons from Libya to and through Egypt has increased since the overthrow of the Qadhafi regime. The security forces interdicted some of these arms. While it remained opposed to violent extremism, the Egyptian government largely focused its efforts on protecting official installations, restoring basic security, and ensuring a peaceful political transition.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: Nearly all of the reported terrorist incidents involved attacks on security forces – Egyptian, Israeli, or international – guarding or monitoring the Sinai, its state infrastructure, and its border with Gaza and Israel. These incidents included:
- On April 5, a rocket attack was fired from Sinai on Eilat, Israel.
- On June 16, two rockets were fired from Sinai on Israel.
- On June 18, a cross-border improvised explosive device attack targeted workers constructing the Israeli security fence along the Gaza-Sinai border. The Mujahidin Shura Council claimed responsibility.
- On July 22, there was a cross-border shooting at a bus of Israeli soldiers.
- On August 5, an attack near Rafah resulted in the death of 16 Egyptian soldiers. Attackers hijacked two Egyptian military vehicles and unsuccessfully attempted to cross the border and assault the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
- On August 15, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Partisans of the Holy Sanctuary) claimed responsibility for two rockets fired at Eilat, Israel.
- On September 21, an attack on an Israeli checkpoint resulted in the death of one Israeli Defense Force soldier; Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility.
- On November 3, suspected violent Islamist extremists killed three Egyptian policemen in El-Arish in the northern Sinai.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: Egypt’s Emergency Law, in effect since 1981, expired on May 31, 2012. State emergency courts continued to adjudicate those arrested for Emergency Law violations that occurred prior to its annulment. Officially, after that date, terrorism suspects were supposed to be investigated by civilian prosecutors for trial in regular civilian courts. In some cases, involving attacks on military personnel and facilities, however, military prosecutors and courts continued to function and assert jurisdiction.
Egypt continued its incremental efforts to improve border security with U.S. assistance and maintained its strengthened airport and port security measures and security for the Suez Canal, though the country’s political transition and change in government delayed further progress. Egyptian border officials maintained a watch list for suspected violent extremists.
The United States provided technical assistance to Egypt to ensure the peaceful and legal movement of people and goods through the Rafah border crossing with Israel. To combat Sinai-Gaza frontier smuggling, installation was completed for Omniview scanners at the Peace Bridge on the Suez Canal at El Qantara. In addition, five Egyptian officers travelled to the United States in September to visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters, and the U.S. Port of Entry along the U.S.-Mexico border in California. CBP worked with Egyptian Customs Authority in Alexandria, Egypt to identify its customs-specific training needs.
On October 24, Egyptian security services raided a Cairo apartment in the Nasr City neighborhood and arrested a number of Egyptians, Libyans, and Tunisians associated with AQ aspirants in Egypt. On October 30, they arrested Sheikh Adel Shehato, an Egyptian Islamic Jihad official who is accused of founding and financing the Nasr City cell. The Egyptian security services subsequently arrested group leader Muhammad Jamal al Kashef. Authorities seized weapons, some of which may have been smuggled from Libya, and claimed that the cell planned attacks on Egyptian and international targets in the country. These actions appeared to indicate an increase in security officials’ willingness to enforce existing laws.
The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program provided training and equipment grants designed to meet needs and objectives specific to Egypt amid the country’s evolving political landscape.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Egypt is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Egypt's terrorist finance regulations were in line with relevant UNSCRs, though compliance with FATF international standards remained lacking. Egypt regularly informed its own financial institutions of any individuals or entities that are designated by the UN 1267/1989 and 1988 sanctions committees. Egypt’s Code of Criminal Procedures and Penal Code adequately provides for the freezing, seizure, and confiscation of terrorism-related assets. With regard to implementation of UNSCRs 1267/1989 and 1988, however, the Egyptian notification process falls short of the requirements of FATF standards, particularly the use of measures and procedures for competent authorities to be able to freeze or seize terrorist-identified assets without delay. In Egypt, implementation requires a series of steps for actions by the relevant agencies and entities throughout the Egyptian government. Authorities have explained that according to current procedures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives the UN lists and sends such lists to the Egyptian Money Laundering Combating Unit, which then directs concerned agencies to take the required actions. There are no specific procedures related to the un-freezing of assets. Moreover, delays in Egypt’s judicial process could cause unnecessary delays and defeat the rationale for taking expedited freezing action in relation to individuals and legal persons designated on the UN lists.
Regional and International Cooperation: Egypt is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and, together with the United States, co-chaired its Rule of Law and Justice Committee. Egypt participated in the Arab League's Counterterrorism Committee, and the Egyptian Customs Authority’s Alexandria training center served as the location for counterterrorism capacity building for other regional governments.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Awqaf (Endowments) is legally responsible for issuing guidance to imams throughout Egypt, including how to avoid extremism in sermons. Al-Azhar University maintained a program to train imams who promote moderate Islam, interfaith cooperation, and human rights.
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran increased its terrorist-related activity, including attacks or attempted attacks in India, Thailand, Georgia, and Kenya. Iran provided financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups in the Middle East and Central Asia. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and militant groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and stir up instability in the Middle East. The IRGC-QF is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
In 2012, Iran was implicated in planned attacks in India, Thailand, Georgia, and Kenya. On February 13, in New Delhi, India, a magnetic bomb placed under the vehicle of an Israeli diplomat’s wife exploded, seriously injuring her and three Indian nationals. On February 14, a similar device was discovered under a vehicle belonging to the Israeli embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and safely defused. Also on February 14, Thai police arrested three Iranian nationals in connection with explosions in a Bangkok private residence that revealed bomb-making materials and makeshift grenades intended for use in attacks against Israeli targets. On June 19, Kenyan authorities arrested two Iranian nationals in connection with explosives stockpiled for a suspected terrorist attack. According to press reports, the individuals were members of the IRGC-QF.
On October 17, Iranian-born U.S. dual-national Mansour Arbabsiar was arrested by U.S. authorities and pled guilty in a New York court to participating in a 2011 plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Arbabsiar held several meetings with an associate whom Iranian officials believed was a narcotics cartel member. This associate, in fact, was a confidential source for U.S. law enforcement. Arbabsiar admitted to working on behalf of the IRGC-QF to carry out the plot. An IRGC-QF officer who remains at large was also indicted. The thwarted plot demonstrated Iran’s interest in using international terrorism – including in the United States – to further its foreign policy goals.
In 2012, the IRGC-QF trained Taliban elements on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives, and indirect fire weapons, such as mortars, artillery, and rockets. Since 2006, Iran has arranged arms shipments to select Taliban members, including small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives. Iran has shipped a large number of weapons to Kandahar, Afghanistan, aiming to increase its influence in this key province.
Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Lebanese Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device technology and other advanced weaponry.
Regarding Syria, Iran provided extensive support, including weapons, funds, and training to assist the Asad regime in its brutal crackdown that has resulted in the death of more than 70,000 civilians. Iran provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has assisted in rearming Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of Hizballah fighters at camps in Iran.
Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. In July 2012, the Yemeni Interior Ministry arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and to Syria. Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.
Since 2009, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has called for its members and the international community to institute countermeasures to protect their respective financial sectors and the global financial system from the risks – in particular the terrorist financing threat – posed by Iran. In October 2012, the FATF strengthened its language and again called for countermeasures against Iran. Iran has had some limited engagement regarding anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism and has responded to overtures by multilateral entities such as the UN’s Global Programme against Money Laundering, but it has failed to criminalize terrorist financing and require that financial institutions and other obliged entities file suspicious transaction reports. Iran has not engaged with FATF and was not a member of a FATF-style regional body.
Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continues to violate its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. For further information, see the Report to Congress on Iran-related Multilateral Sanctions Regime Efforts (February 2013), and the Report on the Status of Bilateral and Multilateral Efforts Aimed at Curtailing the Pursuit of Iran of Nuclear Weapons Technology (September 2012).
Overview: Iraqi security forces made progress combating al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and other Sunni insurgent organizations in 2012. While there has been clear and measurable success against AQI over the years, the group still remains a dangerous threat to the Iraqi people. In 2012, there were no significant attacks on U.S. interests or U.S. fatalities. The Iraqi government succeeded in securing multiple large public religious gatherings and government events – most notably the Arab League Summit in late March and P5+1 talks in May in Baghdad – but terrorist bombings and other attacks continued to occur.
The Government of Iraq concentrated its counterterrorism efforts against AQI and other Sunni-affiliated terrorist organizations. AQI remained capable of large-scale coordinated attacks and conducted numerous high-profile suicide and car bombings on government and civilian targets, aiming to increase tensions among Iraqi sectarian groups and ethnic minorities, and undercut public perceptions of the government’s capacity to provide security. Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (JRTN), a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party, also continued attacks during the year. JRTN largely targeted Iraqi and U.S. interests in northern Iraq. Shia militant groups Kata’ib Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl Haqq, and the Sadrist Promised Day Brigades adhered to the cease-fire they declared in the latter half of 2011 and early 2012. Some former Shia militant leaders began engaging in the political process and competing for political influence.
Terrorist tactics and weapons remained largely unchanged from 2011, as AQI and other terrorists relied predominantly on suicide bombings and car and roadside bombs and to a lesser extent on gunmen using assault rifles or silenced weapons to assassinate government and security officials.
Iraq-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong, particularly in training, advisory, and intelligence-sharing programs.
The Iraqi Security Forces proved capable of working together to find, arrest, and charge terrorism suspects. In November, the Iraqi Police, Federal Police, and Iraqi Army – at times working together – arrested over 350 people on terrorism charges and seized several weapon and rocket caches, as part of a major counterterrorism operation. Iraq’s Counterterrorism Services (CTS) also conducted approximately 1,600 terrorism related arrests in 2012.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist groups conducted numerous attacks throughout the country. The deadliest attacks involved suicide bombings that targeted security forces, government buildings, and religious gatherings:
- On January 5, car bombs in Shia areas in Baghdad’s Sadr City and Kadhimiyah District killed at least 25 civilians and wounded nearly 70. A suicide bomber also targeted Shia pilgrims celebrating Arbaeen near the city of Nassiriya, killing at least 40 people and wounding over 70.
- On February 23, a series of coordinated car bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and shootings orchestrated by AQI killed at least 55 people and wounded over 200 in Baghdad and 11 other cities.
- On March 20, over 30 car bombings, later claimed by AQI, killed at least 50 people and wounded over 200 in over 12 cities, including Baghdad.
- On April 19, over 20 roadside bombs and IEDs killed at least 36 people and wounded approximately 150 in Kirkuk City, Baghdad, and four other cities.
- On June 13, roadside and car bombs in 10 different cities, including Baghdad, killed over 60 people and wounded another 153. The casualties were predominantly Shia pilgrims.
- On July 23, a series of highly coordinated attacks targeting mostly Shia using car bombs, checkpoint ambushes, and assaults on a military base and police officers’ homes, killed at least 107 people and wounded another 268 people throughout the country.
- On August 16, a wave of shootings and IEDs killed more than 80 people and wounded over 270 in Baghdad and Kirkuk City, as well as Salah-ad-din, Anbar, Wasit, and Diyala provinces during the month of Ramadan.
- On September 9, coordinated car bombings in a dozen Iraqi cities killed at least 100 people and wounded another 285, following news that an Iraqi court had sentenced Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to death. September was also the deadliest month in Iraq in over two years with approximately 365 people killed and another 683 wounded.
- On December 17, a wave of bombings hit neighborhoods in the disputed areas and other parts of Iraq killing 25 people and wounding dozens. The bombs targeted civilians of Shabak ethnicity in al-Mouafaqiyah, a village north of Mosul, and Turkomen neighborhoods in the city of Tuz Khormato.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: The Government of Iraq took several steps to improve border security. Iraq, with U.S. support, continued to install, repair, and improve inspection equipment at ports of entry. The government also expanded the number of ports of entry with biometric data capture, but continued to face challenges linking border security systems together. Iraq is also incorporating non-intrusive inspection equipment at its land border crossings to scan for contraband, is improving roads along the borders, and received three littoral patrol ships in March.
Iraq’s major counterterrorism organizations made progress in investigating cases and arresting terrorists, but continued to suffer from a lack of interagency coordination and inadequate cooperation between investigators, prosecutors, and the judiciary. While the Federal Intelligence and Investigations Agency (FIIA) arrested a significant number of terrorist suspects in 2012, Iraqi federal law enforcement and intelligence entities continued to struggle with intelligence analysis and targeting efforts relating to terrorist organizations and often resorted to rounding up locals to elicit intelligence information. The Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF), a collaborative task force involving U.S. federal law enforcement officers and FIIA investigators, targeted counterterrorism, organized crime, and government corruption cases from 2005 through late 2011. In 2012, the MCTF functioned as an Iraqi-only investigative element focusing on terrorist groups. However, like many other law enforcement entities, the MCTF operated independent of other Iraqi agencies working terrorism matters to include the Counterterrorism Organized Crime General Directorate.
Iraq continued to face significant challenges investigating and moving criminal cases from arrest to trial due to resource limitations, inadequate training, poor interagency coordination, and at times, limited political will. Prosecution of sectarian crimes carries a significant political risk. Separately, many among Iraq's Sunni community believed that the government used terrorism laws to unfairly target the Sunni population. Iraqi law enforcement officials, with U.S. training support, continued to improve investigative skills such as forensic evidence collection.
In 2011, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) convicted a former Iraqi Army sergeant and suspected AQI member of the murder of two U.S. soldiers in 2007 and sentenced him to life in prison. In the spring of 2012, however, the Federal Court of Cassation (FCC) overturned this decision on appeal and dismissed the charges. Even though substantial evidence was presented, the FCC determined that critical forensic evidence was of limited reliability and probative value. The U.S. government requested that the FCC correct and reverse this decision, but this request was formally denied on October 8. Subsequent to the spring 2012 FCC decision dismissing the charges in the above case, a companion case against the same defendant before the CCCI for other soldiers wounded in the attack resulted in the dismissal of similar terrorism charges on similar evidentiary grounds. On October 21, the CCCI convicted a suspected Shia Jaysh al-Mahdi member on terrorism charges stemming from an attack that killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. It is anticipated that this case will be subject to review on appeal by the FCC.
On November 16, citing a lack of a legal basis to continue holding him, Iraq also released Lebanese Hizballah member Ali Musa Daqduq, who was accused of involvement in a 2007 attack that killed five U.S. soldiers. The CCCI had dismissed the charges against Daqduq in May citing insufficient reliable evidence, a decision that was upheld on appeal in June by the FCC.
Judicial security continued to be a challenge. Judges investigating and adjudicating terrorism cases continued to face threats to their personal safety and that of their families:
- In April, terrorists targeted the Chief Judge of Karkh Appellate Court (Najim Abdallah Ahamd al-Mashhadani) with a vehicle-born improvised explosive device at an intersection about 50 meters from the judge’s vehicle.
- In June, terrorists again targeted Judge Najim, this time by a suicide bomber on a bicycle. The explosion killed one bystander.
- In October, terrorists assassinated Dr. Talib Al Shraa' of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Dr. Talib was MOJ’s liaison to the National Center for State Courts, a U.S.-partner assisting the MOJ in its strategic planning and budgeting.
At year’s end, the Security and Defense Committee of the Council of Representatives was still working on draft legislation to codify the mission and authorities of the CTS. This effort has remained stalled since 2009.
Iraq remained an important partner nation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which focused on helping the Government of Iraq build capacity in law enforcement investigations, critical incident management, and border security.
Countering Terrorist Finance : In 2012, the Iraqi government underwent its first-ever mutual evaluation to review compliance with international anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standards by the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. This important step affirmed Iraq’s commitment to interrupt terrorist finance domestically. Although Iraq’s Mutual Evaluation Report found the country to be non-compliant in most areas, the engagement of the Iraqi government, including at the MENAFATF plenary in November, served as an indicator of Iraq’s commitment to address the AML/CFT challenges it faces. The United States provided subject matter expertise to assist Iraq in preparing for the mutual evaluation, post-evaluation follow-up, and in drafting a new AML/CFT statute.
The Prime Minister has approved the formation of a committee, or task force, to coordinate cases involving asset recovery, including the recovery of assets illegally taken outside of Iraq by members of the former regime, and tracing funds used to support terrorism. The committee will include representatives from the Ministry of Interior Economic Crimes Section, the Federal Investigation Information, and the Commission of Integrity. The Prime Minister’s legal advisor announced the formation of the task force the week of October 21.
The Acting Governor of the Central Bank has agreed to move the Iraqi Financial Intelligence Unit (formerly the Money Laundering Reporting Office, now referred to as the Anti-Money Laundering Unit, or AMLU) into a secure space with dependable utilities, to facilitate the work of the unit.
Regional and International Cooperation: Iraq is increasingly engaging with its neighbors through the Arab League. Iraq hosted the Arab League Summit in March of this year. Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued a trilateral security dialogue as part of ongoing efforts to counter the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
The U.S.-supported NATO Transition Cell in Iraq assisted over 70 Iraqi officials in receiving NATO training abroad on various topics, including counterterrorism. CTS also partnered with Jordan, sending nearly 40 of its soldiers to the Jordanian Counterterrorism Academy for training. In April, CTS sent observers to a U.S.-Jordanian joint counterterrorism exercise.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Iraqi leaders routinely denounced terrorism and countered terrorist propaganda in public statements. The Iraqi government took steps to bring certain violent violent extremist groups into the political process, and made limited attempts to foster broader reconciliation between sectarian groups.
Overview: Israel continued to be a stalwart counterterrorism partner in 2012. It faced continued terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank; and from Hizballah in Lebanon. Fourteen Israelis were killed as a result of terrorist attacks in 2012. Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist organizations continued rocket and mortar attacks into Israeli territory, and multiple terrorist attacks were launched along the Gaza security fence as well as the Israel-Egypt border. Gaza also remained a base of operations for several violent Islamist extremist splinter groups. The Government of Israel responded to these threats with operations directed at terrorist leaders, infrastructure, and activities such as rocket launching, most notably in Operation Pillar of Defense during the November 14-21 Gaza conflict.
A Hamas and PIJ-linked terrorist cell based in the West Bank also carried out a bombing on a Tel Aviv city bus, the first such attack in years, and Israel faced a wave of plots and attacks against its interests abroad that Israeli officials linked to Iran and Hizballah. Arms smuggling continued from Iran through Egypt into Gaza to Palestinian terrorist organizations. Israeli officials also continued to be concerned about the smuggling of weapons from Libya via Sudan into Gaza.
Israel was hit by a record volume of rocket fire from Gaza in 2012. The rocket attacks demonstrated technological advancements, and Gaza militants for the first time used longer-range rockets to target major Israeli population centers in the greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas. Israeli experts maintained that militants successfully smuggled long-range rockets from the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels into Gaza, and subsequently began producing rockets in Gaza. Israeli counterterrorism officials said Gaza militants made significant quantitative and qualitative advances in capabilities in the four years since Operation Cast Lead. Before Cast Lead, Israeli officials estimated that Gaza militants had 1,000 rockets with ranges up to 25 kilometers (km); at the start of Pillar of Defense, stockpiles had increased to approximately 6,000, with ranges up to 80 km. During this period, Gaza militants also developed the ability to employ dual-use materials smuggled into Gaza to manufacture the M-75 rocket, which was used twice for longer-range strikes against Israel during Pillar of Defense. The Israeli government continued to hold Hamas, as the dominant organization in effective control of Gaza, responsible for the attacks emanating from Gaza, and Israeli officials pointed to these attacks as proof that Hamas has not abandoned terrorism. In the aftermath of the Gaza escalation, Israel is seeking enhanced cooperation with regional partners and the international community to effectively counter arms smuggling in the region.
On the Northern Border, Israeli security officials remained concerned about the terrorist threat posed to Israel from Hizballah and its Iranian patron, arguing that Iran, primarily through the efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, continued to transfer arms to Hizballah in Lebanon. Also, in light of the unrest in Syria, Israeli officials were concerned about proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations. Israeli politicians and security officials pointed to Hizballah's efforts to rebuild and re-arm following the 2006 Lebanon War as evidence that the group remained a threat to Israel. According to the Government of Israel, Hizballah has stockpiled 50,000 missiles in Lebanon, some of which are capable of striking anywhere in Israel, including population centers.
A series of terrorist attacks and foiled plots against Israeli interests abroad that began in 2011 continued in 2012. Though most of these plots were disrupted, a July 18 suicide attack against Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, killed five Israeli citizens and one Bulgarian and injured dozens, and a February 13 attack in New Delhi injured the wife of an Israeli Ministry of Defense employee. Terrorist plots were also uncovered against Israeli targets in Thailand, Azerbaijan, and Cyprus, and an attack was foiled in Georgia. Israeli officials publicly linked many of these plots and attacks to Hizballah and its Iranian sponsors. [On February 5, 2013, the Bulgarian government publically implicated Hizballah in the July 2012 Burgas bombing that killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian citizen, and injured 32 others. On March 21, 2013, a Cyprus court found a Hizballah operative guilty of charges stemming from his surveillance activities, carried out in 2012, of Israeli tourist targets, while Thailand was prosecuting a Hizballah member for his role in helping plan a possible terrorist attack in that country.]
2012 Terrorist Incidents: Incidents included rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, a bus bombing, attacks along the Gaza security fence, and cross-border attacks from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Rocket and mortar fire emanating from Gaza was the most prevalent form of attack by Palestinian terrorist organizations. Israel experienced major escalations in rocket attacks in March, June, October, and November. According to figures released by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), as of the end of November, a total of 2,331 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel in the course of 2012, up from the previous peak of approximately 2,000 in 2008. In addition, 224 mortar shells were launched toward Israel. Following attacks from Gaza, Israeli forces targeted sites used by terrorists to launch indirect-fire attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces. In addition, Israel faced terrorist threats abroad, including attacks that were carried out in Bulgaria and India, and at least five plots or attempted attacks in other countries. Please see the country reports for Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, India, Kenya, and Thailand in this chapter for information on attacks against Israeli citizens.
Between November 14 and 21, some 1,814 rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza toward Israel. The bulk of incoming fire targeted communities in the South, but some longer-range rockets were fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem area for the first time. Although most of these landed in open areas or were intercepted, one rocket struck a residential building in the Tel Aviv suburb Rishon Lezion, causing extensive damage. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 421 rockets during the operation, successfully engaging approximately 85 percent of rockets targeted for interception.
Despite Iron Dome and other civil defense efforts, incoming rocket and mortar fire resulted in the deaths of six Israelis and significant property damage. On November 15, three people were killed in a direct rocket hit on an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi. On November 20, an Israeli soldier and an Israeli civilian were killed by mortar fire in the Eshkol Regional Council. On November 22, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserve officer died of wounds suffered in a November 21 rocket attack from Gaza.
On November 21, a bomb exploded in a city bus in central Tel Aviv, near the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, wounding 26 Israeli civilians. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhiri praised the bombing. In December, the ISA announced that it arrested the perpetrators of the attack, who it said were members of a Ramallah-area-based terrorist cell consisting of Hamas and PIJ-affiliated operatives. According to the ISA, the cell was led by Ahmed Salah Ahmed Musa, a Hamas operative who was responsible for intelligence collection, production of the improvised explosive device (IED), and recruiting the individual who planted the IED and remotely activated it. Muhammad Abed Al Jfar Nasser Mfarja, an Israeli citizen, was recruited to Hamas by Musa, and planted the IED on the bus. The ISA described Fuad Rabach Sucry Azai as a PIJ operative who provided Musa with a handgun and ammunition and attempted to provide him with an M-16 rifle. Prior to the attack, Musa requested the assistance of another Hamas operative, Muhammad Mahpod Said Damara, who reportedly admitted the possession of a rifle that was to be used during the attack. On December 19, the Tel Aviv District Advocate filed an indictment in the Tel Aviv District Court against Mfarja; indictments against the remaining operatives were expected to follow.
Incidents along the Gaza security fence included:
- On May 1, IDF soldiers came under fire near the security fence in central Gaza; two armored vehicles were damaged.
- On June 1, an Israeli soldier was killed when a terrorist attempting to enter Israel from southern Gaza opened fire on IDF soldiers.
- On October 23, an IDF officer was injured in an IED attack on the Gaza border. Israel subsequently uncovered additional explosive devices near the security fence, and on November 9, an “explosive tunnel” on the Gaza border detonated during an operational activity by the IDF.
- On November 10, an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF patrol along the security fence in northern Gaza, injuring four Israeli soldiers.
Incidents on the Israel-Egypt border included:
- In February, an IDF team found an explosive device with a remote trigger along the portion of the Israel-Egypt border known as the Philadelphi Corridor.
- In a June 18 cross-border attack from Egypt, militants detonated a roadside bomb and fired anti-tank rockets and live ammunition at two Israeli vehicles. An Israeli civilian working on the Israel-Egypt border fence was killed, and two others were wounded.
- On August 5, terrorists identified by the IDF as a global terrorist cell operating in the Sinai stormed an Egyptian military post near Rafah, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and border guards and capturing an armored personnel carrier (APC) and a truck filled with explosives. The truck exploded at the Israel-Egypt border, and the APC entered Israeli territory near Kerem Shalom with four attackers inside, where it was targeted by the Israel Air Force. The attack came shortly after a mortar barrage from Gaza pounded the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, and rockets were fired at adjacent towns.
Hizballah-linked incidents included:
- According to the ISA, in early June, Hizballah smuggled 20 kilograms of C-4 explosive and an IED detonation system into Israel from Lebanon, using a network of narcotics dealers. Weapons were also seized as part of a joint ISA-Israel National Police operation that exposed the scheme. Twelve suspects were detained and questioned, and charges were filed against eight.
- On October 6, the IAF shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that entered Israeli airspace, and the IDF posted a video clip of the interception online. According to press, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in televised remarks on October 11, acknowledged that the group had sent the drone, and claimed its parts were manufactured in Iran and assembled by Hizballah in Lebanon.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: On December 2, the Cabinet declared the following entities to be terrorist organizations, pursuant to Article 8 of the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. Israeli counterterrorism officials indicated that each of these entities was already subject to counterterrorism sanctions prior to this decision, which was intended to reinforce existing measures and enhance enforcement.
• The al-Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards;
• The Change and Reform List or al-Atzlach v’al-Tajair;
• The Charity Coalition (Atlaf Alchayir);
• The Iranian (or) Palestinian Humanity Support and Coordination Staff, the Popular Committee for Support of the Palestinian People, and the Iranian Popular Committee for Support of the Palestinian Intifada;
• The al-Qods Institution and al-Qods International Institution;
• The Palestinian and Lebanese Families Welfare Trust;
• The Popular Resistance Committees and its military arm, the Saladin Brigade;
• The IHH (“Insan Haklary ve Hurriyetleri”), Vakfi International Humanitarian Relief Organization, “Internationale Humanitere Hilfsorganisation.”
On the law enforcement front, the ISA and Israel National Police (INP) continued to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies on cases involving U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, as well as other counterterrorism initiatives of mutual interest.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Israel had active observer status in Moneyval, the Council of Europe's Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money-laundering Measures, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Israeli Financial Intelligence Unit, known as the Israeli Money-Laundering and Terror Finance Prohibition Authority, is a member of the Egmont Group. Israel's counterterrorist finance regime continued to be enhanced through enforcement operations and the inclusion of new groups under national terrorist finance laws; the well-regulated Israeli banking industry worked to address suspected terrorist activity. Financing of Hamas through charitable organizations remained a concern for Israeli authorities, as did the funding of Hizballah through charities and criminal organizations.
Regional and International Security Cooperation: Israel continued its counterterrorism cooperation with a range of regional and international institutions, including the UN, the OAS, and the OSCE. Israel conducted strategic dialogues that included counterterrorism discussions with the United States, Canada, Russia, the UK, France, Germany Italy, and the EU. Israel continued to cooperate with the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism to assist Latin American states with counterterrorism efforts. Israel also deepened its cooperation with the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. As a member of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Israel continued to explore ways to enhance cooperation on counterterrorism with Central Asian states. Israel also engaged with the EU on transportation and aviation security efforts and sought to deepen its counterterrorism cooperation with NATO.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued, and several were condemned by senior Israeli officials as acts of terrorism. Following the evacuation of the Migron outpost and subsequent desecration of the Latrun Monastery in September, Minister of Internal Security Aharonovitch, according to local media, announced the establishment of a new police unit to counter settler violence and called for a “zero tolerance policy against terror, the desecration of religious institutions, attacks on symbols of governance, and attacks commonly known as ‘price tag.’”
West Bank and Gaza: The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank. Hamas, PIJ, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remained present in the West Bank, although the improved capacity of Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) constrained those organizations' ability to carry out attacks. The IDF continued arresting members of terrorist organizations operating in the West Bank. Gaza continued to be administered by Hamas; and Hamas, PIJ and Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) launched attacks against Israel from Gaza.
Palestinian militants initiated attacks against Israelis inside the West Bank and Israel. Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property, and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted, according to UN and NGO sources. The ISA reported a total of more than 750 of what it defined as terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank against Israeli citizens from January through November. Of these, more than 700 involved firebombs; but the attacks also included shootings, stabbings, grenade and IED incidents, and rock throwing. According to Israeli authorities, despite continued violence, for the first time since 1973, an entire year passed without an Israeli fatality from a terrorist attack in the West Bank.
The primary PASF services operating in the West Bank were the Palestinian Civil Police, the National Security Force (NSF), the Preventive Security Organization, the General Intelligence Service, the Presidential Guard, the Military Intelligence Service, and the Civil Defense. Based on available payroll numbers, PASF forces in the West Bank numbered approximately 29,000. Much of the PASF were under the Interior Minister’s operational control and followed the Prime Minister’s guidance, while others reported directly to the PA president. Israeli authorities, among others, noted continuing improvements in the capacity and performance of PASF as a leading contributor to the improved security environment in the West Bank and a dramatic reduction in terrorist incidents in and emanating from the West Bank over the past six years. The United States continued to assist the PA's counterterrorism efforts through capacity building programs for PA security forces, which included training, equipping, and provision of infrastructure to PASF personnel in the West Bank. U.S.-funded training of PASF also took place in Jordan at the Jordan International Police Training Center, and at the Prince Hussein Bin Abdullah II Academy of Civil Protection in Jordan.
Hamas continued to consolidate its control over Gaza, eliminating or marginalizing potential rivals. Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza smuggled weapons, cash, and other contraband into Gaza through an extensive network of tunnels from Egypt. Gaza remained a base of operations for several violent extremist splinter groups, such as Tawhid wa Jihad and the Mujahedin Shura Council; and clan-based criminal groups that engaged in or facilitated terrorist attacks.
During the year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad consistently reiterated their commitment to nonviolence and recognition of the State of Israel. They continued to support a security program involving disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank.
In August, six Palestinians were wounded after a fire bomb was thrown at their vehicle near the West Bank settlement of Bayt Ayin, and two Israeli settlers, both minors, were arrested by Israeli authorities in connection with the crime. Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon described the incident as a hate crime and a terrorist act. In July, UN officials and several local NGOs issued a statement noting that Israeli settler violence against Palestinians had risen sharply, by nearly 150 percent since 2009. More than 90 percent of the complaints filed against settlers in recent years have not been addressed, according to the UN. In 2011, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak labeled settler acts as having “the characteristic of homegrown terror;” several months earlier, IDF Head of Central Command Avi Mizrahi labeled attacks against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank as “terror” and ordered the administrative deportation of a dozen Israeli settlers from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. In 2012, four mosques in the West Bank, and five churches in the West Bank and Jerusalem were vandalized in apparent “price tag” attacks carried out by Israeli settlers in retribution for Israeli government actions they perceived as against their interests.
There were multiple acts of violence conducted by different sub-state actors in the West Bank, both Palestinian and Israeli, and Gaza-based militants attacked Israel. Attacks included:
• In March, a 19-year-old female IDF soldier was stabbed while riding the Jerusalem light rail in a suspected terrorist attack.
• On March 31, four Palestinians were hospitalized after they were attacked by Israeli settlers near the Mikhmas junction outside Ramallah.
• On June 19, settlers reportedly set fire to the main mosque in the West Bank village of Jabaa in Ramallah governorate.
• On August 22, 17 year-old Palestinian Jamal Julani was beaten into an unconscious state by a group of Israeli teenagers reportedly yelling racist slurs in Zion Square in Jerusalem. Israeli vice premier Moshe Ya’alon condemned the incident as a terrorist attack.
• On September 4, pro-settler vandals thought to be participating in a “price tag attack” set fire to the entrance door of the Latrun Monastery outside of Jerusalem, spray-painting the names of West Bank outposts and "Jesus is a monkey.”
The PASF detained terrorists in the West Bank and PA authorities tried some detainees in civilian and military courts. Despite factional reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, PASF personnel continued to detain Hamas elements in operations often protested by Hamas officials.
• In February, after the PASF arrested several high profile Hamas members in the West Bank, Hamas released a statement demanding that Fatah stop its “irresponsible” acts.
• In May, according to press reports, Israel’s Shin Bet published a report saying that it had intercepted and broken up three militant cells in Hebron City.
• In June, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denounced what he called an “arrest campaign” against Hamas activists in Halhoul and Hebron. Hamas media sites reported that PASF personnel summoned nearly two dozen Hamas members for interrogation.
• In September, PASF discovered and seized an underground bunker used by Hamas members in the northern West Bank village of Urif reportedly being prepared as a place to hide a kidnapped IDF soldier or Israeli settler.
• In late September, Hamas officials issued a statement saying that the PASF had arrested its supporters who reportedly participated in “violent riots” against the PA during protests against economic conditions in the West Bank. In total, Hamas claimed that the PASF arrested 184 of its members in September.
• In October, the PASF confiscated documents and weapons belonging to Hamas in a residential area of Nablus.
• On December 3, West Bank Hamas official Rafat Nasif said publicly that the PASF continued its political arrests “despite the talk about reconciliation.”
No progress was made in apprehending, prosecuting, or bringing to justice the perpetrators of the October 2003 attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in Gaza that killed three U.S. government contractors and critically injured a fourth.
The primary limitation on PA counterterrorism efforts in Gaza remained Hamas’ continued control of the area and the resulting inability of PASF to operate there. Limitations on PA counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank included restrictions on the movement and activities of PASF in and through areas of the West Bank for which the Israeli government retained responsibility for security under the terms of Oslo-era agreements. The limited capacity of the PA’s civilian criminal justice system also hampered PA counterterrorism efforts.
The PA continued to lack modern forensic capability. In late 2012, the Canadian International Development Agency, through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, began project activity on a multi-year project to initiate forensic criminal capacity within Palestinian law enforcement.
U.S. efforts to train and equip the PASF have provided them with new tools to enforce law and order and counter terrorism. U.S.-trained NSF special battalions have been instrumental in ongoing PASF law and order and anti-terror efforts since 2008, and security campaigns designed to root out terrorist and criminal elements across the West Bank have been widely praised for improving security and returning normalcy to major West Bank urban areas. In January and February 2012, the PASF successfully conducted their first operations since 1997 in the Israeli controlled H2 section of downtown Hebron City, and arrested several dozen suspected criminals. U.S-trained PASF maintained public order in 2012 during Palestinian demonstrations surrounding the anniversary of Israeli Independence known as “Nakba Day.”
The PA continued to increase its capacity to combat illicit finance. Terrorist financing is not specifically addressed in current law, but the PA is drafting appropriate legislation and can prosecute terrorism-related offenses, such as financing, under current laws. The Palestinian Financial Intelligence Unit, known as the Financial Follow-up Unit, added additional staff and continued building its technical capacity while conducting outreach to other parts of the PA on anti-money laundering/countering terrorist finance. The PA, an observer to the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, submitted its application for membership and was given an action plan for attaining membership. The banking sector in Gaza continued to repel Hamas attempts to influence and tax the sector. The PA Interior and Awqaf and Religious Affairs Ministries monitored the charitable sector for signs of abuse by terrorist organizations.
According to the PA’s Palestinian Broadcasting Company’s code of conduct, no programming is allowed that encourages “violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex.” The PA continued its efforts to monitor and control the content of Friday sermons delivered in over 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse or incite violence. The PA’s ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon its location, and it has limited authority to control the context of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C.
Overview: In 2012, Jordan remained a steadfast partner in counterterrorism. In addition to its diplomatic and political assistance to the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Jordan assisted the Palestinian Authority’s continued development of state institutions through law enforcement training programs at the Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC). JIPTC-trained forces continued to earn the respect of regional actors for their success in maintaining security in the West Bank.
The Jordanian government further developed its counterterrorism capabilities and improved its capacity. At the same time, the political reform process in Jordan initiated an open discussion of the country’s security institutions, and Jordan wrestled with the challenge of making its security organizations more transparent while maintaining their effectiveness. Security institutions have stepped up vigilance as Jordan faced the threat of spillover violence from the conflict in Syria.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: Jordan remained committed to securing its borders and denying safe haven to terrorists within the country for attacks against its neighbors. Jordan completed the first phase of the Jordan Border Security Program (JBSP) – a sophisticated package of sensors and barriers to help improve situational awareness and prevent illicit infiltration into Jordan or unauthorized transit out of the country. The JBSP is located along the country’s northern border with Syria, an area that has historically been vulnerable to unmitigated cross-border transit.
Jordan remained an important partner nation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which also supported an expansion of the capacity of the JIPTC to provide tactical skills training courses for up to 40 ATA partner nations.
Although they faced steady domestic demonstrations throughout the country, Jordanian security services remained alert and acted quickly to counter potential terrorist threats.
The State Security Court (SSC) is Jordan’s primary judicial body for addressing national security threats. The SSC remained the topic of intense public discussion and parliamentary debate because SSC proceedings are not open to the general public and many civil society organizations consider the SSC’s jurisdiction too broad and their procedures opaque. The Government of Jordan announced that it intends to amend the SSC law to ensure that the law is consonant with the constitutional amendments passed in September 2011; however, even if the parliament passes a law restricting the court’s jurisdiction, the court would retain authority over issues regarding terrorism. Several significant cases were adjudicated during the course of the year, including:
• In June, the Court of Cassation endorsed a State Security Court decision sentencing Salafi jihadist theorist, Isam Muhammad al-Utaybi, also known as Abu-Muhammad al-Maqdisi, to five years in prison. The SSC charged al-Maqdisi with plotting unsanctioned acts that would subject the kingdom to hostile acts, undermining Jordan's relations with another country, and recruiting persons inside the kingdom to join armed terrorist groups and organizations.
• In November, the State Security Court heard evidence in the trial of the members of the takfiri terrorist group linked to the ideology of the al-Qa'ida organization, composed of 11 members under the name "Operation of the Second 9/11," a reference to the November date of attacks at Amman hotels in 2005. Jordanian security officials successfully foiled the terrorist plan that targeted commercial malls and diplomatic missions.
Regional and transnational terrorist groups, as well as local violent extremists, have demonstrated the willingness and ability to mount attacks in Jordan. In late October, Jordan's General Intelligence Department uncovered and foiled a major terrorist plot that targeted several shopping centers and cafes in Amman known to be frequented by diplomats and Westerners, as well as the U.S. Embassy. The highly sophisticated plot, orchestrated by members of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, who had recently operated in Syria, was designed to take place in several phases; first targeting commercial locations to draw the attention of security forces, and culminating in a complex attack on the U.S. Embassy involving vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, and mortars. The plot was disrupted prior to the group moving to the operational phase. Jordanian authorities arrested all 11 members (all Jordanian citizens) believed to be involved.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Jordan is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body; its Financial Intelligence Unit joined the Egmont Group in 2012. Jordan actively volunteered to host training events, and hosted a number of anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism activities.
Regional and International Cooperation: Jordan is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum.
Countering Violent Extremism: Jordan has sought to confront and weaken the violent ideology that underpins al-Qa'ida and other radical organizations. Jordanian prisons have a religiously based de-radicalization program that seeks to re-engage violent extremist inmates into the peaceful mainstream of their faith. Based upon the individual needs of the inmate, this program can include basic literacy classes, employment counseling, and theological instruction.
The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, under the patronage of Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad, is Jordan’s most important center promoting religious tolerance and coexistence. This institute continued its sponsorship of a series of ecumenical events promoting interfaith dialogue.
Overview: Kuwait lacked legal provisions that deal specifically with terrorism and terrorist financing, although the government maintained its efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, notably through other legal statutes and official statements. There were no significant attacks attributed to terrorists or terrorist organizations in 2012.
The risk of terrorist attacks in Kuwait remained high. As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, National Guard, and Ministry of Interior conducted a number of exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks, including joint exercises with regional and international partners.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Kuwait lacks a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes, often having to resort to other legal statutes to try suspected terrorists, which hampered enforcement efforts.
The government extended the application of the biometric fingerprinting system to include all land and sea entry points. The Interior Ministry announced plans to start operation of the advanced computer tomography x-ray monitor system at Kuwait International Airport to boost airport security authorities’ ability to detect contraband items, including explosives and metals, without the need for human inspection, thus reducing the chance for human error. However, the project announced by the government to install retina scanning capabilities at ports of entry had not been implemented by year’s end.
After the full implementation and distribution of smart civil ID cards to Kuwaiti citizens, the Public Authority for Civil Information started issuing the new smart ID cards to expatriates. With electronic chips that save large volumes of data, including photographs and fingerprints, the new ID cards are meant to enable holders to travel freely within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Holders of the cards can also use them for electronic signature.
On May 28, Kuwait’s Court of Appeals commuted the death sentences of three defendants (two Iranians and a Kuwaiti), convicted of belonging to an Iranian espionage cell, to life in prison. The court also upheld the life imprisonment sentence for the fourth defendant (a stateless man) and the acquittal of two other Iranians, but overturned the life sentence imposed by a lower court against a Syrian defendant and acquitted him. The cell’s seven members (four Iranians, a Kuwaiti, a Syrian, and a stateless man) were apprehended in May 2010 on charges of espionage, terrorist plotting, and vandalism. The Court of Appeal’s verdicts are not final, and are expected to be challenged at the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court equivalent), whose rulings are final.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Kuwait is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Of particular note, Kuwait lacked comprehensive legislation that criminalizes terrorist financing. In June 2012, Kuwait was publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism deficiencies, for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses.
Kuwait had a comprehensive confiscation, freezing, and seizing framework that applies to all offenses under Kuwaiti criminal legislation. The lack of specific legislation related to terrorist finance precluded immediate freezes, although cases prosecuted under other elements of the criminal code were able to initiate freezing and confiscation of assets. Kuwait lacked an effective monitoring framework for transfers outside of the formal sector, and lacked explicit laws and regulations requiring due diligence on customer data.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued monitoring and supervising charities, including enforcing the ban on cash donations, except during Ramadan; implementing an enhanced receipt system for Ramadan cash donations; and coordinating closely with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to monitor and prosecute fraudulent charities. The monitoring of foundations was not as comprehensive as it was for charities.
Despite these obstacles, competent authorities continued efforts to combat financial crimes. The Central Bank of Kuwait engaged the International Monetary Fund in a 12-month technical assistance program aimed at addressing weaknesses in Kuwait’s anti-money laundering/terrorist finance regime, and reached out to other partners as well.
Regional and International Cooperation: On December 25, GCC heads of state signed a collective security agreement to enable member states to respond quickly to, and take appropriate preventive measures to confront potential security threats. The pact stipulates full cooperation between the six member states and delineates mutual responsibilities to preserve collective security and stability. It also promotes security coordination and information exchanges to help combat transnational and organized crime and terrorism. To be implemented, the 45-article treaty must be approved by the GCC countries’ parliaments and Shura councils.
Overview: The Government of Lebanon – led by a centrist President and Prime Minister, but with a cabinet dominated by the pro-Syrian regime and the Hizballah-aligned March 8 coalition – continued to make selective progress in building its counterterrorism capacity and cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Lebanese authorities continued efforts to disrupt suspected terrorist cells before they could act; arrested suspected al-Qa’ida (AQ)-affiliated militants and Palestinian violent extremists; and uncovered several weapons caches of varying sizes. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), in particular, were credited with capturing wanted terrorist fugitives and containing sectarian violence. The Internal Security Force (ISF) continued to improve as a law enforcement organization and has become a viable counterbalance to armed militias and violent extremist groups. As the ISF improved its capabilities and aggressively pursued terrorism and corruption cases, its leadership has become a bigger target for those who seek to destabilize the country.
Lebanese authorities have not apprehended the four members of Hizballah, indicted in 2011 by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other individuals.
Hizballah, with deep roots among Lebanon’s Shia community and significant backing from the Iranian government, remained the most dangerous and prominent terrorist group in Lebanon. Several other terrorist organizations remained active in Lebanon. Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, the Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and several other splinter groups all operated within Lebanon's borders, though primarily out of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps. The LAF did not maintain a daily presence in the camps, but it occasionally conducted operations in the camps to counter terrorist threats. In November, the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon reported that there has been no progress in efforts to dismantle military bases maintained by the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada, which are primarily located along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Several of these groups, including Hizballah, have become embroiled in the civil war in Syria. Hizballah has directly trained Syrian government personnel inside Syria, has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, and played a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria. The media also reported that unidentified numbers of Lebanese Sunnis have joined the battle in Syria on behalf of Syrian opposition groups, which includes a number of various Free Syrian Army units, and possibly disparate violent extremist groups.
Over the course of the year, reports surfaced of weapons smuggling into Syria (arming regime and anti-regime forces) from Lebanon and vice versa, and from Syria and Iran to Hizballah and other militant groups in Lebanon.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: On October 19, a car bomb in downtown Beirut killed three individuals, including Brigadier General Wissam al-Hasan, head of the Information Branch of the ISF, the organization’s intelligence arm. The ISF is leading the investigation into Hasan’s assassination, but so far no suspects have been officially identified. Other major incidents of terrorism included:
• On April 4, Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, survived an assassination attempt.
• On July 5, Boutros Harb, a Member of Parliament and former Minister, was the target of a failed assassination attempt.
• On August 15, the Miqdad clan, a large Shia criminal network, abducted 23 Syrian and Turkish citizens in Lebanon, claiming retaliation for the abduction of one of their family members in Syria. Nearly three weeks later, the LAF conducted a successful military operation in Hizballah-controlled south Beirut to free the hostages.
• In October, media reports revealed that three members of Fatah al-Islam escaped from Roumieh prison where they had been held since 2007. Lebanese authorities launched an investigation into the incident.
• On October 3, an explosion at a Hizballah munitions cache killed three militants in the town of Nabi Sheet.
• On October 6, Hizballah launched an unmanned aerial vehicle into Israel, which was shot down by the Israel Defense Forces over southern Israel.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On May 12, the Directorate of General Security (DGS) arrested Shadi al-Mawlawi, a Sunni leader in the city of Tripoli, for his alleged ties to terrorist organizations. According to press reports, Lebanese authorities also arrested and interrogated Hamza Mahmoud Tarabay and a Qatari citizen, Abdulaziz al-Atiyeh. After al-Mawlawi’s arrest, sectarian clashes broke out in Tripoli and other parts of Lebanon, killing several and wounding nearly a hundred. On May 22, al-Mawlawi was later released and al-Atiyeh was extradited to his home country.
On August 9, the ISF arrested Michel Samaha, former Information Minister and Member of Parliament, for allegedly smuggling explosives in his car from Syria, as part of a conspiracy to assassinate outspoken opponents of the Asad regime and their Lebanese supporters. Though Mr. Samaha later confessed to the charges against him, his case was pending a final resolution at year’s end. On December 17, the United States designated Samaha as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 and as a Specially Designated National under Executive Order 13441.
Lebanese authorities maintained that amnesty for Lebanese involved in acts of violence during the 1975-90 civil wars prevented terrorism prosecutions of concern to the United States.
Corruption remained a factor influencing all aspects of society, including law enforcement.
Lebanon did not have biometric systems in place at points of entry into the country. Lebanese passports were machine readable, and the government was considering the adoption of biometric passports. The DGS, under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), controls immigration and passport services and uses an electronic database to collect biographic data for travelers at all points of entry. The Lebanese government maintained bilateral agreements for information sharing with Syria.
Lebanon has a Megaports and Container Security Initiative program, and participated in Export Control and Related Border Security programs. Lebanon also continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which focused on enhancing Lebanese law enforcement capacity for border security, investigations, and leadership and management. Lebanon has also received nearly US $37 million in State Department assistance to develop the capacities of the ISF.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Lebanon is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Special Investigation Commission (SIC), Lebanon’s financial intelligence unit, is an independent legal entity empowered to investigate suspicious financial transactions and freeze assets. The SIC is a member of the Egmont Group. Of the 136 suspicious transaction reports received by the SIC between January and October 2012, it referred 29 cases to the Office of the Prosecutor General. During the same period, the ISF received requests to investigate 16 money laundering and 26 terrorist finance cases, mostly from Interpol, and it has launched investigations into each allegation. The SIC refers requests for designation or asset freezes regarding Hizballah and affiliated groups to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the Lebanese government does not require banks to freeze these assets, because it does not consider Hizballah a terrorist organization. However, Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s Central Bank, issued Basic Circular 126, on April 5, 2012, requiring banks and financial institutions to abide by regulations implemented by their correspondent banks, including banks with U.S. correspondents.
Three laws intended to strengthen Lebanon’s anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism regime were passed by the Council of Ministers on March 14, and were awaiting Parliament’s approval at year’s end. These include:
• Amendments to the existing money-laundering Law 318/2001 adding offenses to the existing law, imposing financial penalties on obliged entities for reporting violations, and requiring lawyers and accountants to report suspicious transactions
• New legislation imposing requirements for declaring cross-border transportation of cash
• New legislation on the Exchange of Tax Information, which would authorize the Ministry of Finance to join bilateral and multilateral agreements to exchange information related to tax evasion and tax fraud.
In principle, the MOI is responsible for monitoring the finances and management of all registered NGOs, but it was inconsistent in applying these controls, particularly in cases involving groups such as Hizballah. By law, all NGOs are obliged to submit a yearly financial statement to the MOI. The Lebanese banking sector conducts due diligence on NGOs with bank accounts, monitors their transactions, and reports suspicious transactions to the SIC, which scrutinizes NGOs utilizing the Lebanese banking system.
Exchange houses were allegedly used to facilitate money laundering, including by Hizballah. Financial institutions are required to keep records of transactions for five years.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 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: Lebanon continued to voice its commitment to fulfilling relevant UNSCRs, including 1559, 1680, and 1701. Lebanon is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and is party to its Convention on Combating International Terrorism.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Lebanon worked with donor countries and international organizations to provide development assistance in Palestinian refugee camps and to provide economic and social opportunities to counter violent extremism in the camps. The LAF continued to expand its public relations campaigns to bolster its presence and status as the sole protector of Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, particularly in southern Lebanon. There were no programs to rehabilitate and/or reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society.
Overview: In 2012, Libya was marked by grave insecurity, most apparent in the September 11 terrorist attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staff members. The prevalence of loose weapons, the continued ability of extra-governmental militias to act with impunity, the country’s porous borders, and the lack of government capacity to apply the rule of law outside of Tripoli contributed to this insecurity.
Despite these challenges, on July 7, the Transitional National Council peacefully transferred power to a new, democratically elected parliament, the General National Congress. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his cabinet have prioritized efforts to strengthen and centralize national security institutions, integrate and disarm armed militias, and confront criminal and terrorist groups that have taken advantage of the security vacuum. This government has recognized that continued instability threatens Libya’s democratic transition and economic future.
The United States remains committed to Libya’s democratic transition and focused on Libya’s insecurity and the need to support Libya’s government in its efforts to address it. The State Department and USAID have provided funding to implementers who support Libya’s emerging civil society, advised Libya’s new political leaders, and empowered minority communities as they seek to understand and participate in the democratic transition, particularly the drafting of a constitution that denounces violence and ensures the rights of all Libyans.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: The list of incidents below highlights some of the most significant terrorist attacks of the year. Violence was particularly prevalent in the East and in Bani Walid, one of the last strongholds of Qadhafi loyalists.
• On February 6, gunmen allegedly killed five refugees in a Tripoli camp.
• On May 22, assailants launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s building in Benghazi. The violent Islamist extremist group Brigades of Captive Omar Abdul Rahman claimed responsibility for the attack. The ICRC evacuated Benghazi in mid-July.
• On June 4, approximately 200 armed fighters from the al-Awfea Brigade surrounded the international airport in Tripoli. The gunmen drove armed trucks onto the tarmac and surrounded several planes, which forced the airport to cancel all fights. The armed men were demanding the release of one of their military leaders who was being held by Tripoli’s security forces.
• On June 6, violent extremists attacked the U.S. facilities in Benghazi with an improvised explosive device (IED). The group claimed that the attack was in retaliation for the assassination of Abu-Yahya al-Libi, the second highest ranking leader of al-Qa’ida.
• On June 11, a convoy carrying the British Ambassador to Libya was attacked in Benghazi.
• On June 12, assailants attacked the ICRC office in Misrata, wounding one.
• In August, there was a series of attacks against security personnel and facilities, including the bombing of the Benghazi military intelligence offices on August 1, a car bombing near the Tripoli military police offices on August 4, and the explosion of three car bombs near the Interior Ministry and other security buildings in Tripoli on August 19, killing at least two. Libyan security officials arrested 32 members of an organized network loyal to Qadhafi.
• On August 10, Army General Hadiya al-Feitouri was assassinated in Benghazi.
• On August 20, a car belonging to an Egyptian diplomat was blown up near his home in Benghazi.
• On September 11, terrorists attacked the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staff members.
• On October 13, the Benghazi police chief survived an assassination attempt.
• On November 21, Benghazi security chief Faraj al-Drissi was assassinated.
• On December 16 and 20, eight people were killed when violent extremists attacked Benghazi police stations.
• On December 31, attackers threw an IED at a Coptic church in the city of Dafniya. The explosion resulted in the death of two Egyptian men and wounded two others.
• On December 31, an IED exploded outside the headquarters of the public prosecutor in Benghazi. No one was killed or injured, but the explosion caused damage to the building.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Following the September 11 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, senior Libyan authorities assured their U.S. counterparts that security was their top priority. In light of this and many other security incidents throughout the year, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his cabinet (seated on November 14) focused on bolstering the security sector in Libya and extending the reach of governmental security institutions beyond Tripoli. Significant challenges remained, however, and although the new Libyan authorities intended to make immediate improvements to the security situation, particularly in the east, they were unable to do so as security and justice sector institutions had been severely weakened following 42 years of mismanagement under Qadhafi, and eight months of violent conflict.
While the Transitional National Council did not feel it had the mandate to make lasting legislation, the General National Congress and Prime Minister Zeidan have been more aggressively confronting the security situation in Libya. Yet any legislation seeking to limit the power of heavily-armed, extra-governmental militias has been difficult to enforce, and Libyan judges did not hear criminal cases for fear it could lead to revenge attacks against them. Police and military personnel and facilities were the frequent targets of attacks by pro-Qadhafi and violent Islamist extremist groups, who fiercely resisted any efforts by the government to exert its authority. Many members of the militias that continue to undermine the authority of the army and police refused to join these institutions because they claimed Qadhafi-era officials continued to occupy their ranks.
The proliferation of weapons from Libya across the country’s borders was of concern. The EU developed plans to provide significant border security assistance to the Libyan authorities, and throughout 2012, the United States worked with the Government of Libya to develop a complementary border security assistance package of its own. A delegation of Libyan officials from the Ministry of Defense and Customs Authority visited the United States in mid-September, during which they expressed interest in U.S. border security best practices, and American border security technology. Nevertheless, implementation of these programs has been slow, and the Libyan authorities lacked the basic training and equipment necessary to monitor their vast land and maritime borders, and to control the flow of people and goods through their airports. Violent extremists continued to exploit these weaknesses, which threatened to destabilize the Middle East and North Africa region.
The United States will cooperate with the EU and other international donors to provide further, complementary assistance in this vein, and the Libyan authorities have indicated that they will intensify cooperation with their neighbors, especially Algeria and Tunisia, to exert better control over their shared borders.
The United States has also provided assistance to help Libya professionalize its security sector institutions, as well as stem the proliferation of conventional weapons, and secure and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Libya is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. However, Libya has yet to undergo a mutual evaluation. (Libya’s mutual evaluation assessment was scheduled for March 2011, but was cancelled due to security concerns.) After the fall of the Qadhafi regime, there was little information or reliable data on the scope of Libya’s anti-money laundering/counterterrorist regime. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 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 United States has prioritized assistance to Libya’s security and justice sectors since the end of the 2011 revolution. Libyan President Mohamed al Magariaf participated in the 67th UNGA in the wake of the September attacks on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, and vowed to work with the international community, especially the United States, to address weaknesses in its security and justice sectors. On December 17, Libya’s international partners met in London, during which the Libyan delegation articulated its security sector assistance priorities, and the international community agreed to coordinate assistance through the UN Support Mission in Libya.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: In 2012, member states of the AU, of which Libya is a member, signed a joint venture to create the African Center for Studies and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT). ACSRT’s broad goals include assisting AU member states to develop strategies for preventing and countering terrorism.
Overview: Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts are comprehensive. In 2012, the Moroccan government continued its broad counterterrorism strategy of vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. The terrorist threat in Morocco continued to stem largely from the existence of numerous small, independent violent extremist cells. Those groups and individuals, referred to collectively as adherents of so-calledSalafiyya Jihadiyya ideology, remained isolated from one another, small in size, and limited in both capabilities and international connections. Morocco and the United States continued robust counterterrorism collaboration, and both countries committed to deepening this relationship during the September bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington, DC.
Toward the end of the year, authorities disrupted multiple groups with ties to international networks that included al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM expanded its efforts to recruit Moroccans for combat in other countries and called for attacks on U.S. ambassadors in Morocco and in the region. There were reports of Moroccans attempting to join or receive training from AQIM and other violent extremists in Mali, and the government was concerned about the return of these individuals to Morocco. The government was also concerned about veteran violent Moroccan extremists returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya to conduct terrorist attacks at home, and about Moroccans radicalized during their stays in Western Europe.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Morocco made public commitments that the struggle against terrorism would not be used to deprive individuals of their rights and emphasized adherence to human-rights standards and the increased transparency of law enforcement procedures as part of its approach. Morocco convicted dozens of individuals, including the highlighted cases below:
• In February, the Salé Court of Appeals sentenced 27 men to prison terms of one to six years for planning terrorist attacks. The group, arrested in January 2011, had stockpiled weapons in Western Sahara and was planning suicide and car-bomb attacks against Moroccan and foreign security forces, according to the Ministry of Interior.
• In March, an appeals court upheld the death sentence for Adil el-Atmani, the primary perpetrator of the 2011 Marrakech bombing.
• In April, five men received sentences of one to five years under the terrorism law. The cell, dismantled in October 2011, had reportedly communicated with elements of al-Qa’ida through the internet, had links to el-Atmani, and planned to carry out attacks against tourist sites and western targets.
Morocco aggressively targeted and dismantled terrorist cells within the country by leveraging intelligence collection, police work, and collaboration with regional and international partners. Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts led to the following disruptions of alleged terrorist cells:
• In May, authorities arrested 15 members of the Mujahedin Movement in Morocco, a terrorist cell with connections to the May 2003 Casablanca bombers and AQIM, according to the Ministry of Interior. The group reportedly had automatic weapons and ammunition hidden in several cities in Morocco.
• In October, the arrest of two men espousing violent extremist ideology in Salé led to the disruption of a nine member cell, according to the Ministry of Interior. The group reportedly was building a training camp in the Rif Mountains with the goal of attacking government targets in Morocco.
• In November, authorities arrested eight members of Ansar al-Sharia in the Islamic Maghreb for allegedly planning to attack public buildings, the security services, and tourist sites, according to the Minister of Interior. The group, which had created a Facebook page in September, stated that its primary goals were to “restore Sharia to its true place in society, warn against secularism, and work for the restoration of the caliphate.” Hassan el-Younsi, who started the page, was reportedly arrested in October.
• In November, security services dismantled a 27-member cell including a Malian national, which allegedly recruited Moroccan youths for combat in Mali and the Sahel region. The cell consisted of individuals from Nador, Casablanca, Guersif, Laayoune, Kalaat Essraghna, Beni Mellal, and Berkane. The group reportedly sent at least 20 individuals to join the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and AQIM. Members were formally charged in December with forming a criminal gang, preparing to carry out acts of terrorism, jeopardizing public order, failure to report acts of terrorism, financing terrorism, persuading others to commit a terrorist crime, membership of a banned religious group, and holding meetings without permission.
• In December, authorities dismantled a six-member cell in Fez, which was reportedly recruiting individuals to join AQIM. The cell allegedly also planned to send some members to AQIM training camps, who would then return to carry out attacks in Morocco.
• In December, authorities arrested six individuals in Marrakech for allegedly planning to carry out terrorist attacks within the country.
Morocco continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which helped enhance Moroccan counterterrorism capabilities by providing training in cyber forensics, crime scene forensics, and executive leadership to both the national police and gendarmes.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Morocco is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and its Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Since February 2010, Morocco has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism deficiencies. To address those deficiencies, it developed an action plan with the FATF. Morocco continued to implement provisions created in 2011, including the extension of judicial authority to prosecute money laundering crimes committed within the country and abroad, and the expansion of the list of people and organizations obliged to report on suspicious financial activities. Following the adoption of the 2011 legislation, the FATF determined that Morocco has not criminalized terrorist financing in line with the international standard, and has called upon Morocco to do so as soon as possible. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 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: Morocco maintained cooperative relationships with European and African partners by sharing information, conducting joint operations, and participating in military, security, and civilian capacity-building events. Morocco is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and hosted the GCTF Rule of Law Working Group meeting in February, which produced the Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector. Morocco also hosted a GCTF Workshop on Transnational Security Challenges in the South Atlantic in October. Morocco is a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and hosted a GICNT Implementation and Assessment Group meeting in February.
Morocco is a Mediterranean Dialogue partner of the EU’s Barcelona Process and a major non-NATO ally. Morocco participates in multilateral peacekeeping operations on the continent as well as in training exercises such as maritime-focused Phoenix Express, the Flintlock regional security cooperation exercise, and special operations exercises. These engagements, coupled with Morocco’s initiative to modernize its force through Foreign Military Sales, have significantly enhanced border security and improved capabilities to counter illicit traffic and terrorism. Morocco currently holds the rotating presidency of the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Western Mediterranean. Morocco has also been active in the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States to address the conflict in Northern Mali. These are important steps, yet the lack of consistent cooperation among countries in the region remains a potential weakness that terrorist groups such as AQIM may exploit. Specifically, while Morocco and Algeria are members of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and the GCTF, the level of bilateral counterterrorism cooperation did not improve. Algeria and Morocco’s political disagreement over the Western Sahara remains an impediment to more profound counterterrorism cooperation.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Morocco has a three-pillar strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE). First, the government takes a law-and-order approach to CVE, working closely with the United States and other international and regional partners to strengthen its security and counterterrorism capabilities. Second, Morocco has accelerated its rollout of education and employment initiatives for youth and expanded the legal rights and political empowerment of women. Finally, to counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, it has developed a national strategy to confirm and further institutionalize Morocco’s widespread adherence to the Maliki school of Islam. The United States works closely with the government and key Moroccan civil-society organizations to support and complement related, existing programs. The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement funds a program to improve the overall management of Morocco’s corrections system that seeks, among other objectives, to alleviate potential radicalism and recruitment of prisoners to terrorist ideology. In Morocco, disaffected and marginalized youth in urban and peri-urban environments have been identified as vulnerable to radicalization by and recruitment into violent extremist groups.
Every year during the month of Ramadan, the King hosts a series of religious lectures, inviting Muslim speakers from around the world to promote peaceful interpretations of Islam. In the past decade, and particularly since the Casablanca (2003) and Madrid (2004) terrorist bombings, Morocco has focused on countering youth radicalization; upgrading places of worship; modernizing the teaching of Islam; and strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (MEIA). The MEIA has developed an educational curriculum for Morocco’s nearly 50,000 imams to to counter violent extremism and advance tolerance, which is inherent in the Maliki school of Sunni Islam, the dominant form of Islam in the country. To counter the radicalization of Moroccans living abroad, the Moroccan Council of Ulema for Europe and the Minister Delegate for Moroccans Living Abroad also undertook similar programs to promote religious moderation among Moroccan expatriate communities in Europe.
Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner and was actively involved in working to prevent terrorists from conducting attacks within Oman, and using the country for safe haven or transport of weapons and materiel support. In 2012, several suspected terrorists, identified by the Government of Oman as members of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, illegally entered southern Oman from Yemen. The Government of Oman reported this event in its national press, stressing that security of the country was its foremost concern. The Omani government actively sought training and equipment from the United States and commercial entities, as well as those from other countries to support its efforts to control its land and maritime borders. Oman used U.S. security assistance to enhance nighttime operational capabilities on its maritime and land borders.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2012, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) procured night vision equipment for the ROP-Coast Guard for use in patrolling its coastline and territorial waters. In addition, the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) training included a legal and regulatory advisor from the Monterey Institute, who consulted with the Omani government and private sector on the best route for Oman to take to adopt comprehensive strategic trade controls in accordance with international standards. EXBS also trained Omani Customs and Airport Security Officials on identifying contraband hidden in air cargo and identifying smugglers of contraband. The EXBS program trained members of the Royal Army of Oman on the tracking and apprehension of persons illegally crossing Omani borders, and the inspection of suspect vehicles. Oman also continued its participation in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program which provided training on vital infrastructure security, examination of terrorist crime scenes, terrorist investigations, and the interdiction of terrorist activities.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Oman is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. In July 2010, Royal Decree number 79/2010 enacted new comprehensive legislation on Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). The AML/CFT legislation consolidated Oman’s previous AML/CFT laws, created a national committee for AML/CFT, and codified Oman’s “safe harbor” and mutual legal assistance regulations. The law designated the Royal Oman Police Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as the responsible entity for enforcing AML/CFT laws and regulations. Oman has since put forward considerable funding and effort towards increasing the capabilities of its FIU, a member of the Egmont Group. The FIU recognizes its lack of capacity in forensic analysis, and increasingly sought U.S. assistance to increase the FIU’s capacity to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, including terrorist finance.
The Government of Oman, led by the efforts of the Central Bank of Oman, has continued to exercise caution and a high degree of oversight in its commercial banking sector. In December 2012, Oman formally introduced Islamic banking services into the financial system through Royal Decree 69/2012, which added a provision to allow Islamic Banking services to be offered under existing banking law. Hawalas are not permitted in the financial service sector, and Omani authorities have acted on two occasions to shutter attempted hawala operations.
Overview: In 2012, Qatar did not experience any terrorist attacks or any political changes that would affect the Government of Qatar’s ability to combat terrorism. During the year, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, removed Qatar from its regular follow-up process after the Task Force determined that Qatar had improved its anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism regime and was either “Compliant or Largely Compliant” with all of the Task Force’s recommendations. Still, Qatar’s monitoring of private individuals’ and charitable associations’ contributions to foreign entities remained inconsistent. The Government of Qatar also maintained public ties to Hamas political leaders.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Qatar did not pass any new terrorism legislation or make significant changes to border security procedures. There were no significant arrests or prosecutions in terrorist cases, or incidents requiring response, including terrorism affecting U.S. citizens or facilities in 2012.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Qatar is a member of the MENAFATF. In 2012, in addition to regular outreach to financial institutions, Qatar’s Financial Intelligence Unit, a member of the Egmont Group, launched a multi-year strategy to promote greater transparency in financial transactions including issuing guidelines obligating reporting on suspicious transactions. Qatar’s Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2010 requires Qatar’s Public Prosecutor to freeze the funds of terrorist organizations designated by the UNSC, and the government has begun to distribute lists of UN-designated terrorist entities and individuals to financial institutions. Implementation, however, remained inconsistent.
Regional and International Cooperation: Qatar is a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Qatari government did not participate in any notable counterterrorism activities with those organizations in 2012, however.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (a semi-public institute established by executive decree in 2007) organized a lecture series in 2012, with the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the Qatar Foundation, to help Qatari teachers “equip students with the skills and understanding to interact and communicate effectively and respectfully with other cultures.” The Government of Qatar also contracted a Doha-based private institute to study best practices in countering narratives used by terrorist groups to recruit members. The first of three research papers, published in February 2012, focused on EU engagement programs to reduce violent conflict.
Overview: During 2012, the Government of Saudi Arabia continued its long-term counterterrorism strategy to track and halt the activities of terrorists and terrorist financiers, dismantle the physical presence of al-Qa’ida, and impede the ability of militants to operate from or within the Kingdom. As part of this strategy, Saudi authorities also continued public trials of individuals suspected of engaging in or supporting terrorism. In August, Saudi authorities announced they had discovered and partially rounded up two separate terrorist cells (one in Riyadh and the other in Jeddah) affiliated with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP continued to be the Kingdom's primary terrorist threat, and efforts to counter this threat were hampered by the ongoing instability in Yemen. Throughout the year, AQAP noticeably stepped up its efforts to inspire sympathizers throughout Saudi Arabia in an effort to compensate for difficulties in carrying out cross-border attacks. Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens within Saudi territories and beyond.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: Beyond the two disrupted terrorist cells in August, there were at least two incidents involving suspected terrorists along the Saudi-Yemeni border. On October 14, Saudi security forces in Jizan province killed two Yemeni nationals who attempted to pass a checkpoint with explosives and four suicide vests for use in "imminent attacks against vital targets," according to an official statement. On November 5, 11 former prisoners, who recently had been released after having served their sentences for terrorism-related offenses, attacked and killed two Saudi border guards who attempted to stop the former prisoners from crossing into Yemen near Sharurah in Najran province. The group, composed of 10 Saudis and one Yemeni, was subsequently arrested.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to track, arrest, and prosecute terrorists within the Kingdom. The Ministry of Interior continued to improve border security measures, including the ongoing installation of biometric scanners at entry points throughout the Kingdom; aerial reconnaissance drones to patrol remote areas; thermal imaging systems; and motion detectors and electronic-sensor fencing along the borders with Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan.
Neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about potential terrorist activity. The Saudi government offered rewards for information on suspected terrorists, and there were multiple announcements throughout the year of arrests of AQAP militants and supporters.
As part of the Saudi government's move to bring to trial groups and individuals suspected of terrorism, judicial actions included:
• On April 4, the Specialized Criminal Court began the public trial of a group dubbed the "Cell of 55" (composed of 54 Saudis and one Yemeni), which was allegedly responsible for the 2004 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. The trial was ongoing at year’s end.
• The trial of 11 Saudis linked to the May 2004 attack on a refinery in Yanbu, in which two American citizens were killed, continued during the year.
• On June 26, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced one member of the 11-person "Khafji cell" to 15 years in prison followed by a 15-year travel ban; the man was found guilty of supporting terrorism through money laundering and other crimes, such as possessing unlicensed fire arms.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Bulk cash smuggling from individual donors and charities has reportedly provided financing to violent extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years. With the advent of tighter bank regulations, funds are reportedly collected and illicitly transferred in cash, often via pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah. The Saudi government has attempted to consolidate charitable campaigns under Ministry of Interior supervision. The Saudi Arabian Financial Intelligence Unit, or SAFIU, is a member of the Egmont Group. The Saudi government continued to provide special training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies as part of its efforts to maintain financial controls designed to counter terrorist financing. Despite serious and effective efforts to counter the funding of terrorism originating from within its borders, entities in Saudi Arabia continue to serve as an important source of cash flowing to violent Sunni extremist groups. Saudi officials acknowledged difficulty in following the money trail with regard to illicit finance due to the preference for cash transactions in the country.
Regional and International Cooperation: Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. It is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and has been a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative since 2008. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which itself is a member of the FATF. Saudi government officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from combating violent extremist ideology to countering terrorist financing.
Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals regularly participated in joint programs around the world, including in Europe and the United States. In addition to Saudi Arabia's bilateral cooperation with the United States, Saudi security officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct missions and exchange information. Throughout the year, Saudi Arabia concluded security-related bilateral agreements (including counterterrorism and anti-money laundering cooperation) with a number of countries, including Albania, Belarus, Bermuda, Comoros, Indonesia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, San Marino, and Singapore. In November, Saudi Arabia, along with the other five GCC member states, concluded a GCC-wide security agreement including counterterrorism cooperation. In April, the Kingdom ratified the Arab Agreement on Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Financing. In June, Saudi Arabia extradited Indian national Abu Jundal (also known as Zabiuddin Sayed Zakiuddin Ansari) to India to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Saudi government focused on: increasing public awareness campaigns; and conducting outreach, counter-radicalization, and rehabilitation programs. Some of these efforts involved seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist interpretation and ideology. Public awareness campaigns aimed to raise awareness among Saudi citizens about the dangers of violent extremism and terrorism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting events. The government also issued statements condemning terrorists and denouncing terrorist attacks across the world, including the September attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue), as well as its extensive prison rehabilitation program to reduce recidivism among former inmates. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to re-educate imams, prohibiting them from incitement to violence, and monitored mosques and religious education. The Saudi government also continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks used in religious training.
Designated in 1979 as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, Syria continued its political support to a variety of terrorist groups affecting the stability of the region and beyond, even amid significant internal unrest. Syria provided political and weapons support to Lebanese Hizballah and continued to allow Iran to re-arm the terrorist organization. The Syrian regime’s relationship with Hizballah and Iran appears to have gotten stronger over the course of the conflict in Syria. President Bashar al-Asad continued to be a staunch defender of Iran's policies while Iran exhibited equally energetic support for Syrian regime efforts to put down the growing protest movement within Syria. Statements supporting terrorist groups, particularly Hizballah, were often in Syrian government speeches and press statements.
President Asad continued to express public support for Palestinian terrorist groups as elements of the resistance against Israel. Damascus provided safe haven in Syria for exiled individuals, although the Palestinian groups were subject to the same level of insecurity as the rest of the Syrian population and fighting has fractured their alliances with the Syrian regime. As part of a broader strategy during the year, the regime has attempted to portray Syria itself as a victim of terrorism, characterizing all its armed opponents as “terrorists.”
Syria continued to generate significant concern regarding the role it plays in terrorist financing.
Industry experts reported that 60 percent of all business transactions were conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians did not use formal banking services. Despite Syrian legislation that required money-changers to be licensed by the end of 2007, many money-changers continued to operate illegally in Syria's vast black market, estimated to be as large as Syria's formal economy. Regional hawala networks remained intertwined with smuggling and trade-based money laundering and were facilitated by notoriously corrupt customs and immigration officials. This raised significant concerns that some members of the Syrian government and the business elite were complicit in terrorist finance schemes conducted through these institutions.
Syria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Since February 2010, Syria has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. Since then, Syria has made limited progress on its AML/CFT regime. In February 2012, Syria was named in the FATF Public Statement for its lack of progress in implementing its action plan, including its need to address the deficiencies by providing sufficient legal basis for implementing its S/RES/1373 obligations and implementing adequate procedures for identifying and freezing terrorist assets, and ensuring that appropriate laws and procedures are in place to provide mutual legal assistance.
In 2012, we continued to closely monitor Syria’s proliferation-sensitive materials and facilities, including Syria’s significant stockpile of chemical weapons, which we assess remains under the Asad regime’s control. There is significant concern, given the instability in Syria, that these materials could find their way to terrorist organizations. We are coordinating closely with a number of like-minded nations and partners to prevent Syria’s stockpiles of chemical and advanced conventional weapons from falling into the hands of violent extremists.
Overview: Tunisian security forces continued to deal with new threats from inside and outside the country, attacks on facilities, a dearth of resources, an inefficient and often ambiguous command and control structure, and a poor public image. Amid these challenges, Tunisia faced numerous security threats and clearly identifiable terrorist activities, while also taking action against individuals and cells. The most significant attacks were the September 14 events at the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis, which highlighted to the Government of Tunisia and Tunisian citizens the extent of the internal threats to security and stability. Tunisia also saw an increase in religiously motivated acts of vandalism and harassment, generally carried out by violent Salafist extremists.
With the ouster of Ben Ali’s regime, Tunisia experienced a rise in political Islam and the emergence of hard-line Salafists, who reject Western values, seek the reestablishment of an Islamist Caliphate, and contend the Islamist Nahda Party is too accommodating to the West. Salafists repeatedly disrupted social order in 2012. As incidents of religious intolerance increased in Tunisia, the government at times vacillated in responding to excesses by Tunisia’s Salafist movement. Both President Marzouki and Prime Minister Jebali denounced certain incidents and appealed for religious tolerance. The most notable examples included:
• On January 5, after a crowd shouted anti-Semitic slogans during the airport arrival of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the Nahda party publicly condemned the anti-Jewish statements.
• On April 5, the Tunisian Court of the First Instance formally accepted a complaint filed by Jewish Community President Roger Bismuth against a preacher who called for Tunisian youth to wage war against Jews. In response to the complaint, the government launched an investigation of the incident.
• On April 11, President Marzouki visited the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the al-Qa’ida (AQ) attack there that killed 21 people. In the ceremony, Marzouki reiterated that Tunisian Jews were equal citizens under the law and the government was committed to the security of the 2,600 year-old community. Marzouki called the terrorist attack “cowardly,” and expressed sympathy for the families of the victims who died.
• On April 14, President Marzouki visited the Russian Orthodox Church in Tunis, responding to the church’s call for protection and displaying the Government of Tunisia’s support for religious freedom. The visit followed the arrest of the individual who covered the church’s crosses on March 30, and culminated in a series of actions taken to halt incidents of vandalism and intimidation against the church.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: The list of incidents below highlights some of the most significant terrorism-related events that took place during the year. There was a marked increase in the number of incidents fueled by violent extremism.
• On February 1, Tunisian security forces exchanged gunfire with suspected weapons smugglers near the town of Bir Ali Ben Khalifa in the governorate of Sfax. In the exchange, Tunisian forces killed two gunmen and arrested a third after the gunmen wounded a National Guard officer and three soldiers.
• On February 23, 200 Salafists confronted police in Jendouba with sticks, swords, and Molotov cocktails, setting fire to a police station.
• On May 19, bars were vandalized and an alcohol storehouse set on fire in Sidi Bouzid. The Justice Minister responded that the period of tolerance for violent extremist activities was over and that “all red lines have been crossed,” but no clear enforcement actions followed.
• On May 26, between 200 and 500 Salafists clashed with police in Jendouba, who used tear gas and shotguns to break up the disturbance. Prime Minister Jebali warned that the law would be upheld, but was vague about what actions his government would take.
• From June 10-12, Salafists stormed an art exhibit in the Tunis suburb of La Marsa, sparking a wave of violence around the capital. The Tunisian government temporarily imposed a curfew and increased security. Interior Minister Laarayedh accused the instigators of having connections with AQ.
• From June 12-13, violent extremists torched three regional offices of the General Union of Tunisian Labor in Tunis, Jendouba, and Ben Guerdane.
• On June 21, Tunisian military aircraft, after taking fire, engaged suspected weapons smugglers near the Libyan border, destroying three vehicles.
• On September 14, a mob of 2,000-3,000, including individuals affiliated with the militant organization Ansar al-Sharia, attacked and attempted to destroy the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis, looting the school and causing extensive damage to both facilities. The authorities arrested more than 120 individuals suspected of being part of the attacks.
• On November 1, Tunisian police foiled a hostage-for-ransom plot involving four Tunisians, one of them a police officer, who allegedly planned to kidnap young Jewish people living in Zarzis.
• On December 10, four gunmen attacked a National Guard unit near Feriana, in Kasserine governorate, killing one Guardsman. Officials suspected an armed group of 40 men to be hiding in the Mt. Chaambi region.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Human rights groups maintained that the Ben Ali regime used Tunisia’s counterterrorism law to repress dissent and imprison political opponents and religious leaders on trumped-up charges. Because of this focus on political opposition, the Ministry of Interior’s capabilities were depleted after the revolution, and the two subsequent transition governments were at times hesitant to arrest and prosecute suspected terrorists. The Government of Tunisia has recognized that some of these capabilities must be resurrected to address other security priorities, including civil unrest.
The Government of Tunisia arrested more than 120 individuals for their alleged involvement in the September 14 attacks on the U.S. Embassy and American Cooperative School of Tunis, but has shared little information with U.S. officials. There have been no trials or convictions, and some suspects have been released on bail or subject to small fines. Other arrests and prosecutions included:
• On February 13, in a follow-up operation to the February 1 attacks, Tunisian authorities announced the arrests of 12 suspects belonging to a terrorist cell with links to AQ. The group possessed 32 Kalashnikov automatic rifles, 2,500 bullets, and over US $60,000, which were confiscated by authorities. Tunisian Minister of the Interior Ali Laarayedh stated that interrogations of the suspects showed they “were stockpiling arms to be used when the time was ripe to impose an Islamic Emirate on Tunisia.” Most of the suspects had a record of terrorist involvement and had been released from Tunisian prisons during the presidential amnesty granted after the 2011 revolution. Eight additional members of the group reportedly remained at large and in Libya.
• On April 30, the Tunisian army apprehended six Salafists near Sejnane and seized Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition, and unspecified documents.
• In mid-May, Tunisian authorities detained and ultimately deported two radical Moroccan theologians, Hassan Kattani and Omar El Hadouchi, who were implicated in the May 16, 2003 Casablanca bombings.
• On August 4, Tunisian security forces arrested a group in possession of firearms and grenades near Sfax.
• On October 24, the government sentenced Slim ben Belgacem ben Mohamed Gantri (alias Abou Ayoub) to one year in jail for his role in the June 10-12 clashes in La Marsa under Articles 50 and 51 of Decree No. 115, which stipulate punishment for any act or speech that leads to violence or hatred, or threatens stability and peace.
• On December 6, authorities arrested two Salafists in Fernana, near the Algerian border, and charged them with possession of illegal firearms, stun guns, other explosives, maps, military uniforms, and narcotics.
• On December 11, border police arrested three Salafists caught with automatic weapons, explosives, and illegal drugs near Jendouba, in western Tunisia.
• On December 12, Tunisian authorities arrested 11 violent extremists believed to be involved in a December 10 gun battle that took the life of a National Guardsman and wounded four others. Neither the number of people arrested nor their possible link to the December 10 event were confirmed by the MOI.
• On December 15, Tunisian officials announced they had uncovered and dismantled a terrorist cell in western Tunisia that had been recruiting violent extremists to serve in strongholds controlled by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Several AQIM members were killed. They also announced that another seven had been arrested and indicted before the Tunis Court of First Instance on December 13.
• On December 21, Interior Minister Laarayedh announced that security forces had dismantled a terrorist cell called the “Militia of Uqba Ibn Nafaa in Tunisia,” affiliated with AQIM. The authorities captured 16 members and pursued another 18. Firearms, military fatigues, and plans were confiscated.
The fall of the Ben Ali regime resulted in the release or repatriation of individuals implicated in violent extremism. Of particular concern, two convicted terrorists, Seif Allah Ben Hassine (alias Abou Iyedh) and Tarek Maaroufi, returned to Tunisia in 2012. The two men are co-founders of the Tunisian Combatant Group. Ben Hassine was among those granted presidential amnesty after the collapse of the Ben Ali regime and is the political leader of the violent Salafist movement, Ansar al-Sharia. He was implicated as the mastermind behind the September 14 attack on the U.S. Embassy and at year’s end, remained at large. On March 24, Maaroufi returned to Tunisia after serving nine years in a Belgian prison on terrorism charges; his Belgian citizenship has since been revoked. Maaroufi is a well known terrorist who took part in the planning and execution of the assassination of Afghan Northern Alliance Leader Ahmad Shah Mehsud on September 9, 2001. In addition, cleric Slim ben Belgacem ben Mohamed Gantri (alias Abou Ayoub) emerged as an influential leader in the Tunisian Salafist movement.
Border security remained a priority as Tunisian authorities sought to collaborate with their Libyan and Algerian counterparts in stemming the flow of weapons being smuggled across their common borders. Several members of the Tunisian security services were killed in the line of duty combating suspected terrorists and militants from AQIM and other AQ-affiliated groups. A state of emergency first imposed following the January 2011 revolution remained in effect throughout 2012.
In 2012, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Finance (from the Customs Service) officials participated in U.S.-organized regional workshops on how to combat bioterrorism, kidnapping for ransom, and border infiltrations. The latter workshop was conducted by the Global Counterterrorism Sahel Capacity-Building Working Group. Tunisia continues to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Sandia Laboratories in the safe use of radioactive materials.
Tunisia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program with Tunisian security professionals receiving ATA training in 2012 in the areas of border security, investigations, and critical incident management. In September, Tunisia signed a Letter of Agreement with the United States, to initiate a multi-year multimillion dollar bilateral assistance program on security sector reform. On December 24, Tunisia and Algeria signed a security pact to coordinate action in the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, and illegal immigration; the pact called for the creation of joint border patrols.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Tunisia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Since Tunisia has strict currency controls, it is likely that remittance systems such as hawala are prevalent. Trade-based money laundering is also a concern. Throughout the region, invoice manipulation and customs fraud were often involved in hawala counter-valuation. Tunisia’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Tunisian Financial Analysis Commission (CTAF), is headed by the governor of the Central Bank and includes representation from the Ministry of Finance, Customs General Directorate, National Post Office, Council of Financial Markets, Insurance General Committee, Ministry of Interior, and “an expert specialized in the fight against financial infringements.” However, these interagency representatives are not analysts, and CTAF lacks analytical capacity due to both insufficient analytical staff and not enough training for the staff already in place. The Tunisian penal code provides for the seizure of assets and property tied to narcotics trafficking and terrorist activities. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 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 Tunisian government has increased its cooperation with the United States on other law enforcement matters and at the second ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in Istanbul in June 2012, offered to host the GCTF-inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, which will provide a platform for the delivery of training to criminal justice officials in Tunisia and the wider region to prevent and respond to terrorist and related threats within a rule of law framework.
The principal focus of the Tunisian government’s counterterrorism efforts continued to be securing its borders, especially in light of instability and armed conflict in neighboring Libya and the presence of violent extremists based in Algeria and Libya crossing clandestinely into Tunisia. Tunisian authorities intensified their coordination with Libyan and Algerian counterparts, and during a November trip to Algiers, Prime Minister Jebali reiterated that Tunisia and Algeria were committed to cross-border cooperation to stem illegal arms and drug trafficking, contraband smuggling, illegal immigration, and infiltration of armed gangs. On December 3, Prime Minister Jebali and Algerian Prime Minister Selial signed a joint statement vowing to fight terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. On December 24, Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia announced that Algeria and Tunisia had signed an agreement to strengthen border security coordination to include the creation of joint patrols to combat terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling, and illegal migration. The signing followed two days of meetings between Kablia and Tunisian Prime Minister Jebali and Interior Minister Laraayedh.
At various times, the Government of Tunisia closed border crossings with Libya and supported the Algerian authorities’ decision to close part of its border with Tunisia in an effort to prevent militias, militants, and armed bandits from entering Tunisia. The Tunisian and Algerian security forces launched joint operations in December to root out an AQIM cell in western Tunisia.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: In addition to expressions of solidarity with Tunisia’s minority religious groups, the Tunisian government instructed the Ministry of Religious Affairs to undertake mosque educational programs designed to promote peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance.
Overview: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and strengthened international counterterrorism cooperation. Over the course of the year, the UAE government improved border security measures and renewed efforts to combat terrorist financing. The United States and UAE governments were in negotiations to establish a pre-clearance facility at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Prominent officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The UAE participated in the Megaports and Container Security Initiatives (CSI). The CSI, which became operational at Port Rashid and Jebel Ali Port in the Emirate of Dubai in 2005, has two U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers co-located with the Dubai Customs Intelligence Unit at Port Rashid. On average, CSI reviewed approximately 250 bills of lading each week, resulting in about 25 non-intrusive inspections per month of U.S.- bound containers; examinations were conducted jointly with Dubai Customs officers, who shared information on transshipments from high risk areas, including those originating in Iran.
In 2012, the UAE implemented the use of retina scanning devices at international airport arrival terminals. The risk analysis or targeting practice, i.e., who is subjected to the scans, remained unclear.
In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed two Memoranda of Cooperation (MOCs) to support the respective training academies of the UAE Ministry of Interior’s (federal) Immigration Authority and the Abu Dhabi (emirate) Customs Authority (ADCA) and enhance capacity building of its police and customs authorities. The aforementioned MOCs remain in effect. In 2012, five retired ICE and CBP personnel were under direct contract of the UAE Ministry of Interior while six were under direct contract of the ADCA. All served the respective academies as subject-matter experts, course developers, and instructors. The two academies trained approximately 700 immigration and customs personnel in 2012.
A critical factor that poses a challenge to the effectiveness of the UAE’s law enforcement, border security, and judicial system is the country’s lack of human capacity. Emiratis compose only 11 percent of the country’s total population, making it structurally difficult to develop the country’s human resources to counter the full range of terrorist activities. Despite this, the UAE government remains vigilant in its overall counterterrorism pursuits.
Countering Terrorist Finance: The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and chairs the Training and Typologies Working Group. It is a major international banking and trading center. Its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit in the UAE Central Bank, is a member of the Egmont Group. The UAE continued efforts to strengthen its institutional capabilities to combat terrorist financing, but challenges remained with its enforcement of local and international law. The UAE’s last mutual evaluation report in 2008 recommended it amend the federal anti-money laundering (AML) law and increase dedicated resources available to the Central Bank's Financial Intelligence Unit.
The Central Bank continued to conduct AML training both locally and regionally, and was expanding its cooperation with FIUs worldwide to bolster its ability to counter terrorist finance. Exploitation of money transmitters by illicit actors, which included licensed exchange houses, hawalas, and trading firms acting as money transmitters, remained a significant concern. This vulnerability was compounded by the voluntary registration regime for hawalas and their lack of enforceable Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism of terrorism obligations. Regional hawalasand associated trading companies in various expatriate communities, most notably Somalis, have established clearinghouses, the vast majority of which are not registered with the UAE government. There are some indications that trade-based money laundering occurs in the UAE and that such activity might support terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. The UAE Central Bank provides direct oversight to the Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group, the UAE’s exchange house industry group, but its capacity and willingness to effectively monitor the sector remained unclear. Currently Emirati authorities are not capable of supervising the vast number of hawalas in the country or enforcing hawala compliance. Continuing from previous years, the United States and the UAE worked together to strengthen efforts to counter terrorist finance, including cross-border Bulk Cash Smuggling (BCS) and money laundering, with training, collaborative engagement with the local financial community, and other bilateral government cooperation.
In September, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Legal Attaché established a sub-office at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai to assist with Counterterrorism/Terrorist Financing Matters and provide a viable means to enhance cooperation between the FBI and UAE. Additionally, the FBI provided training courses to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) law enforcement counterparts.
In March, ICE and CBP provided BCS and AML training to UAE Customs and Law Enforcement officials in Dubai. The training consisted of academic and practical exercises concentrating on land-border interdiction and investigation of smuggled currency.
Regarding routine distribution of UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities to financial institutions, the UAE’s communication with the local financial community is largely driven by follow-up on suspicious transactions reports and close bilateral cooperation with partner governments. However, most if not all banks receive the UN lists by means of their own internal compliance offices. Operational capability constraints and political considerations sometimes prevented the UAE government from immediately freezing and confiscating terrorist assets absent multilateral assistance.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 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 UAE is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). At the GCTF launch in September 2011, the UAE announced that it would open the first-ever international center for training, dialogue, research, and strategic communication on countering violent extremism (CVE): the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, known as Hedayah. Hedayah was formally launched on December 13-14, 2012, at the GCTF's Third Coordinating Committee and Ministerial meetings in Abu Dhabi. The UAE and UK co-chair the GCTF CVE Working Group, whose meetings the UAE had earlier hosted on April 3-4, in Abu Dhabi. The UAE will be the permanent host of Hedayah.
In October, the UAE Ministry of Interior hosted the fifth regional field meeting for the “Project al Qabdah: Counterterrorism for the Middle East and North Africa.” The project’s goal is to increase information exchange among member countries and the Arab Interior Minister Councils. Participating organizations included the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, Europol, and the Secretariat General of the Corporation Council for Arab States in the Gulf.
The UAE government routinely invited participation from GCC countries at counterterrorism-related training sessions conducted by the FBI in the UAE.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: In order to prevent violent extremist preaching in UAE mosques, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) provided guidelines for all Friday sermons and monitored compliance. Abroad, Awqaf has trained cohorts of Afghani imams on preaching messages of moderation and tolerance, a program they have conducted since 2010. During key periods of Muslim religious observance, especially the fasting month of Ramadan, the UAE government aired commercials on television warning its Muslim citizens and residents to refrain from donating money at mosques, as the funds could unknowingly go to support terrorist causes. The UAE worked to keep its education system free of radical influences, and it emphasized social tolerance and moderation. Also, the UAE has a cyber crime law criminalizing the use of the internet by terrorist groups to “promote their ideologies and finance their activities." The UAE government repeatedly condemned terrorist acts in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.
Overview: The Government of Yemen successfully implemented a peaceful change of government and a military campaign against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) strongholds in its southern governorates in 2012, while facing multiple challenges including military and police units of varying loyalties, tribal adversaries, anti-government Houthi groups, a southern secessionist movement, and lawlessness in many areas. After their setback in Abyan, AQAP terrorists took advantage of Yemen’s climate of instability, employing asymmetric tactics in a campaign of bombings and targeted assassinations against government targets, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees (PCs), as well as civilian and international targets.
The Yemeni government, under President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, remained a strong U.S. counterterrorism partner. Hadi demonstrated Yemen’s commitment as a counterterrorism partner soon after taking office by ordering the military to dislodge AQAP militants from areas they occupied in Abyan and Aden governorates including the towns of Zinjibar, Jaar, and Shuqra. By June, these AQAP forces had been dislodged or withdrawn. AQAP elements continued to remain active in Abyan and Aden governorates, however, as well as in Sanaa and other governorates.
The U.S. conducted counterterrorism operations in Yemen and trained Yemeni forces. Two U.S.-trained counterterrorism units, the Yemen Special Operations Forces (YSOF) and the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), remained in the vicinity of Sanaa and did not participate in the early summer campaign against AQAP in the southern governorates. Fractures within the chain of command and reluctance on the part of these units’ pro-Saleh leadership to commit forces contributed to this performance. YSOF was under the command of the son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed Ali Saleh, and the CTU fell under the nephew, Yahya Saleh, Chief of Staff of the Central Security Forces. The CTU deployed to the southern governorates and participated in the counterterrorism fight later in 2012. In December 2012, President Hadi issued a decree that unified some of Yemen’s various counterterrorism units and special operations forces under one command as part of a broader military reorganization.
In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP has seized and occupied in 2011. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government PCs and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.
Yemeni government officials accused some pro-secessionist members of the Southern Movement (Hirak), of carrying out violent acts in the south. Senior security and military officials accused Hirak in the south and Houthi groups in the north of receiving weapons and funding from Iran in an effort to destabilize Yemen. They also accused Iranian elements of raising political and sectarian tensions through disinformation that promoted and encouraged violent extremism.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: AQAP and AQAP-affiliated groups carried out attacks throughout Yemen using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ambushes, car bombs, VBIEDs, suicide bombers, and targeted assassinations by gunmen riding motorcycles. The list below is not comprehensive and does not include all of the engagements that occurred almost daily between AQAP and other militants and government forces or pro-government PCs.
• On January 11, in Aden, suspected AQAP gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying Yemeni intelligence officers, killing at least one and wounding five.
• On February 25, a suicide car bombing killed 26 Republican Guard troops outside of the presidential palace in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt governorate. It occurred while President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi was taking the oath as president in Sanaa. AQAP later claimed responsibility for the attack.
• On March 4, AQAP militants stormed an army base in Kod, south of Abyan’s capital, Zinjibar, and then fighting spread to other military posts in the area. The attack reportedly began with coordinated VBIEDs at military posts at Zinjibar’s southern and western entrances, which killed at least seven Yemeni soldiers and wounded 12 others. Overall, over 185 Yemeni soldiers were killed in the assault, and over 70 were taken captive by AQAP.
• On March 14, AQAP militants kidnapped a Swiss woman in the port city of al Hodeidah. Two weeks later, they reportedly demanded certain conditions for her release, calling for the release of Usama bin Laden’s widows, who were being held in Pakistan, the release of several women being held in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the release of 100 AQ-affiliated militants from Yemeni jails, and 50 million Euros (approximately US $66 million). Mediation efforts failed, according to a tribal negotiator, because of the prohibitive demands. (The Swiss woman was released in February 2013.)
• On March 18, AQAP gunmen killed American citizen Joel Shrum on his way to work in Taiz. Shrum worked as an administrator and English teacher at a vocational institute. On March 22, AQAP claimed responsibility in a communiqué posted on violent extremist forums.
• On March 28, Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy counsel at the Saudi consulate in Aden, was kidnapped on his way to work.
• On April 21, armed tribesmen kidnapped a French employee of the International Committee Red Cross 20 miles outside of Hodeidah. Tribal sources indicated later that he was subsequently handed over to AQAP and was being held in Abyan governorate. He was released on July 14.
• On May 21, a suicide bomber disguised as a soldier struck at a rehearsal for a military parade in Sabeen Square in Sanaa, leaving over 90 soldiers dead. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.
• On May 25, a suspected AQAP bomber attacked and killed at least 12 Shia in a bombing of a Houthi mosque in al-Jawf governorate in northern Yemen.
• On June 18, Southern Military Region Commander Major General Salem Qatan was assassinated by a suicide bomber as he was leaving his residence in Aden. AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack.
• On July 11, a suicide bomber targeted cadets at the Sanaa Police Academy as they were leaving class. At least nine were killed in the blast.
• On July 16, suspected AQAP gunmen ambushed the Deputy Director of Taiz Central Prison, killing him and three other persons.
• On August 5, a suicide bomber struck at a funeral in Yemen's southern city of Jaar, killing at least 45 people and wounding dozens more. The attack targeted a local Popular Committee that had sided with the government against AQAP militants.
• On August 18, militants with suspected ties to AQAP attacked a Political Security Organization compound in Aden. The militants first detonated a VBIED and then raided the building. At least 14 members of the security forces were killed and seven others were injured in the attack.
• On August 19, a gunman opened fire on worshippers in a mosque in al-Dhale, killing at least seven people and injuring 11 others. Security sources indicated that the gunman may not have had ties to AQAP.
• On August 19, a suicide bomber with suspected ties to AQAP attacked a group of tribesmen in Mudia in Abyan governorate. The attack killed Nasser Ali Daiheh, leader of the local Popular Committee, along with two of his bodyguards.
• On September 11, Yemen's defense minister Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad escaped assassination in a VBIED attack on his motorcade in Sanaa. The attack, which was carried out by suspected AQAP militants, killed 12 people including seven security guards and five civilians.
• On September 13, hundreds of violent protesters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound and looted and vandalized the property. The attack caused an estimated $20 million in damages to U.S. buildings, vehicles, and facilities.
• On October 30, saboteurs bombed the Yemen gas pipeline 300 kilometers north of Balhaf terminal.
• On November 2, a senior officer in the Central Security Forces was shot and killed by masked gunmen in a drive-by shooting near his house in Sayun in Hadramawt governorate.
• On November 24, three worshippers were killed in Sanaa by unknown assailants in an attack on a Houthi gathering commemorating the Shia holy day of Ashura.
• On November 28, a Saudi diplomat and his bodyguard were shot and killed in an ambush in the Hadda district of Sanaa. The attackers, who remained unidentified, reportedly wore Central Security Force uniforms.
• On December 8, eight Yemeni soldiers including one senior officer, were killed in Marib governorate in an ambush by suspected AQAP gunmen.
• On December 10, 17 Yemeni soldiers and officers were killed in an ambush by suspected AQAP militants. The ambush took place in the Wadi Obeida area of Marib province as the soldiers were patrolling the Marib Oil Pipeline.
• On December 11, suspected AQAP militants on a motorcycle shot and killed Deputy Director of the Political Security Organization in Hadramawt governorate, Ahmed Barmadah, as he was leaving his house in Mukalla.
• On December 28, AQAP’s media arm al-Mahalem Media Organization posted a YouTube video announcing rewards of 3,000 grams of gold for killing the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and five million Yemeni riyals (approximately US $23,000) for killing an American soldier in Yemen. The communiqué was posted on violent extremist websites and reported in public media.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Parliament has yet to vote on a package of counterterrorism laws first introduced in 2008, despite efforts of the Ministry of Legal Affairs to advocate for the legislation’s passage. As a result, the Yemeni government continued to lack a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes. The government often resorted to charging terrorism suspects with “membership in an armed gang.”
There were a number of arrests of terrorist suspects in 2012. However the continued weakness of the Yemeni justice system left many traditional law enforcement counterterrorism responsibilities to the Yemeni military.
A series of decrees by President Hadi in late December marked an important step in implementing some key military and security reforms by establishing a more unified command structure suited to Yemen’s security challenges.
Yemen continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Yemen is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and enacted its first comprehensive anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law in 2010.
In 2012, the FIU participated in training to enhance its operational capacity. Yemen has a cross-border cash declaration or disclosure requirement for cash amounts over $15,000. Compliance is lax and customs inspectors do not routinely file currency declaration forms if funds are discovered. There are approximately 532 registered money exchange businesses in Yemen. Money transfer businesses are required to register with the Central Bank of Yemen and can open offices at multiple locations. Yemen has a large underground economy. The Yemeni government lacks specific legislation with respect to forfeiture of the assets of those suspected of terrorism.
Since February 2010, Yemen has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CTF deficiencies, for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. The Yemeni government has since committed to an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. Yemen’s Financial Investigations Unit at the Central Bank of Yemen drafted updated legislation to address the recommendations of the MENAFATF.
Regional and International Cooperation: In February, Yemen participated in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Horn of Africa region capacity building working group in Dar es Salaam. The Government of Yemen cooperated with U.S., European, Jordanian, and regional partners on counterterrorism issues.
Jordanian and U.S. teams advised the Ministry of Defense as it made plans to restructure Yemen’s military and defense forces, and European teams advised the Ministry of Interior on restructuring Yemen’s police and interior security forces.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Official media published messages from President Hadi and other senior officials highlighting the importance of countering terrorism by addressing the conditions that terrorists exploit. State broadcasters also featured limited messaging designed to raise awareness among the Yemeni people about the dangers of terrorism and violent extremism. They frequently highlighted the threat of terrorism and violent acts on Yemen’s economy and development. Many political leaders and groups (including the former opposition Joint Meeting Party alliance) publicly condemned terrorism and violent attacks, while stressing that a unified army and security service would help to eradicate terrorism. Many Yemeni officials and media professionals have expressed support for expanding messaging efforts aimed at countering violent extremism, but point to a lack of resources and expertise that impede their efforts.
Sources: United States Department of State