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Terrorism

Boko Haram: new strategy and perspectives

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The 2015 Baga massacre, perpetrated last January by Boko Haram, can be perceived as a sign of the will of the terrorist organization to raise the stakes of its action, ultimately switching from relatively smaller-scale attacks to a larger action, closer to “proper” organized military tactics.

Between the 3rd and the 7th January 2015 Baga –a fishing settlement in Borno State on the border with Chad – was sadly propelled into the limelight, as it became the theatre of a “disturbing and bloody escalation”, as Amnesty International has defined the massacre carried out by Boko Haram. The number of fatalities of the Baga attacks (reportedly held between the indicated period) is still not confirmed: Nigerian official government sources refer about circa 150 killings, while local officials suggest a figure of around 2000 victims. Most victims are women, children, and the elderly. Boko Haram fighters also rampaged through the buildings in Baga, resulting in extensive looting and in the burning of 3100 structures. As an image released by Human Rights Watch starkly shows, 11% of Baga has been destroyed by Boko Haram. Other than Baga, sources report the 16 smaller settlements in the area have been destroyed, resulting in the displacement of circa 35000 people. In particular, the village of Doro Gowon- the base of the Multinational Joint Task Force-has been badly hit by Boko Haram’s fury. Indeed, a bleak image released by Human Rights Watch reveals the utter devastation brought about by Boko Haram, which burnt vast areas, amounting to approximately 57% of the village.

Baga has a strategic significance for Boko Haram fighters. Indeed, probably, the Baga area has been targeted for two possible (concurring) reasons: the presence in the area of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) base, apparently the main target of the attack, and the “legacy” of the 2013 attacks.
The Multinational Joint Task Force, established in 1998, is composed by Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin, and is a signal of the regional involvement of state actors in the maintenance of security in the border areas. The MNJTF is assuming increasing relevance as a military tool to fight against Boko Haram. Regarding the second reason explaining the strategic importance of Baga as Boko Haram’s target, in April 2013 the city was the site of a massacre, whose details remain unclear. In fact, Nigerian troops allegedly killed civilians, attacked non-military targets, and destructed properties- 2275 buildings were razed according to Human Rights Watch’s estimates- in counter-terrorism operations. Indeed, they were reacting to Boko Haram’s killing of a Nigerian soldier. However, military officials of Nigeria decline the responsibility for the attack and blame Boko Haram as the perpetrators.

Boko Haram’s action escalated further after the January 2015 attack in Baga, which already strongly contributed to overall destabilization of the area and to the enfeeblement of the President’s and the institutions’ authority. Since January 7, Boko Haram has been relentlessly on the offensive: the following summary is an essential, but not exhaustive timeline of Boko Haram’s attacks in Nigeria. Crucially, Boko Haram’s actions do not refrain from gratuitous cruelty. Indeed, Boko Haram was reported to have exploited children as underage bombers in Maiduguri – the birthplace of Boko Haram in Borno state – on January 10, when a girl aged between 10 and 18 years old exploded while being screened at the entrance of a lively market, killing 20 people. The market had been a frequent target of Boko Haram’s attacks. The use of a child bomber was a novelty in Boko Haram’s history. The girl concealed explosives under her veil, although the New York Times reported that several witnesses claimed that it seemed that the girl was not aware of it. Boko Haram has also often deployed women as human explosives. Additionally, Boko Haram’s brutality is further testified by its frequent kidnappings. Recently, on January 18 Boko Haram kidnapped 80 people, including 50 children, in North Cameroon, near the village of Mabass. The Cameroonian army has released around 20 abducted people. On January 25, Boko Haram and the Nigerian army clashed again in Maiduguri. The Nigerian troops blocked the rods into the city and repelled the attack. Reportedly 200 Boko Haram fighters were dead following the clashes. As the battle in Maiduguri was raging, Boko Haram attacked, using scorched-earth tactics, villages located 200 km to the South, where they looted and burnt homes, and abducted women and children. On 1 February, Boko Haram attacked again Maiduguri, but was repelled by the Nigerian army and 80 militants were killed. On February 14, the terrorists shot into the air in Gombe and circulated leaflets scaring voters from polling. On 15 February, Boko Haram stormed Askira in Northeast Nigeria – which was almost empty- targeting civilians and homes, and used a female suicide bomber in Damaturu, in the Northeast, killing 7 people and injuring 32. Two days later, a suicide bomber linked to Boko Haram exploded at a restaurant in Potiskum, still in the Northeast, causing 4 victims and 5 injured. On February 17, Boko Haram was active also in the South, where it attacked the opposition’s meeting in Okrika, though killing no one. On the same day, Boko Haram clashed with the Chadian army in Dikwa, in the Northeast, and in a place on the road between Maiduguri and the Cameroonian border. There were 2 Chadian soldiers and 117 Boko Haram fighters dead as a result. One day later, Boko Haram detonated explosives at a military checkpoint outside Biu, still in the Northeast, causing 22 victims.

Furthermore, Boko Haram started expanding its area of action to neighbouring countries. Already in December 2014, the organization showed signals of its will to regionalize the conflict. Even earlier, in November 2014, every day gunshots attributed to Boko Haram were reported to have been heard in Cameroon, in the area bordering Nigeria. The situation was tangibly tense, and on 8 December, the BBC reported Boko Haram’s cross-border attacks into Cameroon, where militants tried to fly the caliphate’s flag. Moreover, Boko Haram attacked the military camp of Assighasia in Cameroon on 28 December, where they flew the Boko Haram’s flag. Within the framework of the regionalization of conflict, Boko Haram has taken a harsh and menacing posture towards the government of Cameroon. As mentioned above, on 18 January the terrorist organization kidnapped 80 people in Northern Cameroon, thus confirming the spill over of Boko Haram’s violent actions into countries neighbouring Nigeria. Additionally, Boko Haram killed 3 people and burnt 80 homes in this cross-border attack. The figures are estimates, as the government’s spokesman did not confirm the exact numbers. The underlying reasons for the attack are Boko Haram’s intention to widen its operating area and its desire to make Cameroon embrace Islam and repeal its Constitution. Boko Haram’s strategy has encompassed also cross-border attacks in Niger and Chad. On February 6, Boko Haram made an incursion into Diffa region in Niger, which repelled the terrorists. On February 8, Boko Haram staged an assault on Diffa again, by making a female suicide bomber blow herself up in the teeming pepper market. On February 13, Boko Haram assaulted the village of Ngouboua in Chad, causing 6 victims and injuring 3 people, and thus reiterating its intention to extend the conflict across the Nigerian border. In particular, it appears that Boko Haram wanted to take revenge against Chad, which joined the regional military effort against the terrorist organization.

Next to the discussion about the tangible chances that Boko Haram stands in an open-field conflict with different actors involved, it should be pointed out that this terrorist organization draws its force also from its opponents’ weaknesses. Especially focusing on Nigerian army, it should be – sadly – noted that Nigeria looks less and less like the “military” giant it was (or at least claimed to be) some years ago. The army suffers from being poorly paid and overstretched, and from mutinies. Civilians do not feel protected and feel alienated. The State, in general, is affected by rampant corruption, as it ranks 136th in the corruption ranking. The military response to Boko Haram has not been very effective so far, even if some positive facts have been registered. On February 17, Nigeria drove Boko Haram out of 12 towns and villages and on 20 February it attacked Boko Haram’s training camps in Northeast Borno, specifically in Sambisa Forests and parts of Gwoza. Ultimately, Nigeria’s President Jonathan Goodluck has received abrasive criticism about his elusive behaviour with respect to Boko Haram. The Guardian labels the government’s behaviour towards Boko Haram as “inept” and blames the government for providing unclear information. Lack of clear information was apparent also in the 18 February incident in Niger, where 36 people were killed. While some sources claim that the victims were Boko Haram’s fighters, who were killed in a Nigerian military operation, other sources allege that the Nigerian army may have mistaken funeral mourners for Boko Haram militants. The Nigerian government denied its involvement and opened an inquiry regarding the murky incident. The government’s weak response to Boko Haram may embolden the terrorist organization.

The (long-awaited) joint military intervention of neighbouring countries, Chad and Cameroon, aimed to restore the balance in the clashes by providing new forces to counter the terrorists. The Chadian army is allegedly the most powerful army in the region, experienced in antiterrorism activities in semi-desert territories. It went to Cameroon to respond to Boko Haram’s threats on January 18. Additionally, Chadian troops killed 200 Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria on 4 February, liberated some towns in the Northeast of Nigeria, and led a military exercise, with the help of the United States, coordinating 3000 soldiers coming from 28 African and Western states. Cameroon’s president Paul Biya caimed that “a global threat needs a global response”, and pledged to oppose Boko Haram. Indeed, the Cameroonian army attacked Boko Haram on February 16. Similarly, Niger’s president stated that “Niger will be the tomb of the Islamists” and promised to fight Boko Haram. Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, with Benin, decided to mobilize 8700 soldiers on February 7 against Boko Haram, and are part of the above-mentioned Multinational Joint Task Force, whose aim is to fight Boko Haram at present. More regional supra-national actors are engaged in the struggle against Boko Haram. The CEEAC (Communauté économique des Etats d’Afrique Centrale), composed by Chad, Congo, Gabon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea, pledged to help militarily, financially, and humanitarianly the states affected by Boko Haram’s attacks. Even the African Union has planned to send troops to join the fight against Boko Haram. Therefore, it is evident that struggle against Boko Haram has taken on a regional dimension.

It should be noted that, as reported on February 20 by the NGO Réseau des défenseurs des droits humains en Afrique centrale (Redhac), Cameroon soldiers violated human rights during their operations against the terrorists. Cameroon has not commented on the fact yet. Remembering how Boko Haram (to some extent) consolidated its consensus by taking advantage of “collateral damage” and abuses by the Nigerian army, particular attention and prudence in counter-terror action is required by the new military actor taking the field against the extremists.

This complex picture leads to different threads of analysis.
In the first place, if the military action undertaken by neighbouring countries can be seen as beneficial for countering Boko Haram, it is also a clear signal of how Nigeria is weakened under both the military and political point of view, lacking the strength to provide a believable response to the terrorists’ action. Furthermore, it shows how the terrorist attacks evolved in a conflict, a conflict which has “officially” expanded from the “national” to the “regional” level: only the efficiency of the joint military efforts will show us how such clashes will be kept in control or will enlarge again their borders.

In the second place, this situation will effectively test how a larger-scale conflict can be tolerated by all parts involved, possibly influencing (via a sort of “imitation/demonstration effect”) present and future action of terrorist/separatist groups in or outside the region. An eventual success – or at least a successful long resistance – of Boko Haram against two or more joint regular armies could transform in a dangerous boost to the morale of other groups.

In the end, we should take in consideration the consequences of this situation on the upcoming election in Nigeria, which have been postponed from 15 February to 29 March. These elections are crucial to decide to whom Nigerians will entrust the difficult task of responding to Boko Haram. Unfortunately, these elections are marred by insecurity due to Boko Haram’s presence in some areas of Nigeria and to its threat to disrupt the vote. Indeed, on February 17, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged to disrupt the elections in a video diffused through Twitter. He claimed that Allah would not allow the elections to take place. The increased intensity of Boko Haram’s operations, indeed, can be interpreted as the militants’ device to scare Nigerians and persuade them not to vote. Boko Haram, in fact, opposes elections, as it perceives them as part of the democratic process it vehemently obstacles. The International Crisis Group warns that elections will be anyway affected by inter-party tensions and inadequate preparation.

Authors: Marianna GRIFFINI, Giuliano LUONGO

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Terrorism

Beyond Bombs and Bullets: A Comprehensive Approach Needed to Defeat ISIS

Zakir Gul, Ph.D.

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Many articles with similar ideas have been written about the current situation with ISIS and what will happen to the terrorist organization in the future. Most of these articles, however, ask incomplete or incorrect questions, which leads to inaccurate assessments of the safety of the world when ISIS is defeated. The articles typically ask questions such as: Can it be claimed that removal of ISIS from the territory in which it operates mean the end to ISIS, or is it only the displacement of terrorism? Shall we celebrate the defeat of ISIS or still be concerned about it? These questions, unfortunately, are incomplete and do not address key elements of the issue. The critical, and more appropriate, questions to ask are: Will the violent and extreme mindset and ideology end when ISIS is defeated? Is it possible that ISIS will transform itself or merges with another terrorist group? Is hard power the solution?

ISIS is just another body into which the violent and extremist ideology of jihadi Salafism has entered. The body dies, but the soul does not. When the body dies, the bad soul will enter another body of a different name. In the case of a defeated ISIS, the organization will die physically but survive as others take up its cause. As long as the violent and extremist ideology and dark soul of ISIS survives, there will always be a body for the soul to wear. The jihadi Salafist ideology will live a new life in a body transformed into another shape and structure.

Failure to ask the right questions means being unable to see and diagnose the problem correctly, intervene correctly, respond correctly, offer the correct solutions, and correctly assess the outcome rightly. In other words, a mistaken first step often leads to subsequent missteps and dire consequences in the long run. For example, when tar is on fire, the expected and first response would be to douse the fire with water; however, the compounds in the tar render water ineffective in putting out the fire and may even make the situation worse.In terms of terrorism, ISIS is the tar, and the commonsense first response would be to use all power available to eradicate the organization.

The literature on terrorism acknowledges that terrorism and radicalization are complex and multidimensional concepts that involve social, psychological, political, financial, and educational issues. Given this mix of factors, could a military and/or law enforcement intervention be the solution to terrorism and radicalization? The answer is “no.” Could the hard power be the solution to some psychological factors (i.e., alienation) or political factors (i.e., political exclusion and oppression) of joining terrorist groups? Again, the answer is “no.” The answer will always be “no” until the solution offered addresses the multiple dimensions of the problem with a comprehensive, but individualized, approach. A reliance on bombs, bullets, and warfare alone will not suffice.

For example, if an individual joins a terrorist group because of a family issue—such as forced marriage, domestic violence, or alienation from close relatives, lack of love and respect among family members—then the approach should focus on family structures and family environments. If an individual whose spouse, children, or extended family members were killed by government security forces longs for revenge and is recruited as a suicide bomber, a military/law enforcement solution alone will not solve the underlying problem. Nor is it the correct approach when an individual has joined a terrorist organization in response to the lack of democratic and human rights. If militants are recruited and exposed to propaganda in virtual environments, then the counterterrorism approach should address those virtual environments to neutralize the terrorist indoctrination. If potential militants are easily swayed by radicals misinterpreting and exploiting religious scriptures because they are poorly educated and lack religious awareness and knowledge, then the counterterrorism approach should focus on counter-narratives and religion-awareness programs. A continued emphasis on tanks, gunfire, and bombs, is a waste of precious money, time, and effort, and lives and, worse yet, justification of terrorist narratives.

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Jihadists of Katibat Imam al Bukhari are afraid of the US strike

Uran Botobekov

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The US State Department added Central Asian jihadist group Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB) to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorist organizations on March 22, 2018.

As noted in the statement “the Department of State has designated KIB as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. This designation seeks to deny KIB the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of the group’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.”

It is already common knowledge that,KIB is fighting in Syria as part of the al Qaeda-linked rebel coalition Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. The KIB detachment was created in Afghanistan on the basis of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. KIB also operates in Afghanistan and has pledged loyalty to the Taliban, who are in turn tight allies with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2012, KIB, on the recommendation of Al-Qaeda, moved to the province of Idlib and distinguished itself as one of the major rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad. A group of the jihadists of the KIB is also based in Afghanistan today and is fighting together with the Taliban. About 200 militants are known to fight in the KIB. The propaganda materials of the group are actively disseminated in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Three days after the decision of the US State Department to include KIB in the list of global terrorist organizations, Shura of the KIB issued its own statementin response. In itsown statement, which was released via Telegram on March 25, 2018, KIB protested their designation as terrorists by the State Department. KIB states that it “was surprised by the American resolution to enlist the Imam al Bukhari Brigade on the world terror list notwithstanding that we do not have ideological or intellectual ties with any faction internationally enlisted.”

It is most interesting that Shura of the KIB, for its protection, used a lot of peaceful terms in their response such as «international law», «rights of freedom», “murderous Assad regime”, “struggle for а decent life of the Syrian people”, etc.

KIB claimed in their response, that their volunteers from many Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, formed their brigade “as a result of the war’s long duration in Syria and the increasing number of expats.”Shura of the KIB described his mission in the Middle East as protecting the simple and peaceful Syrian people from the bloody regime of Assad and his external sponsors, Hezbollah, Iranian Shiite militants and Russia.

KIB also claimed that they’ve been fighting with the Free Syrian Army to protect civilians against threats like ISIS, “which pushed ISIS to assassinate our previous leader (Sheikh Salahuddin).””The classification of Imam al-Bukhari Brigade by U.S., turns a blind eye on thousands of the Iranian-backed foreign Shiite militias that commit war crimes against the Syrians, and proves that the U.S. applies double standards and it is only concerned about its interests,” KIB continued.The Shura of group vowed to stay the course “in spite of pains and problems whether in our country or by the world order.”

In this regard, it should be noted that the “justifiable arguments” of the KIB that its fighters are fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and precisely because of this fact they should not be included in the list of world terrorist groups does not make sense.Firstly, not only the numerous factions of armed revolutionaries and the fragmentary Syrian opposition are fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad, but also the world jihadist groups ISIS and Al-Qaeda.However, their goals are completely different. If the peaceful Syrian opposition wants to build a democratic state in Syria in the future, then ISIS and Al Qaeda are fighting for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East.Al-Qaeda backed KIB that affiliated with Jabhat al Nusra, completely shares the position of his patrons.

Secondly, radical Salafism and militant Takfirism are the fundamental basis of the jihadi ideology of the KIB.In accordance with the ideological doctrine of KIB that was recently published on its Telegram channel, the group considers its goal the construction of an Islamic state in Central Asia, the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the protection and spread of jihadi ideology around the world by force.

Jihadists of Katibat in training

Thirdly, jihad is the main tool for KIB in achieving its goals, that is, in building the Islamic Caliphate.In their propaganda materials, KIB leaders urge Muslims to wage jihad against the godless regimes of Central Asia and the West.After President Trump decided the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, KIB leader Abu Yusuf Muhojir posted on his Telegram page a pledge to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque and wage jihad on the West.

The Syrian Liberation Front (SLF) — a joint venture formed by Ahrar al-Sham and the Nur al-Din al-Zanki Movement in February — has joined KIB in denouncing the State Department’s designation as well.In its statement the SLF argues that the KIB is an “independent” faction comprised of Uzbeks who were “forced out of their country” and who now fight against the Assad regime and ISIS. It is known that Ahrar al-Sham is an al Qaeda backed Salafi-jihadi group who fought alongside Al Nusrah Front in the past.The SLF also points to the assassination of KIB leader Sheikh Salahuddinlast year, alleging that ISIS cooperated with “Russian intelligence” in the killing.

In this regard, it should be noted that the assassination of the leader of KIB Sheikh Salahuddin is related to the confrontation between ISIS and al-Qaida, which led to internal fighting among the Central Asian jihadists in Syria.His real name was Akmal Jurabaev and he was born and grew up in the Uzbek town of Namangan. He shared the religious views and Salafi ideology of the Taliban and al Qaeda. On April 27, 2017, during the evening prayer in the mosque of a Syrian city of Idlib, Sheikh Salahuddin was killed by an Uzbek militant who was a member of ISIS. The Islamic State distributed the following statement via Telegram messenger in this regard, “The emir of detachment of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Sheikh Salahuddin, was punished according to the Sharia law for all the betrayals he committed.”

The Uzbek militant from Tajikistan, known as Abu Yusuf Muhojir, was appointed the new leader of the group. The Uzbek social networks have characterized him as the distinguished military strategist who has implemented a series of successful operations against the army of Bashar Assad. After the comprehensive analysis of his public speeches in the audio format published on the Telegram, we can draw the following conclusions: Abu Yusuf Muhojirhas the deep religious knowledge, knew the nuances of the Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) and jihad.

It is no accident that in their statements, KIB and SLF appealed to the fact that the leader of the Uzbek jihadists, Sheikh Salahuddin,was assassinated by ISIS militants.Using this argument that Uzbek militants are fighting with ISIS and their leader has fallen by the hands of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi supporters, KIB is trying to justify its terrorist activities and to avoid international persecution in accordance with the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

This is not the first time that the United States has designateda Central Asian jihadist group on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list.After designation of a terrorist group in the list of global terrorists, the US special services are allowed to carry out operations to eliminate the leaders of those terrorist groups, to take decisive measures to destroy financial schemes and to effectively put international pressure on them.

As is already known, the US State Department has designated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan(IMU) in the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list on September 25, 2000.As a result, the leader of the group Tahir Yuldash (2009) and the military commander of the group Juma Namangoni (2001) were killed as a result of US missile airstrike.

On June 17, 2005, the US State Department designated the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) to the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.The IJU is a splinter faction of the IMU, and a substantial number of its members are from Central Asia.The IJU has been waging jihad in the Afghan-Pakistan region for more than a decade. It maintains close ties with al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US has killed several top IJU leaders, including its emir, Najmuddin Jalolov, in drone strikes in North Waziristan 2009.

On December 29, 2004, the US State Department designated Uyghur Salafi-jihadi group the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (the Turkestan Islamic Party) to the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL).As a result, leaders of the Turkestan Islamic Party Hassan Mahsum (2003) and Abdul Shakur al-Turkistani (2012) were killed in US drone strike.

Based on this, we can assume what fate awaits the leaders and militants of the KIB in the near future. The designation of the KIB in the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list testifies to the US Government’s determination to combat the jihadist ideology of Salafism worldwide.This is a tangible support to the governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, which are facing a real threat of transnational terrorism.After all, the backbone of the KIB is made up of people from the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia, mainly of Uzbek nationality.

According to the Soufan Group, out of 5,000 people who left Central Asia for Syria and Iraq, about 500 jihadists in the ISIS ranks went back to their homes. But among the returnees, there are almost no militants KIB, Katibat al-Tawhidwal Jihad (KTJ), IJU and TIP, which are affiliated with al Qaeda. After the fall of ISIS, it is the militants linked with the al Qaeda that pose a big threat to the countries of Central Asia. Therefore, the emergence of two theatres of war for al Qaeda backed Central Asian militants in Syria and Afghanistan and the relative ease of transit between these two theatres via Turkey increases the threat that jihadists can return to Central Asia at an opportune moment, such as at a time of political, social or economic crises.This would be dangerous for the regimes of Central Asia.

Therefore, the designation of the KIB by the US government into the list of global terrorist organizations gives a positive impetus to the efforts of the Central Asian countries in respect to counterterrorism.But so far the Central Asian governments have not openly reacted to the initiative of the US State Department. Perhaps such a reaction followed through diplomatic channels, which are closed to the public.

The war in Afghanistan and in the Middle East over the past 17 years has shown that the United States is in the forefront of the fight against transnational terrorism and religious extremism. Therefore, it would be difficult for the Governments of Central Asia to do without US assistance in combating the radical ideology of Salafism and world jihadism.

The Central Asian states are in a bind insofar as there is little they can do to stymie the growth of the KIB, KTJ, IJU and TIP in Syria given their lack of influenceand likely also their lack of intelligence.As a result, the Central Asian governments will likely need to develop comprehensive national security strategies with allies both within the region and abroad to manage the complexities of emerging threats.To achieve results in the fight against jihadism, the Central Asian countries need to solve three main tasks.

First, to intensify cooperation with the United States and the exchange of intelligence data.Successful coordination between law enforcement agencies will help to block the channels of financial, material and military assistance to the jihadist groups from Central Asia, affiliated with al Qaeda.Joint cooperation will contribute to the dismantling of bases, camps and training centers for Central Asian jihadist groups in Syria and Afghanistan, neutralizing prominent leaders and identifying commercial organizations and foundations that subsidize them. The fight against Al Qaeda is a more difficult than with ISIS, as it does not have its own territory, which can be hit. In the fight against Al-Qaeda, the United States has significant anti-terrorist experience, effective intelligence tools and advanced technical capabilities.

Secondly, given the increased role of another Uzbek group Katibat al-Tawhidwal Jihad in the global jihad and their successful terrorist acts in Russia (the explosion of the metro in St. Petersburg) and in Kyrgyzstan (the explosion of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek), the governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan should lobby the US to include the KTJ in the list of global terrorist organizations.

Thirdly, for successful international coordination of anti-terrorist efforts, security agencies and special services of the countries of Central Asia need to get rid of block thinking and anti-American sentiment, which is a legacy of the Soviet empire and which is being initiated by Russia.Kremlinis known to consider Central Asia as an area of its influence. Putin is imposing its anti-American ideology on the countries of the region, which impedes the joint struggle against world jihadism. The confrontation between Russia and the West on the activities of the Taliban and the future regime of Bashar al-Assad enable jihadist groups from Central Asia to successfully assimilate into a global jihad. Therefore, the governments of Central Asia must work out their own self-position, which allows them to actively cooperate with the US in the fight against the global jihadist threat in the world and stop being a Putin’s “whipping boy”.

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How to stop terrorism: EU measures explained

MD Staff

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Stopping terrorism requires tackling issues such as foreign fighters, border controls and cutting off funds. Learn about the EU’s counter terrorism policies.

Security is a major concern for Europeans: the vast majority (80%) want the EU to do more to fight terrorism. However, European policy makers also realise that terrorism has no borders.

EU measures to prevent new attacks run from more thorough checks at Europe’s borders, to better police and judicial cooperation on tracing suspects and pursuing perpetrators, cutting the financing of terrorism, tackling organised crime, addressing radicalisation and others.

Improving  border controls

In order to safeguard security within the Schengen zone, systematic checks at the EU’s external borders on all people entering the EU – including EU citizens – were introduced in April 2017.

To record the movements of non-EU citizens across the Schengen area and speed up controls, a new entry and exit registration system was agreed by Parliament and EU ministers on 30 November 2017. These new external border controls are expected to become fully functional by 2020 at the latest.

Stopping foreign terrorist fighters

At least 7,800 Europeans from 24 countries are believed to have travelled to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq to join jihadist terrorist groups, according to Europol. Although there is a decrease in travel, the number of returning foreign fighters is expected to rise if Islamic State is defeated militarily or collapses.

In order to criminalise acts such as undertaking training or travelling for terrorist purposes, as well as organising or facilitating such travel, Europe put in place  EU-wide legislation on terrorism that, together with new controls at the external borders, will help to tackle the foreign fighter phenomenon.

Making use of air passenger data

Airlines operating flights to and from the EU are  obliged to hand national authorities the data of their passengers such as names, travel dates, itinerary and payment method.

This so-called PNR data  is used to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences and serious crimes. Negotiations took more than five years and Parliament insisted on safeguards for sensitive data (revealing racial origin, religion, political opinion, health or sexual orientation) and data protection.

Stepping up the exchange of information

The man who carried out the Berlin Christmas market attack used multiple identities to evade border and law enforcement authorities. This, and other similar cases, show the importance of effective information sharing between different authorities (law enforcement, judicial, intelligence) in EU countries.

The EU already has many databases and information systems for border management and internal security. The Parliament is currently focusing on rules that will enable the interoperability of the databases and allow for the simultaneous consultation of the different systems.

Europol, the EU’s police agency, supports the exchange of information between national police authorities as the EU criminal information hub. In May 2016 the Parliament agreed to give more powers to Europol  to step up the fight against terrorism as well as to set up specialised units such as the European counter terrorism centre, which was launched on 25 January 2016.

Tackling the financing of terrorism

An effective measure to stop terrorists is to cut their sources of revenue and disrupt logistics. The Parliament wants EU countries to track suspicious financial transactions and charities and also look into the trafficking of oil, cigarettes, gold, gems and works of art.

MEPs have completed the latest update of the EU’s anti-money laundering directive, which tightens the rules on virtual currency platforms and anonymous prepaid cards.

MEPs also managed to secure additional resources in the EU’s 2018 budget to better fight terrorism and organised crime. The European Commission recently set up a blockchain observatory in response to Parliament calls to monitor virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, to prevent them being used to finance terrorism.

Reducing access to dangerous weapons

The EU does everything possible to prevent dangerous weapons falling into the hands of the wrong people. The revised firearms directive closed legal loopholes that allowed terrorists to use reconverted weapons, for example in the Paris 2015 attacks. It requires EU countries to have a proper monitoring system, while keeping exemptions for hunters, museums and collectors.

Parliament is also pushing for better control of arms exports  and an embargo on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Preventing radicalisation

Most of the terrorist attacks in Europe were perpetrated by home-grown terrorists. Parliament therefore proposed measures to fight radicalisation and extremism in prisons and online by making use of education and social inclusion.

The EU’s added value

The EU level is the main forum for cooperation between member states in the fight against terrorism, even though counter-terrorism policies are to a large extent the responsability of countries..

MEPs decide on a par with EU ministers on major EU counter-terrorism laws. Traditionally, Parliament makes sure fundamental rights and data protection are respected.

The EU’s counter-terrorism strategy is based on four strands: prevent, protect, pursue and respond. The current framework that the European Commission follows in its proposals is the European Agenda on Security 2015-2020, which aims to facilitate cooperation between EU countries in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.

In recent years there have been many EU policies on counter-terrorism and it involves many people, organisations and strategies. The Parliament set up a special committee  to suggest ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the EU’s response to terrorism.

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