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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

Terrorism

U.S.: From mass airstrikes to targeted terrorist attack

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The U.S.-led military operation “Inherent Resolve” has begun in August 2014. Its ostensible purpose was a struggle with the gaining ground ISIS at that moment. As the operation develops, Australia, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries joined the American airstrikes.

United forces, with purposes to show power and strengthen its influence in the region carried out more than three thousand airstrikes in the first year, resulting in thousands of victims among civilians. It is worth to note that member states of the coalition didn’t try to hide the fact that their actions caused the death of thousands of people. In 2018, British authorities justified civilian deaths by the fact that militants used them as human shields and it was impossible task to minimize losses.

According to “Airwars”, the British non-government organization, from 2014 till 2019 up to 13,190 civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria as a result of the international coalition actions.

However, despite all the “efforts” and the Pentagon’s loud statements about the fight against international terrorism, the fact of the continuously growing territory controlled by the militants testifies the opposite. In addition, since 2015, facts of provided by Washington direct support to terrorists have begun to be revealed. U.S. and its allies produced weapons were repeatedly found in the territories liberated from jihadists. So, for example in 2017 during armed clashes with government troops militants used anti-tank TOW-2 and SAMS air defense systems of the U.S. production. Also, American medicines, communication tools and even component kits for UAVs were found in positions abandoned by terrorists.

The negative reaction of the international community began to rise in this context and Washington had no choice but to change the strategy of its activity in Syria. The practice of mass airstrikes was replaced by targeted terrorist attacks against government forces by their backed militants.

For implementing of such kind of actions, U.S. retained its military presence in Homs province where their military base Al-Tanf is deployed. A huge amount of evidence U.S. servicemen training armed groups fighters is widely accessible. Moreover it’s known that 55 km zone around Al-Tanf has been inaccessible to government troops for years and Syrian army attempts to enter the area were suppressed by the U.S. airstrikes.

At the same time, IS militants have been spotted moving in this region without encumbrance and used the base as a safe zone for regrouping. Terrorists slipped in Deir ez-Zor, Palmyra, as well as Daraa and As-Suwayda from this area. In addition, the U.S. has created the Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra group to fight government forces in the eastern section of the border between Syria and Iraq. Initially, the armed group was created to fight against government troops, but after a number of defeats they started to protect the area around the Al-Tanf.

Up to the date Washington continues to insist on Bashar al-Assad government “illegitimacy” and actively supports so-called moderate opposition. Pursuing its selfish economic and political goals, the United States counters to the international law, completely ignoring the tens of thousands victims among civilians and millions of refugees flooded Europe. Although the role of the White House and its allies in supporting terrorist groups is difficult to overestimate, the United States obviously will not consider it enough.

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FATF: A Sword of Damocles or a tool of financial discipline?

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Pakistan has been groaning under the Financial Action Task Force restrictions. There is marked contrast between Pakistan’s and India’s view of Pakistan’s current status, compliant or tardy with regard to most of the conditions. Pakistan oozes optimism that it has complied with most of the conditions.  India however is pessimistic about Pakistan’s ability to get over the bar anytime soon.

Anti-money-laundering legislation

One hurdle to meet the FATF conditionalities was to have a permanent mechanism to nab and prosecute the offenders. Pakistan’s federal cabinet has already approved a new set of rules to amend Anti-Money-Laundering (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021. Thus, Pak government is now all set to set to introduce new rules on forfeiture, management and auction of properties and assets relating to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cases and transfer of investigations and prosecution of AML cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies to achieve remaining benchmarks of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

These rules and related notifications for certain changes in existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.

These legislative steps would help the FATF determine whether Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the so-called grey list in February this year. The FATF has planned several meetings in the second week of June, ending in the FATF plenary on June 21-25.

The three outstanding action points (out of total 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (ii) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.

Within framework of the amended rules, the Pak government would appoint dozens of administrators with the powers to confiscate, receive, manage, rent out, auction, transfer or dispose of or take all other measures to preserve the value of the properties and perishable or non-perishable assets (including those at go downs, maalkhanas or any other place) to be confiscated under the AML 2010 rules or court orders pursuant to proceedings under AMLA 2010.

The regional directors of the Anti-Narcotics Force would be designated as administrators for the ANF, customs collectors for the Federal Board of Revenue, directors of directorates of intelligence and investigation of the Inland Revenue Service for the IRS, zonal directors for FIA and additional directors of recovery, disposal and assets management cells for National Accountability Bureau.

Valuation of inventories

The AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 specify how the inventories would be measured, described or defined, protected and evaluated for auction and how to complete all processes thereto, including constitution of auction committees and how properties would be quantified or classified like if a property is of residential, commercial or industrial nature and what should be its market value or sale price etc.

For example, the movable case property worth more than Rs100,000 would be kept in the locker or vault in the State Bank of Pakistan, district or tehsil treasury or any nationalised bank. For withdrawal of such movable properties, the agency concerned would designate two officers of grade-17 or above and prior written permission of next supervisory officer of the agency would be required.

Each agency would establish a central asset recovery office to ensure assets recovery and management of the forfeited property and keep a designated central account with the SBP maintained by the ministry of finance where proceeds of property would be remitted by all agencies after attainment of the finality of forfeiture order by a court. All investigating and prosecuting agencies would exchange financial intelligence and information about the properties with other stakeholders for expeditious confiscation and forfeiture under the AMLA 2010.

Transfer of cases to competent authorities

The Anti-Money Laundering (Referral) Rules, 2021 are being introduced to enable transfer of the cases from one set of investigation agencies to another. If police, the ACEs or any other governmental organisations, other than investigating and prosecution agency under the AMLA, finds that an offence under the AMLA 2010 has been committed and such agency lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of it, the head of such would refer the matter to the head of the agency concerned having jurisdiction to investigate.

Police, the ACEs or other governmental organisations would continue an inquiry or an investigation of the offence and would take necessary measures to preserve and retrieve the relevant information and evidence and case properties till formal acceptance by the investigating and prosecuting agency concerned as set out in the relevant clause of the AMLA and formal handing over and taking over of complete record.

After acceptance of the case by the competent investigating and prosecuting agency, police or ACEs etc would hand over complete record, including case files, record of proceedings and seizure memos along with relevant evidence, property and other material seized and the accused in custody, if any. Such investigating and prosecuting agencies would resume all the proceedings under the said act including to examine, re-examine persons concerned and other oral and documentary evidence and would expeditiously take steps as necessary for just finalisation of the proceedings.

Adequate number of special public prosecutors would be appointed for the Anti-Narcotics Force and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) besides a separate panel of lawyers for customs and the Internal Revenue Service of the Federal board of Revenue. Also, law officers not below the rank of assistant director legal would be appointed for the Federal Investigating Agency and special public prosecutors for the National Accountability Bureau.

Pakistan also has to issue “National Policy Statement on Follow the Money (NPSFM)”. Through this statement and rules listed above, Pakistan’s compliance with FATF recommendations in Post Observation Period Report (POPR) would further improve with corresponding enhancement in the ratings or effectiveness of the FATF’s relevant Immediate Outcomes. Pakistan’s POPR would be reviewed by the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Joint Group (A-PJG), and based on the report of this group, the FATF would decide further course of action on Pakistan’s progress on the POPR in its plenary scheduled in June 21-25, 2021.

The NPSFM commits Pakistan to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing as a matter of priority during investigations, prosecutions, and subsequent confiscation in all money laundering, terrorism financing and high risk predicate crimes by adopting universal approach to combating money-laundering and terror-financing through generating sound and effective financial intelligence reports for the consumption of law enforcement agencies and maintaining risk-sensitive anti-money-laundering  regime to enhance cooperation and coordination amongst the such  stakeholders both domestically and internationally.

The government is also committed to protecting the financial system and the broader economy in Pakistan from criminality through a robust financial system to ensure that dirty money does not find its ways into the financial system. The government would ensure a robust beneficiary identification system, deterring financial crime as it deprives criminals of the proceeds of their crimes and removes financial support for terrorism and further ensures that targeted financial sanctions are implemented in letter and spirit.

Further, it would ensure a transparent, robust and efficient approach to investigating money laundering and terrorist financing and to the seizure, confiscation and management of criminal assets by supporting relevant agencies in cooperatively achieving this goal.

Compliance

 The Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering has improved Pakistan’s rating on 21 of the 40 technical recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering and terror financing, but retained it on ‘Enhanced Follow-up’ for sufficient outstanding requirements.

The second Follow-Up Report (FUR) on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan released by the APG — a regional affiliate of the Paris-based FATF — also downgraded the country on one criterion. The report said Pakistan was re-rated to ‘compliant’ status on five counts and on 15 others to ‘largely compliant’ and on yet another count to ‘partially compliant’.

Overall, Pakistan is now fully ‘compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘largely compliant’ with 24 others. The country is ‘partially compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘non-compliant’ with two out of total 40 recommendations. All in all, Pakistan is now compliant or largely compliant with 31 out of 40 FATF recommendations.

The Asia Pacific Group announced,

“Overall, Pakistan has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) and has been re-rated on 22 recommendations,”.

It said recommendations 14, 19, 20, 21 and 27 had been re-rated to comply. These pertain to money or value transfer services, higher risk countries, reporting of suspicious transactions, tipping-off and confidentiality and powers of supervisors.

The APG said Pakistan was re-rated to largely compliant with 15 recommendations — 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 35 and 40. These include assessing risk and adopting a risk-based approach, targeted financial sanctions relating to terror and terror financing, targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation, non-profit organisation, politically exposed persons and reliance on third parties.

Also, re-rating was done on designated non-financial business & professions (DNFBP) in terms of due diligence and other measures, transparency in beneficial ownership of legal persons and related legal arrangements, responsibilities of law enforcement and investigation authorities, cash couriers, sanctions and other forms of international cooperation.

Another re-rating to partially compliant status was done on recommendation 28 that pertained to regulation and supervision of DNFBPs. The two recommendations on which Pakistan was downgraded to ‘non-complaint’ were 37 and 38 due to insufficient progress and pertained to mutual legal assistance (MLA) with other countries and freezing and confiscation of assets and accounts.

Negative impact of rigorous compliance

The managers of financial institutions in Pakistan are implementing the FATF conditions  without understanding their purpose. They are harassing honest investors. For instance, the manager of the national Saving Centre Poonch house Rawalpindi refuses to issue an investment certificate  unless the applicant submits a host of documents. These documents include a current bank statement, source-of-income certificate besides biodata along with a passport-size photograph. They call for the documents even if the applicant submits a cheque on his 40-year-old bank account.

Deviation from objectives

The financial Action Task Force has ostensibly noble objectives. It provides a `legal’, regulatory, framework for muzzling the hydra-headed monster of money-laundering. It aims at identifying loopholes in the prevailing financial system and plugging them. But, it has deviated from its declared objectives. It has became a tool to coerce countries, accused of financing terrorism or facilitating money-laundering. The FATF is more interested in disciplining a state like Pakistan, not toeing US policies, than in checking money-laundering. The tacit message is that if Pakistan does not toe USA’s  Afghan policy, and lease out air bases for drone attacks, then it will remain on FATF grey list.  

The consequences of being in the grey list may entail economic sanctions and difficulties in obtaining loans from international donors like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The trade-and-aid difficulties may retard economic progress of a country.

Favoritism towards India: India has a much larger Gross Domestic Product (US$2875 billion , 2019),  than Pakistan’s paltry US$ 264 billion (2020).Similarly India has a much larger and wealthier Diaspora than Pakistan particularly in the Middle East and the USA.

The hawala (hand to hand transactions) and other money transfer practices among Indians and Pakistanis are similar. Yet the FATF keeps Pakistan always in focus and looks the other way when it comes to India.

Pakistan is a bête noire and India a protégé at the FATF only because of stark geo-political interests. Otherwise the money laundering situation in India is no less gruesome in India than in Pakistan. India has even been a conduit of ammunition to the Islamic State study conducted by Conflict Armament Research had confirmed that seven Indian companies were involved in the supply chain of over 700 components, including fuses or detonating cords used by the so-called Islamic State to construct improvised explosive devices.

Concluding remark

Political considerations, not primary objectives, override voting behavior at the FATF.

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Terrorism

The Autopsy of Jihadism in the United States

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The American counter-terrorism establishment is shocked to know that its current terrorist threat, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not foreign but “a large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents”.

A terror threat assessment by NewAmerica, a think tank comprehensive, up-to-date source of online information about terrorist activity in the United States and by Americans overseas since 9/11, 20 years after 9/11 reported: “…while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident except one who was in the United States as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership”.

The ultimate irony is NewAmerica quoting a terrorist to underline the seriousness of the threat: “Yet today, as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric who became a leader in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, put it in a 2010 post, ‘Jihad is becoming as American as apple pie’.”

Since 9/11 and today, the United States faced just “one case of a jihadist foreign terrorist organization directing a deadly attack inside the United States since 9/11, or of a deadly jihadist attacker receiving training or support from groups abroad”. The report recalls: “That case is the attack at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, 2019, when Mohammed Al-Shamrani shot and killed three people. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed the attack and according to the FBI, evidence from Al-Shamrani’s phone  he was in contact with an AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) militant and AQAP prior to his entry to the United States…”

In the last two decades, “jihadists” have killed 107 people inside the United States. Compare this with deaths occurring due to major crimes: 114 people were killed by far-right terrorism (consisting of anti-government, militia, white supremacist, and anti-abortion violence), 12 and nine people, respectively, killed in attacks “inspired by black separatist/nationalist ideology and ideological misogyny”. Attacks by people with Far-Left views have killed one person. It just goes to show that terrorism inside the United States is no longer the handiwork of foreign or “jihadi” ideologies, but is “homegrown”, the report points out.

The report points out a poor understanding of the terror threat and its roots by the Trump administration. A week into his presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry of citizens of seven Muslim countries into the United States. The countries were: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Th order cited “national security” as the reason, but gave no real justification.

Trump’s aides tried to find some justification for the order claiming that in the administration’s assessment the United States was and will be the prime target of terrorist organisations from these countries. The same report clarifies how wrong this assessment was: “None of the deadly attackers since 9/11 emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries nor were any of the 9/11 attackers from the listed countries. Nine of the lethal attackers were born American citizens. One of the attackers was in the United States on a non-immigrant visa as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership.”

President Trump had to swallow his pride and gradually revoke his order. In early March of 2017, he revised the order excluding Iraq from the ban list. That September, he dropped Sudan too, but added North Korea, Venezuela and Chad.

In the last two decades since 9/11, there have been 16 “lethal jihadist terrorists in the United States”. Of them, “three are African-Americans, three are from families that hailed originally from Pakistan, one was born in Virginia to Palestinian immigrant parents, one was born in Kuwait to Palestinian-Jordanian parents, one was born in New York to a family from Afghanistan, two are white converts – one born in Texas, another in Florida, two came from Russia as youth, one emigrated from Egypt and conducted his attack a decade after coming to the United States, one emigrated from Uzbekistan and one was a Saudi Air Force officer in the United States for military training”. Nobody from the banned countries, nobody foreign citizens; all were American citizens.

What is more embarrassing for the Trump administration is the report saying: “When the data is extended to include individuals who conducted attacks inside the United States that were foiled or otherwise failed to kill anyone, there are only four cases that the travel ban could have applied to. However, in at least two of those cases, the individual entered the United States as a child. In a third case the individual had a history of mental illness and assault not related to jihadist terrorism. In a fifth, non-lethal attack Adam al-Sahli, who conducted a shooting at a military base in Corpus Christi on May 21, 2020, was born in Syria but was a citizen because his father was an American citizen and thus would not have been subject to the travel ban.”

The NewAmerica assessment, in contrast to the executive order, finds concrete evidence to suggest that the terror threat is “homegrown”. It gives the example of Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, “a naturalised citizen from Iran”, who on March 3, 2006 drove a car into a group of students at the University of North Carolina, injuring nine people. “Taheri-Azar, though born in Iran, came to the United States at the age of two” and “his radicalization was homegrown inside the United States”. On September 17, 2016 Dahir Adan, a naturalized citizen from Somalia, injured 10 people while wielding a knife at a mall in Minnesota. He too had come to the United States as a young child.

There are more such instances: “On November 28, 2016 Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old legal permanent resident who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia in 2014 — having left Somalia for Pakistan in 2007 — injured eleven people when he rammed a car into his fellow students on the campus of Ohio State University…However, it is not clear that the attack provides support for Trump’s travel ban.

In Artan’s case, he left Somalia as a pre-teen, and “if he was radicalized abroad, it most likely occurred while in Pakistan”, which is not included on the travel ban. The report says the chances of him being radicalised inside the United States are more. This is based on the fact that “in a Facebook posting prior to his attack, he cited Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric born in the United States, whose work — which draws largely upon American culture and history — has helped radicalize a wide range of extremists in the United States including those born in the United States”.

There are several other pointers to the “homegrown” theory. For one, a “large proportion of jihadists in the United States since 9/11 have been converts”. There are “jihadists” who are non-Muslims. These facts “challenge visions of counterterrorism policy that rely on immigration restrictions or focus almost entirely on second generation immigrant populations”, the report says, debunking the Trump executive order.

The NewAmerica report debunks the assumption that only “hot headed” people are attracted to jihadist extremism. It finds that “participation in jihadist terrorism has appealed to individuals ranging from young teenagers to those in their advanced years (and) many of those involved have been married and even had kids – far from the stereotype of the lone, angry youngster”.

Women have broken the glass ceiling of jihadist terrorism as “more women have been accused of jihadist terrorism crimes in recent years” inside the United States.

The expansion of the social media world has played a singular role in radicalising American youth. “Many extremists today either maintain public social media profiles displaying jihadist rhetoric or imagery or have communicated online using encrypted messaging apps. The percentage of cases involving such online activity has increased over time.” Al Qaeda terrorists became key figures in this proliferation. They “fine-tuned the message and the distribution apparatus” and “put out extremist propaganda via websites and YouTube videos”.

America’s jihadists were never an immigration problem, the biggest jihadist terror threat U.S faces today is “homegrown”.

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