The cooperation of Islamic terrorists and organized crime could develop in to a significant threat for the security of the region of South East Europe due to some new weaker state institutions, corruption and the deteriorating economy.
The surge of Islamic fundamentalist ideology exploited the global war against terrorism and the ethnic tolerance of the Western Balkans. The transnational organized crime groups also found the preconditions to become a regional threat. The organized crime’s activities destabilize countries, increase corruption, extortion, racketeering, violence and sophisticated crimes at the local and international levels. 
The connection between terrorism and organized crime was facilitated by globalization, communication and the end of the “Cold War”. In this context, organized crime offers to terrorists the much needed channels, such as crime routes and access to weapons, thus enabling them to challenge public security as well as armed forces.
The links between Islamic terrorist cells and organized crime groups raise serious concerns for the European law enforcement authorities. Although they are different types of criminal activities and their actions are driven by different incentives, terrorism and organized crime cannot be examined as isolated and unrelated entities. The organized crime and terrorism operate on a global level and don’t recognize nationality and borders. The groups are only motivated by the rule of supply and demand which involves the strategies and tactics of an effective marketing.
The “Balkan route” serves the illegal activities of the aforementioned two groups. It is also well known that organized crime and terrorism usually develop links and interdependencies that increase the level of asymmetric threat. The interests of the organized crime may be connected with the aims of terrorists
Several spots in Balkans are operationally used as important shipment point for illicit trafficking due to the high flows of regional road traffic which favor illegal shipment to move undetected from the authorities of law enforcement. These activities are facilitated by the increased illegal migration flows. The Western Balkans are not only deemed as a transit region but also as a significant source of firearms trade on the international weapons market, drug precursors (ephedrine) as well as ready synthetic drugs. Moreover, the weapons’ trade continues to supply international criminal markets. The Western Balkans are expected to remain a key source of heavy firearms trade into the EU, due to the large illicit stockpiles of the countries of the region . The Western Balkans region is considered as “safe haven” for a bundle of war profiteers, career criminals and Islamic fundamentalists due to the weak governmental structures and deteriorating economies.
The transport networks in Balkans are used also by militant Islamic groups for logistical support. The Islamist militants can enter the Schengen area through Croatia or Serbia which are open to the European Union’s member – states. For instance, it is reported that the Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb uses the heroin trade via West Africa en route to Europe. Moreover, the militant Islamic groups participate in the criminal actions in order to gain financial and logistical support. They are encouraged by the need for self-finance and the requirement to independently organize their terrorist operations. The defining characteristics of the alliance between terrorism and organized crime consist of, but not limited to: (a) access to specialized knowledge (e.g. money laundering), (b) access to specialized services (e.g. counterfeiting), (c) operational support and (d) financial support .
The level of cooperation between terrorists and organized crime is determined in many cases from the nature of geographic region. According to Study of the European Parliament “in transitional states, the nexus includes the operational and conceptual plane, with evidence of convergent motivations dominating groups operating in regions such as the Balkans. Historically, poor border security, weak law enforcement, corrupt public officials and established smuggling networks have facilitated the emergence of hybrid groups that simultaneously sought political aims and profit maximization.
The fighting of the Islamic terrorism and organized crime require from EU and also NATO the adoption of an effective strategy that would combine counter – terrorism and anti – crime strategies.
The EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy (2005) proposed four pillars to combat radicalization and recruitment of terrorists: (a) PREVENT people from turning to terrorism and stop future generations of terrorists from emerging, (b) PROTECT citizens and critical infrastructure by reducing vulnerabilities against attacks, (c) PURSUE and investigate terrorists, impede planning, travel and communications, cut off access to funding and materials and bring terrorists to justice and (d) RESPOND in a coordinated way by preparing for the management and minimisation of the consequences of a terrorist attack, improving capacities to deal with the aftermath and taking into account the needs of victims. Moreover, the ΕU has outlined an Internal Security Strategy (ISS) 2010 to counter the organized crime based on three concrete actions: (a) identifying and dismantling such networks, (b) protecting the economy against criminal infiltration, and (c) confiscating criminal assets.
 See more Georgios X. Protopapas “The Combined Threat of Terrorism and Organized Crime for and in South East Europe” in Comprehensive Approach as “Sine Qua Non” for Critical Infrastructure Protection Ed: Denis Čaleta, Vesela Radović, pages 215 – 231, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series – D: Information and Communication Security, Vol. 39, 2015
 Schori Liang C. (2011), Shadow Networks: The Growing Nexus of Terrorism and Organized Crime, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) Policy Paper N° 20.
 European Parliament Study (2012) Europe’s Crime-Terror Nexus: Links between terrorist and organized crime groups in the European Union, Directorate General for Internal Policies of European Parliament.
 OCTA – Europol (2011), EU Organized Crime Threat Assessment.
 Arsovska Jana and Basha Dimal (2012), Globalizing the Western Balkans: Transnational Crime, Fundamental Islam and Unholy Alliances, Etudes Caribeennes.
 European Parliament Study (2012), op.cit.
Stateless and Leftover ISIS Brides
While the World is busy fighting the pandemic and the economic devastation caused by it, one of the important problem that has been pushed to dormancy, is the status of the ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) brides. The Pandemic has crippled the capacity of the law enforcement and exploiting this the ISIS executed attacks in Maldives, Iraq, and the Philippines. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that terrorists are exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic. Albeit the ISIS has been defeated, approximately ten thousand of them are in ISIS detention centres in Northern Syria under Kurds. Most of these detention centres are filled by women and children, who are relatives or widows of the ISIS fighters. With their native states denouncing them, the status of the stateless women and children is unclear.
As it stands today states’ counter-terrorism approach has been primarily targeting male militants but women also have played a role in strengthening these terrorist organizations. Women involvement in militant organizations has increased as they perform several activities like birthing next-generation militants/jihadists, managing the logistics and recruiting the new members to the organizations. The world did not recognize women as key players in terrorist organizations until the 1980s when females held major roles in guerilla wars of southern America. Women have either willingly or unwillingly held a variety of roles in these extremist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas and al-Qaeda women do simply provide moral support.
According to the media reports since the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 female suicide attacks have been increased and they have been extensively part of ISIS. The ISIS had a female brigade which they called as Al-Khansaa which was established to perform search activities in the state. Both foreign and domestic recruits in the Islamic state have participated in brutal torture. A recently acquired logbook from a guesthouse in Syria provides important information about 1100 females who joined the organization, the western women who are called as ‘the muhajirat’.
When the people from rest of the world joined organizations such as ISIS, they burnt their passports and rejected their national identity. Especially women from western countries who were radicalized online based on their phenomenon ‘ISIS brides/Jihadi brides’ to marry terrorists. Since Islamic State isnot recognized by the world these marriages are not legally valid, apart from this a number of these brides have experienced sexual torture and extreme violence.
While the erstwhile members of the extremist organizations like ISIS and others are left adrift the one challenging question remaining is should states and their societies keep them and reengage or rehabilitate or prosecute them. How firmly the idea of their erstwhile organization is stuck in their minds and especially the followers who crossed the world to join remains a concern to many. The U.S backed Kurdish forces across turkey border hold thousands of these left-behind women and children in their centre. Hundreds of foreign women and children who were once part of an aspirant state, The caliphate are now floating around the concentration camps in Syria, Turkey and Kurdish detention centres and prisons. Many are waiting to return to their origin countries. They pose a unique challenge to their native states like whether to include them or not and even if they include how to integrate adults who at least for a time part of these terrorist organizations and what to do with children who are too young to understand the politics and obstacles keeping them in camps and detention centres where resources are scarce. Women present a problem because its hard to know what kind of crimes they have committed beyond the membership of the terrorist organization.
It is no secret that women also have been part of insurgency across the world, like in ISIS,LTTE,PIRA and PFLP. The responsibility of women in ISIS includes wife to ISIS soldiers, birthing the next generation of jihad and advancing ISIS’ global reach through online recruiting. The International Center for Study of Radicalization (ICAR) estimates that out of 40000 people joined ISIS from 80 different countries nearly 8000 are women and children. After the defeat of ISIS and such extreme organization those who are left behind possess the ideological commitment and practical skills which again a threat upon return to home countries.
The states across the world are either revoking the citizenship or ignore their responsibility. The most famous case of Shamima Begum a UK citizen married to an ISIS fighter whose citizenship was revoked by the UK government. In other cases like HodaMuthana of the USA and Iman Osman of Tunisia have been the same case. As recently as Tooba Gondal an ISIS bride who now in a detention camp in northern Syria begged to go home in the UK in a public apology.
The American president Donald Trump issued a statement saying women who joined ISIS cannot return. The NATO deputy head said “…returning ISIS fighters and brides must face full rigours of the law”. Revoking the citizenship and making someone stateless is illegal under international law and it is also important to know how gendered these cases are because the UK have successfully prosecuted Mohammad Uddin and the USA has also done it so. Stripping off their citizenship itself a punishment before proper trail and the only good out of it would state can take their hands off in dealing with cases. Samantha Elhassani the only American who repatriated from Iraq so far and pleaded guilty for supporting ISIS. Meanwhile, France is trying to route its citizens who joined the ISIS and extradited few who are under trial in Bagdad.
As experts and political analysts say “countries should take responsibility for their own citizens” because failure to do so will also make the long term situation more dangerous as jihadists will try to a hideout and turn into militant groups for their protection. The children, the second-generation ISIS need cultural centres and rehabilitation centres and this is an international problem. These women known as jihadists brides suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder and many are pregnant or multiple children born in ISIS territory.
In some countries travelling abroad to join the insurgencies in North Africa and Syria was not always a criminal act, Sweden criminalized such act recently but to prosecute them proof of offences committed in the conflict zone is difficult to collect and most countries in the world do not allow the pre-trial detention for more than 14 days. With problems of different national Lawson extradition and capital punishment and to prosecute them in conflict countries is also a challenge for states. Since Kurdish forces have signalled that they cannot bring all the prisoners into justice the home countries will have to act or else it might create a long term dangerous situation. With the civil war in Syria is about to end it is time to address these issues because since there are more ISIS fighters in Kurdish prisons and detention centres they could be influenced to join rebels who are fighting the regime of Assad in last standing province of Idlib.
If the governments reject the repatriation applications then they will be signalling that their action is essential for national security and thus asserting that failed or poorly resourced states are better equipped to handle potential extremists. The criminal system in Iraq is corrupt and human rights violations have been reported and which creates the risk of further radicalization. One should not forget that even citizenship of Osama bin laden was also stripped but which did not stop him from forming al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If the citizens commit crimes and forget their responsibility then the states must bring them to justice instead of stripping citizenship. The states must come with a solution for this problem before its too late, setting up an international tribunal to deal with these cases would be a great start but these tribunals are time-consuming and expensive.
States must act as a responsible actor in the international system. Jihadist terrorism is a global problem and states must act together to deal with it because with nearly 40000 fighters joining caliphate from across the world it only shows how global and deeply rooted the phenomenon is. Instead of stripping their citizens’ citizenship, states must find a way to act together for the peace and security of the international community.
COVID-19: Game-changer for international peace and security
The world has “entered a volatile and unstable new phase” in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on peace and security, the UN chief told a virtual meeting with world leaders on Wednesday.
Speaking at one of a series of international meetings among heads of State to enhance global cooperation in fighting terrorism and violent extremism, as part of the Aqaba Process, Secretary-General António Guterres said the pandemic was more than a global health crisis.
“It is a game-changer for international peace and security”, he spelled out, emphasizing that the process can play a key role in “promoting unity and aligning thinking” on how to beat back the pandemic.
Warning lights flashing
Mr. Guterres maintained that the coronavirus has exposed the basic fragility of humankind, laid bare systemic and entrenched inequalities, and thrust into the spotlight, geopolitical challenges and security threats.
“The warning lights are flashing”, he said, pointing out that as the virus is “exacerbating grievances, undermining social cohesion and fueling conflicts”, it is also likely to “act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”.
Moreover, international tensions are being driven by supply chain disruptions, protectionism and growing nationalism – with rising unemployment, food insecurity and climate change, helping to fuel political unrest.
A generation in crosshairs
The UN chief also noted that a generation of students is missing school.
“A whole generation…has seen its education disrupted”, he stated. “Many young people are experiencing a second global recession in their short lives.”
He explained that they feel left out, neglected and disillusioned by their prospects in an uncertain world.
Wanted: Global solidarity
The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities to emerging threats such as bioterrorism and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.
“The world faces grave security challenges that no single country or organization can address alone”, upheld the Secretary-General, “there is an urgent need for global unity and solidarity”.
Recalling the UN’s Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week in July, he reminded that participants called for a “reinvigorated commitment to multilateralism to combat terrorism and violent extremism”.
However, a lack of international cooperation to tackle the pandemic has been “startling”, Mr. Guterres said, highlighting national self-interest, transactional information sharing and manifestations of authoritarianism.
‘Put people first’
The UN chief stressed that “we must not return to the status quo ante“.
He outlined the need to put people first, by enhancing information sharing and technical cooperation “to prevent terrorists exploiting the pandemic for their own nefarious goals” and thinking “long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes”.
“This includes upholding the rights and needs of victims of terrorism…[and] the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, especially women and children, and their dependents to their countries of origin”, he elaborated.
Meanwhile, the risk of COVID-19 is exacerbating the already dire security and humanitarian situation in Syrian and Iraqi camps housing refugees and the displaced.
“The window of opportunity is closing so we must seize the moment”, the UN chief said. “We cannot ignore our responsibilities and leave children to fend for themselves and at the mercy of terrorist exploitation”.
He also expressed confidence that the Aqaba Process will continue to “strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation, identify and fill capacity gaps, and address evolving security threats associated with the pandemic”, and offered the UN’s “full support”.
The Secretary-General also addressed the Centenary Summit of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) on how private and public sector cooperation can help drive post-COVID change.
He lauded the IOE’s “significant contributions” to global policymaking for economic and social progress, job creation and a mutually beneficial business environment, calling it “an important pillar of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since its earliest days”.
“Today, our primary task is to defeat the pandemic and rebuild lives, livelihoods, businesses, and economies”, he told the virtual Summit.
In building back, he underscored that workers and small business be protected, and everyone be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
The UN chief urged businesses to engage with the multilateral system to create a “conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability”; and with the UN at the national level, to help ensure that multilateralism “works on the ground”.
He also encouraged them to actively participate in national and global public-private dialogue and initiatives, stressing, “there must be space for them to do so”.
ILO chief Guy Ryder highlighted the need for “conscious policy decisions and tripartite cooperation to overcome transformational challenges”, such as technological change and climate change, as well as COVID-19.
Mr. Ryder also flagged that employers must continue to collaborate in social dialogue and maintain their commitment to both multilateralism and the ILO.
The IOE represents more than 50 million companies and is a key partner in the international multilateral system for over 100 years as the voice of business at the ILO, across the UN, the G20 richest countries and other emerging forums.
Traumas of terrorism cannot be erased, but victims’ voices must never be forgotten
In remembering and honouring all victims of terrorism, Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN stands by those who grieve and those who “continue to endure the physical and psychological wounds of terrorist atrocities”.
“Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but we can help victims and survivors by seeking truth, justice and reparation, amplifying their voices and upholding their human rights”, he stressed.
Keep spotlight on victims, even amid pandemic
This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, when vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychosocial support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended as Governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic.
Moreover, many memorials and commemorations have been cancelled or moved online, hampering the ability of victims to find solace and comfort together.
And the current restrictions have also forced the first-ever UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism has to be postponed until next year.
“But it is important that we keep a spotlight on this important issue,” stressed the UN chief.
“Remembering the victims of terrorism and doing more to support them is essential to help them rebuild their lives and heal”, said Mr. Guterres, including work with parliamentarians and governments to draft and adopt legislation and national strategies to help victims.
The Secretary-General vowed that “the UN stands in solidarity with all victims of terrorism – today and every day” and underscored the need to “ensure that those who have suffered are always heard and never forgotten”.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande saluted the resilience of terrorist survivors and called the day “an opportunity to honour the memories of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts around the world”.
“Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, can never be justified”, he stated. “Acts of terrorism everywhere must be strongly condemned”.
The UN commits to combating terrorism and the Assembly has adopted resolutions to curb the scourge while working to establish and maintain peace and security globally.
Mechanisms for survivors must be strengthened to safeguard a “full recovery, rehabilitation and re-integration into society through long-term multi-dimensional support”, stated the UN official.
“Together we can ensure that you live a full life defined by dignity and freedom. You are not alone in this journey. You are not forgotten”, concluded the Assembly president.
Closing the event, Vladimir Voronkov, chief of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, maintained that victims represent “the very human dimension of terrorism”.
While terrorists try to depersonalize victims by reducing them to mere numbers or statistics, Mr. Voronkov maintained that “we have a responsibility to do the exact opposite”.
“We must see victims’ hopes, dreams and daily lives that have been shattered by terrorist violence – a shattering that carries on long after the attack is over”, he stated. “We must ensure their human rights are upheld and their needs are met”.
While acknowledging the “terrible reality of terrorism”, Mr. Voronkov flagged that the survivors shine as “examples of resilience, and beacons of hope, courage and solidarity in the face of adversity”.
In reaffirming “our common humanity”, he urged everyone to raise awareness of victims needs and rights.
“Let us commit to showing them that they are not alone and will never be forgotten”, concluded the Counter-Terrorism chief.
At the virtual event, survivors shared their stories while under lockdown, agreeing that the long-term impacts of surviving any kind of an attack is that the traumatic experience never really goes away.
Tahir from Pakistan lost his wife in attack against the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Islamabad.
“If you have an accident, you know how to cope with it. Terminal illness, you know how to cope with it. But there is no coping mechanism for a person who dies in an act of terror”, he said.
Meanwhile Nigeel’s father perished in the 1998 US Embassy attack in Kenya, when he was just months years old.
The 22 year-old shared: “When you are growing, it really doesn’t have a heavy impact on you, but as life starts to unfold, mostly I’ll find myself asking if I do this and my dad was around, would he be proud of me?”
And Julie, from Australia, lost her 21-year-old daughter in the 2017 London Bridge attack.
“The Australian police came to our house and said ‘we have a body, still not confirmed’, so they recommended that we fly to London”, she recalled. “I can’t describe how devastating as a parent to lose a child in these circumstances is for the rest of your life”.
UAE and Israel: Nothing to See Here
Across the world, the August agreement between the UAE and Israel, signed in September in Washington, to normalize their bilateral...
World Bank Project to Boost Household Access to Affordable Energy
Today, the World Bank Board of Directors approved $150 million in financing to improve access to modern energy for households, enterprises, and public institutions...
Pandemic Threatens Human Capital Gains of the Past Decade
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens hard-won gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, a...
The Chinese Agitprop: Disinformation, Propaganda and Payrolls
“If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it and you will even believe it yourself”. -Joseph Goebbels,...
ILO: Developing countries should invest US$1.2 trillion to guarantee basic social protection
To guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone, developing countries...
The UN reforms are required to make it functional
Today, the world we live in has become more unpredictable, insecure, and exposed to more vulnerability. Geopolitics is changing rapidly,...
Building confidence crucial amid an uncertain economic recovery
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten jobs, businesses and the health and well-being of millions amid exceptional uncertainty, building...
South Asia3 days ago
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Justifications and Refutations
Economy3 days ago
Democracy in the doldrums
Reports3 days ago
Developing Asia’s Economic Growth to Contract in 2020
Newsdesk3 days ago
How COVID-19 is changing the world: A statistical perspective
Eastern Europe2 days ago
Azerbaijan-Russia Ties Face Increasing Challenges
Environment2 days ago
Nature: Humanity at a crossroads
Environment3 days ago
PwC commits to net zero by 2030, globally
Energy News2 days ago
Reaching energy and climate goals demands a dramatic scaling up of clean energy technologies