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Islamic terrorism and organized crime threaten Balkans

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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. [1]

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[2].

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[3]. 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[4] . 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[5].

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 [6].

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.

 

References

 


[1] 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

[2] Schori Liang C. (2011), Shadow Networks: The Growing Nexus of Terrorism and Organized Crime, Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) Policy Paper N° 20.

[3] 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.

[4] OCTA – Europol (2011), EU Organized Crime Threat Assessment.

[5] Arsovska Jana and Basha Dimal (2012), Globalizing the Western Balkans: Transnational Crime, Fundamental Islam and Unholy Alliances, Etudes Caribeennes.

[6] European Parliament Study (2012), op.cit.

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Terrorism

Role of Pak-Military in Combating Terrorism: Post-2017 Analysis

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Over the past 20 years, Pakistan has continued to be a target of terrorism. It has endured a great deal of hardship as a frontline nation in the fight against terrorism being led by the United States. In the past 20 years, the bloodstained war against terrorism has claimed thousands of lives, including both civilians and security force members. Pakistan adopted a comprehensive plan and carried various operations to eradicate terrorism from its territory. The importance of Pakistan’s military cannot be overstated, especially given how successful that country has been in the last five years in combating terrorism.

In reaction to an increase in “terrorist attacks,” The Pakistani government declared a nationwide military operation with the codename Radd-Ul-Fasaad on February 22, 2017. This operation was not restricted to one area, but had been carried out across whole Pakistan and succeeded in driving out terrorist elements from Lahore, Sehwan Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the former FATA. The operation included the involvement of Pakistan’s air force, Pakistan’s navy, Pakistan’s police and other civil armed forces however, the Rangers performed special tasks ‘to operate in Lahore and different parts in the province of Punjab.

Similar to this, the Pakistani army began Operation Khyber-IV in July 2017 to purge the Rajgal Valley of militants in the Khyber tribal district. The primary objective of Khyber-IV was to eliminate the threat of IS in the tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. the declared the Operation  was concluded On August 21, 2017.

According to sources (PIPS), systematically compile data on militant and anti-state violence in Pakistan claim that 2018 saw an improvement in the overall security situation compared to previous years. The total number of raids and operations carried out against militants in 2018 were 31 as compared to 2017 i.e. 75. In addition to these operational assaults, security forces and militants engaged in 22 armed confrontations in 2018. This represents a 68% drop from 2017 levels.

In accordance with data from the Global Terrorism Index, terrorist attacks have decreased in Pakistan since 2018. The total number of terrorist incidents decreased from 369 in 2018 to 279 in 2019. While the number of terrorist deaths in Pakistan I.e.300, reached its lowest annual total since 2006.

The nature of the violence in 2018 was diverse the figure below presents a breakdown of the nature of violent incidents and the number of casualties’ recorded in 2018:

Source: PIPS, Pakistan Security Report 2018, 6 January 2019, p. 20

In comparison to 2018, the security situation was even better in the first half of 2019. Numerous counterterrorism operations captured several top commanders from various militant organisations, including the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). According to the data, the security forces engaged in 23 operations against militants in the first seven months of 2019. In addition to these operational assaults, security forces and militants engaged in 15 armed encounters. 

Source: 2019-EASO-Pakistan-Security-Situation-Report.pdf

There were 276 total violent incidents in the first seven months of 2019. As a result, 403 people died and 702 were hurt. A breakdown of the types of violent incidents and the number of fatalities reported in 2019 can be seen in the figure above.

In 2019, the Pakistani government also contributed positively to the US-Taliban negotiations. Moreover, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) collaborated to develop Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism (PACT) with a specific focus on Sindh in order to equip the criminal justice systems with the tools necessary to prevent and combat terrorism in a proactive manner. The goal of PACT Sindh is to improve the capabilities and coordination processes of national and local counterterrorism and criminal justice institutions. PACT Sindh’s primary goal is to enhance the criminal justice system’s investigation, prosecution, and adjudication procedures. By working with other departments, it will increase the ability of the police, prosecutors, and judiciary. These counter terrorism efforts of the security forces and especially Pakistan Army are significant indeed, considering the ratio that Pakistan faced in the last two decades.

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Terrorism intensifying across Africa, exploiting instability and conflict

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A soldier from Burkina Faso stands guard along the border with Mali and Niger during a military operation against terrorist suspects. © Michele Cattani

The growth of terrorism is a major threat to international peace and security, currently felt most keenly in Africa, the deputy UN chief told the Security Council on Thursday.  “Terrorists and violent extremists including Da’esh, Al-Qaida and their affiliates have exploited instability and conflict to increase their activities and intensify attacks across the continent”, Amina Mohammed said on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres.  

“Their senseless, terror-fuelled violence has killed and wounded thousands and many more continue to suffer from the broader impact of terrorism on their lives and livelihoods”.  

Spreading terror 

With misogyny at the core of many terrorist groups’ ideology, women and girls in particular, are bearing the brunt of insecurity and inequality.  

And over the last two years, some of the most violent affiliates of Da’esh have expanded, increasing their presence in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger as well as southward into the Gulf of Guinea.  

“Terrorist and violent extremist groups aggravate instability and human suffering. And they can plunge a country emerging from war back into the depths of conflict”, reminded the senior UN official. 

Threatening States 

Meanwhile, terrorists, non-State armed groups and criminal networks often pursue different agendas and strategies, fuelled by smuggling, human trafficking and other methods of illicit financing – sometimes impersonating legitimate armed forces.  

And as digital tools spread hate and disinformation, terrorists and other criminal groups are exploiting inter-communal tensions and food insecurity triggered by climate change. 

Globalization of terrorism  

In today’s hyper-connected world, Ms. Mohammed remined that the spread of terrorism in Africa is “not a concern for African Member States alone”.  

“The challenge belongs to us all. Countering international terrorism requires effective multilateral responses”, she flagged. 

From the climate emergency to armed conflict and poverty and inequality to lawless cyberspace, and the uneven recovery from COVID-19, she also pointed out that terrorism is converging with other threats.  

For a holistic, comprehensive approach, the deputy UN chief cited the New Agenda for Peace – part of the Our Common Agenda report.  

Amidst increasing polarization, she maintained that it proposes ways to address risks and revitalize our collective peace and security system. 

Pushing back on terror 

Outlining five suggestions to advance counter-terrorism efforts in Africa, Ms. Mohammed reminded that “prevention remains our best response”. 

“We must address the instability and conflict that can lead to terrorism in the first place, as well as the conditions exploited by terrorists in pursuit of their agendas”.  

Secondly, she called for community-based, gender-sensitive “whole-of-society” approaches.  

Noting “complex links between terrorism, patriarchy and gender-based violence”, she said counter-terrorism policies needed to be “strengthened by the meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls”.  

She underscored in her third point that “countering terrorism can never be an excuse for violating human rights or international law” as it would “only set us back”.  

Fourth, she stressed to importance of regional organisations which can address challenges posed by terrorist and violent extremist groups in the local context. 

Finally, Ms. Mohamed called for “sustained and predictable funding” to prevent and counter terrorism.  

From economic deprivation to organized crime and governance challenges, “the magnitude of the problem calls for bold investment”, she told ambassadors.  

In closing, the Deputy Secretary-General welcomed the planned October 2023 Summit on counterterrorism in Africa as an opportunity to consider ways to strengthen the UN’s efforts across the continent overall.  

She expressed confidence that today’s debate would offer insights for the summit, and “help to build peaceful, stable communities and societies across the continent”. 

Restoring authority: Ghanaian President 

Chairing the meeting with his country assuming the presidency of the Council for November, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, attested to the importance of restoring effective State authority and promoting inclusive governance across the continent. He also urged the Council to support AU-led counter-terror operations, including with predictable funding. 

African Union (AU) Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, drew attention in his briefing, to the daily physical and psychological damage caused by terrorism and reminded that conventional responses and old models are no longer relevant to counter evolving threats on the ground. 

And as terrorism extends to new parts of the continent, Benedikta von Seherr-Thoss, Managing Director for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response with the European Union’s diplomatic wing (European External Action Service) noted the need for security support while underscoring the role of sustainable development for nourishing peace. 

Comfort Ero, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, also briefed the Council, and maintained that technical and military solutions would not end terrorist threats on their own, calling for a new counter-terror toolkit that includes more dialogue with armed groups and can promote local ceasefire arrangements. 

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Crime and terrorism thriving again in Afghanistan amid economic ruin

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photo:. © UNICEF Afghanistan

Two-thirds of Afghans are going hungry, with girls’ education subject to “random edicts” of the Taliban, while crime and terrorism are thriving once more buoyed by a large spike in opium production, warned the President of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

Csaba Kőrösi painted a near apocalyptic picture of ordinary life in the Taliban-ruled nation that has endured almost five decades of “relentless conflict”, urging the international community to make up the $2.3 billion shortfall in the UN humanitarian appeal for $4.4 billion.

‘Moral imperative’

In a powerful speech to ambassadors in New York, during a full session of the UN’s most representative body, he said that there was “a moral and also a practical imperative for the international community to support an inclusive and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”

The resolution expressed deep concern over Afghanistan’s current trajectory and the volatility there since the Taliban takeover.

It urges Afghanistan to honour and fully respect and implement all treaties, covenants or conventions, bilateral or multilateral, which is has signed up to.

Drugs and terror

Beyond the disastrous humanitarian and human rights situation, he said the country was now “awash with heroin and opium.”

“Organized crime and terrorist organizations are thriving once again. Afghanistan is facing complex and interlinked challenges that the Taliban have shown they cannot – or would not – solve.”

Now is the time to come up with some concrete solutions that put the Afghan people first, he said, suggesting one concrete way the General Assembly could help right away:

“I encourage the country’s reengagement with the international science community. And to allow women who used to be respected members of the country’s science community, to resume their research and their studies.

Alone in denial

Afghanistan is now the only State in the world, denying girls the right to a full education, he added, noting that their prospects are totally uncertain, “amid seemingly random edicts from the Taliban.”

For even the most powerful women in the country, “dreams of becoming President have been replaced by the reality of child marriage. Arrests if women and girls leave their home without a male chaperone.

Protect all Afghans

“I reiterate my call for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghans, especially women and girls.”

Mr. Kőrösi urged the Taliban to ensure the safety of all Afghans – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or politics – protection for journalists and civil society members, and the unhindered delivery of aid.

Amid the economic meltdown, he pointed out the shocking fact that narcotics constitute the biggest sector in the country, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, revealing a 32 per cent growth in illegal opium cultivation. 

“We know where these drugs are sent. And we know who profits from these drugs. The threat from drug trafficking is linked with the threat of terrorism, regional and global security.”

Get serious

He said Taliban leaders needed to engage in serious dialogue about counter-terrorism to reverse the flow of foreign extremists into the country – and prevent their own from becoming foreign terrorist fighters elsewhere.

Afghanistan must never again become a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists. I call on the Taliban, other Afghans and members of the international community to cooperate with the Special Representative (for UN Assistance Mission, UNAMA) as she implements the Mission’s mandate.

After debating the resolution, it was adopted by the General Assembly with 116 votes for, and 10 abstentions – Belarus, Burundi, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia and Zimbabwe.

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