Country Reports on Terrorism 2014
Chapter 2. Country Reports: East Asia and Pacific Overview
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State
Released 19 June 2015
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
In 2014, countries in the East Asia and Pacific continued to weaken the ability of terrorist groups to operate in the region and constrained the activities of large terrorist organizations. Governments became increasingly concerned about the growing threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which became a major impetus for further counterterrorism efforts in Indonesia and Malaysia, as citizens from both countries travelled abroad to fight with ISIL. The emergence in July of a recruitment video calling for Indonesians to join ISIL further mobilized efforts of the Indonesian government, civil society, and religious groups to counter the ISIL threat. Indonesian government officials banned support for ISIL, and then-President Yudhoyono outlined a series of measures to counter ISIL. Malaysia also demonstrated its political will at the highest levels of government to confront the threat of ISIL and other terrorist groups.
The Philippine government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – creating a new Bangsamoro autonomous government in Mindanao – was signed in March. However, violent clashes with fighters from terrorist groups and splinter groups erupted periodically in central Mindanao, indicating that a lasting peace settlement remains a challenge.
Indonesia and Australia continued their co-chairmanship of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Detention and Reintegration Working Group (DRWG), which grew out of the former Southeast Asia Working Group. The inaugural DRWG meeting was held in August in Indonesia.
Australia maintained its position as a regional leader in the fight against terrorism, and worked to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region’s counterterrorism capacity through a range of bilateral and regional initiatives in organizations such as ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Pacific Island Forum. In mid-December 2014, a lone-offender ISIL sympathizer held 17 hostages in a Sydney café; three were killed, including the gunman, and four were wounded.
The Japanese government continued to participate in international counterterrorism efforts at multilateral, regional, and bilateral levels. Japan made progress with, but at year’s end still had not ratified, the Palermo Convention on countering terrorist financing.
CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU)
Overview: China’s attention to counterterrorism is increasing, both domestically and abroad. China experienced several terrorist and other violent incidents in 2014. As a result, China tightened its security in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to prevent additional domestic acts of terrorism, including by implementing stricter government controls on religious expression and practice. The main focus of China’s counterterrorism efforts is the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a terrorist organization that China alleges maintains influence in Xinjiang. China tightened its security clampdown in the XUAR, characterizing it as an effort to prevent additional domestic acts of terrorism.
The Chinese government has claimed that Chinese citizens operated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East, and has taken action to prevent its citizens from traveling to Syria and Iraq.
Counterterrorism cooperation activities between the United States and China remained limited, though the two countries continued to discuss ways to enhance cooperation. These included efforts aimed at stemming the transnational flow of foreign terrorist fighters, countering terrorist funding networks, increasing information sharing on terrorist threats, and assisting the Government of Iraq in its rebuilding efforts.
China held 12 bilateral dialogues on counterterrorism in 2014, including one with the United States in July. China remained engaged on counterterrorism in the Asia-Pacific region and Central Asia, conducting bilateral and multilateral joint exercises.
China has criticized the U.S. response to some domestic incidents of violence that China characterized as terrorism, alleging that U.S. expressions of concern over the treatment of China’s ethnic minorities and the U.S. failure to label all such incidents as terrorism represented a double standard. China frequently refers to Uighur activists abroad – including those in the United States – as complicit in supporting "terrorist" activity, but has not provided credible evidence to support those claims.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: The lack of information provided by China about alleged terrorist incidents in China made it difficult in some instances to verify details of those and other violent incidents. In many of the domestic incidents that China labeled as terrorism, China alleged that ETIM influenced or directed the violence through its online propaganda. China also generally prevented foreign journalists and international observers from independently verifying official media accounts, which are often the only source of reporting violent incidents in its territory.
Among the violent incidents in China over the year, the U.S. government identified sufficient evidence to consider the following incidents terrorist attacks:
- On March 1, 33 people were killed (including four perpetrators of the attack) and 141 injured when eight knife-wielding men and women attacked passengers at a railway station in the city of Kunming.
- On April 30, an explosion at Urumqi South Train Station in Xinjiang killed three people, including two attackers. Chinese officials attributed this attack to ETIM.
- On May 22, four men attacked a crowded market in Urumqi with a car bomb, killing themselves and 39 others, while wounding more than 90 other individuals.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In October, China’s National People’s Congress reviewed draft legislation for the country’s first counterterrorism law. The draft included proposals to establish a counterterrorism intelligence center aimed at improving international cooperation and better coordinating information sharing across the government, military, armed police, and law enforcement authorities. The draft legislation also stipulated measures on tightening internet security management, inspection of dangerous materials, prevention of terrorist financing, and border controls. Some aspects of the draft CT law, including its broad definition of terrorism and trade-related requirements for foreign telecoms and internet service providers have elicited human rights and business concerns from many foreign observers. At the end of 2014, the CT law had not been passed.
Over the year, there was an increase in the number of stories in Chinese media of operations targeting alleged terrorists. Following the March 1 knife attack in Kunming, China’s leaders arrested and tried hundreds of people in Xinjiang. However, because of the Chinese government’s tight control of information, it remained difficult to determine whether particular raids, detentions, arrests, or judicial punishments targeted individuals who were seeking political goals, voicing local grievances, or orchestrating criminal or terrorist acts. For example, according to state media, 37 civilians and 59 individuals labeled as terrorists were killed after a July 28 incident in front of a police station and government offices in Kashgar Prefecture’s Shache (Yarkand) County. While the police arrested 215 people in connection with the incident and sentenced a dozen individuals to death for their alleged involvement in the attack, some residents reported that the incident stemmed from local protests against the detention of women and girls who had refused to remove their headscarves. According to state media, law enforcement authorities in XUAR eliminated what they considered to be 115 terrorist cells in 2014. These reports claimed that about 40 percent of the 115 terrorist cells were found through clues authorities obtained during intensive interrogation of detained suspects.
In May, a mass trial was held at a sports stadium in Xinjiang where three people were sentenced to death and another 53 received lengthy jail terms after being convicted of terrorism charges. Three individuals accused of organizing the October 2013 Tiananmen car crash were executed in August 2014 on terrorism charges. In 2014, Chinese authorities sentenced ethnic activists to imprisonment on terrorism-related charges, exhibiting what appeared to be a failure to distinguish between peaceful dissent and violent extremism.
Hotan’s city government mobilized over 30,000 volunteers in massive terrorist searches following violence in late July. The Xinjiang government offered substantial cash rewards to the public for providing information that led to the arrest of terrorists.
China continued to stress the importance of counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, but Chinese law enforcement agencies generally remained reluctant to conduct joint investigations or share specific threat information with U.S. law enforcement partners. Despite several requests to Chinese law enforcement officials for more detailed background information on Chinese media-reported arrests and operations, U.S. law enforcement agencies received little new information. Overall, China’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States remained limited.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: China is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), as well as the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, both of which are FATF-style regional bodies. The Chinese government has strengthened its preventive measures to counter terrorist financing, with an emphasis on requiring financial institutions to collect and maintain beneficial ownership information, and making Suspicious Transaction Reports more comprehensive. Additional issues remain to be addressed, including guidance for designated non-financial businesses and professions; delisting and unfreezing procedures; and defining the rights of bona fide third parties in seizure/confiscation actions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: China continued collaboration on UNSC counterterrorism issues and voted for UNSCRs 2170 and 2178. China is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), and in November hosted in Beijing the GCTF Symposium on “Strengthening International Cooperation to Prevent and Counter Terrorists’ Use of the Internet.”
China cooperated with other nations on counterterrorism efforts through military exercises and assistance. In August, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan held a counterterrorism exercise (Peace Mission 2014) within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In October, China and Indonesia held a bilateral counterterrorism exercise. Following the 2013 inaugural joint exercise, China and India held a counterterrorism exercise in November 2014. Also in November, China and Russia carried out a regularly scheduled China-Russia bilateral exercise. China also held separate dialogues and consultations with the AU and 12 countries, including Afghanistan, the United States, the UK, France, Turkey, the Republic of Korea, and Uzbekistan.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: While China does not have an official strategy or program in place to counter violent extremism, the government implemented a number of programs aimed at countering radicalization and violent extremism, concentrating much of its efforts in Xinjiang. Local counterterrorism working groups have been established at the county, municipal, and provincial levels across China to coordinate “stability maintenance,” law enforcement, ethnic and religious affairs, and a propaganda campaign countering the so-called “Three Evils” of terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism. Xinjiang government officials required imams to take political education classes as a means of persuading them to discourage extremism and condemn violence. In Xinjiang, authorities placed restrictions on private religious practices, and closely monitored Uighurs returning from madrassas overseas. In March, the Xinjiang government announced a crackdown on videos and audio recordings that the government defined as promoting terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism. According to the notice, it was forbidden to disseminate such materials on the internet, on social media, and on online marketplaces.
Chinese public security authorities released a strategic communications brochure in July in an attempt to educate the public about how to respond to various forms of violent attack. Copies of the brochure, called the “Citizens Anti-Terror Handbook,” were handed out in Xinjiang, as well as in other major cities throughout China. The pamphlet advises people to look out for “terrorist suspects” who dress or act suspiciously. Similarly, in December, Xinjiang police issued a list of 75 “specific signs” that might indicate someone is a religious extremist, which included wearing Islamic veils in public, reading religious books, and abstaining from alcohol.
Many Chinese government policies may exacerbate ethnic tension in Xinjiang and contribute to increased radicalism and violent extremism. In China, official government accounts of terrorism focus almost exclusively on Xinjiang-related violence. For further information, we refer you to the State Department’s 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm.
Hong Kong continued its effective security and law enforcement partnership with the United States through the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department’s successful joint operation of the Container Security Initiative; through participation in U.S. government-sponsored training in related topics; and through engagement with U.S. counterterrorism agencies.
Counterterrorism remained an operational priority for the Hong Kong Police Force, as demonstrated by existing policies on prevention, protection, and preparedness. The Police Security Wing coordinates potential terrorist threat information with relevant counterterrorism units. The Police Counterterrorism Response Unit provides a strong deterrent presence, assisting police districts with counterterrorism strategy implementation, and complementing the tactical and professional support of existing police specialist units – such as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau, Special Duties Unit, and VIP Protection Unit. Hong Kong’s strategic trade regime buttresses U.S. efforts to restrict commodities, software, and technology to terrorist organizations or individuals. Hong Kong law enforcement officers attended U.S. government-sponsored capacity building training at the International Law Enforcement Academy on advanced post-blast investigations, personnel and facility security, law enforcement techniques to combat terrorism, and financial investigations.
Hong Kong is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body, and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in Hong Kong, and financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorist financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UN 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) and1988 (Taliban) Sanctions Committees’ lists. Filing suspicious transactions reports irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Hong Kong does not require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
Macau’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States included information exchange as well as regular capacity building through participation in U.S. government-sponsored training. The Police Intervention Tactical Unit (UTIP), which falls under the Macau Public Security Police Force, is responsible for protecting important installations and dignitaries, and for conducting high-risk missions, such as deactivation of IEDs. UTIP’s Special Operations Group’s mission is counterterrorism operations. Macau law enforcement officers attended U.S. government-sponsored capacity building training at the International Law Enforcement Academy on personnel and facility security, financial and crime scene investigations, combating terrorism, computer investigations, and evidence protection.
Macau is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in Macau, and banks and other financial institutions are required to continuously search for terrorist financing networks and screen accounts using designations lists provided by the United States under relevant authorities, as well as the UN 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) and 1988 (Taliban) Sanctions Committees’ lists. Filing suspicious transactions reports (STRs) irrespective of transaction amounts is obligatory, but Macau does not currently require mandatory reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
Macau cooperated internationally on counterterrorism efforts through Interpol and other security-focused organizations, including through FATF and APG. On December 15, Macau’s Financial Intelligence Unit signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network that allows the two jurisdictions to exchange information on STRs.
Overview: With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation. As a result, securing land and sea borders remains an ongoing challenge. Although Indonesia does not provide a safe haven for terrorists, terrorists meet and train in the isolated area near Poso, Central Sulawesi.
In 2014, Indonesia expanded international counterterrorism cooperation, including with the United States. Indonesia sustained pressure on terrorists and their networks, particularly those operating within its borders, but continued to face challenges trying to stem the flow of Indonesians traveling abroad to engage in terrorism. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) became a major impetus for further counterterrorism efforts. The emergence in July of a recruitment video calling for Indonesians to join ISIL focused the attention of the government and civil society and religious groups on countering the ISIL threat. Indonesian government officials have estimated that up to 300 Indonesians may have traveled to the Middle East since 2012 to engage in terrorist activities.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: The Eastern Indonesia Mujahedin (MIT) claimed responsibility for the September 18 murder of M. Fadli in Poso, Central Sulawesi. MIT is a Poso-based terrorist group led by Abu Wardah, also known as Santoso, one of Indonesia’s most wanted terrorists.
Fatal shootings of police officers on March 28, June 2, and August 16 in the Bima region of West Nusa Tenggara province were handled as acts of terrorism. The targeting of police and security forces by terrorists is a trend that has emerged since 2009.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Indonesia follows a strong rule-of-law- based counterterrorism approach. After investigation by police, terrorist suspects’ dossiers are sent to the Task Force on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crimes, which is part of the Attorney General’s Office, for prosecution. Relevant legislation includes the Law on Combating Criminal Acts of Terrorism (15/2003), the 1951 Emergency Law, and Indonesia’s Criminal Code.
Counterterrorism efforts are police-led, with Detachment 88 – the elite counterterrorism unit of the police – leading operations and investigations. Counterterrorism units from the Indonesian military may be called upon to support domestic counterterrorism operations and responses on an as-needed basis. Law enforcement units are increasingly able to detect, and in some cases prevent, attacks before they are carried out.
Law enforcement personnel participated in a range of training and professional development activities, including through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, with training focused on building sustainable police capacity in tactical crisis response and investigative skills.
In August, government officials banned support for ISIL. However, this ban is a proclamation and does not have the force of law. Officials are considering measures to revise Indonesia’s legislative framework to make it more effective. Authorities made at least 10 arrests of alleged ISIL supporters. The Ministry of Communications and Information blocked 20 ISIL-related websites. To complement these actions, officials recognized the need for a counter-messaging campaign; these efforts were nascent at year’s end. Many of Indonesia’s countermeasures against ISIL also addressed the broader threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, whether affiliated with ISIL or other violent extremist groups operating in the Middle East.
In September, then-President Yudhoyono outlined a series of measures to counter ISIL. To prevent the travel of potential foreign fighters, Yudhoyono called for increased scrutiny of passport and visa issuances. The government held a series of coordination meetings with foreign officials, including from transit and destination countries. Yudhoyono announced that Indonesian citizens abroad and foreigners within Indonesia would be monitored more closely. He said the surveillance of terrorist prisoners would be tightened and called for heightened vigilance throughout Indonesia, especially in areas vulnerable to or with a history of violent extremism. In December, authorities in Malaysia arrested and later deported seven Indonesian citizens, accompanied by five children, who were planning travel to Syria to join ISIL.
Indonesia’s efforts dovetailed with obligations outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2170 and 2178. For example, Indonesia condemned ISIL and sought to prevent the movements of terrorists, including through enhanced controls related to the issuance of identity papers. Indonesia implemented several of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF’s) good practices for a more effective response against foreign terrorist fighters.
Immigration officials at major ports of entry, especially larger international air and seaports, have access to biographic and biometric domestic-only databases. Military and police personnel are often posted at major ports of entry to ensure security. Police maintain a watchlist of suspected terrorists, but there are not always clear lines of coordination among stakeholder agencies. Indonesia shares information through Interpol, but does not regularly screen through Interpol at immigration checkpoints. Information sharing with countries in the region is often on an ad hoc basis, and there is no centralized database or platform for the sharing of information with countries in the region or internationally.
As of early November, there were 274 terrorist prisoners held in approximately 26 prisons throughout Indonesia, overseen by the Directorate General of Corrections, under the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. Some of Indonesia’s most hardened terrorists and ideologues are incarcerated in several prisons on the island of Nusakambangan, off the southern coast of Java. Authorities remained concerned about the potential recidivism of released terrorist prisoners. As an example, Muhammad Sibgotulloh was detained in Malaysia in early December, suspected of attempting to travel to join ISIL, and was returned to Indonesia two weeks later. Sibgotulloh had previously served a three-year jail term based on support lent to Umar Patek, one of the principal makers of a bomb used in the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks.
Police conducted periodic raids against suspected terrorists, with a particular focus on Poso, Central Sulawesi. By mid-November, law enforcement officials had arrested 44 suspects on terrorism charges, including 10 ISIL-related arrests. During a raid on New Year’s Eve in Ciputat, near Jakarta, police killed six alleged terrorists. At least one of the suspects was reportedly planning travel to Syria. Evidence seized indicated the group was responsible for a series of bank robberies – used to fund terrorism – and the April 2013 bombing of a Buddhist temple in Jakarta. On September 13, police in Central Sulawesi arrested seven people, including four Uighurs from China’s Xinjiang Province, for alleged links to MIT. On September 20, law enforcement authorities arrested five suspects with ties to terrorism in connection with the series of shootings in the Bima region of West Nusa Tenggara province; one suspect was killed.
In January, judges at the South Jakarta District Court sentenced four men to prison terms ranging from six to seven-and-a-half years for their roles in a failed plan to bomb the Burmese Embassy in Jakarta in May 2013. On March 3, Haris Fauzi was sentenced to nine years in jail for his involvement in a failed plot to assassinate the vice mayor of Makassar, South Sulawesi, in 2012. Fauzi is associated with a terrorist group affiliated with Abu Roban, and had participated in terrorist training camps in the Poso area.
Despite these domestic convictions, Indonesian law lacks the provisions to criminalize and prosecute acts of, and support for, terrorism committed abroad. Frequent personnel rotation at various agencies – including the police, Attorney General’s Office, and judiciary – represents a challenge to building long-term institutional expertise. Prosecutors sometimes use other laws and criminal statutes not specific to terrorism to prosecute and convict terrorists. As a result, these individuals are not counted or tracked through the justice system as convicted terrorists, creating a potential loophole in disengagement and de-radicalization efforts.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Indonesia is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a regional Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style body, and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In 2013, Indonesia’s House of Representatives passed Law 9 of 2013, “the Bill on Prevention and Eradication of Crimes of Financing of Terrorism” (TF Law) and the legislation became effective in March 2013. Fifteen defendants have been prosecuted under this law since its passage. According to the UNSC and the FATF, Indonesia has not yet fully implemented UNSCRs 1267 and 1373. By November 26, Indonesia had issued orders to freeze the assets of all 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) sanctioned individuals and entities. Indonesia is working on a joint regulation to ensure that its freezing process is “without delay,” in accordance with UNSCRs 1267, 1988, and 1373. The FATF continued to include Indonesia on its Public Statement list, noting that Indonesia needs to address certain deficiencies in the TF law regarding identifying and freezing terrorist assets.
The passage of the TF Law was an important step forward and Indonesia has filed cases under this new legislation; while the law could have stronger conspiracy and preparatory act provisions, it does allow for investigation and prosecution of TF offenses. However, the law does not meet international standards because the mechanism to freeze terrorist assets as applied to UNSCRs 1267, 1988, and 1373, does not “freeze without delay.” The TF law requires steps to be taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the police, and the court system, among others, before terrorist assets can be frozen and/or confiscated, thus impeding the ability to freeze “without delay.” Indonesia is working to address this issue.
Indonesia does not oblige non-profit organizations to file suspicious transaction reports or regulate and monitor them to prevent misuse and terrorist financing. Although non-profit organizations such as religious and charitable organizations are licensed and required to file suspicious transaction reports, the TF Law does not require monitoring or the regulation of such organizations to prevent misuse, including terrorist financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Indonesia participates in counterterrorism efforts through several international, multilateral, and regional fora including: the UN, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), ASEAN, APEC, and others. Indonesia expanded regional and international cooperation, especially in response to the foreign terrorist fighter issue. Indonesia participated in a range of GCTF workshops where participants shared best practices and lessons learned, thereby supporting the capacity building efforts of other countries. In August, with co-chair Australia, Indonesia launched the GCTF’s new Working Group on Detention and Reintegration. Indonesia remained active in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meetings on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC). Indonesia completed a second year as the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Task Force of APEC. Under Indonesian leadership, the task force was upgraded to a working group. Indonesian efforts drove the creation of a five-year plan focused on the security of supply chains, travel, finance, and infrastructure. In September, Indonesia co-sponsored UNSCR 2178 on foreign terrorist fighters.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Indonesian officials recognized the importance of addressing radicalization to violence and countering violent extremism (CVE). CVE programs are included in counterterrorism efforts, but because of limited resources and the vast amount of territory of the Indonesian archipelago, CVE efforts are not yet comprehensive. Government efforts are augmented by contributions from various civil society organizations that are active in CVE efforts. Some of the groups offered positive alternatives – such as sports, film-making, camps, and rallies – for populations vulnerable to violent extremism, especially youth.
Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) supported a school outreach program that included former terrorists, survivors of terrorist attacks, law enforcement personnel, and religious leaders. The BNPT continued to use the Terrorism Prevention Coordination Forum (FKPT), a program located in more than 20 of Indonesia’s provinces, as a platform for broader outreach. Forum participants are usually civic and religious leaders who coordinate activities with the communities on CVE-related programming. The FKPT network also conducts programs designed to maximize the positive influence of families and community members regarding the reintegration of former terrorist prisoners. Over time, officials aim to establish a Forum in each of Indonesia’s 34 provinces. BNPT planned to continue a program that invites religious leaders from the Middle East to meet terrorist prisoners in Indonesia, with the aim to foster a more moderate and peaceful mindset among convicted terrorists.
A de-radicalization blueprint for terrorist prisoners issued by the BNPT in late 2013 has yet to be fully implemented. Counterterrorism officials, in coordination with the Directorate General of Corrections and other relevant law enforcement agencies, have planned to open a de-radicalization center in Sentul, south of Jakarta. There is ongoing debate about how to handle the most hardcore ideologues, but the evolving consensus is to confine these prisoners in one of Indonesia’s maximum security detention centers.
DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Overview: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. In October 2008, the United States rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law, including a certification that the DPRK had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period and the provision by the DPRK of assurances that it would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
Four Japanese Red Army members who participated in a 1970 jet hijacking continued to live in the DPRK. The Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the fate of 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities in the 1970s and 1980s. In May 2014, the DPRK agreed to re-open its investigation into the abductions, but as of the end of 2014 had not yet provided the results of this investigation to Japan.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In May, the United States recertified North Korea as a country “not cooperating fully” with U.S. counterterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended. In making this annual determination, the Department of State reviewed the DPRK’s overall level of cooperation with U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, taking into account U.S. counterterrorism objectives with the DPRK and a realistic assessment of DPRK capabilities.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The DPRK is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In July 2014, it was admitted as an observer, but not a full member, of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. Nevertheless, the DPRK failed to demonstrate meaningful progress in strengthening its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) infrastructure. While encouraging the DPRK’s continued engagement with FATF and APG, FATF highlighted continuing concerns about North Korea’s “failure to address the significant deficiencies in its [AML/CFT] regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system.” At each of its plenary meetings throughout the year, the FATF renewed its call on members to “protect their financial sectors from money laundering and financing of terrorism risks emanating from the DPRK.” For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Overview: The Republic of Korea has strong counterterrorism capabilities and enjoys robust cooperation with the United States and the international community. In 2014, the Republic of Korea did not face any major domestic terrorist threats; however, South Korean citizens serving as tourists and missionaries have in prior years been victims of terrorist attacks in the Middle East and East Africa. Domestically, agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities continued to closely monitor and cooperate with the United States on the prevention of cyberattacks and the mitigation of threats posed by foreign residents with potential ties to terrorist groups. South Korean and U.S. law enforcement agencies have worked closely on information sharing through the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6) and the Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) agreement, and have held joint investigations on known and suspected terrorists. In October, the Republic of Korea conducted a bilateral counterterrorism consultation with the People’s Republic of China.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The National Assembly failed to pass a comprehensive counterterrorism law, first proposed in 2001. As a result, South Korean legal authorities have no legal framework to proactively and consistently investigate individuals with material or ideological ties to terrorism. Therefore, South Korean authorities use criminal statutes for suspected terrorism cases.
The Republic of Korea derives its authority to perform counterterrorist activities from Presidential Directive 309, last revised in 2013. In spring 2014, National Assembly members submitted for deliberation several bills regarding cyberterrorism and compensation for victims of terrorist acts, including medical and recovery assistance. At year’s end, the bills were with the National Assembly Intelligence Committee.
In the lead-up to the 2014 Asian Games, a group of international police prevented sixteen foreign nationals from entering the country due to terrorism suspicions.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Republic of Korea is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body, and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. In May, a law was revised to stipulate that the Republic of Korea implement all international treaties and resolutions related to countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1267, 1988, and 1373. The Korea Financial Intelligence Unit, established by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, works with law enforcement agencies to monitor suspicious transactions and develop CFT policy. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: The Republic of Korea continued to strengthen bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts in 2014. The Republic of Korea is a member of the UN, APEC, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit, Asia-Europe Meeting, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation, the OECD, the G-20, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. South Korea is also a partner country of OSCE and NATO. The Republic of Korea remains actively engaged in global efforts to counter the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and participated in the October implementation meeting on UNSCR 2178 on foreign terrorist fighters.
Overview: Both domestically and on the international stage, Malaysia’s counterterrorism efforts in 2014 largely focused on mitigating the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and foreign terrorist fighters. Prime Minister Najib submitted to Parliament a White Paper on the threat of ISIL in November, which emphasized the risk of Malaysian foreign terrorist fighters returning home to destabilize the country. Malaysian authorities arrested approximately 50 suspected ISIL supporters in 2014. When he presented the White Paper to Parliament, the Prime Minister said that authorities had identified 39 Malaysians fighting with various militant groups in Syria and Iraq, 17 of whom were fighting with ISIL. The Prime Minister also announced that five Malaysian foreign fighters had returned home from Syria and Iraq, three of whom had been arrested, with police monitoring the other two.
President Obama’s April visit to Malaysia resulted in the elevation of the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership, which included efforts to strengthen security and law enforcement cooperation such as maritime and border security. With the positive developments from the summit, U.S. cooperation with Malaysia on counterterrorism and other transnational security issues continued to improve. The United States and Malaysia signed an Immigration Memorandum of Understanding in October, and a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement in December – both of which further strengthen bilateral security cooperation.
Malaysia is not considered a terrorist safe haven, but some violent extremists have been known to operate and hide in isolated littoral areas of the Sulu/Sulawesi Seas between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: Militants allegedly from the Philippines and linked to the Abu Sayyaf Group conducted four cross-border kidnapping for ransom operations in eastern Sabah, Malaysia. In April, a Chinese tourist and a Philippine hotel employee were kidnapped by armed men from a diving resort off the coast of Semporna. In May, a Chinese manager of a fish farm was kidnapped from an island near Lahad Datu; and in June, a Philippine and a Malaysian national were kidnapped from another fish farm in Kunak. In July, at a diving resort on Mabul Island, armed men killed a Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) officer and kidnapped another officer, who remained in captivity at year’s end.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), and chapters VI (Offenses Against the State) and VIa (Offenses Relating to Terrorism) of Malaysia’s penal code were the primary legal tools for terrorism cases.
In January, the RMP restructured the former Special Task Force (Operations/Counterterrorism) into a new Special Branch/Counterterrorism Unit, which now has the lead role in counterterrorism efforts. Malaysian authorities made efforts to improve interagency cooperation and information sharing, including participation in regional meetings, Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) regional workshops, and training conducted through Malaysia’s Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT), which is part of Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In January, Malaysian authorities released from detention the remaining six individuals who had been held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was repealed in 2012 with the introduction of SOSMA. The six included three Malaysians, two Indonesians, and a Philippine citizen detained under the ISA in November 2011 for alleged membership in Darul Islam Sabah, which is linked to Jemaah Islamiya (JI).
In November, Indonesian authorities released from prison JI bomb-maker Taufik Abdul Halim, a Malaysian citizen who spent the past 12 years in jail for attempting to bomb a Jakarta shopping mall in 2001. Malaysian police monitored Taufik after his release, as he is the brother-in-law of wanted terrorist Zulkifli Abdul Khir, also known as Marwan.
In December, Malaysian authorities arrested and subsequently deported to Indonesia three men and four women intending to join ISIL in Syria. The seven Indonesians were traveling with five children.
As of year’s end, the trial of al-Qa’ida operative Yazid Sufaat, who was arrested in 2013 for recruiting Malaysians to fight in Syria, had not yet begun. Sufaat was charged with inciting or promoting the commission of terrorist acts under Section 130G(a) of Malaysia’s penal code. One accomplice, Muhammad Hilmi Hasim, remained in custody awaiting trial under for aiding and abetting the commission of terrorist acts. Sufaat’s other accomplice, Halimah Hussein, remained at large at year’s end.
The SOSMA trial of 30 suspects – 27 Philippine nationals and three Malaysians – involved in the February 2013 Lahad Datu incursion began in January and was ongoing at year’s end. The suspects were on trial for harboring terrorists, membership of a terrorist group, recruiting terrorists, and waging war against the king.
Iranian citizen, and suspected member of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, arrested in Malaysia in February 2012 after failed attempted bombings in Bangkok, remained in Malaysian custody. A Malaysian court had ordered Sedaghatzadeh’s extradition to Thailand in 2012, but his appeal remained pending at year’s end.
Malaysia has a no-fly list, but passengers are compared to that list by the immigration officer at the port of entry and the decision to deny entry is made at the airport. Malaysia does not regularly screen at immigration checkpoints through Interpol.
In July, in response to the continued threat of kidnapping for ransom and other transnational threats, the Malaysian government enacted a maritime curfew along the eastern coast of Sabah. The government extended the curfew multiple times and at year’s end it was still in effect. The government also announced in July that an additional 330 police officers and 350 army personnel would be deployed to eastern Sabah to strengthen the border.
Of the approximately 50 suspected ISIL supporters Malaysian authorities arrested (not including non-Malaysian citizens who were deported), prosecutors filed charges in 22 cases. The charges included incitement, abetment, and soliciting or giving support to a terrorist organization. At least two of the individuals were charged with illegal firearms possession.
Malaysian police also arrested – and subsequently deported – 13 alleged supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and a Somali member of al-Shabaab. Several of the deported LTTE suspects had allegedly planned attacks against U.S. and Israeli diplomatic facilities in India. In July, the Malaysian Home Minister said that, since 2009, Malaysia had deported 67 foreigners suspected of being involved in militant activities in Malaysia and overseas.
Malaysia demonstrated its political will at the highest levels of government to confront the threat of ISIL and other terrorist groups. Malaysia’s existing legal system is capable of disrupting terrorist plots before they are carried out, and before fighters travel to foreign conflicts. Malaysia has laws against conspiracy, attempt, incitement, solicitation, aiding, abetting, and promoting terrorist acts, and most of the same inchoate offenses that are prosecutable in the United States. However, as authorities were unable to file charges in roughly half of the terrorism-related arrests, a significant challenge is Malaysia’s need to strengthen proactive cooperation between police and prosecutors from the outset of an investigation.
Malaysia continued to participate in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, with programs focused on strengthening law enforcement capacity to secure Malaysia’s borders from terrorist transit.
The U.S. Department of State’s Export Controls and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program conducted capacity building activities for customs, police, immigration, coast guard, and strategic trade officials. EXBS also strengthened international and regional coordination of maritime security efforts. Malaysia participated in the Container Security and Megaports Initiatives, as well as the UN Office and Drugs and Crime Container Control Program.
In October, the U.S. government conducted a three-day workshop for over 60 Malaysian police and prosecutors designed to promote greater cooperation in the proactive investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Malaysia became an official observer country of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October, and has expressed interest in becoming a full member. In November, a FATF team conducted an assessment of Malaysia. Malaysia is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body.
Malaysia has a well-developed anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework, and a capable Financial Intelligence and Enforcement Unit within Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank of Malaysia. Nevertheless, the ISIL White Paper noted that Malaysia was at risk of becoming a terrorist finance hub, suggesting that existing laws should be strengthened.
In August, Parliament passed an amendment to the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorist Financing Act, which broadened the government’s investigation and enforcement authority, in line with FATF standards. The amendment came into effect on September 1.
Law enforcement and customs officials are responsible for examining trade-based money laundering and invoice manipulation, and their relationship to underground finance and informal remittance systems. Malaysia took strong steps in 2014 to counter and reduce unauthorized money services businesses – including a series of raids in November.
In response to FATF’s 2012 revised international standards, Malaysia’s National Coordinating Committee for Countering Money Laundering assessed money laundering and terrorist financing threats facing the country. The review was completed in 2014, and Malaysia is implementing new measures to mitigate the risks identified, including intensifying joint law enforcement investigation efforts, forming dedicated AML/CFT law enforcement units, and strengthening Malaysia’s AML/CFT framework.
Malaysia does not oblige non-profit organizations (NPOs) themselves to file suspicious transaction reports, but they are required to file annual financial statements that are scrutinized by the Registrar of Societies (ROS), which may file such reports. Law enforcement works with the ROS and other charity regulators to prevent misuse and terrorist financing in the NPO sector, especially in vulnerable areas like religious or charitable NPOs. ROS also conducts an annual conference for its members on the risks of terrorist financing.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm
Regional and International Cooperation: Malaysia actively participated in UN, ASEAN, and other regional and international forums. As part of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) 2014-2015 Work Plan for Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime, Malaysia is one of the lead countries for two key priority areas: 1) cybersecurity and terrorists’ use of the internet, and 2) counter-radicalization. In March, Malaysia hosted an ARF workshop on cyber-confidence building measures.
The SEARCCT hosted 17 training events in 2014, including seminars on crisis management, transportation security, and chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear response training. The U.S. government supported three SEARCCT events in 2014, including programs on countering the financing of terrorism and countering violent extremism. Malaysian officials participated in several GCTF events, including workshops on strengthening the judiciary, detention and reintegration of terrorist prisoners, and foreign terrorist fighters.
A team from the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program visited Kuala Lumpur in November to consult with Malaysian officials on establishing a similar program.
In 2014, Malaysia continued to facilitate peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Malaysia’s mediation efforts helped lead to the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in May.
Malaysia considers ISIL a terrorist organization and was a co-sponsor of UNSCR 2178. In addition to robust law enforcement activity, Malaysia hosted several regional capacity building efforts to strengthen anti-ISIL efforts in Southeast Asia.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: In October, Malaysia’s Islamic Development Authority (JAKIM), which oversees the majority of the country’s mosques and Islamic scholars, issued a fatwa against ISIL that labeled the organization illegal under Islamic law and declared that followers that died fighting with ISIL were not “martyrs.” JAKIM promoted anti-ISIL messaging through its Friday sermons and sought to educate Malaysia’s Muslims on the peaceful meaning of jihad.
SEARCCT conducted several regional programs on countering violent extremism and the dynamics of youth and terrorism. These programs included a January workshop on promoting community-oriented policing to counter violent extremism, and a November program that brought together government officials, civil society leaders, journalists, and representatives of the private sector to develop effective strategies to counter violent extremist narratives online.
The Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), a Malaysian-based organization founded by Prime Minister Najib, conducted several countering violent extremism programs, including a public forum on youth and terrorism. In September, GMM formed a task force in partnership with the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement focused on countering violent extremist ideologies.
Overview: Counterterrorism cooperation between the Philippines and the United States continued to improve in 2014. Terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), were unable to conduct major attacks compared to previous years due to continuous pressure from Philippine counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts. Terrorist groups’ acts included criminal activities designed to generate revenue for self-sustainment, such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and bombings for hire. Although Philippines counterterrorism efforts sustained pressure on terrorist organizations, members of these groups were suspected to have carried out attacks against government, public, and private facilities, primarily in the central and western areas of Mindanao; others were linked to extortion operations in other parts of the country. In addition, terrorist and rebel groups in the southern Philippines retained the capability and intent to conduct bomb-making training, small-scale shootings, and ambushes.
The Government of the Philippines made progress in implementing its 2011–2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan that calls for the transition of internal security functions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Philippine National Police (PNP). The increasing role and capability of the police in maintaining internal security in conflict-affected areas will permit the AFP to shift its focus to enhance the country’s maritime security and territorial defense capabilities. To date, however, this transition continued to be slow and ineffective. Continued violent extremist activity, as well as counterterrorism capability gaps between the AFP and PNP, slowed this transition and forced the AFP to continue playing the lead counterterrorism role in the Philippines.
The Philippine government’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) creating a new Bangsamoro autonomous government in Mindanao, if successful, paves the way for a peaceful solution to the 40-year-old conflict in Mindanao. The Philippine government hopes to reduce tensions in the South and the political attraction of violent extremist groups by providing greater political and economic autonomy for the predominately Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao. As a result, some of the groups who traditionally were committed to Moro secessionism now either back the peace deal or have splintered into less coherent groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
After the March signing ceremony of the CAB, however, violent clashes with the BIFF continued in central Mindanao, indicating that violent spoilers to a lasting peace remain. At the same time, continued heavy military and police presence in Mindanao and other regions of the country, including active ongoing operations against terrorist groups, including the ASG, JI, the NPA, and other violent extremist groups with ties to terrorists like the BIFF, resulted in displacement and disruption of civilian activities, and in some instances provided impetus for recruiting or fundraising efforts by local terrorist group members.
The Philippine government submitted to Congress draft legislation known as the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” in 2014 to establish a new autonomous government entity in the Southern Philippines, as stipulated by the CAB. However, with several splinter groups – including rogue elements of the MILF, the BIFF, and others – claiming they will not be bound by the law and are unwilling to forsake violence, a number of small-scale terrorist attacks occurred.
The Government of the Philippines recognizes the potential threat posed by radicalized Philippine citizens supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the risk of ISIL elements traveling to the Philippines to promote violent extremism in the country or seek safe haven. Members of numerous groups – including ASG and BIFF – pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2014. The Government of the Philippines has condemned the actions of ISIL and other extremist groups in the Middle East, describing their use of violence as a “crime against humanity.” The President’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) convened an ad hoc interagency technical working group on persons of interest in conflict areas in July. The working group meets regularly every two to three weeks, and actions taken by this group include tightening passport issuance, increasing Bureau of Immigration screening at major departure points, and dedicating increased resources to monitoring online ISIL-related activity.
2014 Terrorist Incidents: There were dozens of small arms and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion efforts by suspected members of terrorist groups in the Philippines in 2014. High-profile incidents included:
- On January 29, an eight-year-old girl and a pregnant woman were injured when a powerful explosion ripped through the public ferry terminal in the town of Datu Piang. The PNP said the bombing was an apparent attack by the BIFF to divert the attention of security authorities involved in an operation to arrest senior group leaders.
- On March 2, 16 individuals, including 11 soldiers and five civilians, were hurt in a landmine explosion that hit a convoy of ambulances in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. The landmine was allegedly planted by NPA guerrillas operating in the area. The convoy was transporting several soldiers reportedly injured in an earlier encounter with the NPA to a local hospital when the landmine detonated and damaged the passing ambulances.
- On May 21, policemen foiled an attempt by as many as 100 NPA communist rebels to take over the town hall of President Roxas city in Cotabato, killing three guerrillas and forcing the rest to retreat. The police chief of President Roxas was wounded in the firefight.
- On May 22, suspected members of the ASG group demanded US $670,194 in exchange for the release of a Chinese businesswoman and her daughter, kidnapped by at least 10 armed men in early May in Isabela City, Basilan.
- On December 9, five people were killed and 42 wounded in an explosion aboard a bus in Bukidnon, Mindanao. Authorities filed charges against Garnet Lintang, a commander of the BIFF operating in Central Mindanao.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 2007 Human Security Act (HSA) is the principal counterterrorism legislation of the Philippines. The law defines terrorism and provides methods for law enforcement to conduct investigations of terrorist suspects. Many aspects of the law have not been used due to a number of strict procedural requirements in the law, however, including notification to subjects of surveillance before activities can begin and damages of approximately US $12,000 for every day of detention if an individual accused of terrorism is ultimately acquitted.
President Aquino has prioritized the adoption of amendments to the HSA in three main areas: revise the definition of terrorism to conform to international standards; ease the strict monetary penalties and prison terms against law enforcement officials involved in cases where individuals are wrongly accused and later acquitted; and remove barriers to support investigations. The ATC Project Management Center, in coordination with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Secretariat and the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, ensured the final version of the HSA was fully in line with the Terrorism Financing Prevention Act and other Anti-Money Laundering Act and Philippine government initiatives prior to submission to the House of Representatives.
Units with a specialized counterterrorism focus, including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), have limited investigations, crisis response, and border security capacity. Multiple agencies have jurisdiction over counterterrorism efforts, creating confusion and inefficiency in leading investigations and in response to terrorism incidents. Roles and responsibilities between law enforcement and military units that have a counterterrorism mission are often not well delineated. Law enforcement units display moderate command and control capacity. Specialized law enforcement units possess some necessary equipment, but have many unfulfilled needs. Law enforcement units have a mixed record of accountability and respect for human rights. The ATC provides guidance to agencies responsible for enforcing terrorism laws, but its capacity and authority to ensure cooperation and coordination between agencies is limited.
The PNP maintains legal responsibility for ensuring peace and security throughout the county, including arresting terrorists and conducting terrorism investigations. In some of the conflict-affected areas, the PNP has relied upon the AFP to conduct counterterrorism operations. The PNP SAF is the national operational support unit for law enforcement counterterrorism efforts. The Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in the Philippines assisted the PNP’s SAF, Anti-Kidnapping Group, Anti-Cybercrime Group, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal/K9 units by providing counterterrorism-related training and equipment. This assistance strengthened the PNP’s capacity to respond to terrorism-related incidents. In 2014, the ATA program in the Philippines conducted 33 courses with 658 participants, on training platforms both within the Philippines and internationally.
In 2014, the Philippines continued to improve the security of its passports. Three million machine-readable passports remained in circulation at year’s end. In August 2009, the Philippines started to produce "e-passports" containing a biometric chip. Six million Philippine passports in circulation are e-passports, accounting for 65 percent of all valid passports, according to the Philippine Passport Office. At the main international airport in Manila, the Philippines participated in the Interpol Border Management Program.
The first phase of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was completed in 2014, which included the build-out of the physical AFIS facility at NBI headquarters, and the digitization of 850,000 fingerprint records.
In the area of transportation and port security, the Philippines has committed to align its priorities with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to increase security capabilities at its airports, seaports, and bus terminals. The TSA and USCG have committed a significant amount of technical assistance to the Philippine Office for Transportation Security (OTS). In 2014, TSA conducted a counterterrorism bus exercise with APEC, the U.S. Department of State, and OTS to outline best practices and introduce a risk identification tool for implementation. Additionally, TSA and OTS conducted joint aviation security assessments/inspections at Manila International Airport and Clark International Airport to align policies with international standards, and increase the capacity of OTS oversight personnel. USCG conducted a joint table top exercise at several Philippine seaports, and sponsored a Philippine delegation to observe port security procedures in Seattle, Washington.
In 2014, the United States continued to work with the Government of the Philippines to monitor and investigate groups engaged in or supporting terrorist activities in the Philippines. The government launched numerous operations, particularly in the Southern Philippines, to arrest and disrupt organizations like the ASG, JI, BIFF and NPA. There were a number of ongoing operations against and prosecutions of terrorist suspects that included:
- On January 27, “Operation Darkhorse” was supposed to end after two days. The campaign was extended until February 1 to allow government forces to seize more BIFF facilities, leading to the capture of four BIFF camps and a makeshift explosive factory in Maguindanao. The weeklong offensive left 52 BIFF members and one AFP soldier dead, while injuring 49 BIFF members and 20 AFP soldiers. Eight civilians were also hurt and more than 35,000 were displaced during the operations.
- On April 14, two suspected members of a kidnapping syndicate were killed while six others, including an alleged member of the MILF and a police officer, were captured following a raid and exchange of fire in Zamboanga. The raid was executing an arrest warrant for 12 suspects, but four of them escaped during the shootout.
- On April 29, clashes between government forces and ASG members over control of a jungle training camp in Sulu resulted in 26 casualties, including one AFP Marine. After 10 hours, government forces successfully drove the ASG members from the camp in Sitio Kanjimao, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul town.
- On June 11, terrorist financier and high-ranking ASG member Khair Mundos was arrested by Philippine authorities in Manila near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Mundos was on trial at year’s end, facing local bombing related charges.
- On June 17, security forces captured two ASG militants in Zamboanga City, including one who was allegedly involved in the 2011 kidnappings of an American teenage boy and his mother, as well as a separate kidnapping of an Australian man in 2011. Philippine Police and Army troops captured Jimmy Nurilla and Bakrin Haris in a raid on their hideout in Sangali village. Nurilla was suspected of being involved in a number of kidnappings, including that of American Kevin Lunsmann, who was 14 when he escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors in 2011 after five months in captivity in Basilan.
- On June 22, four suspected members of ASG were arrested in separate police and military operations. The four included a suspect in the kidnapping of six Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2002, two of whom were beheaded.
- On July 7, during an operation in Isabela City, Basilan, police intelligence and combat forces captured an ASG suspect linked to the mass abduction of teachers, students, and a Catholic priest 14 years ago. The captured suspect was identified as Salih Ali, also known as Abu Ali, who had a standing warrant for arrest for nine counts of kidnapping.
- On July 11, Philippine authorities in Cebu arrested Australian citizen Musa Cerantonio, a popular pro-ISIL ideologue active on social media, for suspicion he was radicalizing Philippine citizens to join the group. Cerantonio was deported back to Australia.
- On July 14, a court decision was promulgated in a 2003 vehicle-borne improved explosive device attack at the Awang Airport in Cotobato organized by the MILF and JI which resulted in the death of a Philippine Army Sergeant. Five defendants were convicted of murder and attempted murder.
- On October 7, authorities arrested Ricardo Ayeras, Andrescio Valdez, and Ricky Macapagal in Manila on suspicion of plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy in Manila. One of the three suspects, Ayeras, was implicated in the 2003 Maguindanao airport bombing.
- On October 20, troops seized several suspected ASG camps in Patikul, Sulu. The Philippine military kept up the pressure on ASG following the 2013 kidnapping and subsequent release of two German hostages, in which the ASG is suspected to have received a ransom of more than US $5 million.
In 2014, substantive hearings in the prosecution of three defendants – accused of kidnapping two U.S. nationals in Mindanao in 2011 – commenced in Zamboanga. Additionally, substantive hearings continued in 2014 in Cebu in the prosecution of four defendants accused of murdering two U.S. soldiers and one Philippine Marine in an IED attack in Kagay, Jolo, in September 2009.
In 2014, the Philippines continued coordinating with U.S. law enforcement authorities, especially regarding U.S. fugitives and suspected terrorists. In particular, Philippine authorities provided assistance in the U.S. investigation of the kidnapping of two U.S. nationals in Mindanao in 2011. In December 2014, four Philippine nationals were indicted in the United States on conspiracy, hostage-taking, and weapons charges stemming from this kidnapping.
An under-resourced and understaffed law enforcement and judicial system, coupled with widespread official corruption, resulted in limited domestic investigations, unexecuted arrest warrants, few prosecutions, and lengthy trials of cases. Philippine investigators and prosecutors lacked necessary tools to build strong cases, including a lack of clear processes for requesting judicially-authorized interception of terrorist communications, entering into plea bargains with key witnesses, and seizing assets of those suspected in benefiting from terrorism.
The Philippines received counterterrorism assistance from Australia, the UK, Canada, and Japan. This work focuses generally on capacity building on investigation, case management, intelligence, and special operations training with the PNP and the AFP.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Philippines is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body and the Egmont Group. In recent years, the Philippines significantly improved its financial regulatory regime and remains focused on effective implementation of international standards.
The U.S. government supported the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the PNP’s Directorate of Intelligence, Anti-Kidnapping Group, and the SAF in successfully forming a Joint Terrorist Financing Investigation Group (JTFIG) in 2014. The JTFIG acts as an “intelligence fusion center” to complement the other intelligence groups tasked with investigating terrorism and terrorist financing. The JTFIG expanded to include the NBI and PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
The AMLC has been able to identify, freeze, and obtain forfeiture judgments and writs of execution for bank deposits and real estate assets linked to the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Rajah Sulaiman Movement – both U.S.-designated terrorist groups under E.O. 13224 – with a total estimated value of US $237,000.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 2170, the AMLC has frozen the assets of six members of ISIL and al-Nusrah Front. Under Section 8 of the Terrorist Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, all transactions with the named individuals designated by AMLC are prohibited. The AMLC freezes assets of those listed at the 1267/1989 (al-Qa’ida) and 1988 Taliban sanctions committees through AMLC Resolution TF-01.
Non-profit organizations are not covered institutions under the Anti-Money Laundering Act. There is no single authority for entities in the non-profit sector, making monitoring and coordination of regulatory bodies difficult.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Philippine government representatives participated in several regional events in 2014:
- In May, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) sponsored a workshop in Tagaytay City focused on Combating the Financing of Terrorism.
- In October, the Philippines supported the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) and ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counterterrorism.
- In November, a pioneering project called “Training on Collaborative Intelligence, Investigation, and Prosecution of Terrorism-Related Cases” was implemented with the UNODC to encourage close collaboration among these sectors to ensure successful prosecution of terrorism cases.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Philippine government continued its counter-radicalization program, Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA (Resilient Communities in Conflict Affected Communities). During the year, the Philippines worked with the Global Counterterrorism Forum to apply the Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders. Government offices, including the President’s Law Enforcement and Security Integration Office and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, led interagency collaboration on countering violent extremism through counter-radicalization and de-radicalization initiatives.
Training on rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders, funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, was provided to 24 experts in the Philippines from different agencies and the private sector.
The Philippine government also continues to support a counter-radicalization program in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facilities housing ASG or other terrorist suspects pending trial.
Overview: In 2014, Singapore and the United States expanded counterterrorism cooperation, including increased information sharing on known and suspected terrorists. U.S. agencies welcomed the closer engagement and continued to see the potential for more strategic and productive agency-to-agency relationships. In November, Singapore announced it would contribute to the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, declaring that contribution an integral part of its ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, and pledged staff and midair refueling assets to the Coalition. Singapore seeks to actively prevent foreign terrorist fighters from traveling to Syria and Iraq, and has detained Singaporean residents attempting to do so. The government and Muslim community organizations, such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Religious Rehabilitation Group, actively promoted tolerance and provided a counter-narrative to violent extremists.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Singapore uses its Internal Security Act (ISA) to arrest and detain suspected terrorists without trial. The ISA authorizes the Minister for Home Affairs (MHA), with the consent of the president, to order detention without judicial review if it is determined that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, and the MHA may renew the detention for an unlimited number of additional periods up to two years at a time with the president’s consent. Singapore’s existing legal framework, in conjunction with the ISA, provides the government the necessary tools to support the investigation and prosecution of terrorism offenses. Law enforcement agencies displayed coordination, command, and control in responding to threat information affecting Singapore’s security.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Singapore is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a FATF-style regional body. In 2014, Singapore tightened currency reporting requirements, lowering the threshold for currency declarations when bringing in or taking cash out of the country from US $22,200 to US $14,800. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also commenced consultations in 2014 on revised regulations to strengthen the anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism framework for financial institutions to bring it in line with the FATF’s revised recommendations of February 2012. Singapore’s robust financial regulatory framework makes terrorist financing illegal and the government, in cooperation with the financial services industry, remains vigilant against this threat. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Singapore is an active participant in counterterrorism cooperation efforts in ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and APEC; has supported UN Security Council Resolutions condemning terrorist activities – including co-sponsoring UNSCR 2178; and announced at the 2014 East Asia Summit that it will host a regional conference on countering violent extremism. Singapore participates in regional exercises, which occasionally have counterterrorism components.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Singapore’s efforts to prevent youth radicalization focus on education and outreach efforts. The government also encourages interreligious and interethnic dialogue through Interracial and Religious Confidence Circles, community forums that bring leaders from Singapore’s religious and ethnic communities together to discuss issues of concern, and build trust. The government has highlighted opportunities for constructive engagement for those concerned with the conflict in Syria and Iraq, such as promoting legitimate charities working to ease suffering in conflict zones.
Singapore’s Islamic Religious Council of Singapore maintains a Facebook presence and holds outreach and education events to counter terrorist propaganda and recruitment efforts.
Singapore’s Religious Rehabilitation Group, a volunteer organization, has had success in counseling detainees held under the ISA. The comprehensive program includes religious and psychological counseling, and involves the detainee’s family and community.
Overview: Thailand’s counterterrorism cooperation continued to be productive, although domestic political challenges remained the government’s key security priority. In late 2014, Thai security officials expressed moderate concern about the threat to Thailand from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), particularly given the reported travel of fighters from neighboring Southeast Asian nations and to the Middle East. There was no confirmed evidence of Thais joining ISIL, however, and no direct evidence of operational linkages between ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgent groups in southern Thailand and ISIL or other international terrorist networks.
While Thai officials have long expressed concern that transnational terrorist groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups, there have been no indications that transnational terrorist groups were directly involved in the violence in the south, and there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai insurgent groups and regional terrorist networks.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Thailand incorporated terrorism offenses into its penal code in 2003, but most terrorism prosecutions fail to prove the necessary element of specific intent and therefore result in deportation or conviction on less serious offenses.
Law enforcement units demonstrate some capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents. Multiple entities – including the Royal Thai Police, Department of Special Investigations, and elements of the Thai military – have law enforcement responsibilities in counterterrorism cases. Semiannual reshuffles of senior ranks of government and security officials, and shifts directed by the post-coup government, hampered continuity in leadership. Interagency cooperation and coordination is sporadic, information sharing is limited, and the delineation of duties between law enforcement and military units with counterterrorism responsibilities is unclear. Law enforcement officials with counterterrorism responsibilities receive U.S. training, including through the Bangkok-based joint U.S.-Thai International Law Enforcement Academy. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State provides Antiterrorism Assistance training programs designed to enhance Royal Thai Police capacity to counter terrorism.
Land borders are relatively porous. In June 2012, the Thai government removed the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) from eight major points of entry and installed a locally developed program. At year’s end, PISCES remained in place at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, which handles the majority of arrivals, but its continued implementation remained unclear. All passengers originating in Thailand traveling to or overflying the United States will continue to be vetted through the Secure Flight Program.
Thailand has an active market in fraudulent documents. Local law enforcement pursues fraud cases concerning official documents such as passports, birth certificates, and national identification; however, it does not prioritize investigating non-official documents such as financial records, school transcripts, and employment letters. Thailand has initiated investigations into multiple passport fraud rings, but has not yet conducted any prosecutions. Information sharing within the Thai government and with neighboring countries appeared limited.
In April, two dual Lebanese nationals suspected of being associated with Hizballah were detained in Bangkok and subsequently deported. Police stated they received intelligence that the pair plotted to attack an area in the capital popular with Israeli tourists. Separately, a Hizballah operative – who was storing 10,000 pounds of urea-based fertilizer and 10 gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate in a commercial building about 20 miles south of Bangkok when he was detained in January 2012 – was released and deported to Sweden in September 2014 after serving two years and eight months in prison.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Thailand belongs to the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Thailand’s Counter Terrorist Financing Act (CFT), together with subordinate laws, came into effect in early 2013. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is in the process of revising the CFT Act in order to quicken the designation process and to make updates to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
In 2014, two unlicensed money changers were shut down and charged by the Bank of Thailand, which is revising its regulations to tighten control of similar financial activities. While AMLO did not identify and freeze terrorist assets of sanctioned individuals and organizations in 2014 in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions including 1267, 1988, and 1373, it froze US $581 in assets of one person designated on Thailand’s domestic list as an individual engaged in terrorist financing activities. The case was being scrutinized by AMLO’s litigation division at year’s end.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Thailand participated in international counterterrorism efforts, including through APEC, ASEAN, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Following the May 2014 coup, the Internal Security Operations Command continued to organize outreach programs to ethnic Malay-Muslims to counter radicalization and violent extremism. Ongoing shortcomings of the justice system, however, contributed to support for the ethno-nationalist insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces. NGOs also reached out to communities in the southern provinces to provide services, identify the underlying causes of the area’s violence, and provide outlets for peaceful political expression.
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