Although terrorist groups continued to plot attacks against European targets and interests, 2011 was marked by a smaller number of attacks than the previous year due in part to the efforts of European security services, close co-operation among European countries, and the sheer technical capabilities available to most partner countries, the US state department said in its annual country reports on terrorism for 2011.
“Nonetheless, the January 24 Domodedovo airport suicide bombing in Moscow that killed more than three dozen people, as well as the July 22 attacks in which Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian citizen, bombed government buildings in Oslo, killing eight, and then shot dead 69 people at a Labor Party youth camp on the island of Utoya, highlighted the continuing serious threat from terrorists,” the report said.
A wide range of violent extremist ideologies remained a threat, the state department report said. During otherwise peaceful anti-austerity protests, anarchists in Greece continued to launch attacks against government offices, foreign missions, and symbols of the state , although the overall level of violence was at a lower level than in previous years, the report said .
Long-active radical ethno-nationalist groups like the Kurdistan Workers Party (known as the PKK) in Turkey and dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland continued their campaigns of violence.
Transatlantic co-operation on terrorism involving the sharing of intelligence and judicial information, capacity building in non-European countries, extradition of suspects, and efforts to counter violent extremism remained generally very good, although differing perspectives on issues like data privacy and long-term detention sometimes complicated these efforts.
A number of European countries signed or ratified agreements with the United States on preventing and combating serious crime, and in December the European Union’s (EU) Council of Ministers voted to approve a US-EU Agreement on the exchange of passenger name records in the field of commercial aviation. The EU and a number of European countries served as founding members and played leading roles in the new Global Counterterrorism Forum, the report said.
Prosecutions of suspected terrorists continued apace, with significant trials and/or convictions of suspects taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Germany, and Greece, among other countries. Both the Netherlands and the UK released new and comprehensive national strategies laying out strategic frameworks for counterterrorism, and European countries ranging from Belgium to Italy continued to implement programs designed to counter violent extremism.
The report’s section on Bosnia and Herzegovina said that Bosnia and Herzegovina increased its counterterrorism capacity in 2011 and was a co-operative counterterrorism partner with the United States. Bosnian law enforcement agencies regularly interact with their US and European counterparts on counterterrorism investigations, the report said
Bosnian law enforcement and security bodies conducted searches and interrogations against suspected terrorist actors and supporters in the aftermath of a car bombing in April and the shooting attack against the US embassy in October.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force worked towards improving co-ordination between the country’s many security and police agencies to better counter potential terrorist threats and acts of terrorism, and Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to participate in the US state department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program.
The efforts have had mixed results due to the fragmented nature of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s security and police sectors. Potential threats of violent extremism included religious extremist ideological influences from Europe and the Middle East, and regional nationalist extremist groups found in the former Yugoslavia, the report said.
On Greece, the report said that following a series of attacks in late 2010, Greece experienced a notable drop in the number of domestic terrorist incidents during 2011.
The Greek police made major arrests of two of the most active domestic terrorist groups, Revolutionary Struggle and Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei. The other most active terrorist group, Sect of Revolutionaries, whose members are still at large, did not take responsibility for any attacks in 2011.
Overall, Greek counterterrorism co-operation with US law enforcement was very good, and in regard to protection of American interests in Greece was excellent, the report said. Greek authorities worked closely with the US embassy to help safeguard the security of American citizens and American commercial interests in Greece.
On Kosovo, the report said that the Government of Kosovo co-operated with the United States on terrorism-related issues and made progress in advancing counterterrorism legislation, including the new Criminal Code and another package of laws that were in the Assembly at year’s end.
This legislation should enhance co-operation among Kosovo’s departments to better control its borders and individuals entering the country as part of an integrated border management (IBM) plan, the report said. The Kosovo Police (KP) acquired biometric information capture equipment, which will contribute to the ability of authorities to process cross-border traffic and identify and locate individuals of interest in Kosovo.
The KP Counterterrorism Unit (CTU) shed some of its personnel and responsibilities and was renamed the Department of Counterterrorism (DCT). The DCT was operational on an intelligence-gathering level, but needs to develop a cooperative relationship with relevant government agencies and the religious communities.
The security and political situation in northern Kosovo limited the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that area, where the NATO-led international security presence known as Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) bear responsibilities for contributing to a safe and secure environment and strengthening rule of law, including at the borders, respectively.
Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia had no direct co-operation on counterterrorism issues, as Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent, sovereign country, although EULEX played an intermediary role on some law enforcement co-operation matters, according to the US state department report.
The fovernment of Serbia sustained its efforts to counter international terrorism, the report said. Serbia’s law enforcement and security agencies, particularly the finance ministry’s Customs Administration, the interior ministry’s Directorate of Police, and the Security Information Agency, continued close counterterrorism co-operation with the United States. Intra-governmental co-operation between these and other agencies also improved, the report said.
Serbia has two main police organisations that operate as counterterrorism tactical response units, the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Counterterrorist Unit. Serbian and US law enforcement and intelligence agencies also had close counterterrorism collaboration. Serbia participated in US government-funded counterterrorism training.
Harmonisation of law enforcement protocols with European Union (EU) standards was a priority for the Serbian government, the report said.
Domestic and transnational terrorist groups have targeted Turkish nationals and foreigners in Turkey, including, on occasion, US government personnel, for more than 40 years, the report said. Most prominent among terrorist groups in Turkey is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Composed primarily of ethnic Kurds with a nationalist agenda, the PKK operates from areas in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq and targets mainly Turkish security forces.
Other prominent terrorist groups in Turkey include the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a militant Marxist-Leninist group with anti-US and anti-Nato views that seeks the violent overthrow of the Turkish state, and Turkish Hizballah (unrelated to the group similarly-named Hizballah operating in Lebanon). Public sources also highlight detentions of Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) members as well as supporters for al-Qa’ida (AQ) and other groups. The Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, though largely inactive, was still considered a potential threat by the Turkish government, the report said.
(Photo: Nelson Syozi/sxc.hu)