US Government Global Terrorism Report Card

May 31, 2013

Editor’s Note:

The “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012″ was published this week by the U.S. State Department. The annual report, mandated by the U.S. Congress, provides an assessment of trends in international terrorism that occurred between January 1 and December 31, 2012. It is described by the State Department as consisting of: a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorism safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.

The complete “Country Reports on Terrorism 2012″ publication is available online [Link Here]. Today we provide, below, for your consideration the country report for Saudi Arabia and the Middle East/North Africa overview. These are followed by a large collection of links to SUSRIS and related materials addressing counterterrorism and the Saudi-US cooperation in the shared battle. President Obama commented on the international coordination at work last week in a major address on counterterrorism in which he said:

“Much of our best counterterrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence, the arrest and prosecution of terrorists.. ..That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic. These partnerships work.”


Country Reports on Terrorism 2012
May 2013
US Department of State, Bureau of Counterterrorism


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Overview: During 2012, the Government of Saudi Arabia continued its long-term counterterrorism strategy to track and halt the activities of terrorists and terrorist financiers, dismantle the physical presence of al-Qa’ida, and impede the ability of militants to operate from or within the Kingdom. As part of this strategy, Saudi authorities also continued public trials of individuals suspected of engaging in or supporting terrorism. In August, Saudi authorities announced they had discovered and partially rounded up two separate terrorist cells (one in Riyadh and the other in Jeddah) affiliated with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP continued to be the Kingdom’s primary terrorist threat, and efforts to counter this threat were hampered by the ongoing instability in Yemen. Throughout the year, AQAP noticeably stepped up its efforts to inspire sympathizers throughout Saudi Arabia in an effort to compensate for difficulties in carrying out cross-border attacks. Saudi Arabia continued to maintain a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens within Saudi territories and beyond.

2012 Terrorist Incidents: Beyond the two disrupted terrorist cells in August, there were at least two incidents involving suspected terrorists along the Saudi-Yemeni border. On October 14, Saudi security forces in Jizan province killed two Yemeni nationals who attempted to pass a checkpoint with explosives and four suicide vests for use in “imminent attacks against vital targets,” according to an official statement. On November 5, 11 former prisoners, who recently had been released after having served their sentences for terrorism-related offenses, attacked and killed two Saudi border guards who attempted to stop the former prisoners from crossing into Yemen near Sharurah in Najran province. The group, composed of 10 Saudis and one Yemeni, was subsequently arrested.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Saudi Arabia continued its efforts to track, arrest, and prosecute terrorists within the Kingdom. The Ministry of Interior continued to improve border security measures, including the ongoing installation of biometric scanners at entry points throughout the Kingdom; aerial reconnaissance drones to patrol remote areas; thermal imaging systems; and motion detectors and electronic-sensor fencing along the borders with Iraq, Yemen, and Jordan.

Neighborhood police units engaged and worked directly with community members, encouraging citizens to provide tips and information about potential terrorist activity. The Saudi government offered rewards for information on suspected terrorists, and there were multiple announcements throughout the year of arrests of AQAP militants and supporters.

As part of the Saudi government’s move to bring to trial groups and individuals suspected of terrorism, judicial actions included:

On April 4, the Specialized Criminal Court began the public trial of a group dubbed the ”Cell of 55″ (composed of 54 Saudis and one Yemeni), which was allegedly responsible for the 2004 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. The trial was ongoing at year’s end.

The trial of 11 Saudis linked to the May 2004 attack on a refinery in Yanbu, in which two American citizens were killed, continued during the year.

On June 26, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced one member of the 11-person ”Khafji cell” to 15 years in prison followed by a 15-year travel ban; the man was found guilty of supporting terrorism through money laundering and other crimes, such as possessing unlicensed fire arms.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Saudi Arabia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Bulk cash smuggling from individual donors and charities has reportedly provided financing to violent extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years. With the advent of tighter bank regulations, funds are reportedly collected and illicitly transferred in cash, often via pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah. The Saudi government has attempted to consolidate charitable campaigns under Ministry of Interior supervision. The Saudi Arabian Financial Intelligence Unit, or SAFIU, is a member of the Egmont Group. The Saudi government continued to provide special training programs for bankers, prosecutors, judges, customs officers, and other officials from government departments and agencies as part of its efforts to maintain financial controls designed to counter terrorist financing. Despite serious and effective efforts to counter the funding of terrorism originating from within its borders, entities in Saudi Arabia continue to serve as an important source of cash flowing to violent Sunni extremist groups. Saudi officials acknowledged difficulty in following the money trail with regard to illicit finance due to the preference for cash transactions in the country. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. It is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and has been a member of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative since 2008. Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which itself is a member of the FATF. Saudi government officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and the Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from combating violent extremist ideology to countering terrorist financing.

Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals regularly participated in joint programs around the world, including in Europe and the United States. In addition to Saudi Arabia’s bilateral cooperation with the United States, Saudi security officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct missions and exchange information. Throughout the year, Saudi Arabia concluded security-related bilateral agreements (including counterterrorism and anti-money laundering cooperation) with a number of countries, including Albania, Belarus, Bermuda, Comoros, Indonesia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, San Marino, and Singapore. In November, Saudi Arabia, along with the other five GCC member states, concluded a GCC-wide security agreement including counterterrorism cooperation. In April, the Kingdom ratified the Arab Agreement on Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Financing. In June, Saudi Arabia extradited Indian national Abu Jundal (also known as Zabiuddin Sayed Zakiuddin Ansari) to India to stand trial for his alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Saudi government focused on: increasing public awareness campaigns; and conducting outreach, counter-radicalization, and rehabilitation programs. Some of these efforts involved seminars that refuted violent Islamist extremist interpretation and ideology. Public awareness campaigns aimed to raise awareness among Saudi citizens about the dangers of violent extremism and terrorism. Methods used included advertisements and programs on television, in schools and mosques, and at sporting
events. The government also issued statements condemning terrorists and denouncing terrorist attacks across the world, including the September attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue), as well as its extensive prison rehabilitation program to reduce recidivism among former inmates. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to re-educate imams, prohibiting them from incitement to violence, and monitored mosques and religious education. The Saudi government also continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks used in religious training. We refer you to the Department of State’s Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom ( for further information.


The Near East region continued to experience significant levels of terrorist activity in 2012, further complicated by ongoing regional instability across portions of North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qa’ida was not a part of the popular uprisings that led to democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa, but violent extremists looked for opportunities to exploit the political transitions underway.

In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya’s nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. AQI also took advantage of a significantly depleted security situation in Syria. Operating under its alias, al-Nusrah Front, the group sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition and attempted to hijack Syria’s struggle for democracy. The United States designated al-Nusra as an alias of AQI in December 2012.

Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against members of state security services within the Trans-Sahara region.

In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP had seized and occupied in 2011. Although weakened, AQAP was not eliminated as a threat. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees, and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.

In 2012, there was a clear resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, who remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. Attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East were linked to the IRGC-QF or Hizballah. In fact, Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Despite these persistent threats, governments across the region improved their own counterterrorism capabilities, effectively disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. The Iraqi government displayed increased capability and efficacy in pursuing multiple Sunni violent extremist groups. Though AQIM’s presence and activity in the Sahel and parts of the Maghreb remains worrisome, the group’s isolation in Algeria grew as Algeria increased its already substantial efforts to target it. And in 2012, Yemeni forces were successful in reducing the physical territory that AQAP had previously gained in Yemen as the result of political turmoil.

In Gaza, a sharp increase in the number of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Gazabased terrorist groups led Israel to launch Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. During the course of the eight-day operation, Israeli forces targeted more than 1,500 terrorist sites. Since the Egypt-brokered November 21 ceasefire, the United States has engaged with our Egyptian and Israeli counterparts to strengthen and sustain the peace, in keeping with the President’s pledge to Prime Minister Netanyahu to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. For instance, with U.S. encouragement, Egypt has increased its focus on border security and weapons interdictions. Israel has reciprocated by easing some of its economic sanctions on Gaza. The end result was a period of calm in Gaza. The United States is also in close contact with Egypt and Israel on enhancing security in the Sinai, where an August 5 terrorist attack against an Egyptian military outpost killed 16 soldiers.

Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates played an active role in the newly formed Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). At the December 2012 GCTF ministerial meeting, the Algiers Memorandum on Good Practices on Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists was adopted, and the UAE Foreign Minister announced the opening of Hedayah – the International Center of Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism in Abu Dhabi. At the June 2012 GCTF ministerial, Tunisia announced that it would host the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, to provide interested governments the necessary training to strengthen criminal justice and other rule of law institutions to counter terrorism.

Source: US State Department

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