US State Department’s ‘Country Report on Terrorism 2016’: Key takeaways

The US State Department recently released the ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2016’ which sheds light on the terror threat in South Asian region. It also added inputs on counterterrorism efforts being made by regional players, including India. Indian government sources told The Indian Express that the segments on South and Central Asia “vindicate India’s longstanding position on the menace of cross-border terrorism in our region”.

The annual report identified Pakistan as one of the “terrorist safe havens” which failed to take sufficient action against “externally focused groups” like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2016. The report also reaffirmed India and US’s commitment in dealing with terror groups including al-Qa’ida (AQ), ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), and D-Company.

“Counterterrorism cooperation between India and the United States continued to increase in 2016, with both sides committing to deepen bilateral engagement against the full spectrum of terrorism threats,” the report stated, adding US and Indian officials exchanged terrorist threat information through intelligence and law enforcement channels in 2016.

“US Department of Justice officials worked with Indian interlocutors – including at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) – to enhance capacity for addressing use of the internet for terrorist purposes and to assist Indian investigations in terrorism-related cases,” reveals the document.

The report also mentioned the joint efforts by US and India to designate JeM leader Maulana Masood Azhar, “although the listing was blocked in the UN 1267 Committee.” Azhar has been charged for plotting the Pathankot attack which has been listed as a “terror incident” in the report. Apart from backing India on the international platform, the US also extended its support to counter IED threats in India along with making joint efforts towards combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

While India is not a part of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the report took into account the arrest of 68 ISIS supporters. “In October, the Ministry of Home Affairs appointed a Senior Advisor to Curb Online Radicalisation,” it notes.

Terror incidents
In a section titled terrorist incidents, the US Department listed out the number of terror attacks that took place in India in 2016. Starting with the Pathankot incident in January 2016, the report goes on to mention attacks in Pampore, Kokrajhar, Uri, Baramulla and Nagrota. At least 58 people were killed in these incidents, out of which at least 43 were security personnel.

The report also observed that India made no major changes to its counterterrorism laws in 2016. However, in July, a Mumbai court sentenced “Indian Mujahideen/LeT affiliate and accused 2008 Mumbai attack conspirator Zabiuddin Ansari (aka Abu Jundal) to life imprisonment for his involvement in a 2006 criminal case….. In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned radical cleric Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation as “an unlawful organisation.”

Terror financing
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move too finds a mention in the report. “In November, PM Modi announced the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes and asserted that one purpose of this initiative was to curb terrorist activity funded by counterfeit notes, black money, and stockpiled cash reserves.”

The US State Department, however, notes that though India has aligned its domestic anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws with international standards, “it has yet to implement the legislation effectively, especially with regard to criminal convictions.” It says that law enforcement agencies initiate criminal investigations “reactively and seldom initiate proactive analysis and long-term investigations.”

“The reporting of terrorism-related STRs has shown an increasing trend in recent years, with FIU-IND receiving 112,527 STRs between July 2015 and May 2016,” the report added.

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