This report provides the Department of State’s annual, statutorily mandated assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that transpired in 2015. … more.
MACEDONIA (Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 )
Overview: Macedonia recognizes the threat of global terrorism and is a solid U.S. counter-terrorism ally. In 2015, Macedonia’s major counter-terrorism efforts included a counter-terrorism operation that resulted in the indictment of 37 and the arrest of 13 individuals under the recently-passed law on foreign terrorist fighters. Dozens of Macedonian citizens have traveled to the Middle East as foreign terrorist fighters, although there are indications that the recent arrests have had a deterrent effect.
Macedonia has shown a strong commitment to the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Macedonia is a member of the foreign terrorist fighter working group within the Coalition, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski attended the White House’s Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism in September in New York.
2015 Terrorist Incidents: On April 21 an armed group of approximately 40 people seized weapons, ammunition, and radio communication supplies from a border police station in Goshince near the border with Kosovo. On May 9-10, the Macedonian police authorities carried out a police action in Kumanovo, ostensibly to recover the stolen equipment. This action resulted in the deaths of eight Macedonian police officers and 10 members of the armed group. Although the motives of the armed group remain unclear, the Public Prosecutor’s Office classified the incident as an act of terrorism and charged three suspects with leading a terrorist organization and 26 with participating in a terrorist organization.
In addition, there were several minor incidents that could be classified as terrorist acts:
- On February 18, unknown perpetrators placed an IED at a government building housing the main court on February 18. The device failed to detonate properly and caused minimal property damage.
- Small explosions caused minor property damage next to the Macedonian government headquarters building in Skopje (April), near ethnic Albanian political party DUI’s headquarters in Tetovo (May), in a parking garage in Kumanovo (July), at the Skopje City Police Station (July), and in a residential neighborhood of Skopje (October). The police have not identified suspects for any of these incidents, which remained under investigation at the end of 2015. In a letter released to the media signed by “Commander Kushtrimi,” the National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the April explosion that occurred outside of the Macedonian government headquarters building in Skopje.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Macedonia’s criminal code, criminal procedure code, and law on prevention of money laundering and terrorism finance contain comprehensive counter-terrorism provisions. Domestic and international acts of terrorism are proscribed, and in September 2014, the country’s counter-terrorism law was modified to include a provision criminalizing participation as a foreign terrorist fighter. During an August 6 operation, dubbed “Operation Cell,” the Ministry of Interior (MOI) carried out simultaneous search warrants at 26 sites in five municipalities and arrested nine individuals, charging them under the revised counter-terrorism laws. Authorities arrested additional individuals in later months, bringing the total number arrested under the operation to 13.
Macedonia participated in capacity-building programs to strengthen criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law, which included 12 training sessions on strategic planning, leadership, and management skills for the MOI Public Security Bureau. The United States donated 20 computers to the police to be used in support of the Criminal Intelligence Analysis Sector; trained 163 students about the principles of Intelligence-Led Policing; delivered two crime analysis training classes; sponsored multiple events promoting more effective relationships between the Balkans national law enforcement agencies; provided 14 customs- and border control-related training events for 140 government officials as well as equipment valued at more than US $148,000, including surveillance, inspection, and detection equipment. The Department of State supported Macedonian participation in a variety of bilateral and regional training’s for law enforcement officials, investigators, prosecutors, and judges to increase capacity to address foreign terrorist fighter-related cases and threats.
Macedonia’s security sector is equipped and disposed to deal effectively with terrorism within its borders. The police action in Kumanovo revealed command and control, tactical, casualty care, and messaging as areas for improvement. Primary responsibility for detecting and investigating terrorism falls to the Department for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK) within the MOI. Interdiction and arrest capabilities lie primarily with the Special Units, namely the Rapid Deployment Unit and the Special Task Unit, also within the MOI. The “Alpha” units of the Skopje Police Department (also MOI) respond to kinetic activity within Skopje (approximately half of Macedonia’s citizens live in Skopje); however, this unit is also deployed outside of Skopje.
Macedonia is taking steps to improve its counter-terrorism-related law enforcement capacity. It recently nominated a counter-terrorism coordinator who is responsible for developing a counter-terrorism action plan. Additionally, the government is establishing an inter agency coordination body that will address counter-terrorism issues.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. MONEYVAL completed its fourth evaluation of Macedonia and issued recommendations for improving its terrorism financing laws. In line with MONEYVAL’s recommendations, the government submitted to Parliament draft amendments to the Criminal Code’s terrorism and terrorism financing laws, which underwent a second reading in Parliament on December 10, and were pending final adoption at year’s end. In 2015, the Macedonian financial intelligence unit received 15 suspicious transaction reports for terrorism financing, which were adequately processed and were under investigation. In 2015, there were no criminal charges for terrorism financing.
Banks and money-transfer agents were well regulated and supervised and there were no indications that they were used for terrorism-financing activities. Banks do not allow opening of anonymous bank accounts, and bearer shares are not permitted. All financial institutions in the country have programs in place that comply with anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations. Exchange offices and money transfer agents who operate outside of the banking sector as well as other reporting entities such as notaries, lawyers, and casinos need further improvements in their AML/CFT programs, practices, and training.
An overly-complicated confiscation regime that remains conviction-based hindered effective freezing and confiscation of terrorist assets. Macedonia has an agency for the management of seized and forfeited assets, but the agency has limited capacity and requires additional training.
With the latest changes to the AML/CFT law from September 2014, non-profit organizations were taken out of the list of obliged reporting entities. Previously, when they were on the list, none of them had filed reports on suspicious transactions. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Macedonia has appointed a national coordinator to focus on CVE. Existing ethnic and religious tensions between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians complicated effective CVE programming. There were no significant efforts by the government to create strategic communication or counter narratives, and there were no programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society. Macedonia participated in regional and international discussions on these issues, and the government has a good understanding of the issue. Both the United States and OSCE coordinated efforts in 2015 to start CVE programs in Macedonia. The Islamic Community of Macedonia has spoken out against radicalization and violent extremism.
Regional and Internal Cooperation: Macedonia is an enthusiastic partner both regionally and internationally on counter-terrorism, although Greece’s unwillingness to recognize Macedonia’s name sometimes limits Macedonia’s ability to fully participate in multilateral fora. Macedonia is a NATO- and EU-candidate country; disagreements over the constitutional name of the country have prohibited its entry. On December 30, 2014, Kosovo’s and Macedonia’s state prosecutors signed a memorandum of understanding in Pristina to coordinate activities against transnational organized crime and terrorism. In January, Macedonia and Kosovo formally opened a Common Center for Police Cooperation, located at the Blace/Hani I Elezit border crossing point, which serves as an information-sharing center and will manage the flow of information and intelligence between the respective police agencies. In April, the Public Prosecutors of Macedonia and Bulgaria signed a cooperation agreement that will allow them to work together better to counter organized crime, corruption, human trafficking, and illegal trade of weapons and narcotics.
Macedonia is a member of the OSCE and hosted an OSCE-implemented workshop for criminal justice that focused on several of the good practices showcased in the GCTF’s Rabat Memorandum Good Practices for Effective Counter-terrorism Practices in the Criminal Justice Sector.