Overview: Albania was a strong supporter of counterterrorism efforts in 2016 and continued its participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, making significant donations of weapons and ammunition.
On November 4 and 5, a well-coordinated regional counterterrorism operation led to the arrests of four individuals in Albania. The operation disrupted a potential attack on the Albania-Israel World Cup qualifying soccer match, scheduled to take place in Shkoder on November 12. The individuals were charged with supporting ISIS financially and logistically, recruiting people on behalf of ISIS, and promoting hate speech.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts; financing of terrorism; collection, transfer and concealment of funds that finance terrorism; conducting transactions with persons on the United Nations (UN) sanctions lists; recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts; incitement of terrorist acts; and establishing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations. In 2016, nine defendants were found guilty of charges related to these statutes and sentenced to seven to 18 years in prison. An appeals court in November decreased the sentences for five of the defendants, and prison terms now range from four-and-a-half to 18 years.
Albanian law enforcement has increased efforts to counter potential terrorist threats. The recently expanded Albanian State Police Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ's) International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) to identify requirements for equipment and training. As a result, the ATU has developed its own plans and programs for improving equipment, training, and development, and is currently renovating a new ATU facility. Through the Department of State Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, the ATU participated in training on interviewing terrorism suspects. Despite the scarcity of resources, the ATU also participated in several successful interdictions of known or suspected terrorists.
In cooperation with the European Union and with funding from the Department of State, ICITAP provided equipment and training to the Albanian government to build capacity to collect fingerprint data at all border crossing points. The information can be checked against a national database for wanted individuals in real time. This initiative has improved Albania's ability to collect biometric data on selected individuals at border crossings.
DOJ's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program (OPDAT), funded by the Department of State, continued to provide mentorship, assistance, and training to prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts, and judges from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia, who work on foreign terrorist fighter and terrorism-related cases through its Balkan Regional Counterterrorism program located in Tirana.
Corruption combined with a poorly functioning judicial system continued to hinder Albania's law enforcement efforts at all levels.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania 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 (FATF)-style regional body. The General Directorate for the Prevention on Money Laundering, Albania's financial intelligence unit, is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
Since June 2012, Albania has been working with the FATF and MONEYVAL to address identified weaknesses in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. As a result, Albania has made major improvements to its legal framework for identifying, tracing, and freezing terrorist assets; enhanced international co-operation; extended customer due diligence; and required the filing of suspicious transaction reports and currency transaction reports.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2017 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: In 2015, the Government of Albania drafted and adopted a national strategy to counter violent extremism. In 2016, the Government of Albania appointed a National Coordinator for Countering Violent Extremism, who is charged with overseeing the implementation of the national strategy. The Government of Albania co-hosted a regional table top exercise in September 2016 with the Partnership for Peace Consortium Counter Terrorism Working Group and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The event brought together regional partners for two days of workshops and collaboration on addressing radicalization to violence and foreign terrorist fighter recruitment. The Government of Albania co-hosted an event in New York, "Countering Violent Extremism through Education," to promote the role that education has in fostering tolerance and inclusion among youth. The Government of Albania developed a pilot program to train teachers to implement a curriculum on religious tolerance in schools.
International and Regional Cooperation: Albania is a member of the UN, the OSCE, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Regional Cooperation Council, the Council of Europe, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Albanian criminal justice actors participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other counterterrorism information sharing exchanges.