The List: The Worst Places to Be a Terrorist
Fighting transnational terrorism often involves making unsavory choices between protecting civil rights and providing security. The following regimes have opted for the latter and are definitely not the kind of places you want to get caught if you’re plotting some terrorist mayhem.
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Key tactics: Though many Americans view them as softies when it comes to the war on terror, the French actually have some of the worlds toughest and arguably most effective antiterrorism laws. In France, terrorist investigations are overseen by a special unit of magistrates with unprecedented powers to monitor suspects, enlist the help of other branches of law enforcement, and detain suspects for days without charges. Additionally, prosecutors have a mandate to pursue terrorists abroad if the suspect or victim is French. France is also not shy about deporting Muslim clerics it views as threatening. It shouldnt be surprising that French law enforcement is well set up for counterterrorism: France was the first European country to fall victim to Middle Eastern terrorism during the Algerian war in the 1950s.
In action: France has not had a terrorist attack on its soil since 9/11, but it claims to have foiled several, including a chemical attack planned by Chechen operatives against Russian targets in Paris, a planned bombing of one of Pariss airports, and a 9/11-like airline plot against the Eiffel Tower.
Concerns: French civil libertarians have raised concerns about detentions that, in some cases, can last for years without trials. Allegations of police brutality are also common in Frances predominantly Muslim suburbs.
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Key tactics: Since the November 2005 hotel bombings carried out by al Qaeda in Amman, Jordans King Abdullah II has made it a priority to stop the infiltration of terrorists from neighboring Iraq and Syria. Jordans intelligence service, the General Intelligence Department, has exploited close ties with Sunni tribes in Iraqs Anbar province to provide its U.S. and Israeli counterparts with valuable intelligence about the structure and financing on terrorist organizations. Jordan also takes pride in the prowess of its Special Forces units and has opened a special operations training center to teach counterterrorism tactics to elite military units from around the world.
In action: Its widely suspected that Jordanian spies tipped off the U.S. military to the location of al Qaeda in Iraqs Jordanian-born leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leading to the U.S.-Iraqi military raid that killed him.
Concerns: Jordan has been criticized by human rights groups for its alleged participation in the rendition of U.S. terrorist suspects for torture.
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Key tactics: No less an authority than al Qaedas No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri recently said of Egypts State Security, They know more about the Islamic movements than many of those movements members know about them. Zawahiris followers have good reason to worry. After a wave of terrorist attacks and political victories for the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1990s, Hosni Mubaraks government opted for a strategy of ruthless repression in combating the threat from terrorism and political Islam. The states strategy is to inhibit the Brotherhood from participating in the political process while carrying out wide-ranging arrests of militants and routinely using torture on prisoners.
In action: During the 1990s, the Egyptian regime essentially eliminated the domestic threat of groups such as the Islamic Group and Zawahiris Egyptian Islamic Jihad, largely by attacking their bases of operations and blocking their ability to transform into legitimate political movements. Overreaches by the groups themselves contributed greatly to their downfall.
Concerns: Human Rights Watch has complained that the Egyptian regimes liberal use of torture simply leads prisoners to confess to crimes real or imagined. Analysts also question the strategy of repressing the Brotherhood, which they say only strengthens the groups appeal.
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Key tactics: Singapore, which is 15 percent Muslim, has had enormous success in combating regional terrorist groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah through a combination of tough Special Forces tactics and savvy rehabilitation programs. After 9/11, the island country strengthened its crackdown on terrorist funding, and it recently passed legislation giving the Army wide-ranging powers to pursue terrorists domestically. But Singapores approach goes beyond enforcement. Since 2003, a landmark government program has aimed to rehabilitate arrested militants. The state employs volunteer clerics who counsel detainees and rebut extremist arguments. The United States has studied the approach as a possible alternative to indefinite detention.
In action: A major operation in 2001 resulted in the arrest of 15 Jemaah Islamiyah operatives who were planning terrorist attacks within Singapore. Around 70 people have been detained since then, and about one third have been released after rehabilitation. Police continue monitoring those who are released.
Concerns: Democracy activists argue that the Singaporean government plays up the terrorist threat to justify its authoritarianism. The police also suffered a major embarrassment in February when a Jemaah Islamiyah militant escaped through the bathroom window of a detention center.
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Key tactics: In 1999, Boris Yeltsin elevated an obscure midlevel politician named Vladimir Putin to the rank of prime minister and entrusted him with putting down a raging insurgency in the breakaway region of Chechnya. Ever since, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism have been the hallmarks of Putins tenure, and he has largely built his popularity around his success in these areas. Russia has carried out a ruthless campaign of military suppression in Chechnya, and when it hasnt been attacking militants, it has joined with them by elevating former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov to the presidency of the now largely peaceful region. Russian security forces were also willing to put down terrorist sieges by force even at the expense of high civilian casualties.
In action: After Chechen rebels took a Moscow theater hostage in 2002, Russian Special Forces pumped an unknown gas into the theaters ventilation system and then stormed the building, killing nearly all the hostage-takers along with hundreds of hostages.
Concerns: Though Russia has largely succeeded in pacifying Chechnya, the neighboring regions of Dagestan and North Ossetia remain havens for militant groups. The government was widely criticized for the secrecy surrounding the Nord-Ost and Beslan school operations and the high number of hostages killed during the rescues.