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Cablegate: Azerbaijan: 2009 Country Reports On Terrorism

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKB #0965/01 3491314
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151314Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2163

UNCLAS BAKU 000965

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, S/CT (RHONDA SHORE)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL AJ IR
SUBJECT: AZERBAIJAN: 2009 COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM

REF: STATE 109980

Summary: Cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United
States on counterterrorism predates the September 11, 2001
attacks and the first waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM
Support Act in January 2002. For the last several years, the
GOAJ has increased its efforts to combat terrorist financing,
and has aggressively apprehended and tried members of
suspected terrorist groups. It has also closed organizations
operating in Azerbaijan that were suspected of supporting
terrorist groups, including some known to have directly
targeted U.S. interests. End Summary.

Proposed report for Azerbaijan in 2009 Patterns of Global
Terrorism Report to Congress.

Azerbaijan and the United States have a very good record of
cooperation on counterterrorism issues that predates the
September 11, 2001 attacks. Azerbaijan assisted in the
investigation of the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings and
has cooperated with the U.S. Embassy in Baku to counter
terrorist threats against the Mission. After the September 11
attacks, the Government of Azerbaijan expressed unqualified
support for the United States and offered invaluable
assistance to the U.S.-led counterterrorism coalition.
Azerbaijan has granted blanket overflight clearance, engaged
in information sharing and law-enforcement cooperation, and
has approved numerous landings and refueling operations at
Baku's civilian airport in support of U.S. and Coalition
military operations in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan supported
peacekeeping operations in Iraq from August 2003 to November
2008 with an infantry company of approximately 150 soldiers
stationed at the Haditha dam. Azerbaijan maintains 90
soldiers in Afghanistan and cooperates with the Coalition in
medical and social services and civilian capacity-building.
Azerbaijani forces also contributed for several years to
peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, serving alongside Turkish
units.

Azerbaijan has also provided unstinting political support to
the United States in the Global War on Terrorism. With its
2005 ratification of the International Convention for the
Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, Azerbaijan has
acceded to all 13 United Nations Conventions on Terrorism. It
has also joined 11 European conventions on combating
terrorism. In 2003, Azerbaijan implemented UN Security
Council resolutions 1368, 1373 and 1377. In May 2005, it
joined the Convention of the Council of Europe on terrorism
prevention. The government also approved changes to the
criminal code that increased the maximum penalty for acts of
terrorism from 15 years to life imprisonment and added a
provision making the financing of terrorist activities a
crime under Azerbaijani law.

While Azerbaijan is a logical route for terrorist
organizations seeking to move people, money, and materiel
through the Caucasus, the country actively opposes them.
Azerbaijan has stepped up its efforts and has had some
success in reducing their presence and hampering their
activities. In recent months, Azerbaijan has shown an
increasing level of seriousness and urgency in taking steps
to combat terrorist financing, and is proceeding with efforts
to implement its law on anti-money laundering (AML) and
counter-terrorism financing and establish a Financial
Investigative Unit (FIU). The Central Bank, which houses the
FIU, prepared an action plan in October 2009 to bring
Azerbaijan's AML/FIU into conformity with the standards of
the United Nations, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
and other international organizations and conventions, and
submitted the plan to MONEYVAL, the Council of Europe's
expert commission on money laundering and terrorist finance.
That institution, in turn, reviewed Azerbaijan's proposals in
December and agreed to withdraw its advisory (on
non-compliance) on Azerbaijan. MONEYVAL noted, however, that
issues and concerns on implementation remain, and that
Azerbaijan is expected to take legislative action this
spring. MONEYVAL's plenary session will further review
Azerbaijan's progress in March 2010. The FIU has requested
technical assistance from the USG to improve the legal
framework in the AML/CTF area, establish information systems,
build capacity for AML/CTF stakeholders, and develop a
mid-term strategy plan for the FIU. Azerbaijan continues to
identify possible terrorist-related funding by distributing
lists of suspected terrorist groups and individuals to local
banks.

Azerbaijan is located along drug transit routes running from
Afghanistan and Central Asia or Iran to Russia and Europe,
and trans-shipments of illegal substances from East to West
via its territory remain Azerbaijan's primary narcotics
issue. Domestic consumption and cultivation of narcotics as
well as seizures have continued to increase. The GOAJ
continues to refine its strategy to combat drug transit and
use in Azerbaijan, and is bolstering its ability to collect
and analyze drug-related intelligence. As a result, the GOAJ
is engaging in more productive investigations against
narcotics traffickers. Corruption remains a significant
problem in Azerbaijan, however, and permeates much of
society. The United States has funded counternarcotics
assistance to Azerbaijan through the FREEDOM Support Act
since 2002; Azerbaijan is party to the 1988 United Nations
Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances.

In 2007, the Ministry of National Security (MNS) rounded up
15 Azerbaijani citizens who were members of the "Mahdi Army
Group," a jihadist organization the government linked to the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On June 18, the Military Court of Grave Crimes sentenced
Lieutenant Kamran Asadov and 20 accomplices to prison terms
from two to 15 years for their participation in an abortive
plot to attack the United States and British embassies in
Baku in late 2007. Asadov and his confederates stole weapons
and ammunition from the army base where he was posted and
committed an armed robbery at a Lukoil gas station, probably
to finance their cell. The Ministry of National Security
(MNS) arrested the group members in October and early
November 2007. The investigation established connections
between Asadov and foreign Salafist extremists. According to
press reports, members of the group told the MNS that they
planned to attack the U.S. Embassy.

On October 4, a Baku court sentenced two Lebanese nationals -
Ali Muhammad Karaki and Ali Hussein Najmeddin - to 15 years
each, and sentenced four Azerbaijani accomplices to terms of
two to 14 years. The court found that the group was planning
attacks on the Israeli Embassy. The investigation revealed
links between Karaki and Hussein, Hizballah and supporters in
Iran.

In two separate trials in October, the Court of Grave Crimes
sentenced 15 Azerbaijani nationals to prison terms ranging
from six months to 30 months for participating in illegal
armed formations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the 11
cases where the accused received six months, they were
released, having already served that much time since their
arrests. Depending on the individual combinations of charges
proffered, each of the 15 defendants had been in jeopardy of
a sentence of up to five or seven years.

On November 4, a Baku court sentenced 26 people - 23
Azerbaijanis, two Turkish nationals and a Russian national -
to prison terms from 2 to 15 years for the August 17, 2008
attack on Baku's main Sunni mosque, known as Abu Bakr. The
grenade attack killed three people and wounded eight others.
The mosque has not reopened since the attack. The
Azerbaijani government linked the Abu Bakr Mosque attackers
to the "Forest Brothers" organization of the North Caucasus,
whose leader Ilgar Mollachiyev was killed in Dagestan in
September 2008.


There is no evidence in 2009 that terrorists find safe haven
in Azerbaijan or that there is any terrorist group operating
in Azerbaijan which meets the guidelines defined for this
report.


EMBASSY POINT OF CONTACT:

POLITICAL OFFICER PETER ANDREOLI
EMAIL: ANDREOLIPD@STATE.GOV
INTERNATIONAL LINE: 994124980335
TIE LINE: 841-4230
INTERNATIONAL FAX: 994124656671
TIE LINE FAX: 841-4289
LU

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