USDOS – US Department of State (Autor)
Overview: Kuwait is an important ally located in the critical Arabian Gulf region and a valued partner in promoting policies that strengthen regional security and stability. Kuwait is a key partner in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Kuwait hosted the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL’s Communications Conference on October 27, attended by delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and other partner countries. Discussions centered on how to combat ISIL and violent extremism in the region, degrade and defeat ISIL’s messaging, and confront and contest its presence in the information space. Over the reporting period, Kuwait showed a full commitment to countering the ISIL threat through its humanitarian and logistic contributions to coalition efforts. This included taking steps to reduce ISIL’s access to financing, cracking down on suspected ISIL supporters, and providing humanitarian assistance to displaced persons primarily from Syria, but also to displaced people in Iraq.
According to media reports, Kuwait implemented new security measures to prevent possible terrorist attacks on its soil. Deputy PM and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Khalid Al-Sabah announced a new security team of 80 officers to counter violent extremist threats. On December 5, media reported that state security forces had foiled a terrorist attack planned by an ISIL-affiliated terrorist cell of 12 persons, two of whom were former police officers. The Jahra-based cell had allegedly planned to carry out a number of bombings at civilian and government sites.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On December 14, a draft law was introduced in parliament criminalizing terrorism and stipulating harsh punishments for it. The legislator who introduced the bill explained that regional circumstances and terrorist threats to Kuwait necessitated a law specifically criminalizing terrorism. Terrorist acts are currently prosecuted under general provisions of the penal code.
In 2014, Kuwait security forces arrested several suspected members and sympathizers of ISIL. The Kuwait State Security (KSS) service reported it had received information that some of the defendants had gone to Syria and Iraq and had fought with, or contributed financially to, violent extremists. KSS also handed over an unidentified number of Saudi nationals, suspected of ISIL links, to the Saudi authorities. In December, media reports quoted a source within the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) as saying that approximately 10 employees were terminated when it was discovered they had travelled to either Iraq or Syria to participate in fighting.
On December 18, a criminal court jailed three Arab (non-Kuwaiti) supporters of ISIL. The court also sentenced a Kuwaiti to 10 years in jail for urging support of the terrorist group and also for insulting Kuwait’s ruler in public. An Egyptian and a Jordanian were handed four-year sentences for helping the Kuwaiti distribute pro-ISIL leaflets. It was the first such court ruling against supporters of ISIL. The courts were examining several similar cases at year’s end.
Law enforcement units had the capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents, but were often hindered by internal stove-piping. Kuwait’s primary counterterrorism organizations, the MOI and Kuwait National Guard (KNG), are well-resourced and have plentiful training opportunities. Under the auspices of the Joint and Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, the Embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation has heavily and consistently engaged with local counterterrorism units for both training and bilateral exercises in an effort to match capabilities with resources. Because MOI also includes the country’s criminal investigative apparatus and border protection mission, it has broad latitude with respect to investigations and border security. MOI is also generally considered to be the single point of contact for incident response; some terrorism-related matters fall under the prerogative of its semi-autonomous arm, KSS. Law enforcement units generally have a record of accountability.
On June 29, media reported that MOI had instructed its forces at border crossings to remain on high alert in anticipation of possible attacks by ISIL militants. The ministry instructed officers to intensify their security procedures at all borders after it received “confirmed information” that ISIL might try to enter Kuwait via land or sea ports.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kuwait is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. It took initial steps in 2014 to implement bylaws to Law 106 of 2013, which govern the criminalization of terrorist financing – including a requirement to report suspected terrorist financing that creates the legal basis to freeze terrorist assets without delay. In April, the Cabinet issued Ministerial Resolutions 4 and 5, mandating the establishment of a ministerial-level counterterrorism committee (CTC) and stipulating the creation of mechanisms to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373, including the freezing of assets. Kuwait froze accounts and banned travel for the five Kuwaiti individuals added to the UN al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee list in 2014. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established and chaired the CTC, on which 11 governmental bodies were represented. The CTC met regularly to execute Kuwait’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Counterterrorism Financing (CFT) obligations under UNSCRs and domestic regulations.
Additionally, Kuwait established the Kuwaiti Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU) in 2013. It named its first president in February and opened a temporary office and started to process limited types of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in June. By November, the KFIU was working and improving its capacity to receive and analyze STRs. It is not publicly known if any have resulted in investigations or criminal proceedings.
In July, Kuwait re-established a working-level National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. Chaired by the president of the KFIU, it consists of the 11 governmental bodies represented on the CTC.
Despite progress, vulnerabilities remain in Kuwait’s CFT regime. Though Kuwait regulates donations to and spending by licensed charities, unlicensed fundraisers are able to operate on social media and raise and send funds through other unofficial channels. The KFIU does not oversee many sectors of the economy, such as money transfer businesses, according to international standards.
The CTC currently disseminates additions to the lists via facsimile, as well as by note. Financial institutions electronically monitor the UN lists directly. The CTC plans to set up a website that will post both UN and domestic designations. Financial institutions will be required by regulators to check the online list for updates on a regular basis.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, KNG, and MOI conducted a number of exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks, including joint exercises with regional and international partners. Kuwait also cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism, for example, conducting joint training programs with the United States and working with governments to conduct missions and exchange information.
Kuwait held the GCC’s and Arab League’s rotating presidencies in 2014. During the reporting period, Kuwaiti officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League members. Kuwait was the only GCC member not to ratify the Gulf Security Pact.
Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: In 2014, Kuwait began issuing weekly circulars to all mosques with approved language for Friday sermons and instructions to avoid extremist or sectarian language. It began broadcasts of “Kuwait Youth Radio,” which included public service announcements promoting social cohesion and religious tolerance, and also announced formation of the Higher Commission for the Promotion of Moderation, the main goal of which was to counter violent extremist ideology through education.
Media reported that an agreement was reached in September between the MOI and the Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic endowments) and Islamic Affairs to form a joint committee to monitor Friday sermons to ensure imams were not addressing any political or sectarian issues. Over the reporting period, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs referred 16 imams for investigation and deported one Egyptian imam under the Mosques Charter, which prohibits promoting sectarianism, radicalization, and incitement.