Ambassador’s remarks at the Best Practices in Countering the FTF Threat

Prosecutor General Llalla, Minister Tahiri, Judge Kuntz, colleagues:

I wanted to start this morning by talking about what we know about concerning the attacks in Paris and whether foreign terrorist fighters from Syria, or those inspired by ISIS, may have been involved.

ISIS has publically taken responsibility for the attack that has killed 129 people with another 99 persons in critical condition.  ISIS said that the attack was in retaliation for the French role in the anti-ISIS coalition and for disrespecting the Prophet, presumably a reference to the Charlie Hebdo cartoon.

The French Government believes there may have been eight or more attackers working in three teams to carry out the assault.  One of attackers who died in the Bataclan concert hall, Ahmad al-Mohammad, carried a Syrian passport that had been registered by Greek authorities on October 3 and then later by Serbian and Croatian authorities as he passed through the Balkans.

A second attacker, Ismael Omar Mosefai, was a French national with a criminal record and a history of involvement in extremist Islamic ideology.  He is believed to have traveled to Turkey in 2012 and possibly also to Syria.

These details, if true, are troubling.  First, there has been a significant debate about whether the migration crisis in the Balkans, Germany, Austria may be connected with new security challenges for Europe.

Second, the participation of a French citizen and possibly three brothers resident in Belgium is a remainder that defending our countries from terrorism may not only involve identifying and prosecuting foreign threats.  As it becomes more difficult to travel to fight in Syria and Iraq, many extremists may be inspired by ISIS to commit acts of terrorism in their home countries without ever having fought in Syria or Iraq.  This poses a major challenge for police and prosecutors as, ideally, the extremists should be identified and prosecuted before committing acts of violence.

The 65-nation coalition to fight ISIS includes all of the Balkans:  Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.  As the threats made to Minister Tahiri over the weekend have shown, ISIS is focused on the commitment of Balkan states to fight ISIS.

In the region, thanks to the work of people in this room, there has been progress on the arrest and prosecution of foreign terrorist fighter suspects and supporters.  Bosnia has found five people guilty and has put another 13 on trial for recruiting, financing, and/or travelling to Syria in support of ISIS.  In Kosovo approximately 25 persons have pled guilty to charges related to recruiting, funding, or travelling to Syria to support ISIS.  In Macedonia, they recently arrested 11 persons on foreign fighter charges.  Nine people are now on trial in Albania facing foreign fighter charges.

The U.S. Department of State has sponsored this conference to bring some of our top experts to talk to you about best practices involving the complex interaction between police, prosecutors and judges in the fight against foreign fighters.

During a busy week when all of our governments are focused on this new emerging threat, let me thank you for showing your commitment to regional cooperation on investigating and prosecuting these foreign fighters that threaten the very fabric of our societies.