Bulgaria, US Retained Good Level of Counter-Terrorism Cooperation in 2015

World | June 3, 2016, Friday // 12:18|  views

Officers from Bulgaria's specialised anti-terrorist unit at the airport in Sofia. Photo: BGNES

In its annual country reports on terrorism released on Thursday, the US Department of State notes that throughout last year Bulgaria continued to deport people it considers threats to national security and increased extradition of suspected foreign terrorist fighters.

According to the report, the country has worked to improve its terrorism prevention and enforcement tools by criminalising foreign terrorist fighters, devising a new counter-terrorism strategy, enhancing the operations of its national counter-terrorism centre and planning to draft comprehensive legislation on measures against terrorism.

Bulgaria and the USA have strengthened bilateral cooperation in the area by launching new bilateral counter-terrorism working group.

The group, which is co-chaired by one of Bulgaria's deputy interior ministers, includes representatives of various Bulgarian agencies and information services, including the foreign ministry's counter-terrorism coordinator.

The reports adds that as member of the global coalition against Islamic State (IS) Bulgaria has repeatedly responded to requests for assistance. In March, the defence ministry provided arms and munitions to the Peshmerga, the military units of the Iraqi Kurds.

Last year, the parliament adopted amendments to the Penal Code allowing for the prosecution of individuals, including foreign terrorist fighters, who support, plan and facilitate terrorist attacks in Bulgaria and abroad.

The US state department notes that the focus of specialised counter-terrorist units has been primarily on Sofia, with lack of resources reported in other regional centres.

The report reminds that in July last year, the specialised court and prosecutor's office were granted jurisdiction to prosecute and try all terrorist cases in the country, but the court personnel are not experienced in handling these cases.

After last year's November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Bulgaria heightened its border control and screened all people passing through border checkpoints.

The cooperation between Bulgarian and US law enforcement agencies has been historically strong, but consecutive structural changes and reorganisation of key police units has slowed down joint casework.

The USA continued to work closely on variety of counter-terrorism programmes aimed at enhancing Bulgaria's capacity and capability in the field.

In partnership with Bulgaria, the US state department implemented key programmes in the areas of border security, aviation security and inter-agency cooperation.

In October and December, Bulgarian legal and investigative experts participated in workshops on countering the terrorist and criminal activities of Hezbollah.

Bulgaria did not freeze, seize or forfeit any terrorism-related assets last year, but identified some funds as potentially related to terrorism with further investigation ongoing.

At the end of last year, the Bulgarian government approved a new government strategy and action plan on countering radicaliation to violence and terrorism.

Read the full report here.


Tags: Bulgaria, USA, Department of State, terrorism, IS, terrorist attacks, border

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