The Azerbaijani Experience in Combating Terrorism – Altay Zahidov

Posted by

The Republic of Azerbaijan, a Moslem country in the South Caucasus dedicated to democracy and democratic principles, is one of America’s allies as part of the coalition forces in Iraq. It also has a strong and successful anti-terrorism program which is closely coordinated with that of the United States.
Nine hundred and eleven days passed between the tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the train station blasts in Madrid. “Euro-911” is how journalists of many world countries described the Madrid attack. Several days after the attack, a press conference was held in the Intemational Press Center in the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, featuring a U.S. delega-tion led by General Charles Wald, Vice Commander-U.S. Forces in Europe. General Wald specifically pointed out that Washington highly appreciates the active and fruitful cooperation of Azerbaijan with the USA in combating interna-tional terrorism. In fact, the U.S. State Department’s Anmıal Report on Patterns of Global Terrorism stated: “Since September 11, 2001, Azerbaijan has added to an already strong record of cooperation with the United States.” The State Department also noted that Azerbaijan has also been a target of international terrorism. Terrorists targeted the country for transit of individuals, sup-plies, and fmancial assets. Azeri law enforcement agencies, however, have largely eliminated these activities. Azerbaijan is a signatory to about 12 international protocols and conventions addressing combat with international terrorism.
Beginning with the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in February 1988, there have been numerous attacks aimed mainly at the Azeri trans-portation system. When Armenia attempted to annex the Azerbaijan territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, over 373 separate Armenian terrorist acts were recorded, including attacks on buses, passenger trains, bridges, and other targets, mostly in the Nagorno-Karabakh legkm. Armenian ter-rorists have killed over 1500 cıvilians and wound-ed an equivalent number. As early as 1989, the French press reported the infihration of Lebanon-trained Armenian terrorist* into the Southern Caucasus, foreboding a grim future for the region. Current terrorist activity is isolated to the Nagomo-Karabach region that remaiıs a considerable con-cern, particularly as terromı training camps are known to be active there.
Azerbaijan has not experienced any serious terror-ist attacks since the mid-1990s. Moreover, there have been no embassy wanungs or citizen evacua-tions. Azerbaijan anti-terronsm programs desene great credit as its geographical location would seemingly make it an inviting terrorist target, being surrounded by Iran, Armenıa. Georgia, and Russia.
Close cooperation between Azeri and American anti-terrorist agencies dates back into the nineties. a period marked by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The strongest evidence of this cooperation surfaced in 1998, after ıhe terrorist attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In the wake of these attacks, Azeri Special Forces dis-covered, and turned over to U.S. colleagues, an entire Al Qaeda network found to be operating in Azerbaijan. President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright directed letters of grat-itude to the President of Azerbaijan. This informa-tion was classifıed until after the events of 9/11, when the nature of the cooperation between the two countries appeared in the American and the Azeri press.
The two coımtries continue to work together and have attained such successes as the arrest of a Sudanese terrorist in Germany, a Libyan in Holland, an Egyptian in Great Britain, and another Egyptian terrorist in the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, Azerbaijani special forces have captured and handed back to their respective govern-ments nine suspected Saudi terrorists, two Sudanese, an Algerian, and a Georgian terrorist. It has recently come to light that the Azeri special forces have captured and extradited seven mem-bers of Al Qaeda, as well as depörted members of associated splinter groups such as the Islamic Army of the Caucasus and Al Jamaa Al Islamiyah, to their respective, native countries, ;
Since 9/11, six charity funds in Azerbaijan have been identifıed as terrorist fronts and have been closed down. Twenty-two members of these organizations have been expelled from Azerbaijan and remanded to government authorities in thek native countries. Regrettably, terrorist activities are perpetrated include not only by foreign nation-als, but also by native Azerbaijanis as well. Within the past two years, charges have been brought against 45 citizens of Azerbaijan, trained in Chechen camps within the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia. Fourteen members of the Jeyshullah international terrorist organization were arrested as they planned the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Baku. In 2001, six terrorists were arrested who were associated with a cell of the terrorist group Khizb-ut-Takhrir. This group is ‘focused on top-pling the governments of the Newly Independent States that are largely Moslem.
Azerbaijan comprehends clearly the horrors öf international terrorism and the instability that will result should terrorist forces gain control of any country. Azerbaijani resolve in fighting interna-tional terrorism, in solidarity with America and the international community, is not an expression of modern political fashion, but a deliberate, dedicat-ed choice. Victory over this clandestine foe remains frustratingly elusive and a long-term objective. Azerbaijan is committed, with the other peace-loving countries of the world, to defeating internätional terrorism.