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A View to a Border: 2. Operational Challenges to Counter Terrorism in the context of Cross-border Cooperation

March 16, 2021 at 01:00:00 PM · London
About This Webinar

Operational challenges in the context of interagency cooperation and information sharing to counter terrorism and stem the flow of returning FTFs.

- Session 1: Case Study: Spain’s experience from M-11 to the 2017 Barcelona attacks
- Session 2: Interactive Dialogue
- Q & A

Spain suffered the most deadly terrorist attack in European history on March 11, 2004, when the blasts from ten bombs on four Madrid-bound commuter trains killed 191 people. Measures taken after the Madrid attacks included the adoption of the EU Directive on Advance Passenger Information (API), improvement of border control, judicial cooperation, and information exchange, as well as the appointment of an EU counter-terrorism coordinator. The Spanish-Moroccan cooperation and the exchange of information between the two neighboring countries were key elements during the investigation of the attacks that led to the prosecution and conviction of the Moroccan citizens involved in these terrorist acts.

More than fifteen years after those horrific events, Spain remains a target for terrorist organizations. Moreover, like other European countries, it is facing an increasing radicalization phenomenon that may lead to violent extremism and home-grown terrorism. In recent years, the Spanish government has largely focused on preventing attacks from the growing threat of extremism and the recruitment of would-be foreign terrorist fighters, who pose a security threat upon their return from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq or Libya. Between the 2004 Madrid train bombings and 2016, Spain arrested approximately 600 alleged terrorists. On August 17th and 18th 2017, Spain suffered two vehicular-ramming attacks in the tourist areas of Barcelona and Cambrils, that claimed 15 lives and injured more than 100 others.

The 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2017 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils were orchestrated primarily by Moroccan nationals that had been radicalized while living in Spain. Of the 21 Moroccans implicated in the devastating 11-M attacks, 19 had reportedly been radicalized in Spain. Similarly, eight of the 10 individuals that were part of the terrorist cell involved in the 2017 Barcelona and Cambrils attacks were Moroccan nationals that had been radicalized in Spain by Abdelbaki Essati, a local imam from the city of Ripoll and the mastermind of the attacks. Essati, who died in an explosion on the day before the vehicular attack in Barcelona, communicated with members of ISIS’s external operations wing.

Understanding, anticipating, and effectively addressing current and emerging terrorism and security threats are critically important but are also among the most challenging tasks of the law enforcement community. Terrorists and their affiliates often move across borders and regions in order to recruit, establish new cells and areas of influence, plan and organize attacks, avoid detection and arrest, finance their activities, and return to their countries of origin.

Timely access to critical information about identified or suspected terrorist activity is central to counter-terrorism efforts. The exchange of information and cross-border cooperation are critical tools for investigations into transnational crimes as well as for the identification of terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) (including returnees and relocators) as well as the organized criminal networks that facilitate their travel. Enhancing the sharing of operational information on terrorists and FTFs, including biometric data, assist in building situational awareness of travel routes and modus operandi so that coordinated measures for prevention and prosecution may be strategically implemented. However, information exchange and inter-agency cooperation, both within and between countries, while routinely touted as critical components of border security and management, have historically been difficult to achieve and remain significant challenges.

The objective of the webinar is to raise awareness of the need to address terrorist threats and cross-border challenges through effective information sharing within a regional approach. Furthermore, it will offer a platform to highlight the importance of inter-agency coordination and cooperation at the national, regional and interregional levels in the adoption and implementation of operational response measures within a rule of law framework to comply with the obligations set forth in the relevant international instruments (especially those on human rights, refugee and international humanitarian law) to enable Member States to better address the terror-crime nexus and effectively protect their borders against potential incursions by terrorists, traffickers and other transnational criminals. Finally, it will also enable representatives of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to discuss common issues and share identified good practices and lessons learned on the available tools and technological developments.


Opening Remarks: Mr. Rocco Messina, Head, UNCCT-BSM Unit

Keynote Speakers:
H.E. Amb. María Bassols Delgado, Deputy Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN
Mr. Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, United Nations ISIL-Al-Qaeda-Taliban Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

Session 1: Case Study: Spain’s experience from 11-M to the 2017 Barcelona attacks
- Dr. Fernando Reinares, Director, Violent Radicalization and Global Terrorism Programme at Elcano Royal Institute - Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University.

Session 2: Interactive Discussion:
- Mr. Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, United Nations ISIL-Al-Qaeda-Taliban Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.
- Dr. Fernando Reinares, Director, Violent Radicalization and Global Terrorism Programme at the Elcano Royal Institute - Adjunct Professor,Georgetown University
- Dr. Esther Zubiri, UNOCT-UNCCT Senior Expert

Who can view: Everyone
Webinar Price: Free
Featured Presenters
Webinar hosting presenter
Editor Border Security Report / World Security Report
Editor of Border Security Report and Director of the World Border Security Congress
Webinar hosting presenter
Coordinator, ISIL-Al-Qaeda-Taliban Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team
Edmund Fitton-Brown is a former British diplomat. He graduated from Cambridge University and joined the Foreign Service in 1984. His career included postings in Finland, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the United Arab Emirates; and culminated as Ambassador for Yemen. He joined the United Nations in 2017 as an Expert with the ISIL/Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team before taking over as Coordinator of the Team in January 2018. He speaks Arabic and is best known as a specialist in the Middle East, regional security and counter-terrorism. In his present position, he is based in New York and also functions as the UN’s principal authority on the global threat posed by ISIL and Al-Qaida.
Webinar hosting presenter
Director, Violent Radicalization and Global Terrorism Programme at the Elcano Royal Institute - Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
Fernando Reinares is director of the Program on Violent Radicalization and Global Terrorism at Elcano Royal Institute, and Professor of Political Science and Security Studies at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, both in Madrid. He is also Wilson Center Global Fellow and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC, as well as Associate Senior Research Fellow at ISPI in Milano. He was the first Chairperson of the Expert Group on Violent Radicalization of the European Commission (2007-2009), and Senior Adviser for Antiterrorist Policy to Spain’s Minister of the Interior (2004 and 2006). Awarded in Spain, among other academic and civilian distinctions, with the Cross of Military Merit (2009) and the Cross of Police Merit (2012), he has also been decorated with the highest medal from his native region of La Rioja for “outstanding contribution to the fight against terrorism and in defence of the principles of democracy” (2016). His books include Yihadismo y yihadistas en España (Madrid: Real Instituto Elcano, 2019; with C. García-Calvo and Á. Vicente); Al Qaeda’s Revenge. The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), Estado Islámico en España (Madrid: Real Instituto Elcano, 2016; with C. García-Calvo); The Evolution of the Global Terrorism Threat (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014; with B. Hoffman), ¡Matadlos! Quién estuvo detrás del 11-M y por qué se atentó en España (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg, 2014); and Patriotas de la Muerte. Por qué han militado en ETA y cuándo abandonan (Madrid: Taurus, 2011). His articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Survival, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Terrorism and Political Violence, Sécurité Globale, Georgetown Security Studies Review, Electoral Studies, Pouvoirs, CTC Sentinel, or Perspectives on Terrorism.
Webinar hosting presenter
Head Border Security and Management Unit, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT)
Rocco Messina is currently heading the Border Security and Management Unit at the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) within the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT). In this tenure, he is managing a multi-year global programme mandated to support the inclusion of the counter-terrorism elements in the UN Member States' border security strategies through technical assistance and capacity-building activities.

Prior to this appointment, from 2011 to 2017, Mr. Messina served as Head of the Border Management Section at the United Nations Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO) United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) implementing a capacity-building portfolio to design a comprehensive on Haitian national border mational planpolicy. His leadership and matter expertise were instrumental to the creation of the Haitian Technical Border Commission, the Customs Police, as well as a specialized branch of the Haitian National Police in charge of securing the land borders. Mr. Messina started his professional career in 1990 after a two-year military police academy training with the Counter-terrorism branch of the Italian Guardia di Finanza (Italian Military Police).

During his 25-year long career, he was deployed to several field missions, at both national and international levels, focusing mainly on counter-terrorism and border security matters. He was bestowed with several national and international medals and awards for the successful completion of his high-risk duties. Between September 2006 and May 2007, Mr. Messina was deployed in Herat Afghanistan with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Mission as Training Programme Officer, where he developed a training programme for the Afghan Border Police.

Mr.Messina holds a master’s degree in literature and a degree in international law and he speaks fluently English, Spanish and French.
Webinar hosting presenter
Senior Expert, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism - United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
Esther Zubiri joined the State Attorney-General’s Office of Spain in 1998, where she has developed her professional career over twenty-two years as a State Attorney specialized in counter terrorism. She currently works as a senior expert in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) within the United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT). Formerly, she served as the Chief of Rule of Law and Human Rights at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Afghanistan. In 2012, she was appointed as the Agent of the Kingdom of Spain to the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, representing Spain at the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER). From 2014 to 2019, she worked as a Senior Legal Specialist at Inter-American Committee against Terrorism of the Organization of American States. As State Attorney Chief, she worked at the National Court, the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country, the Central Economic-Administrative Court, the State Tax Administration Agency, and the Ministries of Justice and Interior, where she led the prosecution on several high-profile terrorist cases. She served as a counselor at the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations and the Embassy of Spain in the United States of America. She holds a JD and a Master’s Degree in Law from the Comillas Pontifical University of Madrid (ICADE). She has been awarded with the Merit Cross of the Spanish National Police and the Silver Cross of the Spanish Civil Guard.
Webinar hosting presenter
Deputy Representative of Spain to the United Nations
Deputy Ambassador María Bassols was appointed Deputy Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN, New York, in April 2017. Previously she held the position of Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (2014-2017) and of Ambassador of Spain to Malaysia and Brunei (2011 - 2014). She was Chief of Staff of the Secretary General for Migration and Consular Affairs and Deputy Director General for Migration (2008- 2011) and amongst her extensive diplomatic experience she was posted to the Embassy of Spain in Washington D.C. (1993-1998) and to the Spanish Embassy in Warsaw (1988-1991).
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