From Criminals to Terrorists and Back? Quarterly Report 2018 Bulgaria


An initial examination of people arrested for terrorism or related offences in Bulgaria appears to discount any relation between crime and terrorism, as none of the defendants examined thus far had been convicted of a prior offence and there are no indications of any involvement in crime. As such, the data gathered so far does not support the phenomenon of “gangster jihad.” Since the majority of the subjects examined are foreigners arrested in transit, with no prior background in Bulgaria, information is scarce, hence it is difficult to generalise based on the available evidence. This is because Bulgaria is not a major source of foreign terrorist fighters but rather a transit country, while the overall risks of homegrown radicalisation are considered low.

It should be noted that there are a number of challenges when exploring the crime-terror nexus in Bulgaria. A significant proportion of terrorism arrestees are not Bulgarian citizens, and foreigners are often subjected to what is referred to as Compulsory Administrative Measures (CAMs).  As the State Agency for National Security (SANS) indicates, CAMs do not represent a sanction but rather are preventive in character.  The CAMs applied to foreigners include three types of measures: expulsion, revocation of right to reside, and a prohibition on entering the territory of the country.  When CAMs are applied, individuals are not charged in Bulgaria at all and consequently, information about their background is scarce, making the establishment of a crime-terror nexus (or lack thereof), very difficult. The application of CAMs because of indications of links to terrorism or terrorist organisations do not always involve an arrest, as indicated by the discrepancies between the number of arrests reported to Europol and the number of CAMs that that have been applied by SANS.

 The high proportion of foreigners among the terrorism arrestees can be explained by the fact that Islamist radicalisation and home-grown religious extremism are not widespread in the country and terrorism can largely be described as an external threat.

 The data gathered in Bulgaria so far suggests that a relationship between crime and terrorism is tenuous, both in terms of crime financing terrorist activities and with regard to criminals evolving into religious extremists.