Days after a deadly attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu where twin car bombs killed at least 100 people and injured more than 300, the United State has issued sanctions targeting nine suspected terrorists and weapon traffickers in Eastern Africa.
The US Treasury Department on Tuesday took its first action against Islamic State in Somalia (ISIS-Somalia), designating members of the group and others it accused of having ties to the terrorist affiliate.
ISIS-Somalia pledged allegiance to ISIS in October 2015 under Abdiqadr Mumin (Mumin), previously a senior leader of Al-Shabaab faction operating in the Somali region of Puntland.
The designation of the nine comes barely four years after the US State Department categorised ISIS-Somalia a specially designated global terrorist.
Disrupt terrorist financing
The US in a statement said several of the suspected traffickers have sold weapons to, or were active Al-Shabaab members, with threats to issue additional action in coming weeks as it seeks to expose and disrupt terrorist financing in Africa.
Those mentioned in the suspected weapons trafficking network include Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed (Mohamed), Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, Mahad Isse Aden (Aden), Isse Mohamoud Yusuf (Yusuf), Abdirahman Fahiye Isse Mohamud (Fahiye).
Others are Mohamed Ahmed Qahiye (Qahiye), Ahmed Haji Ali Haji Omar (Haji Omar), Liibaan Yousuf Mohamed and Osama Abdelmongy Abdalla Bakr (Bakr).
The US said the ISIS-Somalia usually works with other terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab, Somali pirates and smuggling groups.
"Many of the relevant individuals are also involved in other illegal activities, including piracy and environmental crimes, demonstrating their integration with illicit networks operating in the region," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The individuals and the designated entities are said to be critical nodes for a weapons trafficking network that is closely integrated with ISIS-Somalia.
These networks operate primarily between Yemen and Somalia and have strong ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Shabaab. The US Treasury also designated a vital supporter of ISIS in Brazil, who has attempted to serve as a liaison for the terrorist group.
Terrorist groups operating in the region continue to commit violent acts in Somalia, targeting Somali civilians, civil servants and first responders in order to instil fear.
Attacks against civilians
ISIS-Somalia has also continued to conduct vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks against civilians.
During last week Saturday’s attack, the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the two car bombs that exploded outside the education ministry in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, killing at least 120 people in the deadliest blasts since a truck bomb killed more than 500 people at the same location five years ago.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones and were injured in Saturday’s horrific attack and strongly condemn this indefensible act of terrorism,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.
Direct aim at networks
He added, “Today, we take direct aim at the networks funding and supplying both ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab that support their violent acts. The involvement of those designated in other criminal activity, including piracy and illegal fishing, demonstrates the extent of ISIS-Somalia’s integration with illicit networks and other terrorist organisations operating in the region. Treasury is committed to working with partners in the region to disrupt the financing of ISIS and Al-Shabaab.”
As a result of the US action, all property and interests in property of the persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of people in the US must be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.
OFAC regulations generally prohibit all dealings by US citizen or people within the United States, including transactions transiting the US that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.
In addition, people who engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may themselves be exposed to sanctions or be subjected to an enforcement action.
The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish but to bring about a positive change in behaviour.