U.S. targets weapons trafficking with sanctions on Islamic State in Somalia

WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday issued sanctions targeting Islamic State in Somalia, designating members of the group and others it accused of being involved in a “terrorist weapons trafficking network” in Eastern Africa.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said several of the people designated in Tuesday’s action have sold weapons to or were active al Shabaab members.

The al Qaeda-linked Islamist group claimed responsibility for two car bombs that exploded outside the education ministry in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday, 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.

Tuesday’s action comes as Washington seeks to increase focus on exposing and disrupting terrorist financing networks in Africa, a senior Treasury official told reporters.

While Tuesday’s move is the first from Treasury targeting Islamic State in Somalia, the official said additional action is expected in coming weeks and months as the United States seeks to expose and disrupt terrorist financing in Africa.

The U.S. State Department in 2018 designated Islamic State in Somalia a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The Treasury said the Islamic State in Somalia “commonly works with other terrorist organizations” such as al Shabaab and Somali pirates and smuggling groups.

Those designated on Tuesday include Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, whom the Treasury accused of being an ISIS-Somalia member and, as of 2020, considered the most active illicit arms importer in Puntland state in Somalia.

Also designated was Isse Mohamoud Yusuf, who Treasury said is an ISIS-Somalia weapons and logistics facilitator in Bari in Puntland and an arms smuggler; Abdirahman Fahiye Isse Mohamud, who it said is an ISIS-Somalia emir; and Mohamed Ahmed Qahiye, who Treasury said is the head of the Amniyat, al Shabaab’s intelligence wing, among others.

The move freezes any of their U.S. assets and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with those designated on Tuesday also risk being hit with sanctions.

Treasury on Tuesday also designated what it said was a vital supporter of Islamic State in Brazil, accusing Osama Abdelmongy Abdalla Bakr of attempting to serve as a liaison for the group.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis, William Maclean