The State Department said on Friday that five suspected Islamist militants have been added to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, requiring any ownership or interests in U.S. properties they possess to be blocked.
Individuals or foreign financial institutions who engage in specific transactions with the five might face US penalties as a result of the designations.
Bonomade Machude Omar, the top military leader of Islamic State’s unit in Mozambique, is among them, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
According to Blinken, Omar commanded a group of radicals that killed scores of people in an attack on the Amarula Hotel in Palma in March. He is also responsible for assaults in Mozambique and Tanzania.
Senior leaders of the al Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin in Mali, Sidang Hitta and Salem Ould al-Hasan, as well as Ali Mohamed Rage and Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, commanders of the al Shabaab organization in Somalia, were also named, according to Blinken.
Al-Shabab is an insurgent group that was founded in the early 2000s with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in Somalia.
Despite defeats in recent years due to an African Union–led military operation, the group is capable of carrying out devastating strikes across East Africa.
The US has increasingly relied on air strikes against suspected al-Shabab fighters to prevent the group from destabilizing the Horn of Africa. New Islamist-nationalist fighters swelled al-Shabab’s ranks from around four hundred into the thousands between 2006 and 2008. The group’s ties to al-Qaeda emerged during this period.
Al-Shabab officials praised the terrorist group while condemning what they called US crimes against Muslims around the world. In February 2008, the State Department recognized al-Shabab as a foreign terrorist organization. In 2012, the leadership of al-Shabab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
Membership Shabab’s is estimated to be between 5,000 and 10,000 people. According to a report from 2020, the group regularly forces civilians into its ranks, including women and children; some recruits join voluntarily, often for financial reasons.
The United States’ main concern in Somalia has been to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups plotting attacks on the US and destabilizing the Horn of Africa, where long-standing tensions between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia have festered.
In recent years, US officials have been concerned about coordination between violent Islamist groups in the region, such as al-Shabab, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to the New York Times, the US has mostly relied on proxy forces in Somalia to fight al-Shabab, and has engaged private contractors to supply some of them.