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U.S. blacklists radical Islamist Syrian rebel group - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday designated the radical Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is suspected of ties to al Qaeda, as a foreign terrorist organization.

In addition to blacklisting the Jabhat al-Nusra group, the United States moved against two militia groups linked to the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

By classifying al-Nusra as a terrorist organization, the U.S. State Department order essentially classifies the group, which has advocated for an Islamic state in Syria, as an affiliate of al Qaeda in Iraq.

U.S. Treasury officials also imposed sanctions on two senior leaders of al-Nusrah.

With al-Nusra blacklisted, authorities now can freeze any assets the group or its members have in U.S. jurisdictions. The designation also prohibits Americans from giving it any material support.

Al-Nusrah has been accused by other rebel factions of indiscriminate tactics in the civil war aimed at ousting al-Assad.

The Treasury Department also moved to block the property of the Syrian government by sanctioning two militia groups that work under the Assad government, Jaysh al-Sha’bi and Shabiha, as well as two commanders of the Shabiha group.

Tuesday’s action comes as U.S. officials attend the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to discuss the 20-month-old crisis in Syria as rebels push forward on the battlefield and move to unify the political opposition.

“The secretary of state concludes that there is a sufficient factual basis to find that al-Qaeda in Iraq … uses or has used additional aliases,” including Jabhat al-Nusra, the State Department statement said.

The Treasury Department, in its statement, said the militias it is targeting are part of the Assad regime’s campaign against Syrian citizens. Jaysh al-Sha’bi has ties to Iran and Hezbollah, it said.

“The United States will continue to aggressively pursue those who undermine the desires of the Syrian people to realize a representative government that does not employ violence against its own people,” said David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“We will target the pro-Assad militias just as we will the terrorists who falsely cloak themselves in the flag of the legitimate opposition.”

U.S. officials have stressed their concern about the rising influence of extremist elements in the Syrian war.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been expected to attend the Friends of Syria gathering before falling ill with a stomach virus. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is attending in her place.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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