15 February 2013

Mali: U.S. Designates Another Terrorist Leader in Mali

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Washington — The United States February 14 designated another senior leader of al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) under an order that targets terrorists and their supporters.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Yahya Abu Hammam (Hammam), an AQIM senior leader who has played a key role in the group's ongoing terrorist activities in North Africa and Mali.

The designation, announced in a department press release the same day, freezes any assets Hammam may have subject to U.S. jurisdiction and generally prohibits U.S. persons from doing business with him.

This action supports ongoing international efforts to isolate AQIM, deny its members the benefits of their violent and criminal acts, and help restore Mali's territorial integrity.

"The United States will continue to support the efforts of France and the international community to combat AQIM's violent extremism in Mali and throughout the region," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "We have witnessed the suffering that AQIM has inflicted on the innocent populations and hostages under its control and remain determined to cut off the funding it needs to recruit new members and carry out future terrorist attacks."

Hammam is the AQIM leader for the Sahel region, succeeding the former leader, Nabil Abu-Alqama, who died in a car crash in late 2012. Previously, Hammam led another AQIM element whose members operated in northern Mali. In that capacity, he participated in several attacks launched on behalf of AQIM in Mauritania.

For years, AQIM has taken foreign nationals hostage and demanded that the victims' governments, employers or families pay large ransoms for their release. As of late 2011, Hammam reportedly had possession of multiple European hostages.

AQIM, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, is a violent extremist group based in Algeria and northern Mali that merged with al-Qaida in September 2006. It has raised tens of millions of dollars through kidnapping for ransom, using the proceeds to fund its activities, including acquiring weapons, staging attacks and establishing its control over large areas of northern Mali.

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