June 16, 2024

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken Discusses Humanitarian Crisis in the DRC with President Félix Tshisekedi as U.S. Designates Al-Shabaab Leaders and Charcoal Smugglers in Somalia

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett

In a phone conversation held on May 23, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken expressed his deep concern regarding the ongoing violence and dire humanitarian situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a phone call with President Félix Tshisekedi.

The Secretary reiterated the United States’ call for Rwanda to cease its support for M23 and stressed the importance of ending collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other non-state armed groups. Both parties underscored the urgency for the withdrawal and disarmament of M23 as per the Luanda Communique, while emphasizing the need for all involved actors to fulfill their obligations and engage in the Luanda and Nairobi Processes.

Secretary Blinken also addressed the issue of hate speech and divisive rhetoric, affirming the Congolese people’s right to peaceful protests and the United States’ commitment to supporting free and fair elections in the DRC. The conversation served as a platform to address the critical situation in the region and discuss potential solutions.

In a parallel development, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against 26 individuals and entities connected with the terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia. The targeted designations include 15 financial facilitators and operatives, four charcoal smugglers, and seven associated companies.

The move aims to disrupt key regional leaders, affiliates, and members of al-Shabaab who are involved in various activities supporting the group. These activities range from financial facilitation and business operations to the collection of funds, proliferation of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and illicit charcoal smuggling. The Treasury’s actions come in support of the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to combat terrorism and maintain stability in the region.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson stressed that today’s designations highlight the interconnected nature of al-Shabaab’s network, which involves regional and international actors enabling the group’s malign activities. The provision of funds, direct attacks, and support for explosive manufacturing and planting, as well as corruption, all contribute to undermining national and regional stability and security. The United States remains committed to leveraging its authorities to support partners in countering terrorist threats in Somalia.

The designated individuals in Somalia have played crucial roles as regional leaders and members of al-Shabaab. They have been involved in revenue generation through illegal fee collections, coercive tactics, kidnappings, and the manufacturing and placement of IEDs. These activities have generated significant funds to support al-Shabaab operations and weapons procurement in southern Somalia. The designation of these individuals aims to curtail the financial resources available to the terrorist group and disrupt its operations.

Simultaneously, the Treasury’s actions align with Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorist groups and their supporters, and E.O. 13536, which focuses on actors threatening peace, security, or stability in Somalia. In conjunction with the Treasury’s designations, the U.S. Department of State designated five al-Shabaab leaders for their leadership roles within the organization, pursuant to E.O. 13224.

Apart from targeting al-Shabaab, the U.S. Department of the Treasury also designated four individuals involved in illegal charcoal smuggling between Somalia and the Persian Gulf. The illicit charcoal trade contributes to local conflicts, revenue generation for groups like al-Shabaab, deforestation, and environmental damage. The smugglers’ actions have generated millions of dollars.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated the following individuals for their involvement in illicit activities in Somalia: Those affected include,

  1. Abukar Ali Adan – Designated for his role as a leader of the Somali-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab.
  2. Maalim Ayman – Designated for his involvement in planning and executing terrorist attacks as a senior member of Al-Shabaab.
  3. Mahad Karate – Designated for his leadership role within Al-Shabaab and his involvement in multiple attacks targeting civilians, security forces, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
  4. Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud – Designated for his significant role in facilitating the export of charcoal from Somalia, which provides financial support to Al-Shabaab.
  5. Abdiqani Sheikh Muse – Designated for his involvement in the export of charcoal from Somalia, which contributes to the financing of Al-Shabaab.
  6. Maalim Osman – Designated for his involvement in Al-Shabaab’s explosives operations, including the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

These individuals have been identified as posing a significant threat to peace, security, and stability in Somalia. The sanctions imposed on them aim to disrupt their activities and dismantle the financial networks supporting terrorism and illicit charcoal trade in the region.

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