The State Department on Friday added an al Qaeda splinter group in West Africa to an international terrorist watch list.
The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and its two leaders were added to the U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, blocking their financial assets from U.S. markets and warning U.S. citizens against engaging in any transactions with the group.
The terrorist designation is part of a wider effort by international leaders and the United Nations clamp down on terrorism in Mali.
According to the State Department, MUJWA was "created in September 2011 after members broke off from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in order to spread their activities into West Africa."
"MUJWA has been behind violent terrorist attacks and kidnappings in the region, including the October 2012 suicide attack on a police base in Tamanrasset, Algeria, which wounded 23 people; and a June 2012 attack in Ouargla, Algeria, which killed on and injured three," the State Department said. "MUJWA was also responsible for the April 2012 kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats in Gao, Mali."
The State Department also designated as terrorists two of the group's leaders, Hamad el Khairy and Ahmed el Tilemsi, asserting that both are "founding leaders of MUJWA."
"Khairy has been involved in MUJWA's kidnapping for ransom operations, personally claiming the group's April 2012 abduction of Algerian diplomats, and has appeared in MUJWA videos to make threats against those who oppose the organization," the State Department said.
"Prior to his leadership role in MUJWA, Khairy was a member of [al Qaeda in the Mahgreb], and was involved in planning terrorist operations against Mauritania in 2007."
Tilemsi is MUJWA's military head and "directly participated in the groups 2011 kidnapping of three aid workers in Algeria," the State Department said. He also was affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
MUJWA also has been listed by the U.N. al Qaeda Sanctions Committee, which requires member states to implement an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against the group.
"The U.N. action demonstrates international resolve in eliminating MUJWA's violent activities in Mali and the surrounding region," the State Department said.
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