The US on Thursday declared Karnataka-born Islamic State operative Mohammad Shafi Armar and two others as Specially Designated Global Terrorists and imposed financial sanctions against them, the first time that American authorities have taken such action against an Indian member of the terror group.
The state department’s action against Armar, Oussama Ahmad Atar and Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali imposed sanctions on them as they posed a “significant risk of committing” acts of terrorism that threaten US national security.
The state department’s move coincided with the US treasury department putting the three IS operatives on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of “Specially Designated Nationals”, whereby their assets were blocked and American nationals prohibited from dealing with them.
The state department described Armar as a “leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, ISIS”.
“He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathisers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps,” said a statement from the state department.
Armar, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka, was earlier a member of the banned Indian Mujahideen. Indian security agencies believe Armar recruited nearly three dozen Indian members for IS.
He became the chief recruiter in India after his brother Sultan Armar died in March 2015. The state department also listed his numerous aliases, including Anjan Bhai, Chote Maula and Yousouf al-Hindi.
The action, the state department said, was meant to alert the international community that Armar, Atar and Binali “have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism”. The designation would also assist law enforcement actions of other US agencies and other governments, it added.
Atar, a Belgian-Moroccan national, was described as a senior leader of the external operations efforts of IS who had established a network to carry out attacks in Europe. “He was a leading coordinator of the November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 attacks in Brussels,” the statement said.
He was responsible for recruiting, training and sending at least some of the individuals to Paris to launch the November 2015 attacks that killed and injured hundreds, including Americans. He also recruited and mentored two of the bombers involved in the March 2016 Brussels attacks that killed 32 and left many more wounded.
Binali is a senior member of IS who left Bahrain to join the terror group in 2014. He has appeared in numerous IS propaganda videos that called on Bahrainis, specifically members of the security forces, to join IS.
The treasury department said it had also acted in coordination with the Iraq government to disrupt an Islamic State “financial facilitation network” by designating Iraqi national Umar al-Kubaysi and his company, Al-Kawthar Money Exchange.
Between late 2015 and early 2016, Al-Kawthar transferred about $2.5 million while working with another Iraq-based money exchange firm that was associated with IS facilitators.
“Al-Kubaysi and Al-Kawthar play an important role in ISIS’s financial operations by moving money both within and outside of ISIS-controlled territory,” the treasury department said in a statement.
“We are committed to shining a bright light on anyone who would attempt to provide terrorists access to the international financial system,” said OFAC director John E Smith.
“These actions are part of a continued effort to target individuals and entities that willfully provide support to ISIS in order to constrict this violent terror group’s operational reach and shut off its access points to the international financial system.”