US sanctions 5 Al-Shabab commanders, 4 charcoal smugglers
The United States has targeted mid-level al-Shabab commanders and multiple junior finance officers with new sanctions.
The US State Department designated five commanders of the Somali militant group as global terrorists, while the U.S. Treasury designated 26 individuals and entities, including charcoal smugglers.
Four of the five sanctioned are accused of involvement in collecting taxes for Al-Shabab and attacks on civilians and Somali forces.
The US reported that al-Shabab generates an estimated $100 million annually that is collected through illicit taxations, mandatory donations and extortions.
Among the operatives newly sanctioned is Mohamed Siidow, who is described as a finance emir and a commander in the group's armed wing, the Jabha. He is accused of overseeing illicit taxation operations in Aliyow Barrow village in the Lower Shabelle region.
"He has also led al-Shabaab fighters in attacks and participated in attack planning operations utilizing improvised explosive devices [IEDs]," according to a statement Wednesday from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Also designated were Ali Yare, Mohamed Dauud Gaabane, and Suleiman Abdi Daoud, all finance emirs in separate towns and villages in Lower Shabelle – possibly al-Shabab's most lucrative region, through which many vehicles carrying commercial goods from Mogadishu pass.
Yare is also accused of directing a deadly explosion on Nov. 14, 2018, that targeted Somali army forces in the same region.
Gaabane is also accused of serving as the head of the group's intelligence wing, the Amniyat, in Wanlaweyn, the district where he works as finance operator. Wanlaweyn is close to Baledogle airfield where U.S. troops train elite Somali units.
"Gaabane operates an extensive early warning and informant network that regularly collects information on coalition forces and Somalis who work at the Baledogle Military Airfield," the statement said.
The fifth commander designated by the State Department, Mohamed Omar Mohamed, is said to be the al-Shabab commissioner in the Dinsor district. The U.S. accuses him of being responsible for a series of attacks targeting civilians.
Additionally, the U.S. Treasury designated 15 al-Shabab financial facilitators and operatives, four charcoal smugglers, and seven associated companies.
The most notable three among this group are al-Shabab's shadow governor of the Juba region, Mohamed Abdullahi Hirey, also known as Abu Abdalla; the region's militant commander Ahmed Kabadhe; and Mohamed Ali, a company commander the U.S. says oversees 100 fighters.
Others targeted include junior officers accused of operating as mandatory donation collectors and coordinating attacks against Somali and African Union forces.
"As a result of these actions, all property and interests in property of those designated today that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and all U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them," Blinken said in the statement.
Last year, Somalia's government launched a renewed effort to strangle al-Shabab financially, combined with combating the group's ideology and military operations.
Earlier this year, Somalia Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said the government had shut down 250 bank and mobile money accounts suspected of being used by al-Shabab. The government says al-Shabab's financial health has been hurt as result of the measures.
Ibrahim Aden Nadara, a former al-Shabab regional official who now advises Barre on awareness campaigns against al-Shabab, says U.S. sanctions are effective.
"This is impactful and timely," he said.
He says the sanctions will prevent designated individuals from moving any money abroad.
"If they were to deposit it in foreign bank accounts or buy houses abroad and invest in business this will be an obstacle to them," he said.