WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department announced sanctions Tuesday against a weapons trafficking network affiliated with the Islamic State group in Somalia and the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which are accused of carrying out deadly terrorist acts on civilians including car bombings.
The move to freeze and block any potential transactions with U.S. entities comes after two car bombings at a busy junction in Somalia's capital on Saturday killed more than 120 people.
Al-Shabab, which often targets the capital, Mogadishu, and controls large parts of the country, claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack, saying its objective was to hit the education ministry.
These are the first sanctions on Somalia's Islamic State group network from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The State Department designated IS-Somalia in 2018 as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
On Oct. 17, the U.S. imposed financial penalties on more than a dozen people from Somalia and Yemen who it said were involved in al-Shabab’s financing operations, which use those funds to help in weapons procurement and recruitment activities.
The Treasury Department said the sanctions further target the “network of weapons traffickers, their associates, and an affiliated business that have facilitated weapons transfers to multiple terrorist groups.”
Violent acts have increased in recent months. Islamic extremist fighters early this month targeted a Somali government headquarters in the Hiran region, leaving at least 20 people dead and 36 wounded in a town at the center of a recent mobilization against the extremists.
Saturday's bombing in Mogadishu injured more than 320 people, and many were still missing.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to all who lost loved ones and were injured in Saturday’s horrific attack and strongly condemn this indefensible act of terrorism,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson said. “Today, we take direct aim at the networks funding and supplying both ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab that support their violent acts."
The Islamic State group sometimes is known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Fatima Hussein, The Associated Press