al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB)
Al-Ashtar Brigades receives significant funding and support from Iran and has claimed responsibility for at least 20 attacks in Bahrain, chiefly against the country’s security forces, including a 2014 bomb attack that killed two local police officers and an officer from the United Arab Emirates. Although the Al-Ashtar Brigade operates mainly in Bahrain, it also targets security forces of other Gulf nations, such as Saudi Arabia.
In January 2018, AAB formally adopted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) branding and reaffirmed its loyalty to Tehran to reflect its role in an Iranian network of state and non-state actors that operates against the United States and its allies in the region. Additionally, AAB members have received weapons and explosives from Iran, training at IRGC-funded camps in Iraq, and senior AAB members have taken refuge in Iran to evade prosecution by Bahraini authorities.
On July 10, 2018 the Department of State designated al-Ashtar Brigades (AAB) – an Iran-backed terrorist group in Bahrain – as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Department also designated AAB as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. The Department designated two AAB-affiliated individuals (Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi, AKA Mortada Majid Al-Sanadi) as SDGTs in March 2017.
Ashtar was the nickname of Malik bin al-Harith an-Nakha`ee, a brave Muslim figure and close companion of Ali bin Abi Talib the cousin of prophet Muhammad. This is NOT a Quranic name, but Muslims can use it since it has a good or neutral meaning. Ashtar means “one whose eyelashes are curved backwards”, “one whose eye is torn”. Malik was called "brave" and "fearless" by numerous Shia sources and his title "al-Ashtar" derived from an eyelid injury he received during the Battle of Yarmouk.
A Kabalarian analysis of this name suggests that "You could be very skilful in dealing with technical and mechanical matters.... You do rely on the support and encouragement of others as there is an underlying lack of confidence with this name." Ashtar (sometimes called Ashtar Sheran) is the name given to an extraterrestrial being or group of beings which a number of people claim to have channeled UFO contacts.
Established in 2013, AAB is an Iran-backed terrorist organization aimed at overthrowing the monarchy on the small Arab island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It claims to represent the angry voices of the country’s Shi’ite population, who despite being an overwhelming majority, are ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa clan. AAB has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks against police and security targets in Bahrain. In January 2017, AAB shot and killed a local police officer. AAB has also called for violence against the Bahraini, British, Saudi Arabian, and U.S. governments on social media.
In March 2014, AAB conducted a bomb attack that killed two local police officers and an officer from the United Arab Emiratesr, part of the contingent that has helped Bahraini security forces since the 2011 GCC intervention. In January 2017, the government executed three Shiite men for the March 2014 attack — the first executions since the 2011 uprising began.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain accuses Shi'ite Muslim Iran of fomenting unrest among Bahrain's mostly Shi'ite opposition. Iran denies the accusation, but does champion the Shi'ite majority's cause. In 2014, Bahrain declared Saraya al-Ashtar and two other anti-government groups terrorist organizations, the day after a bomb killed two local policemen and an officer from the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain said on 07 June 2015 it had broken up a banned anti-government Shi'ite Muslim group behind a series of attacks and arrested several of its members. The state news agency said an investigation had revealed that Saraya al-Ashtar had been formed in 2012 by two men with the aim of destabilizing the Western-allied kingdom through attacks on security forces. It said the men were now in Iran.
In the continuing effort to combat terrorism in all its forms, and to confront all those who commit or incite terrorist acts, on 28 Marach 2017 the United States Department of State listed Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi and Ahmad Hasan Yusuf as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224.
From time to time, the United States identifies individuals who are crucial to the operation or specific agenda of a terrorist organization. Most often these are a part of the leadership, or they help finance terrorist organizations. In all cases, these are people who have committed, or are deemed to pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism. Designated nationals are sanctioned by the U.S. government: their assets within U.S. reach are immediately frozen, and they are locked out of the global financial network. No U.S. citizen or company may conduct business with them. In this way, the United States disrupts financial support networks for terrorists and terrorist organizations.
The United States on 13 May 2018 imposed sanctions on the Iran-based leader of the Bahraini al-Ashtar Brigades militant group for allegedly engaging in plots to overthrow the U.S.-backed government of Bahrain. Qassim Abdullah Ali Ahmed, leader of al-Ashtar Brigades who is commonly known as Qassim al-Muamen, has recruited terrorists in Bahrain and provided al-Ashtar Brigades members with funding, weapons and explosives to carry out attacks against the Bahraini government, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
“Today’s designation seeks to deny al-Muamen the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the statement said. “Among other consequences, all of his property and interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.” The government in Bahrain has revoked al-Muamen’s citizenship and sentenced him to life in imprison in absentia on terror charges.
The designations seek to deny AAB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of its property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with this organization. In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to the organization. These designations support a larger campaign to deter Iran’s malign behavior and stop its support for terrorists around the world.
In announcing these designations, Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan A. Sales emphasized that, “From Africa, Europe, North America, Asia, and the Gulf, Iran is using terrorist proxies to extend its malevolent influence and upend international peace and stability. Al-Ashtar is yet another in a long line of Iranian sponsored terrorists who kill on behalf of a corrupt regime. Today’s designation serves notice that the United States sees plainly what Iran is trying to do to Bahrain through its proxy, the terrorist group Al-Ashtar.”
The July 2018 action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that AAB is a terrorist organization and has committed or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments.
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