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Sudan - State Sponsor of Terrorism

Trump’s decision to remove Sudan from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism paved the way for the deal with Israel, marking a foreign policy achievement for the Republican president as he sought a second term trailing behind Biden in opinion polls. Trump announced he would take Sudan, which the US designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, off the list once it had deposited $335m it had pledged to pay in compensation. Khartoum placed the funds in a special escrow account for victims of al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it is “completely appropriate” for the US to lift the designation, given recent strides Sudan has made to transition to a civilian-led government.

Sudan was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1993. To designate a country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Once a country is designated, it remains a State Sponsor of Terrorism until the designation is rescinded in accordance with statutory criteria. A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.

In October 2020, Trump announced at the White House that Sudan and Israel had agreed to normalize relations. Sudan thus became the third Arab country — after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain — to agree to a normalization deal with Israel since August.

Under National Islamic Front leader Sheikh Hassan Turabi's influence in the early 1990's, Khartoum made a number of contacts with radical Islamic countries, such as Iran, and organizations, such as Hamas. Soon, the country was offering radicals a "sanctuary". Two other important acts led to the increased presence of terrorists in the early 1990's. In 1990, Khartoum opened the borders to any Arab and this "easy and open admittance system" allowed many radicals to enter Sudan. At roughly the same time the NIF created the Popular Defense Force ("PDF"), a militia group that showed more vigor in combating the southern rebels than did the regular Sudanese army. The PDF had Jihadi underpinnings and close contacts with Iran's Revolutionary Force. Soon the PDF had established training camps that were eventually were used by terrorist groups. Shaloff saw the PDF as "working with the 'nasties" such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Abu Nidal and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

By the fall of 1989, Bin Ladin had sufficient stature among Islamic extremists that a Sudanese political leader, Hassan al Turabi, urged him to transplant his whole organization to Sudan. Turabi headed the National Islamic Front in a coalition that had recently seized power in Khartoum.30 Bin Ladin agreed to help Turabi in an ongoing war against African Christian separatists in southern Sudan and also to do some road building. Turabi in return would let Bin Ladin use Sudan as a base for worldwide business operations and for preparations for jihad. While agents of Bin Ladin began to buy property in Sudan in 1990, Bin Ladin himself moved from Afghanistan back to Saudi Arabia.

Bin Ladin moved to Sudan in 1991 and set up a large and complex set of intertwined business and terrorist enterprises. UBL entered the country at the time when Khartoum had an open door policy towards Muslims and when it was in need of funds. Sudan had an imperiled economy and was dependent on the sympathy of others. This made it extremely easy for UBL to enter the country in 1991. By the mid 1990's Sudan was giving UBL a number of construction contracts which gave him legitimate reasons (and cover) for residing in Sudan. In return for his contribution, UBL received sanctuary and was easily able to bring his followers into the country.

Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support-even if only training-for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. On May 19, 1996, Bin Ladin left Sudan - significantly weakened, despite his ambitions and organizational skills. He returned to Afghanistan.

Sudanese officials regularly discussed counterterrorism issues with U.S. counterparts in 2012 and were generally responsive to international community concerns about counterterrorism efforts. Sudan remained a cooperative counterterrorism partner on certain issues, including al-Qa’ida (AQ)-linked terrorism, and the outlook for continued cooperation on those issues remained somewhat positive. The Government of Sudan continued to pursue counterterrorism operations directly involving threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan. Sudanese officials have indicated that they view continued cooperation with the United States as important and recognize the potential benefits of U.S. training and information-sharing.

While the counterterrorism relationship remained solid in many aspects, hard-line Sudanese officials continued to express resentment and distrust over actions by the United States and questioned the benefits of continued cooperation. Their assessment reflected disappointment that Sudan's cooperation on counterterrorism, as well as the Sudanese government’s decision to allow for the successful referendum on Southern independence leading to an independent Republic of South Sudan in July 2011, have not resulted in Sudan’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Nonetheless, there was little indication that the government would curtail its AQ-related counterterrorism cooperation despite tensions in the overall bilateral relationship.

Elements of designated terrorist groups, including AQ-inspired terrorist groups, remained in Sudan. The Government of Sudan took steps to limit the activities of these organizations, and has worked to disrupt foreign fighters' use of Sudan as a logistics base and transit point to Mali and Afghanistan. Gaps remained in the government's knowledge of, and ability to identify and capture these individuals, however. There was some evidence to suggest that individuals who were active participants in the Iraqi insurgency have returned to Sudan and are in a position to use their expertise to conduct attacks within Sudan or to pass on their knowledge. There was also evidence that Sudanese extremists participated in terrorist activities in Somalia and Mali, activities that the Sudanese government has also attempted to disrupt.

With the exception of Hamas, the government did not appear to support the presence of violent extremist elements. In November 2012, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal visited Khartoum during a meeting of Sudan’s Islamic Movement, and Meshal met with several senior members of the Sudanese government during his visit.

The United States continued to monitor Sudan’s relationship with Iran, itself designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. In October 2012, two Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan, which Sudanese officials characterized as a solid show of political and diplomatic cooperation between the two nations.

The kidnapping of foreigners for ransom in Darfur continued in 2012, though no U.S. citizens were kidnapped during the year. These kidnappings have hindered humanitarian operations in Darfur. Abductees have been released unharmed amid rumors of ransoms having been paid.

In June 2010, four Sudanese men sentenced to death for the January 1, 2008 killing of a U.S. diplomat assigned to the Embassy, as well as a locally employed U.S. Embassy staff member, escaped from Khartoum’s maximum security Kober prison. That same month Sudanese authorities confirmed that they recaptured one of the four convicts, and a second escapee was reported killed in Somalia in May 2011. The whereabouts of the other two convicts remained unknown at year’s end. Two cases that stemmed from the murder of the two U.S. Embassy employees remained active in 2012.

Sudan is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Since February 2010, Sudan has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies, for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses. Since that time, the Government of Sudan continued to cooperate with the FATF and has taken steps to meet international standards in AML/CTF, but still has strategic deficiencies to address. Sudan was subject to a mutual evaluation conducted by the MENAFATF; this report was adopted by the MENAFATF in November 2012. Sudan continued to cooperate with the United States in investigating financial crimes related to terrorism.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:57:48 ZULU