US sanctions Iran-based leader who seeks overthrow of Bahraini government

Qassim Al Muamen, leader of the Al Ashtar Brigades, is now blocked from US financial system

The Al Ashtar Brigades have fought back against a crackdown by the Bahraini state and have claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain.
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The US has designated an Iran-based leader of a Shiite militia that seeks the overthrow of the Bahraini government as a terrorist.

The State Department, in a release on Monday, said it had designated Qassim Ali Ahmed, otherwise known as Qassim Al Muamen, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

Al Muamen is a leader of the Al Ashtar Brigades (AAB), a US-designated terrorist organisation, who has recruited "terrorists in Bahrain" as well as "facilitated training on weapons and explosives for AAB members, and supplied AAB members with funding, weapons, and explosives to carry out attacks," the State Department release said.

Bahrain also identified him as a key member of an AAB plot to "assassinate prominent figures in Bahrain and target three oil pipelines".

Such a designation imposes sanctions on foreign nationals who have committed or pose a serious risk of committing acts of terrorism.

Al Muamen will now be denied access to the US financial system in a bid to isolate and expose him and his group.

The militant group has carried out attacks in response to what it calls a Bahraini government crackdown on a 2011 Shiite-led uprising. It has since claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police.


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The designation is a further sign of the Trump administration's bid to increase pressure on Tehran after Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015.

It comes after US sanctions were reintroduced on the Iranian economy last week. The restrictions include secondary sanctions planned to be implemented later this year that will be aimed at severely restricting the country's ability to export oil. In turn, Iran has threatened to disrupt Middle East oil supplies.

This is not the first time that the Trump team has sought to target the AAB. In March 2017, it designated two individuals linked to the group, Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi.

In an interview with The National in Abu Dhabi last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a "global effort" is needed to rein in Tehran and have it act as a "normal country".