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US announces sanctions against Yemen in battle against 'key terrorists'

  • Individuals and at least one company are placed on a sanctions list
  • The measures are said to be part of a drive to stop cash reaching ISIS and al-Qaeda
  • Qatar and Saudi Arabia themselves have been accused of aiding terror groups
Shi'ite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa March 26, 2015.
Khaled Abdullah | Reuters
Shi'ite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa March 26, 2015.

The United States has announced sanctions on Yemeni individuals and companies to combat the activities of al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.

The U.S. Treasury said the sanctions have been issued jointly with other countries as part of the newly-created Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC).

Eight Yemeni individuals and one company, Al Khayr Supermarket, have been placed on a sanctions list.

The move was announced Wednesday during a trip by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Riyadh, where he marked the opening of the TFTC.

"Through this action we are aggressively targeting radical extremists in Yemen and the surrounding region who pose a direct threat to the security of the United States, Yemen, and the international community," said Mnuchin.

The TFTC was created in May to stem the flow of terrorist financing and is jointly chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Other members of the alliance include Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The group's stated objectives include identifying, tracking and sharing information regarding terrorist financing, with the ultimate aim of disrupting money flow to radical groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Part of the problem?

At the time of its inception, there was criticism that countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia were themselves part of the problem.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard took to Twitter to describe the allied push against terror money as a "farce".

Qatar has a checkered history in the fight against eliminating cash that makes its way into the coffers of terrorists. Much like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf country has been cited by several watchdogs for funneling money to Middle East extremists, or not doing enough to choke off those flows.

A January report from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies chided Qatar's record on terror funding, saying that "there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook." Separately, an analysis from the Foreign Policy Initiative in 2016 cited Saudi Arabia's "mixed record" in curbing terror funding, citing its own domestic concerns.

The situation was further complicated in June when several countries abruptly cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar. These included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. They accused Qatar of continuing to support terror activities.