EU sanctions al-Qaida-linked group, two leaders

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May 30 (UPI) — The member states of the European Union on Monday agreed to impose terrorism-related sanctions against an al-Qaida-affiliated armed insurgent group and two of its leaders.

The European Council, which oversees the 27-member bloc’s political direction, identified Hurras al-Din, a Syria-based al-Qaida affiliate, its leader, Faruq al-Suri, and its religious leader, Sami al-Aridi, for asset freezes and travel bans.

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“Today’s decision confirms the EU’s unwavering resolve to combat the enduring terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida, [ISIS] and all their regional affiliates,” the council said in a statement.

“The EU remains committed to taking decisive action against those who continue to threaten international peace and security by planning, financing and committing terrorist attacks, and by spreading their deadly terrorist propaganda around the world.”

According to the Counter Extremism Project, a nonprofit international policy organization that aims to counter terrorism, Hurras al-Din formed in late February 2018 in a merger of seven Syrian rebel factions with 10 more joining in the following months.

The EU accuses the militant group of being involved in the planning of terrorist operations under the umbrella of al-Qaida and has established training camps in Syria. The group also includes several Europeans among its fighting ranks, it said.

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“Through propaganda activities, the sanctioned group and individuals have also played a key role in promoting al-Qaida’s violent jihadist ideology and in inciting terrorist acts in support of al-Qaida,” the council said. “Hurras al-Din and its two leaders, therefore, pose a serious and continued threat to the EU and to regional and international stability.”

The United States under the previous administration of President Donald Trump designated Hurras al-Din and al-Suri as Specially Designated Terrorists in September 2019.

The State Department’s Rewards for Justice also offered a $5 million reward for information on al-Suri.

Since Septmeber 2016, when the EU became able to impose automatic sanctions against those connected to IS and al-Qaida, 10 individuals and three groups have been targeted.