BERLIN – The United States is ready to expel five extremist groups, all of which are believed to be non-existent. list of foreign terrorist organizationsincluding several that once posed significant threats, killing hundreds if not thousands of people in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Although the groups are inactive, the decision is politically sensitive for the Biden administration and the countries where the organizations operated, and could provoke criticism from victims and their families who are still dealing with the loss of loved ones.
The organizations are the Basque separatist group ETA, the Japanese cult of Aum Shinrikyo, the radical Jewish group Kahane Kach, and two Islamic groups operating in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.
The U.S. State Department on Friday told Congress of these steps, which are taking place in the wake of debates in Washington and elsewhere that are becoming increasingly divided but unrelated to whether or not Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards should be legally removed from the list. The United States is working to save a sluggish nuclear deal with Iran.
In separate reports to lawmakers, the State Department said the designation of terrorism for the five groups would be officially removed if the decisions are published in the Federal Register, which is expected next week.
Copies of the messages, all signed by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday, were received by the Associated Press.
The overall reason for the removals is identical in each case: Blinken claims they were based on administrative verification of appointments, which is required by law every five years.
“The revocation of the FTO’s appointments ensures that our sanctions against terrorism remain relevant and credible, and does not reflect any policy change regarding the past activities of any of these organizations,” the State Department said Sunday.
The reviews take into account whether these groups are still active, whether they have committed terrorist acts in the past five years, and whether deleting or maintaining the list would be in the interests of U.S. national security. Under the law that created the list, the secretary of state can remove groups that he believes no longer meet the criteria.
“Based on a review of the administrative protocol collected on this issue, and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance, I determine that the circumstances that led to the appointment … have changed so as to justify the cancellation of the appointment,” Blinken wrote in every message.
Removing groups from the list has the immediate effect of lifting a number of sanctions that entailed these designations. These include asset freezes and travel bans, as well as a ban on Americans providing any material support to groups or their members. In the past, material support was widely defined as cash or in-kind assistance, in some cases even medical care.
All but one of the five groups were first recognized as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and have remained on the list for the past 25 years.
U.S. officials familiar with the matter said the decisions were made only after consultations with lawmakers a few months ago on whether to continue the last five-year reviews. So far, only 15 groups have been removed from the list.
The specific reasons for each removal are included only in the classified sections that accompanied the notifications, which are not in themselves classified. These sections are labeled “SECRET / NEFORN,” meaning that their contents can only be passed on to US officials with permission, not foreign government.
Groups to delete:
• Aum Shinrikyo (AUM), the Japanese cult of “Supreme Truth”, which carried out a deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds. The group has been considered largely non-existent since the execution of its upper echelons, including leader Shoko Asaharain 2018. In 1997 it was recognized as a foreign terrorist organization.
• The Basque Fatherland and Freedom, or ETA, which for decades ran a separatist campaign of bombings and killings in northern Spain and elsewhere, killing more than 800 people and injuring thousands, until a ceasefire was announced in 2010 and disbanded. after arrests and trials of its last leaders in 2018. In 1997, it was recognized as a foreign terrorist organization.
• Favorite Tea, or Quality. The radical orthodox Jewish group was founded by ultranationalists Israeli Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971. He led the group until his assassination in 1990. Members of the group have killed, attacked or otherwise threatened or harassed Arabs, Palestinians and Israeli government officials, but the organization has been closed since 2005. The band was first recognized in 1997.
• The Shura Mujahideen Council in the vicinity of Jerusalem, an umbrella group of several jihadist organizations based in Gaza that have claimed responsibility for numerous rocket and other attacks on Israel since its founding in 2012. The council was first appointed in 2014.
• Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Group-IG, an Egyptian Sunni Islamist movement that fought for the overthrow of the Egyptian government during the 1990s. He carried out hundreds of deadly attacks on police and security forces, as well as on tourists. The band was first named in 1997.
The State Department said Sunday that Blinken is required by law to cancel appointments if the groups no longer meet legal criteria.
Speaking about the Kahane Chai group, the department said it had not been linked to the 2005 terrorist attack. It also says that the Mujahideen Shura Council has not declared an attack since 2013.
“At present, they do not meet the statutory definition of a foreign organization,” the department said.
He added that both groups will remain on the U.S. list of specially designated global terrorist organizations that will maintain sanctions against their property and assets in U.S. jurisdictions.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.