US set to remove 5 groups from foreign terrorism blacklist | PA power and politics

BERLIN (AP) — The United States is set to remove five extremist groups, all presumed defunct, from its list of foreign terrorist organizations, including several that once posed significant threats, killing hundreds or even 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 in which the organizations operate, and could draw criticism from victims and their families still grappling with the loss of loved ones. .

The organizations include the Basque separatist group ETA, the Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo, the radical Jewish group Kahane Kach and two Islamic groups that have been active in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.

The US State Department briefed Congress on Friday on the moves, which come amid an increasingly contentious but unrelated debate in Washington and elsewhere over whether Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards should or may be legally delisted as part of efforts to salvage the languishing Iran nuclear deal.

This designation, which was imposed by the Trump administration, was not mentioned in Friday’s notifications.

In separate notices to lawmakers, the State Department said the terrorism designations for the five groups will be officially removed when the determinations are published in the Federal Register, which is expected next week.

Copies of the notifications, all of which were signed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, were obtained by The Associated Press.

The general reason for the redactions is identical in each of the cases: Blinken claiming that they were based on an administrative review of designations, which is required by law every five years.

Reviews consider whether designated groups are still active, whether they have committed terrorist acts in the previous five years, and whether delisting or continuing to list would be in the interest of U.S. national security . Under the law that created the list, the secretary of state can remove groups he deems no longer meet the criteria.

“Based on a review of the administrative record assembled in this case and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, I determine that the circumstances which formed the basis of the designation … have changed in such a way as to warrant revocation of designation,” Blinken wrote in each notice.

Removing the groups from the list has the immediate effect of reversing a series of sanctions that the designations had brought. These include asset freezes and travel bans as well as a ban on any Americans providing the groups or their members with material support. In the past, the provision of material support has been broadly defined to include financial or in-kind assistance, and in some cases even medical care.

All but one of the five groups were first designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and have remained on the list for the past 25 years.

US officials familiar with the matter said the decisions were made only after consulting lawmakers months ago about whether the final five-year reviews should take place. So far, only 15 groups have been removed from the list.

The specific reasons for each of the takedowns are only included in the classified sections that accompanied the notifications, which are unclassified per se. These sections are labeled “SECRET/NOFORN”, which means that their contents can only be shared between US officials with the appropriate permissions and not with foreign governments.

The groups to be deleted are:

—Aum Shinrikyo (AUM), the Japanese “Supreme Truth” cult that carried out the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, which killed 13 people and sickened hundreds more. The group is considered largely defunct since the executions of its upper echelons, including leader Shoko Asahara, in 2018. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

– Basque Homeland and Freedom, or ETA, which has waged a separatist campaign of bombings and assassinations in northern Spain and elsewhere for decades, killing more than 800 people and injuring thousands others, until declaring a ceasefire in 2010 and disbanding after the arrests and trials of its last leaders in 2018. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

—Kahane Chai, or Kach. The radical Orthodox Jewish group was founded by ultranationalist 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 dormant since 2005. The group was first designated in 1997.

—The Mujahedin Shura Council in the vicinity of Jerusalem, an umbrella group of several Gaza-based jihadist organizations that has claimed responsibility for numerous rocket and other attacks against Israel since its founding in 2012. The council was appointed to first time in 2014.

—Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or Islamic-IG Group, an Egyptian Sunni Islamist movement that fought to overthrow the Egyptian government in the 1990s. It carried out hundreds of deadly attacks on police and security forces. security as well as against tourists. The group was first named in 1997.

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