The State Department on Tuesday added to its list of terrorist organizations an al Qaeda franchise currently engaging French and West African troops in Mali.
Ansar al-Dine is an Islamic group led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, a former Malian diplomat, who was himself classified as a terrorist by State in late February. The group banded together with local Tuareg fighters and other al-Qaida elements in its early January assault from arid northern Mali into the more populated southern reaches of the country.
This new classification bans U.S. citizens from providing any support or finances to the group, and blocks any assets it has under U.S. jurisdiction. The move comes a day after the U.N. Security Council weighed sanctions against Ansar al-Dine. Donations funnelled through AQIM are one of the group's primary sources of funding, along with extortion and kidnappings, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
"Ansar al-Dine is an organization operating in Mali which cooperates closely with al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization," the State Department said in a media release. "Before the French intervention in January 2013, Malian citizens in towns under AAD's control who did not comply with AAD's laws faced harassment, torture, or execution."
The organization has been working with AQIM since late 2011, it continues, and has received backing to fight against the coalition forces led by the French that is still waging war in Mali. The State Department also cites Ansar al-Dine's attack against the Malian town of Aguelhok in March 2012 in which extremists executed 82 Malian soldiers and kidnapped roughly 30 others.
Fighting in Mali remains fierce, following reports Thursday that a suicide bomber killed a Malian soldier at an airport in Timbuktu—which serves as a base for French and allied forces. This was the first suicide attack on the base.