The U.S. State Department has added a radical Moroccan-based faction, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. The group is believed to have been involved in, among other things, last year's bloody attacks on train commuters in Madrid.
The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, also known by its French acronym GICM, was already subject to some U.S. financial and travel sanctions.
Officials say its placement on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations will allow U.S. authorities to bring criminal charges against its members in the United States or otherwise subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Announcement of the move came in a posting Tuesday in the U.S. government's official journal, the Federal Register.
In it, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said an inter-agency U.S. government review had concluded there was sufficient factual basis to make the GICM the 42nd group to be included on the State Department list.
At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the group is believed to have been connected to at least three major international terror attacks in the last two-and-a-half years.
He said these include the bombing of a residential compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 2003, that killed 20 people including nine Americans; five near-simultaneous suicide bombings in Casablanca on May 16, 2003 that left more than 40 people dead, including the attackers; and the March 11 2004 Madrid commuter train bombings that killed over 190 people and injured at least 1,400.
Mr. Ereli said the listing strengthens the existing U.S. sanctions against the group:
"It makes it illegal under U.S. law for persons in the United States or subject to U.S. jurisdiction to knowingly provide material support to the group," he said. "It blocks all funds in which the organization or its agent has an interest, and it provides a basis for the United States to deny visas to representatives and members of the organization."
The State Department's most recent report on global terrorism, issued in April, said the GICM, which emerged in the 1990s, includes Moroccan recruits trained in Afghanistan and supports al-Qaida's jihad against the West and the establishment of an Islamic state in Morocco.
The GICM has had U.S. Treasury Department sanctions against it since 2002, and since 2004 has been subject to travel restrictions under the anti-terrorism U.S. Patriot Act.
In a written statement Tuesday, the State Department called on governments around the world to match U.S. actions against the GICM and similar groups, to choke off their sources of financial support and prevent their members' movement across international borders.