U.S. Treasury authorities on Thursday sanctioned two prominent Southeast Asian leaders of Islamic State in charge of recruiting and laundering money from bases in Iraq and Syria.
Muhammad Bahrun Naim Anggih Tamtomo, an Indonesian national, and Muhammad Wanndy Bin Mohamed Jedi, originally from Malaysia, were added to the Specially Designated Global Terrorists list for providing financial and operational support for IS in both countries and funneling money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.
Adding the pair to the terrorist list "sends a powerful signal to individuals that provide support to ISIS and demonstrates the U.S. government's resolve to combat terrorism and terrorism financing in the region," John E. Smith, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.
The two men were part of seven people put on the sanctions list, including Anjem Choudary, 50, a British Islamist preacher who was sentenced to prison last year for supporting IS.
The sanctions put forth by the assets control office and the State Department prohibit U.S. companies and Americans from doing business with the two men, blocks their assets in the United States and places them as high-profile targets for law enforcement worldwide.
Naim, 34, is suspected by authorities of being the mastermind of a 2016 attack in Jakarta that killed four civilians and injured 23. He is known for recruiting Asian Muslims and leading funding for IS operations in Southeast Asia.
Naim reportedly directed IS operations in Indonesia through the once-favored Telegram app in Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria, Indonesian authorities said. He is one of Indonesia's most-wanted men, and authorities say he is a computer expert and skilled at bomb-making.
IS remains a threat to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, authorities said. As many as 384 Indonesians have joined IS, according to Indonesia's counterterrorism agency. Most of those have traveled to Syria and Iraq.
According to media accounts, Naim was born in Central Java's Pekalongan city in 1983. He grew up in Solo, a city where radical groups have had a longtime presence, and graduated with a degree in computer technology in 2005.
Naim was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a terrorism network in November 2010, and he was convicted in June 2011 of illegal possession of ammunition. The court, however, found insufficient evidence to pursue the terror charges, Indonesian authorities said.
He fled the country in early 2015. Authorities tracked him to Syria, where they said he has continued strengthening his terrorist network in Indonesia.
"He [Naim] has a huge influence over his network," Wawan Purwanto, an intelligence analyst at Indonesia's anti-terror agency, told VOA last year. "He brings new inspiration to his followers through social media."
According to the BBC, Naim reportedly maintained a blog, portraying himself as a "freelance journalist." He has published posts on how to carry out terrorist attacks, make bombs and dodge surveillance.
Recruiter, attack director
The Malaysian Wanndy coordinates attacks for IS and recruits and facilitates travel of extremists to Syria to fight for IS, according to U.S. officials. He has directed multiple attacks and provided material support to IS, they said.
Wanndy claimed responsibility on behalf of IS for a June 2016 grenade attack on a nightclub in Malaysia in which eight people were wounded, the Treasury statement said.
"In early 2016, Wanndy recruited and facilitated the travel of three Malaysian [IS] supporters who were attempting to join the terrorist group in Syria, but were arrested in Malaysia following their deportation from Turkey," the statement said.