WASHINGTON - Ahmad Alkhald, a Syrian national from Aleppo who played a key role in the Islamic State (IS) terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, has been identified as a specially designated global terrorist by the United States, the U.S. State Department said.
The designation Thursday — which also included an Iraqi national who has provided close protection to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader in Iraq and Syria — imposed “strict sanctions” on the individuals and prohibited any dealings with them.
Alkhald is an IS bomb maker and the terror group's explosives chief who helped carry out the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels, the State Department statement said.
The series of the deadly terrorist attacks on several public places killed 130 people in Paris and 32 in Brussels.
Alkhald reportedly traveled to Europe, where he made the explosive vests used in the Paris attacks.
Island a gateway to Europe
According to French media, he crossed into Europe via the Greek island of Leros in September 2015. The island has been a gateway for some other IS attackers who have reportedly sneaked in among Syrians seeking refuge in Europe in the aftermath of the country's civil war.
Alkhald returned to Syria shortly before the Paris attacks and continued helping other IS plots in Europe, including the March 2016 attacks in Brussels.
“Alkhald is wanted internationally and a European warrant for his arrest has been issued,” the statement said.
Abu Yahya al-Iraqi, also known as Iyad Hamed Mahl al-Jumaily, was the second individual identified as a specially designated global terrorist in Thursday's statement.
Al-Iraqi is a senior IS figure close to al-Baghdadi, the terror group's leader. He is reportedly a key IS leader in Iraq and Syria and has played a major role in providing security for al-Baghdadi.
The designation “notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Alkhald and al-Iraqi have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism,” the State Department said.
The statement said the designation and action by the State Department would help expose and isolate the two men, and help law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world in their efforts against them.
A response to 9/11 attacks
Specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) is a designation established by the U.S. government in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Individuals designated as SDGTs are believed to pose a threat to U.S. national security by committing acts of terrorism.
The State Department has placed 272 individuals from different terrorist entities on the designation list, including 20 IS leaders and operatives.
“These designations are part of a larger comprehensive plan to defeat [IS] that, in coordination with the 73-member global coalition, has made significant progress toward this goal,” the State Department said.