WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on the Iran-based leader of the Bahraini al-Ashtar Brigades militant group for allegedly engaging in plots to overthrow the U.S.-backed government of Bahrain.
Qassim Abdullah Ali Ahmed, leader of al-Ashtar Brigades who is commonly known as Qassim al-Muamen, has recruited terrorists in Bahrain and provided al-Ashtar Brigades members with funding, weapons and explosives to carry out attacks against the Bahraini government, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
“Today’s designation seeks to deny al-Muamen the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the statement said. “Among other consequences, all of his property and interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.”
The State Department blacklisted the Shiite militant group, Al-Ashtar Brigades last month due to its ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It accused the group of adopting the IRGC branding and working to enhance Iran’s agenda in the Gulf region.
The Shi’ite Saraya al-Ashtar, or al-Ashtar Brigades, was established in 2013 with the main goal of resisting the monarchy on the small Arab island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It claims to represent the angry voices of the country’s Shi’ite population, who despite being an overwhelming majority, are ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa clan.
Monday’s statement from the State Department said al-Muamen also facilitated the training of weapons and explosives for al-Ashtar Brigades members. It said the terror designation would isolate and expose him to U.S. law enforcement authorities and international community.
The government in Bahrain has revoked al-Muamen’s citizenship and sentenced him to life in imprison in absentia on terror charges.
Last November, Bahraini authorities said al-Muamen, then 28, led a terror cell of five members in al-Ashtar Brigades to attack three oil pipelines and assassinate prominent national figures.
The U.S. government has imposed a series of sanctions against the Iranian regime and its allies in the Middle East and beyond since May when the U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.