On October 16, 2009, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg maintained the designation of Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. The review of AQIM’s designation was conducted in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1189), which requires that an FTO review occur if after a five-year period there has been no review of the designation. This review was done in consultation with the Department of Justice, Department of Treasury and other relevant U.S. agencies.
In the five years since its last review in 2004, AQIM, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, has conducted numerous suicide bombings and other lethal attacks that have killed or wounded hundreds in Northern Africa. AQIM has claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks in Algeria. The most lethal attack to date occurred on December 11, 2007, when two nearly simultaneous suicide operations attacked both a United Nations (UN) program headquarters and the Algerian Constitutional Council, killing 42 people, including 17 UN employees, and wounding 158 others.
AQIM has broadened its area of operations outside of Algeria with increasing attacks in northern Mali, Niger, and Mauritania. As recently as last August, AQIM attacked the French Embassy in Nouakchott, Mauritania, wounding three. AQIM claimed responsibility for the June 2009 murder of an American NGO worker in Nouakchott, and the May 2009 murder of a British hostage in northern Mali. In December 2008, AQIM seized two Canadian diplomats working for the UN in Niger. AQIM has also attacked soldiers from Mali and Mauritania, killing and wounding dozens.
“Terrorist designations play an important role in disrupting funding channels for al Qaida and other terrorist groups, including the al Qaida affiliates in different parts of the world.” said Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Daniel Benjamin. “They also send a message to other governments and financial institutions around the world of our determination to keep the pressure on these groups. They form an important element in creating joint efforts to limit the reach and capabilities of such terrorist organizations.”
Maintaining the designation of terrorist groups is critical in our fight against terrorism as these designations are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. The consequences of designation as a FTO include a criminal prohibition against the provision of material support or resources to the FTO and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons.