US removes 5 groups from terrorism blacklist and retains Al-Qaeda | New Policies

By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has removed five extremist groups, all presumed defunct, from its list of foreign terrorist organizations. In notices published Friday in the Federal Register, the State Department said it removed the groups after a mandatory five-year review of their designations.

Al-Qaida, which was also due for review, was kept on the list, which was created under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA.

“Our review of these five FTO designations determined that, as defined by the INA, the five organizations are no longer engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity and do not retain the ability and intent to do so,” the State Department said in a statement. “Therefore, as required by the INA, these FTO designations are revoked.”

Several of the removed groups once posed significant threats, killing hundreds and even thousands of people in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The decision was politically sensitive for the Biden administration and the countries in which the organizations operated. This can lead to criticism from victims and their families.

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The organizations suppressed are the Basque separatist group ETA, the Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo, the radical Jewish group Kahane Kach and two Islamic groups that have been active in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.

“These actions are intended to reflect the United States’ determination to comply with legal requirements to review and revoke FTO designations when the facts warrant such action,” the State Department said. “These revocations do not seek to ignore or excuse the terrorist acts in which each of these groups have previously engaged or the harm the organizations have caused their victims, but rather to recognize the success that Egypt, Israel, Japan and Spain have succeeded in defusing the terrorist threat by these groups.

The AP reported Sunday that the deletions would take place this week, based on notifications sent to Congress on May 13.

Removing the groups from the list has the immediate effect of reversing a series of sanctions that the designations had brought. These include asset freezes and travel bans as well as a ban on any Americans providing the groups or their members with material support. In the past, the provision of material support has been broadly defined to include financial or in-kind assistance, and in some cases even medical care.

All but one of the five groups were first designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and have remained on the list for the past 25 years.

The groups removed from the list are:

— Aum Shinrikyo (AUM), the Japanese “Supreme Truth” cult that carried out the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, which killed 13 people and sickened hundreds more. The group is considered largely defunct since the executions of its upper echelons, including leader Shoko Asahara, in 2018. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

– Basque Homeland and Freedom, or ETA, which has waged a separatist campaign of bombings and assassinations in northern Spain and elsewhere for decades, killing more than 800 and injuring thousands others, until declaring a ceasefire in 2010 and disbanding after the arrests and trials of its last leaders in 2018. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

— Kahane Chai, or Kach. The radical Orthodox Jewish group was founded by ultranationalist Israeli Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971. He led the group until his assassination in 1990. Members of the group have killed, attacked or otherwise threatened or harassed Arabs, Palestinians and Israeli government officials, but the organization has been dormant since 2005. The group was first designated in 1997.

— The Mujahedin Shura Council in the vicinity of Jerusalem, an umbrella group of several Gaza-based jihadist organizations that has claimed responsibility for numerous rocket and other attacks against Israel since its founding in 2012. The council was appointed to first time in 2014.

— Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or Islamic-IG Group, an Egyptian Sunni Islamist movement that fought to overthrow the Egyptian government in the 1990s. It carried out hundreds of deadly attacks on police and security forces. security as well as against tourists. The group was first named in 1997.

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