US removes ‘foreign terrorist’ designation from Israeli, Basque and Egyptian groups

The US State Department on Friday removed the long-standing official “foreign terrorist organization” label from Israeli, Basque, Egyptian, Palestinian and Japanese extremist groups, but all remain under a separate, broader terror designation.

Kahane Chai, a Jewish extremist group associated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, was removed from the FTO’s blacklist; the Palestinian group Mujahidin Shura Council in the Jerusalem area; and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA, a Basque separatist group active in Spain and France.

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Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo sect, which launched a deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, and al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, the militant group led by blind cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, who in 2017 American prison died, were also removed from the department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The FTO designation had enabled the United States to take strong unilateral action against a group’s members and associates, seize assets, block travel to the United States, face deportation and — significantly — up to 20 years in prison. to anyone who provided “material support” to them.

None of the five are considered currently active organizations and the State Department is required to review the FTO designations every five years to see if they remain warranted.

“Our review of these five FTO designations has determined that, as defined by the INA, the five organizations are no longer involved in terrorism or terrorist activity and do not retain the ability and intent to do so,” the department said in a statement. declaration.

The withdrawals “recognize the success Egypt, Israel, Japan and Spain have had in defusing the threat of terrorism posed by these groups,” it said.

Born out of Kahane’s Kach movement, Kahane Chai was designated an FTO in 1997, three years after his supporter Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

The group’s founder, a proponent of the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, was murdered in New York in 1990.

ETA was blamed for killing hundreds in attacks as the group sought an independent Basque homeland for four decades. Eight years after announcing a ceasefire in 2010, it resolved itself.

The Mujahidin Shura Council was blacklisted for its role in rocket attacks in Israel from 2010-2013.

The Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya group was built around Abdel Rahman, an extremist and US resident who allegedly inspired the deadly bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993.

He was convicted of several bombings in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison.

Removing the FTO label will not remove the five groups from the US Treasury Department’s blacklist.

They remain designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) entities, allowing the government to continue holding seized assets and taking control of others associated with the groups.

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