US sanctions ISIS chief financier in Somalia

FRIDAY JULY 28 2023

The US Department of Treasury on Thursday designated a key financier of the extremist group ISIS in Somalia in the latest measure on counterterrorism.

“Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) imposed sanctions on Abdiweli Mohamed Yusuf, the head of the finance office of the Somalia-based affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), designating him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT),” reads the statement.

According to the US, Yusuf has played a key role in the delivery of foreign fighters, supplies, and ammunition on behalf of ISIS-Somalia, which serves as a hub for disbursing funds and guidance to ISIS branches and networks across the continent.

ISIS-Somalia generates much of its revenue through extortion, specifically targeting local communities for money and recruits, often under the threat of violence.

Yusuf has been the head of the ISIS-Somalia revenue department and the money collected is used by the group to support violent extremism across Africa according to the Treasury Department.

“Terrorist groups, and ISIS-Somalia specifically, seek to exploit institutional vulnerabilities to finance their activities. The sanctions imposed today demonstrate the US commitment to leveraging our authorities in support of our partners, including the Federal Government of Somalia, in their efforts to counter terrorist financing and strengthen national and regional stability and security,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson.

ISIS-Somalia is dominant in Puntland state and their activities are extended to Bosaso, a leading commercial capital along the Indian Ocean.

ISIS-Somalia activities were sometimes neutralised following its rivalry with the Al Shabaab group, a close ally of Al Qaeda.

In November, Ofac designated a transnational ISIS-Somalia weapons trafficking network and senior members of the terrorist group.

Designation of Yusuf follows US military action in January that targeted and killed Somalia-based ISIS leader Suhayl Salim Abd El-Rahman alias Bilal al-Sudani.

ISIS-Somalia has continued to facilitate financial transfers, including through mobile money, to support ISIS’s destabilizing activities across Africa.

ISIS-Somalia receives most of its revenue from extorting financial institutions, mobile money service providers, and other local businesses, most of which are located in the Port of Bosaso in Bari region, Somalia.

ISIS moves the same funds through cash transfers, and money laundering through businesses, hawalas, banks, and mobile money transfers within Somalia.

In the first half of 2022, ISIS-Somalia generated nearly $2 million by collecting extortion payments from local businesses, related imports, livestock, and agriculture.

US said in 2021, ISIS-Somalia generated an estimated $2.5 million in revenue and the group remains one of the most significant ISIS affiliates in Africa, generating revenue to disburse to branches and networks across the continent.

Abdiweli Mohamed Yusuf, 41, has served as the head of ISIS-Somalia’s finance office since 2019.