U.S. names al-Baghdadi confidant as ‘Global Terrorist,’ says ISIS ‘down but not out’
The State Department sanctioned a previously unknown lieutenant of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” on Tuesday, signaling ongoing concern among U.S. officials over the terror group’s viability in Syria and beyond.
“ISIS is down but not out,” State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan A. Sales said in announcing the designation of Hajji ’Abd al-Nasir, who is accused of holding several leadership positions under al-Baghdadi whose current whereabouts is a matter of debate in intelligence circles.
“Within the past five years, al-Nasir has served as an ISIS Military Amir in Syria as well as chair of the ISIS Delegated Committee, the council that reports to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and exercises administrative control of the terrorist organization’s affairs,” the State Department said.
The ISIS “Delegated Committee is responsible for planning and issuing orders related to ISIS’s military operations, tax collections, religious police, and commercial and security operations,” the department said in a statement.
The statement quoted Mr. Sales as saying: “As ISIS continues to lose ground on the battlefield, we must starve it of the resources it uses to commit terrorism around the world. Today’s designation is another step towards ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
U.S. officials say the point of the designation is to deny Mr. al-Nasir resources to plan and carry out future terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of his property and interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction such as cash accounts in any foreign banks that may do business with American banks are now blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.
The Statement Department did not explicitly reveal where U.S. officials believe Mr. al-Nasir is operating, although Tuesday’s statement implied that he is thought to be active with remaining Islamic State units inside Syria.
Al-Baghdadi, meanwhile, is believed to have fled in recent months to austere territory between the Iraq-Syria border. While some sources claim the Islamic State leader may have been killed by an air strike earlier this year, U.S. officials have not confirmed such claims. Iraqi officials have said they believe al-Bagdadi remains alive and in hiding.