The U.S. State and Treasury Departments placed the terrorist group known as Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, on both agencies' terrorism lists on Tuesday.
U.S. officials accuse the Islamist group of trying wrest control of the Assad government's opposition, and Treasury officials slapped sanctions on two of its leaders, according to their statement.
The State Department listed Nusra Front as an alias of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and officials blame it for more than 550 terrorist attacks in Syria since November 2011, including more than 40 suicide bombing attacks.
"Through these attacks, Nusra has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is [really] an attempt by al-Qaeda to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes," U.S. officials said in a statement.
In some press reports overseas, Nusra Front was said to be the leading force in capturing Syrian military bases and oil fields during the Syrian rebels' 20-month conflict with the oppressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Following the actions by the U.S. State Department, the Department of Treasury slapped sanctions on Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, two senior leaders of Nusra Front.
In addition, the Treasury placed sanctions on Jaysh al-Sha'bi and Shabiha, two armed militia groups it accuses of backing the Syrian government headed by Assad. Ayman Jaber and Mohammad Jaber, commanders of Shabiha, were hit with sanctions as well. Mohammad Jaber arranged for the transportation of pro-Syrian regime Shabiha thugs to Turkey in order to attack anti-Syrian regime personnel there, according to the Obama administration.
"These actions represent continued U.S. government efforts to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people as they seek to free themselves from the oppression of the al-Assad regime and to deny al-Qaeda's attempts to subvert the Syrian opposition," the Treasury said in a statement.
"The United States will continue to aggressively pursue those who undermine the desires of the Syrian people to realize a representative government that does not employ violence against its own people. We will target the pro-Asad militias just as we will the terrorists who falsely cloak themselves in the flag of the legitimate opposition," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
Jim Kouri, CPP, is founder and CEO of Kouri Associates, a homeland security, public safety and political consulting firm. He's formerly Fifth Vice-President, now a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, an editor for ConservativeBase.com, and he's a columnist for Examiner.com. In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com) and editor of Conservative Base Magazine (www.conservativebase.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at St. Peter's University and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
He holds a bachelor of science in Criminal Justice from Southwest University and SCI Technical School in New York City and completed training at the NYC Police Academy, FBI Continuing Education Program, and the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) of the American Society for Industrial Security.
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