On the eve of President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. State Department imposed terrorism sanctions jointly with the kingdom on two prominent extremist leaders, calling them “global terrorists.”
Senior Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine, a Lebanese citizen in his 50s, and Muhammad al-Isawi, an Egyptian national and leader of Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, were added to the U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorists list for providing financial and operational support for their terrorist-designated organizations.
The sanctions, put forth by the assets control office and the State Department, prohibit U.S. companies and Americans from doing business with the two men, blocks their assets in the United States and places them as high-profile targets for law enforcement worldwide.
Safieddine is a key member of the executive council of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that is closely associated with the Iranian government and is fighting in support of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The executive council oversees Hezbollah’s political, organizational, social and educational activities. Iranian media reported he is a potential successor to Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general and a cousin of Safieddine.
Saudi Arabia joined the U.S. in targeting Safieddine.
“As a result, any of his assets held in Saudi Arabia are frozen, and transfers through the kingdom’s financial sector are prohibited,” a U.S. statement read.
The State Department’s counterterrorism bureau said in a tweet that the sanctions marked the “first-ever” State Department and foreign national “joint terrorist designation,” underlining the close cooperation between U.S. and Saudi officials.
“The action against Safieddine is the latest example of the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia in combating the financing of terrorism,” the State Department said.
The statement said the move was consistent with the U.S. government’s ongoing effort to expose the actions of Hezbollah, which the U.S. characterizes as being supported by the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran.”
Al-Isawi, who is also known as Abu Usama al-Masri, has been IS’s chief affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula since August 2016. He spent time in an Egyptian prison before escaping during unrest in Egypt in 2011.
IS’s affiliate, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has an active presence in large swaths of territory in the Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. IS militants in the Sinai have been targeting Egyptian security forces and local Coptic Christians in the region.
The group claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings that struck two of the country’s Coptic Christian churches last month, killing more than 45 worshippers and prompting the Egyptian president to declare a three-month state of emergency.