Four alleged Isis members in South Africa sanctioned by US treasury

The United States has sanctioned four South African-based alleged Isis and Isis-Mozambique (Isis-M) financial facilitators, who allegedly play key roles in funnelling funds from the elite of the Isis hierarchy to branches across the African continent. 

The US Treasury alleges that the four serve either as leaders of Isis cells in South Africa, or provide support in funnelling funds — generated through theft, extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom — out of the country. 

Brian Nelson, under secretary of the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement on Tuesday: “Treasury is taking this action to disrupt and expose key Isis supporters who exploit South Africa’s financial system to facilitate funding for Isis branches and networks across Africa.” 

Isis had “recently attempted to expand its influence in Africa”, said the statement, via “large-scale operations” in places where government control is limited. 

The four individuals’ alleged illicit activities have been flagged by the US treasury in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mozambique. 

Farhad Hoomer, a 76-year-old South African, was arrested in 2018 in connection with a fatal mosque attack in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal and attempted bombings near commercial and retail buildings. According to the statement, Hoomer helped organise and start a Durban-based Isis cell between 2017 and 2018, which he now leads. 

The US treasury contends that through kidnap-for-ransom operations and extortion of major businesses, Hoomer managed to raise more than R1-million for the cell. He also has strong links with Isis members based in the DRC, according to the statement.  

Another South African citizen based in Cape Town, Siraaj Miller, 77, allegedly provided financial support for Isis by training members to conduct robberies. Miller also allegedly helped find safe houses for Isis in 2018, according to the statement.   

An Ethiopian national who lives in Johannesburg, Abdella Hussein Abadigga, 48, is the third sanctioned individual. Abadigga allegedly played a key role in recruiting new members from South Africa and raising funds for Isis supporters in other African countries. According to the statement, Abadigga allegedly controlled two mosques in the country where he made money through extortion of members. 

Money is being transferred using hawala networks, says the statement, which is a popular and informal value transfer system that often operates in remote outposts where formal banking is either absent, expensive or hard to access. 

The fourth roleplayer allegedly facilitated fund transfers from South Africa to other African countries. It is alleged that the 76-year old Tanzanian national, Peter Mbaga, who lives in Cape Town, helped procure equipment from South Africa for Isis-M, and vice versa. 

Sanctions

The US has has blocked the individuals’ assets, including all property and interests in property — owned directly or indirectly and 50 percent or more — in the US or “in the possession or control of US persons”. 

“The prohibitions include the making or receiving of any contribution of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of those persons,” said the statement. 

The Isis group, which holds territory in Iraq and Syria, gained new attraction recently after armed insurgents entered Cabo Delgado, the most northern part of Mozambique, and violently annexed several villages. 

Last year in March, the US formally labelled Isis-Mozambique, known as al-Shabaab or Ahlu-Sunna Wa-Jama’a, as a foreign terrorist organisation. Its presence in Mozambique has led to killings, kidnappings and thousands of people being internally displaced. 
Nearing the end of last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa committed 1 400 soldiers to form part of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique in support of the neighbouring country.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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