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US Takes On Supermarket Chain In Al-Qaida Fight

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned a Yemeni supermarket chain owned and operated by a known al-Qaida terrorist Wednesday.

The supermarket’s designation came amid a slew of new sanctions announced by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeting Islamic State and Al-Qaida figures inside Yemen. The U.S. government says the supermarket is owned by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist Sayf Abdulrab Salem al-Hayashi.

The treasury department noted that, as of 2016, al-Hayashi was known to be “an AQAP weapons dealer who financed AQAP operations in Yemen, and had coordinated and financed shipments of weapons for AQAP leadership.” Al-Hayashi is noted to have been in the weapons business for nearly two decades, and has used his business to funnel cash.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula remains the most active affiliate within the al-Qaida network. The group operates in the midst of the chaos of the Yemeni civil war and controls some territory. The group is known for heavily concentrating on external operations against the U.S. and its Western allies, and is estimated to have nearly 3,000 fighters in Yemen.

President Donald Trump has dramatically increased the U.S. effort against AQAP since taking office. Trump’s first week in office was marked by a botched late January U.S. Navy SEAL raid and he has declared the country an “area of active hostilities” to allow the military to pursue targets without White House approval.

The designation led to a flurry of airstrikes in March when the Trump administration struck Yemen more times in a single week than the Obama administration did in nearly four years.

Other figures sanctioned include top ISIS leaders in the region, including the emir Abu Sulayman al-Adani who was described as the “overall head” of the terrorist group in the region. The U.S. military has recently made targeting ISIS in Yemen a priority with its first airstrikes on the group killing dozens of fighters Oct. 16.

“ISIS used the camps to train militants to conduct terror attacks using AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and endurance training,” the Pentagon noted at the time.

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