Ansar Dine, one of several rebel groups fighting against French and African forces in Mali, was designated a foreign terrorist organization Thursday by the State Department, which cited its close cooperation with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa.
The designation highlighted growing U.S. counterterrorism concerns in Africa, where the Obama administration is providing logistical, intelligence and other support to French forces seeking to drive out insurgents and protect a civilian Malian government. Last month, a new U.S. drone base was established in Niger, Mali’s neighbor to the east.
The listing freezes the Malian group’s assets and bars American citizens from any dealings with it. But by outlining Ansar Dine’s ties and funding from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the administration potentially broadened its ability to take direct action against the group.
Obama hesitated in January before lending logistical and intelligence support to the French effort, because legal authorities restrict lethal U.S. counterterrorism efforts overseas to combating al-Qaeda and its associates.