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US and Gulf nations target Yemen 'terrorism' financing

US Treasury described sanctions as 'largest ever multilateral designation in the Middle East'
Site of attack by suicide bomber near compound run by local militias in Aden (Reuters)

The United States and six Gulf nations have targeted 13 individuals they say are al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) group militants, in an action intended to disrupt terrorism financing in Yemen, US administration officials said on Wednesday.

Among those targeted are al-Qaeda's chief financial officer in Yemen. The sanctions put those identified on a business blacklist, which prohibits any financial dealings with them and freezes their bank accounts.

The nations joining the United States in the sanctions were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

"This is the largest ever multilateral designation in the Middle East," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in Riyadh on Wednesday.

US administration officials said this was the first joint sanctions action by Washington and Gulf states. The coordination was particularly significant because of a months-long diplomatic crisis between Qatar and several Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of financing terrorism, meddling in the affairs of Arab countries and cosying up to their arch-rival Iran, charges that Doha denies.

The four countries have since added dozens of individuals and entities to a blacklist they say is associated with Qatar. One of the individuals on Wednesday's sanctions list, Abdula Wahaba al-Humayqani, and one of the entities, Rahmah Charitable, are part of that blacklist.

Qatar's National Counter Terrorism Committee said in a statement it had strengthened its anti-terrorism finance laws.

Qatar is "committed to taking the necessary steps to defeat terrorism in all its forms, and will continue to work closely with the United States to impose sanctions on those who facilitate terrorist activity," Major General Abdulaziz al-Ansari said in the statement.

Qatar signed an agreement with the United States in July to increase cooperation on fighting terrorism finance, Qatar's counter-terrorism committee said.

Drone strike

Meanwhile, local Yemeni officials said on Wednesday that seven suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed by a drone strike in central Yemen

The strikes hit two cars carrying armed individuals in al-Bayda province, the sources said.

In recent months, US forces have repeatedly launched drone attacks and air strikes against the militant group in Yemen.