WASHINGTON, Apr 14 – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed an executive order freezing the property in the United States of members of a group of radical Islamists "contributing to the conflict in Somalia."
Obama said in his order he "declared a national emergency to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by that conflict."
He said that the measure, which named 11 individuals and the Al-Qaeda-inspired hardline Shebab militia, was "not targeted at the entire country of Somalia, but rather is intended to target those who threaten peace and stability in Somalia."
Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation, has been blighted by relentless civil war since the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre.
Most of the country is now controlled by the Shebab militia, which adheres to a conservative Wahhabi current of Islam.
Among those on the US blacklist is Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hersi Al-Turki, the head of the Islamist group the Ras Kamoni, which is allied with the Shebab.
Obama\’s order also freezes the assets of people deemed "to have obstructed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalia" as well as those who have supplied arms, material or technical advice to the country.
In January the World Food Program, which provides aid to some 2.5 million people in Somalia, said it was suspending its food distribution in the southern part of the country, citing months of attacks and extortion by the Shebab.
Obama also added that "acts of piracy or armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia threaten the peace, security or stability" of the country.
The International Maritime Bureau said earlier this month that since January, Somali pirates had attacked 32 ships, seven of which were hijacked.
Alongside the European Union, the United States and other national navies deployed warships off the Somali coast in December 2008 to protect shipping and secure maritime routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
Despite the international military presence, pirates have raked in huge ransoms.