US sets sanctions on rebel leader in northern MaliBy BRADLEY KLAPPER , Associated Press
Feb. 26, 2013 1:53 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration imposed sanctions Tuesday on an Islamic extremist whose group seized much of northern Mali last year and prompted a French military intervention.
The State Department designated Iyad Ag Ghali, head of Ansar Dine, a global terrorist. The action blocks any assets he holds in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with him. The U.N. also added Ag Ghali to its global sanctions list.
Ag Ghali's armed group conquered much of northern Mali after a military coup in Mali's capital, aided by al-Qaida's North Africa wing. In Timbuktu, he imposed strict Sharia law and forced thousands to flee; others were tortured and executed.
But a French-led intervention in January has turned the tide, forcing back Ag Ghali's rebels to mountainous hideouts near the Algeria border.
Separately, the U.S. made further terror designations on a Pakistan-based militant group and one of its leaders Tuesday.
Since 2006, the Commander Nazir Group "has run training camps, dispatched suicide bombers, provided safe haven for al-Qaida fighters, and conducted cross-border operations in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies," a State Department statement said. The sanctions extend to key commander Malang Wazir.
The group is named after Maulvi Nazir, a member of the Taliban but one whose faction agreed to a cease-fire with the Pakistan military in 2009 and did not attack domestic targets.
Nazir was killed in a U.S. drone strike in January.