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US removes Yemen's Houthi rebels from terror list

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says action necessitated by 'dire humanitarian situation in Yemen'

Michael Hernandez   | 12.02.2021
US removes Yemen's Houthi rebels from terror list

WASHINGTON

The Biden administration moved to formally revoke Friday the terror designation applied to Yemen's Houthi rebels in the waning days of Donald Trump's presidency.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the action would be effective Feb. 16, adding the move was necessitated by the "dire humanitarian situation in Yemen."

"We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel," the top diplomat said.

"The revocations are intended to ensure that relevant U.S. policies do not impede assistance to those already suffering what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis," he added.

While the group itself is being removed from the terror blacklist, three of its key leaders -- Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim -- will remain sanctioned under separate actions.

The Houthi's terror designation took effect on former President Donald Trump's last full day in office. Mike Pompeo, Blinken's predecessor, said it was intended to hold the rebel group "accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping."

The Houthis are the de facto authority across a wide swath of the badly-impoverished and food scarce nation, and the UN and aid groups repeatedly warned that designating the group as a terrorist organization could hinder the distribution of direly-needed aid amid the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said Jan. 14 the decision will push the impoverished nation into "a large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years."

Lowcock said the Trump administration's plan to provide special licenses for humanitarian groups to avoid being sanctioned would be insufficient to stem the humanitarian fallout from the blacklisting.

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