WASHINGTON, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on Ansar al-Dine (AAD), a group operating in Mali with close links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The State Department added AAD to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, a move that bars American citizens from providing material support to the group, and freezes all of its assets under U.S. jurisdiction.
Since its inception in late 2011, AAD has maintained close ties to AQIM, a designated foreign terrorist organization, the department said in a statement.
"AAD has received backing from AQIM in its fight against Malian and French forces, most notably in the capture of the Malian towns of Agulhok, Tessalit, Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, between January and April 2012," the agency said.
It said AAD executed 82 Malian soldiers and kidnapped 30 others in its attack on Agulhok in March 2012.
"Before the French intervention in January 2013, Malian citizens in towns under AAD's control who did not comply with AAD' s laws faced harassment, torture or execution," the department said.
The U.S. is providing logistical support to the French and African troops in their efforts to flush out Islamist militants from northern Mali, and hit Iyad ag Ghali, the AAD leader, with sanctions late last month.
AAD has been listed by the United Nations 1267/1989 al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, a move that requires all member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo against the group.