US Treasury sanctions South Africa-based ISIS organisers and financial facilitators


The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned four Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) financial facilitators based in South Africa.

The Department of Treasury on 1 March said that ISIS members and associates in South Africa are playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the transfer of funds from the top of the ISIS hierarchy to branches across Africa. The South Africa-based ISIS members have provided support for the aforementioned transfers or served as leaders of ISIS cells in South Africa, it said.

“Treasury is taking this action to disrupt and expose key ISIS supporters who exploit South Africa’s financial system to facilitate funding for ISIS branches and networks across Africa,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian E Nelson. “The United States is working with our African partners, including South Africa, to dismantle ISIS financial support networks on the continent.”

ISIS has recently attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas where government control is limited. ISIS branches in Africa rely on local fundraising schemes such as theft, extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom, as well as financial support from the ISIS hierarchy, the Treasury noted.

The designated ISIS and ISIS-Mozambique financial facilitators in South Africa are Farhad Hoomer, Siraaj Miller, Abdella Hussein Abadigga, and Peter Charles Mbaga.

Between 2017 and 2018, Hoomer helped organize and begin the operations of a Durban, South Africa-based ISIS cell. Hoomer, who is the leader of the Durban-based ISIS cell, has provided some of his known residential properties and vehicles registered in his name to sponsor the cell’s meetings and operational activities. In his role, Hoomer claimed to have recruited and trained cell members and was in contact with members of ISIS-Democratic Republic of the Congo (ISIS-DRC) and ISIS supporters throughout South Africa. Hoomer raised funds through kidnap-for-ransom operations and extortion of major businesses, which provided more than R1 million in revenue for his cell. In 2018, South African authorities arrested Hoomer along with his associates for their involvement in a plan to deploy improvised incendiary devices near a mosque and commercial and retail buildings.

Miller, according to the US Treasury, leads a Cape Town-based group of ISIS supporters, and has provided financial assistance to ISIS by training members to conduct robberies to raise funds for ISIS. In 2018, Miller also aided in acquiring temporary safe houses for ISIS.

Abadigga, originally from Ethiopia, has recruited young men in South Africa and sent them to a weapons training camp. Abadigga, who controlled two mosques in South Africa, used his position to extort money from members of the mosques, the US Treasury said. Abadigga sent these funds via a hawala to ISIS supporters elsewhere in Africa. Bilal al-Sudani, a US-designated ISIS leader in Somalia, considered Abadigga a trusted supporter who could help the ISIS supporters in South Africa become better organized and recruit new members.

Mbaga facilitated funds transfers from South Africa, the United States said. Mbaga sought to provide support to ISIS-M by helping the group procure equipment from South Africa. Mbaga also sought to procure weapons from Mozambique.

According to the US decision, all property and interests in property of the individuals have been blocked, as well as any entities in which they directly or indirectly own 50% or more. Anyone co-owning property or interests with the four men will also be blocked and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The US Treasury has effectively also blocked any transactions transiting the US involving the men or their business relations, while any US citizens partaking in these operations may also be sanctioned.

News24 reports that South African intelligence services have been investigating some of the men for a number of years, but none of the investigations have yielded any convictions.

While South Africa has faced relatively limited terror threats on home ground, security experts say networks in the country help provide finances and logistics for groups operating elsewhere on the continent, such as in neighbouring Mozambique. South Africa has authorised the deployment of up to 1 495 soldiers to help fight insurgents in Cabo Delgado province as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).