Canada has officially named al-Muwaqi’un Bil Dima, often translated as the Signed-in-Blood Battalion, as a terrorist group. The Signed-in-Blood Battalion was created by Mokhtar Belmokhtar—an elusive terrorist, kidnapping mastermind, cigarette smuggler, and the former leader of Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM). His group carried out the hostage-taking crisis at Amenas gas facility in Algeria that left nearly 40 captives dead in January, and suicide bombings in Niger that killed 20 in May.
The blog Mr. Watchlist, which focuses on sanctions listings, notes that, “This is pretty unusual for OSFI [Canada’s financial regulator]. In the 11 months Mr. Watchlist has been posting, this is the first time they’ve amended their list unilaterally – they usually just follow the changes to the UN sanctions programs.”
The rare independent decision by Canada indicates its concern about the return of Islamist Canadian citizens to Canada after participating in terrorism overseas. At least three Canadians participated in the terror operation in Amenas, two of whom were killed during the raid, and one who returned to Canada.
The National Post reports that “Canadian authorities are also worried that citizens who have travelled to Syria to fight will return home to spread extremist ideology, recruit others and possibly conduct attacks on Canadian soil.” The announcement about the Signed-in-Blood Battalion was accompanied by sanctions against the al-Nusra Front, in which Islamist Canadians have enlisted to carry out terrorist attacks in Syria.
The designation subjects members of the Signed-in-Blood Battalion and al-Nusra Front to Canadian criminal law, to asset seizures and forfeitures, and to penalties for doing business with or contributing to the operations of these groups.
Whether any other countries will follow suit by designating the Signed-in-Blood Battalion as a terrorist entity remains to be seen.