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US redesignates Yemen's Houthis specially designated global terrorists

The US on Wednesday redesignated Yemen's Houthi group as specially designated global terrorists in response to the Iran-backed group's attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that Yemeni rebels have carried out attacks on maritime vessels and military forces protecting commercial shipping since November.

"These attacks against international shipping have endangered mariners, disrupted the free flow of commerce, and interfered with navigational rights and freedoms. This designation seeks to promote accountability for the group’s terrorist activities," said Blinken.

He said if the Houthis cease attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the US will "reevaluate this designation."

Blinken also said the agency is taking steps to mitigate any adverse effects the designation may have on Yemenis.

"During the 30-day implementation delay, the U.S. government will conduct robust outreach to stakeholders, aid providers, and partners who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen," he said.

He also said the Treasury Department is also publishing licenses authorizing certain transactions related to the provision of food, medicine and fuel, as well as personal remittances, telecommunications and mail, and port and airport operations on which the Yemeni people rely.

The statement said the designation and the associated general licenses will be effective Feb. 16.

Jake Sullivan, national security advisor to US President Joe Biden, said he called the designation "an important tool to impede terrorist funding to the Houthis, further restrict their access to financial markets, and hold them accountable for their actions."

The move comes days after the US began responding to repeated attacks by the Iran-backed group on merchant vessels in the Red Sea. The Houthis said their operations are intended to pressure Israel to halt its deadly onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

The Red Sea is a critical commercial waterway, connecting the Mediterranean Sea via Egypt's Suez Canal with the Gulf of Aden.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Dec. 18 the creation of a multinational mission to counter the attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

In January 2021, the administration of then-President Donald Trump designated the Houthis a "foreign terrorist organization.”

But the Biden administration reversed the designation one month later, citing humanitarian concerns in Yemen.

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