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U.S. sanctions Syrian officials ahead of chemical attack anniversary

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions Thursday against Syrian officials ahead of the seventh anniversary Friday of chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions Thursday against Syrian officials ahead of the seventh anniversary Friday of chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. government imposed six sanctions Thursday against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime ahead of the anniversary of the 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta that killed over 1,400 Syrians.

The United States blamed the Syrian government for the chemical attack on Aug. 21, 2013, in the Syrian Civil War that killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, a preliminary report showed.

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"Today, in memory of the victims of that brutality, the United States is announcing six sanctions against the Assad regime's military, government, and financial supporters," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "We reaffirm our commitment to not stand idly by while Assad prolongs this conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people."

Among the sanctions, was one the State Department announced on Yasser Ibrahim, whom Pompeo described as Assad's "henchman," who has tried to stop the Syrian conflict from coming to an end.

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"Using his networks across the Middle East and beyond, Ibrahim has cut corrupt deals that enrich Assad, while Syrians are dying from a lack of food and medicine," Pompeo said in the statement.

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The State Department also announced three sanctions against leaders of Syrian military units, including Fadi Saqr, commander of the National Defense Forces; Ghaith Dalah, commander of the 4th Division, 42nd Brigade; and Samer Ismail, commander of the Tiger Forces Haider Regiment.

"These senior officials lead the same Syrian military that has killed children with barrel bombs and used chemical weapons against communities like Ghouta," Pompeo said in the statement.

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The six sanctions also include two that the Treasury Department announced with the aim to get the regime "to end its attacks against the Syrian people," a department statement said.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions against the regime's top press officer, Luna Al Shibl, and prominent member of the Syrian Ba'ath Party Mohamed Ammar Saati.

The Treasury statement said that Shibl has promoted "Assad's false narrative," that he is in control and Syrians are prospering under his rule.

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The Treasury also said that Saati is a longtime leader in the Ba'ath Party, which contains some of the highest-ranking members of the Assad regime, and he had until recently led an organization, National Union of Syrian Students, that processed applications for membership in a pro-Assad militia group.

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"These Syrian government officials actively contribute to the oppression of the Assad regime," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. "The United States will continue to impose costs on those facilitating the Assad regime's ongoing war against its own people."

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