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U.S. sanctions Syrian militias and leaders for alleged human rights abuses

The U.S. Treasury Department Thursday sanctioned two Syrian militias and three of their leaders for alleged human rights abuses in the Kurdish Afrin region of Syria. Pictured are Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers in Afrin, after taking control of the area with Turkish military help in March 2018. File Photo by Aref Tammawi/EPA-EFE
The U.S. Treasury Department Thursday sanctioned two Syrian militias and three of their leaders for alleged human rights abuses in the Kurdish Afrin region of Syria. Pictured are Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers in Afrin, after taking control of the area with Turkish military help in March 2018. File Photo by Aref Tammawi/EPA-EFE

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department Thursday sanctioned two Syrian militias and three of their leaders for alleged serious human rights abuses in the Kurdish Afrin region of the country.

The sanctions targeted the Suleiman Shah Brigade and the Hamza Division, both pro-Turkey groups that are part of the armed opposition to the Syrian government.

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The Sulieman Shah Brigade is named after Ottoman Empire founder Suleiman Shah.

"The United States is committed to supporting the Syrian people's ability to live without fear of exploitation from armed groups and without fear of violent repression," said Treasury's Brian E. Nelson in a statement.

The sanctioned individuals include Suleiman Shah Brigade leader Mohammad Hussein al-Jasim (Abu Amsha), who allegedly directed the brigade to "kidnap local residents, demanding ransom in return for their release and confiscating their property as part of an organized effort to maximize the brigade's revenue," according to Treasury.

He is also accused of forcibly displacing Kurdish residents and seizing their property for militia use.

Walid Hussein al-Jasim is the sanctioned younger brother of Abu Amsha and also a leader in the Suleiman Shah Brigade. He is alleged to have sexually assaulted women as well as coordinated abductions, muggings and ransoms.

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He reportedly killed a prisoner unable to pay a ransom after months of abuse in 2020.

Sayf Boulad Abu Bakr is the sanctioned leader of the Hamza Division, accused of brutal repression of the population in the Afrin region of Syria including kidnapping Kurdish women and severely abusing prisoners.

The Al-Safir Oto car dealership headquartered in Istanbul was also sanctioned.

Treasury said it is allegedly owned by Abu Amsha in partnership with Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes, leader of the Syrian armed group Ahrar Alal-Sharqiya.

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