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Pompeo to declare Hutis a terrorist group amid fears that it will worsen the crisis in Yemen

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will identify Iran-backed Houthi insurgents as a foreign terrorist organization, a move that aid groups have warned could hinder attempts to tackle what many see as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. .

The ruling will take effect on January 19, the day before incumbent President Joe Biden takes office, Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday. He also said he intends to name three of the group’s leaders, Abdul Malik al-Huti, Abd al-Khalik Badr al-Din al-Huti and Abdul Yahya al-Hakim, as specifically identified global terrorists.

“These designations will provide additional tools for counter-terrorism and terrorism by Ansarala,”

; he said, referring to the group, also known as the Hutus.

The Trump administration has been locked in an internal debate over whether to formally designate the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, as aid groups and UN officials have warned that the move could exacerbate what is already a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, four people, familiar with the discussions told NBC News last month.

After six years of sharp conflict against Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized Yemeni government, 80 percent of Yemen’s population of more than 29 million needs humanitarian aid, and experts have declared famine-like conditions for nearly 17,000 people, according to the International Rescue Service. committee.

Since 2015, more than 112,000 people have died as a direct result of the violence.

The Hutu group is the de facto authority in northern Yemen and aid agencies must work with it to provide aid, according to Reuters.

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Pompeo said on Sunday that the United States plans to introduce measures to reduce the impact of the labels on some humanitarian activities and imports into Yemen.

The measures will include the issuance of special licenses by the Ministry of Finance to allow US assistance to continue in Yemen, as well as the activities of some international and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations, Pompeo said. Critical imports such as food and medicine will also be covered by the licenses, he added.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the State Department in Washington. Saul Loeb / AFP – Getty Images file

An Oxfam spokesman disagreed, saying the effects of the labels would be felt across the country, as banks, businesses and humanitarian donors decided they could not risk working in Yemen.

Save The Children said the labels could put thousands of young people at additional risk of starvation and disease at a time when millions of people are approaching hunger.

And the Norwegian Refugee Council has warned that the determination will deal an additional “devastating blow” to a country that is already in the midst of a “full-fledged” humanitarian catastrophe.

The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when Tehran-backed Hussein rebels took control of the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led military coalition then intervened on behalf of the government in 2015, turning the conflict into a proxy war between regional enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as an internal conflict.

Tehran began providing money, weapons and training to the Hutus after the Arab Spring, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based research institute.

The move on Sunday came as the Trump administration continued its campaign for maximum pressure on Iran in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Proponents of the announcement see it as an integral blow to Iranian influence in the Middle East and look forward to the efforts of the upcoming Biden administration to re-engage Tehran under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Abigail Williams and Dan De Luce contributed.

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