State Department designates Hizballah operative, Baloch separatist group

This photo shows the aftermath of Jaysh al-Adl’s suicide attack on a bus carrying IRGC personnel in Feb. 2019.

The State Department announced yesterday that it has added a Hizballah operative and a Baloch separatist group to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists. In addition, State amended the terrorist designation for Jundallah to include Jaysh al-Adl as one of the group’s aliases.

The first figure listed is Husain Ali Hazzima, a man who serves as the “Chief of Hizballah Unit 200,” which “analyzes and assesses information collected by Hizballah military units.” Hizballah was first added to the US government’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and a series of other designations targeting the group have been issued since then.

In its short announcement, State didn’t explain why Hazzima was deemed a specially designated global terrorist now, or if he has been involved in recent events throughout the region. Hizballah has developed terrorist arms throughout the Middle East and globally to threaten Western and Israeli interests. And the move is generally consistent with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian regime and its proxies.

The other two entities included in yesterday’s announcement employ terror against a designated state sponsor of terrorism and a de facto terrorism sponsor, as well as others.

The two groups are: the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jaysh al-Adl.

The BLA is “an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan,” State notes. Within the past year, the BLA has carried out a suicide bombing targeting Chinese engineers in Balochistan, an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and another operation against a luxury hotel in Gwadar, Balochistan.

Pakistan is a de facto sponsor of terrorism, even though it hasn’t been designated as such by the US. For instance, the country’s military and intelligence establishment has a well-documented history of harboring and supporting the Taliban, including the Haqqani Network. The al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network was first designated as a terrorist organization in 2012.

Last year, the State Department criticized the Pakistani government for failing to “restrict the Afghan Taliban and HQN [Haqqani Network] from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.” The Trump administration withheld foreign military assistance because of Pakistan’s intransigence, but this did not lead to any change in the country’s overall behavior.  [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban, including al Qaeda-linked Haqqanis.]

Despite Pakistan’s ongoing support for a designated terrorist group, Foggy Bottom’s announcement makes it clear that the US does not endorse terrorism against the Pakistani state or civilians.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs took note of the designation of the BLA, offering roundabout praise for the move. “It is hoped that this designation will ensure that BLA’s space to operate is minimized,” the ministry said in a statement published online. “It is important that the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and external sponsors including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan are held accountable and brought to justice.”

The ministry did not identify any of the alleged “external sponsors” it has in mind.

The Trump administration has issued a variety of sanctions and terrorist designations against Iran and Iranian-backed groups as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. And well before the current administration, the State Department routinely found that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. But this doesn’t mean that State approves of terrorism inside Iran.

Jundallah, an anti-Iranian terrorist organization, was first designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and added to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) in 2010. State has now amended this designation to include Jundallah’s “new name,” Jaysh al-Adl, which it has been using since 2012.

“Since its inception,” State says, Jaysh al-Adl “has engaged in numerous attacks that have killed scores of Iranian civilians and government officials, including a February 2019 suicide bombing and the October 2018 kidnapping of Iranian security personnel.”

The Feb. 2019 bombing targeted a bus carrying Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel traveling between Khash and Zahedan, in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province. More than two dozen people were killed in the blast. Jaysh al-Adl quickly claimed responsibility. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Jaish al-Adl claims deadly IRGC bus bombing.]

The Feb. 2019 bombing increased tensions between Iran and Pakistan, as the IRGC accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on Jaysh al-Adl’s men. They have claimed a series of small-scale attacks since the Feb. bombing. On more than one occasion, the Pakistanis have freed Iranian personnel who were taken hostage by Jaysh al-Adl operatives.

Jaysh al-Adl has claimed a series of smaller scale operations inside Iran since the Feb. 2019 bombing. Earlier today, for instance, the organization claimed that one of its roadside improvised explosive devices had severely damaged a law enforcement vehicle in Iranshahr, Iran, wounding three people on board. As in the past, the group said it carried out the bombing on behalf of the oppressed people of Balochistan. Jaysh al-Adl’s media team also posted images of the damaged vehicle on their Telegram channel. One such photo can be seen below:

Jundallah disbanded after its leader, Abdul Malik Rigi, was captured in 2010 and later executed. Its surviving members then established Jaysh Al-Adl, according to the Associated Press, which added that the group is “believed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda.” The nature of the organization’s ties to al Qaeda isn’t clear, but it is certainly possible that its men work covertly on behalf of the international terrorist group. Al Qaeda has a complex relationship with the Iranian regime. Despite being opposed to one another in various ways, the Iranian government has agreed to allow al Qaeda to maintain its “core pipeline” on Iranian soil. This arrangement was revealed in a series of previous terrorist designations and other official statements.

In a 2016 post, Jaysh al-Adl emphasized that it continues “the resistance” of Jundallah, and that its members have “endured more than 12 years of fighting” – a reference to Jundallah’s founding.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • newsography says:

    And this is following the Bahrain conference from a week ago…Any connections on the timing?

    I also saw a recent response from the Pakistani government, welcoming the American designation.

    Thank you for the informative article!

    donald @ newsography


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