By a Staff Reporter
The government of Canada has approved sanctions against Eritrea in response to the African nation’s support for a Somali militant group that has been recruiting Canadian youths.
The sanctions include a ban on weapons sales, and Canadian banks have been ordered to freeze any assets belonging to Eritrean political leaders and military officials.
“Canada is concerned by Eritrea’s support of armed opposition groups in Somalia,” said Dana Cryderman, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman.
She said the sanctions were targeted at senior government and military officials. “They are intended to minimize adverse impacts on the general population.”
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions notified banks about the sanctions this week, and the Canada Border Services Agency issued a notice last Friday about import and export restrictions.
The United Nations Security Council called for the sanctions in December, citing Eritrea’s border dispute with Djibouti and its provision of arms and training to the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab militant group in Somalia.
“We applaud the freezing of financial assets belonging to Eritrea’s senior political and military officials for their support of the Al-Shabab terrorist group,” said Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress.
“These measures send a clear message to Somalia’s neighbours that Canada will not tolerate their financial and military support of insurgents and armed groups inside Somalia.”
The sanctions are the latest effort to isolate Al-Shabab, which has been conducting suicide bombings and assassinations as part of its effort to impose Taliban-like extremist rule on Somalis.
Canada outlawed Al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in March after at least a half-dozen Somali-Canadian youths allegedly travelled to Somalia to join it.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) says it is concerned such recruits might return to Canada and carry out terrorist attacks. One of the suspected recruits, Mohamed Elmi Ibrahim, has reportedly died.
Eritrea’s neighbours have long accused the tiny nation of five million on the Red Sea of destabilizing the region. Reporters Without Borders recently ranked Eritrea, under President Isais Afwerki, the worst country in the world for press freedoms.
The Eritrean Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not respond to interview requests.
Mr. Hussen said the Canadian government should also examine the roles that Kenya and Ethiopia have played in supporting armed Somali groups such as Ahlu Sunnah Wal-Jamaaca.