U.S. freezes assets of Pakistan-based Haqqani militants

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 5, 2014 12:21pm EST

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WASHINGTON Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday moved to freeze assets of three suspected militants linked to the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for being behind brazen attacks on U.S. and Western targets in Afghanistan.

The Treasury Department said that Saidullah Jan, Yahya Haqqani and Muhammad Omar Zadran had been designated "specially designated global terrorists," meaning that assets belonging to the men within U.S. jurisdiction would be frozen.

U.S. citizens are also barred from doing business with the three men.

The Obama administration has been struggling to contain the Haqqani network, which it has blamed for involvement in a number of bold, high-profile attacks on U.S. and Western interests in Afghanistan, for years.

The group is believed to be based in tribal regions of Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

"Today's action underscores our resolve to continue targeting any potential means of support for the Haqqanis," David Cohen, a senior Treasury official, said in the statement.

Muhammad Omar Zadran was also named for having links to the Afghan Taliban.

In 2011, the United States' former top military official, Mike Mullen, made waves by calling the group a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, ISI. In September 2012, the State Department officially designated the group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

The decision to freeze suspected Haqqani militants' assets comes as the Obama administration moves to wind down its 12-year-long war in Afghanistan.

This week, President Barack Obama met with senior military commanders to discuss the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Officials have planned to keep a modest U.S. force there after this year, if the Afghan government will agree to sign a bilateral security deal that authorizes a foreign military presence after 2014. (Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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