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Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh twice intervened to prevent the expulsion of U.S.-designated Hezbollah financier Hussain Tajideen. Despite Jammeh’s removal from power in January 2017, Tajideen’s status in The Gambia remains unknown.

Other Hezbollah agents have held recruitment and fundraising drives at Gambian mosques, according to the U.S. government. *

Overview

During the 22-year reign of former President Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia acted as a conduit for terror financing. According to the U.S. government, The Gambia under Jammeh and other African countries were part of an international business network, owned by the U.S.-designated Tajideen brothers, supporting the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. *

The Gambia has provided refuge for operatives of Hezbollah. The U.S. government has sanctioned brothers Hussain, Ali, and Kassim Tajideen for using Gambia-based businesses to fundraise on behalf of the terror group. *  Kassim Tajideen was arrested in Morocco and extradited to the United States in March 2017. *  The Gambia expelled Hussain Tajideen in June 2013, but Jammeh allowed him to return that October. *  The government sought to expel him again in June 2015, but Jammeh blocked his deportation. *  In 2013, the U.S. government designated Hicham Nmer Khanafer for fundraising and recruiting on behalf of Hezbollah in The Gambia. *  The current status of Hussein Tajideen and Khanafer in The Gambia remains unknown.

Jammeh’s Gambia and Iran enjoyed close relations until the 2010 discovery of a weapons shipment orchestrated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in violation of international sanctions. *  In October 2010, Nigerian authorities seized a weapons shipment bound for The Gambia and arranged by the Quds Force, the IRGC’s external wing. The weapons were shipped by the U.S.-designated Iranian company Behineh Trading and may have been ultimately bound for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli defense officials. The U.S. government accused the Iranian government of seeking to evade international sanctions through the illicit shipment. *  The following month, The Gambia announced that it was severing all economic and diplomatic ties with Iran. *  In August 2017, however, the two countries were reportedly discussing the restoration of relations. *

Jammeh is sanctioned by the United States and wanted on war crimes charges. *  Jammeh’s regime, assisted by the Gambian army and National Intelligence Agency, regularly carried out arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and executions. *  Jammeh also created a terror-and-assassination squad called the Junglers, which terrorized, interrogated, and killed individuals that Jammeh deemed to be threats, which were usually religious leaders, journalists, political opponents and former government members. *  Jammeh lost the presidency in the country’s December 2016 elections, but refused to step down until January 2017 and fled to Equatorial Guinea. *  Gambian President Adama Barrow has since sought to reform the Gambian military and intelligence, which remained loyal to Jammeh following his departure. *  Nonetheless, Jammeh was excluded from a Gambian government issued most-wanted list in January 2018. *

Extremist Groups Operating in The Gambia

Hezbollah

The Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group has used The Gambia as a fundraising hub for its African activities. Former President Yahya Jammeh twice intervened to block the deportation of Hezbollah financier Hussain Tajideen. Following Tajideen’s initial expulsion in June 2013, Jammeh granted him a presidential pardon that October. The Gambian government again sought to expel Tajideen in June 2015, only to have Jammeh rescind the expulsion order. *  The U.S. government also previously identified The Gambia-based Prime Bank as a subsidiary of Lebanese Canadian Bank, which the United States accused of providing financial support to Hezbollah. Prime Bank was liquidated in 2013. *

In 2010, the U.S. government sanctioned the Kairaba Shopping Center and parent company Tajco LTD, both in the Gambian city of Banjul, as part of an international Hezbollah financing network. *  Nonetheless, the Kairaba Shopping Center has continued to operate in the country. In response to a 2015 letter from Counter Extremism Project CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, Western Union closed its branch in the shopping center. *  Following the passage of the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, the U.S. government reiterated Kairaba’s links to the terror group, demonstrating that the Gambian government had not acted to intervene. *

Designated by:

Arab League, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, European Union, France, Germany, Gulf Cooperation Council, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States

Harboring Terrorist Leaders and Financiers

Hussain Tajideen Hezbollah Financier


Hicham Nmer Khanafer Hezbollah Financier

  • The U.S. government designated Hicham Nmer Khanafer in June 2013 for acting as Hezbollah’s representative in The Gambia. *
  • According to the U.S. government, Khanafer is allegedly involved in recruiting and fundraising on behalf of Hezbollah in The Gambia. The U.S. government accuses him of holding weekly fundraising and recruitment meetings at a local Gambian mosque. *

Snapshot of Gambian Counterterrorism Legislation and Initiatives

Given the lack of extremist militant activity in The Gambia, the country does not have many domestic counter-extremism initiatives in place apart from anti-terror legislation, such as a 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act that officially outlaws terrorist activity. *  According to the Jamestown Foundation, The Gambia is currently operating with a weakened security environment as it lacks a stable and reliable security apparatus at present. The Gambia’s military and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were closely linked with former President Yahya Jammeh’s authoritarian government and accused of human rights violations during his rule. President Adama Barrow is currently working to reform both entities and has already replaced the army chief, who remained loyal to Jammeh following his election defeat. *

In 2012, The Gambia enacted an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorism Financing Act. *  In 2014, The Gambia ratified the United Nation’s 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of Financing Terrorism. *

Policy Prescriptions

In order to better combat terrorism and terrorist financing, The Gambia will need to fully enforce its existing AML/CTF policies and put in place new, stricter policies in line with international standards. Further, The Gambia must increase the resources devoted to monitoring and countering terrorism financing.

Specifically, the United States must incentivize The Gambia to:

  • Clarify the status of Hezbollah financiers Hussain Tajideen and Hicham Nmer Khanafer, and, if found to still be in the country, arrest and expel them.
  • Fully implement, tighten, and enforce all counterterrorism/anti-money laundering laws.
  • Add former President Yahya Jammeh to the national most-wanted list, in line with U.S. sanctions.