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US redesignates Yemen’s Houthis as terror group amid Red Sea attacks

The Biden administration stopped short of branding the Houthis with the more severe Foreign Terrorist Organization label, which aid agencies warned would hinder their life-saving work in Yemen.
Houthi soldiers attend a military parade marking the ninth anniversary of the Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, 2023.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has redesignated Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a “specially designated global terrorist” group in a move meant to pressure the militants into ceasing their attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. 

“We cannot sit idly by and watch what the Houthis are doing in the Red Sea and not recognize their actions for what they are,” said a senior administration official briefing reporters ahead of the announcement. 

The official said the United States would consider lifting the designation if the Houthis halt their attacks in the Red Sea and nearby waters that have pushed up global shipping costs and forced companies to halt or reroute traffic around southern Africa. The designation is intended to make it harder for the group to access international financial systems to fund its maritime assaults. 

With the new terror listing, the Biden administration is partially reversing course on an earlier foreign policy decision it said would help ease one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. In February 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally rescinded both the Houthis’ Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) and Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designations that the former Trump administration applied on the group shortly before leaving office. 

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