Sudan has revoked the citizenship of top Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, as well as that of some 3,000 other foreign nationals, according to multiple Sudanese outlets and other Arabic media in recent days.
The move comes after the US earlier this week removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist and declared a “fundamental change” in relations, less than two months after the Arab nation pledged to normalize ties with Israel.
Mashaal, who headed Hamas’s political bureau between 1996 and 2017, has been expelled from a number of Middle Eastern countries and currently resides in Qatar.
The circumstances surrounding Mashaal’s citizenship are not entirely clear, but Sudan’s now-ousted regime provided passports in the past to many Islamists, including al-Qaeda terrorists.
According to the reports, Sudan’s decision to revoke Mashaal’s citizenship was part of the deal for it to be removed from the US terror list and aims to show that the country is now fighting terrorism rather than supporting it.
Other than Mashaal, reports only named Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement and the speaker of the Tunisian parliament. No specific reason was provided for why his citizenship was revoked.
The reported action to annul Mashaal’s citizenship follows Sudan’s recent announcement it plans to normalize ties with Israel, a move brokered by Washington. Sudan confirmed in October that it had agreed to the deal in exchange for being removed from the US terror blacklist, acknowledging for the first time the existence of linkage between the two, which it had previously denied.
US President Donald Trump announced in October that he was delisting Sudan, a step desperately sought by the nation’s new civilian-backed government as the designation severely impeded foreign investment.
As part of the deal, Sudan agreed to pay $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from a 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast and the twin 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, carried out when dictator Omar al-Bashir welcomed al-Qaeda and hosted its then-leader Osama bin Laden. One of the chief planners of the embassy attacks, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, was killed in Tehran earlier this year, allegedly by Israeli agents.
Sudan’s transitional government, which took over last year following Bashir’s overthrow, also agreed to recognize Israel, a major goal for Trump, although Khartoum has sought to downplay the connection.
The African country became the third Muslim-majority state — after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to move towards a normalization of relations with Israel since the summer. Another US-brokered normalization deal with Morocco followed last week.
Congress still has to approve a bill that would give Sudan immunity from future lawsuits in the US by victims of terrorism. The country has indicated it may pull out of the normalization deal with Israel if the bill doesn’t go through, according to a New York Times report earlier this month.
The Trump administration reportedly offered victims of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks some $700 million to drop their claims against Sudan as part of the deal.
Sudan’s removal from the terror list and the legislation it is hoping will pass in Congress would be a major boon for the country. Sudan has been looking to revive its battered economy and rescue its transition to democracy, following a popular uprising last year that led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat al-Bashir.