United Arab Emirates lists over 80 Muslim 'terrorist' groups

ABU DHABI (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which belongs to a US-led coalition fighting Islamic militants, on Saturday issued a list of 83 Islamist groups which it classified as "terrorist organisations".

The list, approved by the Cabinet and published on the official WAM news agency, is similar to an announcement made by Riyadh in March.

It blacklists Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen's Shi'ite Huthi militia.

The UAE has jailed dozens of Emiratis and Egyptians for forming cells of the Brotherhood, outlawed in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which accuses the movement of seeking to overthrow the Gulf monarchies.

On Saturday, the UAE named the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars which is headed by the Brotherhood's spiritual guide Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi on its terror list.

From inside the Gulf state itself, the list names Al-Islah (reform) Society, dozens of whose members have been jailed, and the previously unknown "UAE jihad cells".

Shi'ite Hezbollah in the Gulf states and brigades with the same name in Iraq also figure on the list, but not Lebanon's powerful Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.

Several brigades fighting on both sides in the Syrian conflict along with Islamist groups in Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Pakistan, Nigeria's Boko Haram as well as Afghanistan's Taleban account for the bulk of the list.

Fifteen Islamists accused of joining and financing Al-Nusra Front, Syria's Al-Qaeda franchise, and Ahrar al-Sham, another Syrian rebel group, went on trial in the UAE in September.

The UAE has been taking part in US-led air strikes against the IS group in Syria, along with fellow Arab states Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The Emirati list also includes the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, as well as Muslim associations in Britain and other European countries.

The oil-rich Arab monarchies of the Gulf have not faced the widespread protests which have swept other regional states since 2011.

But authorities have cracked down on dissent and calls for democratic reform, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

Those mainly targeted have been Islamists.

In August, the UAE toughened anti-terrorism laws in a bid to stamp out terror financing, hostage-taking, human trafficking and money laundering.