The move means these groups are being formally listed as designated terrorist organizations, a reflection of the changing assessment of the threat they pose. In the past, U.S. officials have indicated that they saw the groups in Libya, Yemen and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia more as sympathizers than formal affiliates of the core militant group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.
More than a year ago, ISIS fighters marched 30 Christians to a Libyan beach and beheaded them. As the State Department admits, ISIS branches in Libya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen became part of the terror network in November 2014.
"ISIL-Yemen, ISIL-Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya all emerged as official ISIL branches in November 2014 when U.S. Department of State-designated Specially Designated Global Terrorist and ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that he had accepted the oaths of allegiance from fighters in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, and was thereby creating ISIL “branches” in those countries," the State Department added.
The State Department, working with the Justice and Treasury departments, also placed the groups on a list of global terrorists that allows the Obama administration to sanction anyone who knowingly helps or provides material support to these groups - freezing any property, bank accounts or other interests they might have in the U.S.
All three affiliates of the Sunni terrorist group have carried out deadly attacks in their countries. ISIS in Libya, which has attacked on government and civilian targets, staged a highly publicized kidnapping and execution of 21 Egyptian Christians.
ISIS in Saudi Arabia has staged attacks on Shiite mosques in the Kingdom and in Kuwait, killing more than 50 people and ISIS in Yemen claimed responsibility for suicide bombings on mosques there that killed more than 120.
The announcement brings the total number of ISIS affiliates named as designated terrorist organizations to eight, including affiliates in Algeria, the Sinai, Syria, the Caucauses and Africa.