WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has imposed sanctions on the Islamist extremist group that seized much of northern Mali last year and prompted a French military intervention.

The State Department's declaration of Ansar Dine as a foreign terrorist organization blocks any assets it has in the U. S. and bans Americans from doing business with it.

Washington issued similar measures against the group's leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, last month.

Aided by al-Qaida's North Africa wing, Ansar Dine took control of much of northern Mali after a tribal rebellion. In Timbuktu, it imposed strict Sharia law and forced thousands to flee; others were tortured and executed.

A French-led intervention in January turned the tide, pushing the rebels back to mountainous hideouts near the Algeria border.

The U. N. also set global sanctions against Ansar Dine.

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