x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 October 2017

US offers $12 million for information on two senior Hizbollah members

Nathan Sales, counterterrorism coordinator, said that countering Hizbollah was a top priority for the Trump administration

A fighter walks past a tank bearing a Hizbollah flag in eastern Syria on August 28, 2017. The US government issued new financial rewards for two Hizbollah leaders on Tuesday. Louai Beshara / AFP
A fighter walks past a tank bearing a Hizbollah flag in eastern Syria on August 28, 2017. The US government issued new financial rewards for two Hizbollah leaders on Tuesday. Louai Beshara / AFP

The United State offered on Tuesday multimillion dollar rewards for information that would lead to two senior members of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hizbollah, which the US designated a terrorist organisation in 1997.

“Today, I am announcing rewards for two senior Hizbollah leaders under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program,” said Nathan Sales, coordinator for counterterrorism, during a press briefing.

Mr Sales — who was sworn in in August — said that countering Hizbollah was a top priority for the Trump administration.

“The threat Hizbollah poses to this country was underscored in June when the FBI arrested two alleged operatives, one in New York and one in Michigan,” he said. “These men allegedly were operating on behalf of Hizbollah’s international terrorist unit.”

He said that the State Department was offering up to $12 million (Dh44m) dollars for information that leads to the location, arrest, or conviction in any country of Talal Hamiyah and Fuad Shukr. Up to $7 million for Hamiyah and $5 million for Shukr.

“Hamiyah has been linked to several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings targeting US citizens,” said Mr Sales. “Hamiyah leads Hizbollah’s international terrorist unit, the so called ‘External Security Organization,’ which is responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.

“Shukr is a senior military commander of Hizbollah’s forces in Lebanon. He’s also a member of the Jihad Council, Hizbollah’s highest military body.”

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Read more: Hizbollah is a menace for Lebanon and whole region, Trump says

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The US official said that Shukr plays a key role in Hizbollah’s operations in Syria, where the Iran-backed militia is fighting alongside the forces of president Bashar Al Assad.

Shukr was also involved in the 1983 attack on the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 troops.

“These are the first Hizbollah-related rewards under the Rewards for Justice Program in a decade,” said Mr Sales. “Until Hizbollah stops using terrorism and violence to achieve its goals, the United States and our allies will aggressively target its terrorism infrastructure and financial support networks.

“While much progress has been made, more work remains to be done.”

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He noted that Hizbollah was not subject to UN sanctions, nor is it sanctioned regionally or at the national level in South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia. In 2016, both the GCC and the Arab League designated Hizbollah a terrorist organisation.

“Some countries have chosen to designate only Hizbollah’s military wing, leaving its so-called political wing untouched,” said Mr Sales. “But that is a false distinction. Make no mistake — Hizbollah has no political wing.

“It is a single organisation, a terrorist organisation, and it is rotten to its core.”

Mr Sales said that Tehran’s “deep and abiding assistance” to Hizbollah is what made it a “global threat”.

“This has all come at the expense of the Iranian people, whose resources are being diverted to support Hizbollah’s bloody cause, and at the expense of Lebanon, which has suffered grievously from Iran and Hizbollah’s deadly partnership,” he said. “The people of Iran and the people of Lebanon deserve better than this.”

The announcement comes two days ahead of US president Donald Trump's speech on Iran. He is expected to decertify the nuclear deal signed in 2015, and present a strategy to counter Tehran’s “destabilising activities” across the Middle East.