US puts up $10m reward for information on a Hezbollah financial network

On Thursday the US posted sanctions on Nabil Qaouk and Hassan Al Baghdadi, two members of the Central Council of Hezbollah

FILE PHOTO: A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/File Photo
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The US government announced a $10 million reward for information on a Hezbollah financing network to coincide with 37th anniversary of a bomb attack on a Marines barracks in Beirut.

“Help us cut the money flow between Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group,” the State Department’s Reward for Justice programme tweeted on Friday.

The US is seeking information on the activities, networks, and associates of Hezbollah that form a part of its financial support. Specifically it mentioned three key financiers: Muhammad Qasir, Muhammad Qasim Al Bazzal, and Ali Qasir.

Mr Qasir is a “critical link” between the group and its primary funder, Iran, the US said.

“He has been a significant conduit for financial disbursements from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Force (IRGC-QF) to Hezbollah,” the State Department said.

His role, according to the US, involves overseeing front companies to hide IRGC activities in selling oil and gas, and as a way to evade US sanctions. “Qasir directs the Hezbollah unit that assists in the transfer of weapons, technology and other support from Syria to Lebanon,” it added.

Mr Al Bazzal appears to be more active in Syria and in oil as well as aluminium shipments, the State Department said. “A co-founder of the Syria-based Talaqi Group and oversees other terrorist financing enterprises, such as Hokoul SAL Offshore and Nagham Al Hayat. Since late 2018, Al Bazzal has used the Talaqi Group and his other companies to finance, coordinate and obscure various illicit IRGC-QF-linked oil shipments.”

Ali Qasir is the managing director of the Talaqi Group that Mr Bazzal co-founded and a liaison for illicit shipments between Iran, Lebanon and Syria. “Ali Qasir has overseen sales price negotiations and collaborated to cover expenses and to facilitate an Iranian oil shipment by Adrian Darya 1 for the benefit of the IRGC.” Adrian Darya 1 is the super tanker from Iran that the US was tracking in 2019 and has reportedly transferred its oil to Syria in September last year.

All three individuals have previously been designated by the US, but the reward comes on the anniversary of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement committing to disrupt Hezbollah’s and Iran’s networks.

“On October 23, 1983, Hezbollah carried out a suicide bombing targeting the United States Marine Barracks in Beirut, claiming the lives of 241 American service members…We will never forget their sacrifice,” Mr Pompeo said. Hezbollah has not claimed public responsibility for the attack.

“We renew our commitment to preventing Hezbollah and its sponsor Iran from spilling more innocent blood in Lebanon or anywhere in the world.”

On Thursday, the US sanctioned two members of the Central Council of Hezbollah, Nabil Qaouk and Hassan Al Baghdadi.