US seizes website domains used by Iran-backed Iraqi militia

US Justice Department says it has seized domain names from Kataib Hezbollah

epa07794657 Members of Iran backed armed group Kataib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) carry their flag during the funeral of their leader Abu Ali al-Debbi, who was killed in a drone attack a day earlier near the Iraqi western border with Syria, at the funeral procession in Baghdad, Iraq, 26 August 2019.  Abu Ali al-Debbi, the chief of logistical support of Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, was killed late 25 August 2019, near the western border with Syria in an Israeli drone strike in Al-Qaim while on a patrol near the Iraqi borders, Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces said in a statement.  EPA/MURTAJA LATEEF
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The US Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it has seized additional domain names belonging to Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah, which Washington has designated a terrorist group.

“Seizures like these are critical to preventing designated entities and terrorist organisation from using US websites to recruit new members and promote their twisted world views,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general.

“While this case is a reminder that terrorists don’t need to step foot in our country to further their aims, today’s actions show that the department will do what it takes to stop them.”

The latest domain names the US has seized from the Iran-backed militia are aletejahtv.com and kataibhezbollah.com.

The US seized other domain names belonging to Kataib Hezbollah in August.

The Justice Department said the websites published articles, videos and photographs to “further Kataib Hezbollah’s agenda, particularly destabilising Iraq and recruiting others to join their cause".

“The content even included false information about Covid-19 designed to damage perception of the United States in the minds of Iraqi citizens and to destabilise the region to the benefit of Iran,” the department said.

The United States designated Kataib Hezbollah, which receives substantial support and direction from Iran, as a terrorist organisation in 2009.

Lee Smith, export enforcement chief at the US Commerce Department, pledged that his agency would “continue to aggressively disrupt Iranian-backed terrorist organisations such as Kataib Hezbollah from using US-based online networks and services in violation of US law".

Mr Smith repeated his bureau’s commitment to “protecting our war fighters and allied forces from terrorist acts of violence inspired and directed via online networks".

The US and Kataib Hezbollah have repeatedly exchanged fire in Iraq throughout the past year.

The attacks reportedly prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to threaten to close the US embassy in Baghdad in September.

But last week Mr Pompeo said the US was happy with Iraqi government efforts to improve protection for its embassy and bases.

Kataib Hezbollah announced that it would suspend rocket attacks on US forces as long as Baghdad presented a timetable to withdraw US troops.

Kataib Hezbollah's founder and leader, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, was killed in a US drone strike in January near Baghdad airport, alongside top Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani.