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US sanctions airline, Iraq militia leaders after attacks on troops

By AFP - Jan 22,2024 - Last updated at Jan 22,2024

WASHINGTON — The United States announced sanctions on Monday on Iraqi low-cost airline Fly Baghdad, saying it provided assistance to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and proxies, while also targeting leaders of a pro-Iranian Iraq militia for sanctions.

The moves come as Iraq's powerful pro-Iranian armed group Kataeb Hizbollah has "carried out a series of sharply escalating drone and missile attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria", said the US Treasury Department in a statement.

Kataeb Hizbollah and other Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq "have consistently issued statements" supporting Hamas, while declaring "their commitment to attacking US personnel", the US Treasury said.

"Iran and its proxies have sought to abuse regional economies and use seemingly legitimate businesses as cover for funding and facilitating their attacks," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.

In a separate statement, the US State Department added that the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Iran-aligned militia groups "pose a significant threat to the Middle East region".

“The United States remains committed to exposing and taking actions against individuals and groups that abuse their local economies and engage in illegal activities that support terrorist groups destabilising the region,” added State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

In unveiling sanctions on Fly Baghdad and CEO Basheer Abdulkadhim Alwan Al Shabbani, the Treasury Department said the airline supported the Quds Force “by delivering material and personnel throughout the region” including weapons.

It added that since Hamas’s attack in early October, Fly Baghdad “was involved in the transfer of hundreds of Iraqi fighters” in support of Iranian proxies’ attacks on Israel.

The latest sanctions target a senior Kataeb Hizbollah member and drone specialist, alongside a company allegedly used to launder money and the individual managing it.

Property of designated individuals in the United States are blocked and must be reported. Financial institutions and others are also restricted in their transactions with sanctioned entities.

In November, Washington sanctioned six people affiliated with Kataeb Hizbollah, and the leader of another Iraq-based group it said was involved in attacks against US troops in the region as well.

 

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