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US offers $10m for information on Iraq's Hezbollah commander 

Iraq’s Hezbollah commander, Muhammad Kawtharani [Youtube]
Iraq’s Hezbollah commander, Muhammad Kawtharani [Youtube]

The US on Friday offered a reward of up to $10 million for "any information on the activities, networks and associates" of Iraq's Hezbollah commander, Muhammad Kawtharani.

Kawtharani was designated a "global terrorist" in 2013 on the grounds that he was believed to have been funding armed groups in Iraq and helping to transport fighters to Syria, where Tehran is backing President Assad.

The Hezbollah commander is now accused of playing a key part in coordinating pro-Iran groups in Iraq.

Kawtharani is alleged to have taken a greater role in the country following the US assassination of Iranian Quds Forces Commander Qassem Soleimani on 3 January.

Reuters reported in February that Kawtharani had emerged as the interim successor of Soleimani in overseeing Iranian-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq.

The report added that, according to two Iraqi sources and a senior Iraqi Shia Muslim Leader, Kawtharani was seen as the most suitable figure until a permanent successor could be chosen.

"Kawtharani has connections with the militia groups… he was trusted by Soleimani, who used to depend and call on him to help in crises and in meetings in Baghdad".

READ: Israel army publishes video of Syria and Hezbollah leaders in Golan Heights

A statement from the US State Department said Kawtharani "has taken over some of the political coordination of Iran-aligned paramilitary groups formerly organised by Qassem Soleimani".

Figures including Kawtharani and Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are believed to be taking greater responsibility in Iran's regional power structure since Soleimani's death.

The US' official statement added that "in this capacity, he facilitates the actions of groups operating outside the control of the Government of Iraq that have violently suppressed protests, attacked foreign diplomatic missions, and engaged in wide-spread organised criminal activity".

The US has blamed Iranian-backed armed groups for several attacks on its bases in Iraq in recent months.

The US State Department said it was offering the sum as "part of the Department's standing reward offer for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the terrorist organization Lebanese Hezbollah."

The programme was announced by the US' Rewards for Justice programme in April 2019, providing six key areas where information is being sought including; names of major donors or financial facilitators, exchange houses facilitating Hezbollah transactions, and businesses or investments controlled by the group and its allies.

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