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US offers as much as $10m for information on Hezbollah's man in Iraq

Muhammad Kawtharani emerged as Qassem Soleimani's interim successor in overseeing Iran-backed miitias in Iraq
Iraqi security forces guard US embassy in Baghdad amid protests led by Iran-backed militias last December (Reuters)
By MEE staff in Washington

The US State Department is offering as much as $10m for information on senior Hezbollah operative Muhammad Kawtharani in its latest effort to target individuals carrying out activities on behalf of Iran.

Kawtharani, who was designated as a "global terrorist" by Washington in 2013, oversees Hezbollah's activities in Iraq and is said to have assumed a greater role in the country after the death of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

"The US Department of State's Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on the activities, networks, and associates of Muhammad Kawtharani, a senior Hezbollah military commander," the department said in a statement on Friday. 

"This announcement is part of the Department’s standing reward offer for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the terrorist organization Lebanese Hezbollah."

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Last year, Washington announced a $10m reward for information that would disrupt Hezbollah's finances. 

In February, Reuters reported that Kawtharani had emerged as the interim successor of Soleimani in overseeing Tehran-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq. He even led coordination efforts between Iraqi Shia leaders for forming a new government, according to the New Arab news website. 

Iraqi sources told Middle East Eye in January that Iran had tasked Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with organising and unifying Iraqi paramilitary groups after the assassination of Soleimani.

Kawtharani, a member of the Hezbollah political council, has long been in charge of the group's Iraqi affairs. In 2014, he was present at a meeting between Nasrallah and former Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki.

"Kawtharani... 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 organized criminal activity," the State Department said on Friday.

As part of its maximum pressure campaign against Iran, Washington has been targeting Hezbollah's financial network, imposing sanctions on dozens of Lebanese and regional companies that it accuses of funding the group.

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