US State Division affords as much as $ 10 million for data on convicted Hezbollah operative Salim Ayyash court for the 2005 homicide of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The administration introduced the bounty on Monday as a part of its Rewards for Justice program, describing Ayyash as a “senior official within the assassination unit of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah”.
“Ayyash is a senior official with Hezbollah Unit 121, the group’s assassination squad that receives orders instantly from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah,” the State Division mentioned in an announcement.
“Ayyash is thought to have been concerned in efforts to hurt US navy personnel.”
Final yr, a UN-backed courtroom in The Hague sentenced Ayyash in absentia to life in jail for his involvement in Hariri’s assassination. He was the one suspect to have been convicted within the worldwide trial.
Three different Hezbollah members had been acquitted for lack of enough proof. It’s nonetheless unclear the place Ayyash is and Hezbollah denies any involvement in Hariri’s homicide.
Billionaire whose rise to prime ministerial put up within the Nineties turned synonymous with reconstruction efforts after 15 years of civil warfare in Lebanon, Hariri was killed in an enormous automobile bomb in Beirut in 2005. The bombing additionally killed 21 different individuals and injured lots of.
Hariri’s homicide has been a catalyst for appeals and protests in opposition to the presence and affect of the Syrian military in Lebanon.
The US supply of cash in change for data on Ayyash’s location comes at a time when the Lebanese economic system is present process rising political and financial crises amid a political stalemate between its important political events.
The son of the late Hariri, Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri, has struggled to type a brand new cupboard attributable to deep disagreements with President Michel Aoun – a Hezbollah ally – over the scale and type of authorities – because the the nation’s forex continues to depreciate.
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The Lebanese pound has misplaced greater than 85% of its worth since October 2019.
The Rewards for Justice program affords a number of rewards associated to Hezbollah. Final yr, Washington supplied as much as $ 10 million for data on Hezbollah agent Muhammad Kawtharani, who is claimed to supervise the Lebanese group’s actions in Iraq.
In 2019, the State Division ad a $ 10 million reward for data that might disrupt Hezbollah’s funds.
The effectiveness of the reward system is unclear in the case of Hezbollah, whose members function largely in secret regardless of sturdy common assist in lots of components of Lebanon.
The State Division says the Rewards for Justice program has paid out greater than $ 200 million since its inception in 1984.
On Monday, many Hezbollah supporters shared social media posts supporting Ayyash after the announcement of the US bounty, utilizing the Arabic hashtags: “I’m Salim Ayyash” and “We’re Salim Ayyash”.
Bahaa Hariri, the eldest son of the assassinated prime minister who has extra hawkish views in opposition to Hezbollah than his brother Saad, hailed the American award for details about Ayyash.
“I welcome this initiative of the Biden administration to punish one of many perpetrators of my father’s assassination, the martyr Rafik Hariri. I’ve at all times mentioned that justice should prevail,” Bahaa Hariri wrote on Twitter.