U.S. government sanctions Hezbollah operatives, fundraisers

October 20, 2016 10:55 AM EDT

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters carry a replica of Hezbollah emblem during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury moved to disrupt the fundraising and operation of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group on Thursday, imposing sanctions on four operatives and a firm that have assisted the organization, long seen as a terrorist outfit by Washington.

In a related action, the U.S. State Department sanctioned Hezbollah commander Haytham 'Ali Tabataba'i under U.S. counter-terrorism rules. 'Ali Tabataba'i has commanded Hezbollah special forces, has operated in Syria and has been reported to be in Yemen, the State Department said in a statement.

The sanctions prevent U.S. citizens from doing business with the individuals and organization, Global Cleaners SARL. Saudi Arabia joined the United States in imposing sanctions on some of the people, the Treasury Department said in statement.

The department imposed sanctions on Muhammad al-Mukhtar Kallas, Hasan Jamal-al-Din, Yosef Ayad and Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar.

It said Kallas and Jamal-al-Din provided financial services for Hezbollah member and financier Adham Tabaja through work for Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting LLC. The Treasury said Global Cleaners was owned or controlled by Tabaja and had sanitation contracts in Baghdad.

Ayad and Hamdar were designated for helping Hezbollah plan and support acts of terrorism, the Treasury said. It said the two were members of Hezbollah's External Security Organization. Hamdar was arrested in Lima, Peru, in October 2014 on suspicion of planning Hezbollah attacks in that country, it said.

Hezbollah enjoys strong support among Lebanon's Shi'ite community and wields enormous political influence in that country. Its military wing plays a major role in the Syrian conflict.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said they are troubled by Iran's support for regional proxy groups such as Hezbollah.

Critics say the U.S. administration has not done enough to counter Iran’s activities and the groups it backs in the region, especially in light of a nuclear deal reached last year that lifted international sanctions on Iran.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Yeganeh Torbati; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu)



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