(WASHINGTON) — The State Department and Treasury Department announced Thursday a $10 million bounty for information that leads them to a key al Qaeda financier and facilitator who is operating in Iran.
Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, better known as Yasin al-Suri, is a young Kurdish Syrian whose network, U.S. officials say, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars and operatives, primarily from the Persian Gulf region, through Iran and ultimately to al Qaeda networks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Al-Suri’s network has served as a financial conduit, collecting funds from donors throughout the Gulf and moving those via Iran to al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al-Suri’s network also serves as the core pipeline for al Qaeda to funnel operatives from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Suri works with the Iranian government to secure the release of al Qaeda operatives held in Iranian prisons. Once released, the Iranian government transfers the prisoners to al-Suri, who then helps them transit to Pakistan,” Eytan Fisch, assistant director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, told reporters.
Thursday’s announcement marks the first time the Rewards for Justice program has offered a reward for a financier of terrorism.
Al-Suri and his network and collaborators were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in July for their role in support of al Qaeda, cutting them off from the U.S. financial system. On Thursday, U.S. officials said those measures have been helpful in breaking al Qaeda’s financial backbone, but declined to specify how much, if any, money was frozen as a result of the sanctions.
The U.S. alleges al-Suri’s network operates under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.
“Iranian authorities maintain a relationship with al-Suri and have allowed him to operate within Iran’s borders since 2005,” Fisch said.
Given al-Suri’s apparent protection by the Iranian government, it’s unclear what the United States would be able to do even if they are provided with information as to his whereabouts.
Since its launch in 1984, the Rewards for Justice program has paid out over a hundred million dollars to more than 70 people who have provided credible information that prevented terror attacks or fingered terrorists.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
Holly Yan, CNN