U.S. sanctions Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad, its CEO and Hamas cryptocurrency financiers


The United States Department of the Treasury is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. Photo by Andrew Kelly/REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. on Monday hit Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO with sanctions, alleging assistance to Iran’s military wing, and imposed a fifth round of sanctions on the militant group Hamas for abuse of cryptocurrency since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The sanctions come as Israel’s bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip continues — killing 25,000 Palestinians so far, according to the Gaza Strip Healthy Ministry — and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq launch regular strikes against bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

In the new sanctions, the Treasury Department said Fly Baghdad and CEO Basheer Abdulkadhim Alwan al-Shabbani have provided assistance to Iran’s military wing and its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“Iran and its proxies have sought to abuse regional economies and use seemingly legitimate businesses as cover for funding and facilitating their attacks,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian E. Nelson said in a statement. “The United States will continue to disrupt Iran’s illicit activities aimed at undermining the stability of the region.”

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The sanctions block access to U.S. property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.

Fly Baghdad denied the U.S. allegations and said it would take legal action to demand compensation for losses resulting from the sanctions “as it is clear that the decision was based on misleading and false information and cannot stand before the law.”

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also designated three leaders and supporters of an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah, as well as a business that it says moves and launders funds for the organization.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, an umbrella group of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has launched strikes against bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. The group has said that the strikes are in retaliation for Washington’s backing of Israel in the war in Gaza and that it aims to push U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Most of the strikes have fallen short or been shot down and have not caused casualties, but on Saturday a missile salvo launched at al-Asad airbase in western Iraq injured a number of U.S. personnel and one Iraqi military service member stationed there.

Some of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, officially operate under the control of the Iraqi military as part of a coalition known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which was a key player in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group when it rampaged across Iraq and Syria, seizing wide swaths of territory. In practice, however, the groups largely operate outside of state control.

In addition on Monday, the U.S. sanctioned a network of Hamas-affiliated financial exchanges in Gaza, including financial facilitators that transferred funds through cryptocurrency from Iran to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

The U.K. and Australia coordinated with the U.S. on these sanctions.

Hamas has said it planned for a potentially long fight and was “ready to do whatever is necessary for the dignity and freedom of our people.”

Associated Press writer Abby Sewell reported from Beirut, Lebanon.

Left:
The United States Department of the Treasury is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. Photo by Andrew Kelly/REUTERS



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