U.S. offers $10-million bounty for Iran-based Qaida financier

The United States on Thursday offered a bounty of up to $10 million for information leading to the capture of an alleged al-Qaida financier based in Iran, Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, also known as Yasin al-Suri.

The reward is "aimed at disrupting a financial network that has operated from within Iran's borders since 2005," Treasury Department official Eytan Fisch told a joint press conference at the State Department Thursday, Reuters reported.

The Treasury Department formally designated Khalil and five other members of his alleged network as terrorists back in July. The action marked the first time the U.S. government had so explicitly accused Iranian authorities of actively harboring an al-Qaida facilitator. The Syrian-born Khalil (a.k.a. al-Suri), 29, is accused of serving as a key financial pipe-line between al-Qaida fundraisers in the Persian Gulf and operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, of the six men designated in July as members of Khalil's network, only Khalil/(al-Suri) was described by the U.S. Treasury Department documents as currently being based in Iran. Three others designated were described as being based in Qatar and Kuwait---Persian Gulf allies which the United States has not similarly publicly accused of harboring the terrorist group.

In announcing the bounty Thursday, the State Department's Robert Hartung said al-Suri "is a dedicated terrorist working in support of al Qaeda with the support of the government of Iran," Reuters reported. "As a key fundraiser for the al Qaeda terrorist network, he is a continuing danger to the interests of the United States."

Thursday's action comes as the United States has notably toughened its rhetoric towards Iran in recent weeks, stressing its determination not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. The United States also in October said it had foiled an alleged assassination plot targeting Saudi Arabia's envoy to Washington that Washington said was backed by elements of Iran's elite Qods Force brigade.

Earlier this week, Iran authorities accused an Iranian-American man detained while visiting his relatives of being a CIA spy -- charges the family and friends of Amir Hekmati vehemently deny.

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