The United States on Thursday offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of a key Al-Qaeda fundraiser, who is said to be a Syrian operating from Iran.
The reward for Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil marks the first time that a “terrorist financier” has been targeted in such a way, said Robert Hartung, assistant director for threat investigations with the State Department.
According to US officials, the man also known as Yacine al-Suri was born in Syria in 1982.
He was put on a US Treasury Department blacklist in July when he was described as a high-level Al-Qaeda “facilitator.”
The Treasury statement said then that Khalil has operated from inside Iran since 2005 “under an agreement between Al-Qaeda and the Iranian government.”
He moves Qaeda money and recruits from across the Middle East through Iran and then to Pakistan “for the benefit of Al-Qaeda senior leaders,” it added.
“Al-Suri is an important fundraiser for Al-Qaeda and has collected money from donors and fundraisers throughout the Persian Gulf region,” the State Department said Thursday in a statement.
“He has funneled significant amounts of money via Iran to Al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Working with the Iranian government, Al-Suri also arranges the release of Al-Qaeda personnel from Iranian prisons. When Al-Qaeda operatives are released, the Iranian government transfers them to the custody of al-Suri, who then coordinates their travel to Pakistan,” the State Department added.
The $10 million was posted as part of the program “Rewards for Justice,” set up in 1984, with the aim of hunting down suspects wanted for terror acts against the United States.
Khalil is the only individual based in Iran who has been targeted under the program which according to the State Department has already handed out more than $100 million in exchange for information about wanted suspects.
However, the US administration refuses to discuss the details of the information it has received or to openly identify those arrested, saying it needs to protect its informants.
Two cases have however come to light — the sons of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay, who were found in July 2003 in Mosul and killed by US forces trying to arrest them.
The current head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has the highest bounty on his head of $25 million.