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Iran IRGC unit hit with US sanctions for hostage-taking

The sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Organization come as several Americans remained unlawfully jailed in the country.
Families of wrongfully detained Americans hold a demonstration on May 4, 2022, in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on an intelligence branch of Iran's paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other actors involved in the wrongful detention of Americans overseas, senior US officials said. 

The sanctions target the IRGC Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO), which US officials say frequently holds and interrogates detainees at Evin prison, the sprawling detention center in northern Tehran believed to hold thousands of inmates, including foreign nationals used by Iran to extract concessions from the West.

The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on IRGC-IO commander Mohammad Kazemi and three of the group’s senior officials it said were linked to the detention of Americans and other foreigners. Kazemi, who took charge of the IRGC-IO in June 2022, was already under sanctions imposed in October for his role in the crackdown on Iran’s peaceful protest movement. 

In addition to the detention of foreign prisoners, the department said sanctioned counterintelligence official Ruhollah Bazghandi was involved in the IRGC-IO’s operations in neighboring Syria as well as assassination plots against journalists, Israeli citizens and other perceived enemies of Iran. 

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