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US unveils sanctions on Hezbollah operatives in South America, Lebanon

The targets include one of Hezbollah's alleged operational members behind the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association bombing in 1994.
Argentine Israeli Mutual Association

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on Hezbollah operatives based in South America and Lebanon, including one linked to the 1994 Jewish community center bombing in Argentina. 

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Amer Mohamed Akil Rada, describing him as one of the operational members behind the attack on the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association building, where 85 people were killed in 1994. Argentina has blamed Hezbollah and its backer Iran for the suicide bombing, both of which deny responsibility. 

US officials say Rada, who currently lives in Lebanon after running Hezbollah operations in South America for more than a decade, has coordinated the activities of various commercial enterprises for the Shiite militant group, including the exportation of charcoal from Colombia to Lebanon. 

Treasury also alleged Rada worked in close coordination with US-designated Hezbollah operative Salman Raouf Salman to case targets around South America. Amer was also linked to the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people. 

The newly announced sanctions, coordinated with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, targeted a total of seven individuals and entities involved in what Treasury said was a network generating revenue for Hezbollah’s terrorist activities. 

“Today’s action underscores the US government’s commitment to pursuing Hezbollah operatives and financiers no matter their location,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. 

“We will continue to root out those who seek to abuse the US and international financial system to fund and engage in terrorism,” Nelson said. 

The targets include Rada’s brother Samer Akil Rada, a Hezbollah member that Treasury said had direct links to drug trafficking and money laundering in various Latin American countries. He was also implicated in the shipment of $15 million worth of cocaine uncovered in fruit shipments that were ultimately seized in El Salvador. 

Also sanctioned was Amer Mohamed Akil Rada’s son Mahdy Akil Helbawi, who Treasury said conducts business activities in Colombia, “almost certainly in an effort to evade detection and circumvent sanctions.”

Last month, the Treasury Department blacklisted Green Without Borders, a Lebanese environmental group it said acted as a front for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon “under the guise of environmental activism.” Some members of Congress have recently called for sanctions on parliament speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Hezbollah.

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