US offers up to $10M reward for information on Hezbollah operative

The United States is seeking information on the whereabouts of Salim Jamil Ayyash, who is wanted for the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister.

The United States is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on the whereabouts of Salim Jamil Ayyash, a top Hezbollah operative who played a key role in the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

According to a State Department release on Monday, Ayyash is a senior figure in Unit 121, the group’s assassination squad that receives orders directly from Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. The US announcement said Ayyash has also been involved in “efforts to harm US military personnel.”

Hezbollah, which operates as both a militant group and political party in Lebanon, has been listed by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997.

Last year, an international tribunal convicted Ayyash of terrorism and homicide for his role in the February 2005 truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and injured 226 people outside of a waterfront hotel in Beirut.

Ayyash was one of four Hezbollah defendants in the case. Citing a lack of evidence, the court in August found the others not guilty of all counts.

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon described Ayyash as “the main criminal in the Hariri assassination” and described his role as “vital to the success of the attack.” In December, the Netherlands-based tribunal sentenced Ayyash in absentia to five concurrent life sentences and renewed an international warrant seeking his arrest.

Hezbollah denies involvement in Hariri’s assassination, and Nasrallah described the international tribunal’s probe as “neither transparent [nor] scientific.”

The State Department said its reward offer also applies to information that prevents Ayyash from “engaging in an act of international terrorism against US persons or US property.” As part of its Rewards for Justice program, the United States has since 1984 paid more than $200 million to over 200 people who provided “actionable information” to help bring global terrorists to justice.

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