The State Department on Thursday announced that it is offering $12 million in rewards for help in capturing two al Qaeda terrorist financiers in Iran who are helping fund and arm terrorists in Syria.
The financiers were identified as an “Iran-based senior facilitator and financier” named Muhsin al-Fadhli, and his deputy Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi.
“Al Qaeda elements in Iran, led by al-Fadhli, are working to move fighters and money through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria,” the statement said. “Fadhli also is leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”
The rewards offered include $7 million for al-Fadhli and $5 million for al-Harbi if their locations are provided to the U.S. government, presumably so that they can be captured or killed.
“Al-Fadhli and al-Harbi facilitate the movement of funds and operatives through Iran on behalf of the al Qaeda terrorist network,” the department said in a statement. “Both men are wanted by Saudi authorities in connection with their terrorist activities, and al-Fadhli is wanted by authorities in Kuwait on terrorism-related charges.”
The disclosure comes as new intelligence information has been gathered indicating that Iranian agents are working with al Qaeda in Libya to send people and support to terrorists in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.
The department reward offer follows an apparent change in rhetoric by President Obama about the al Qaeda terrorist group that carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that killed 3,000 people.
According to the State Department, al Fadhli replaced another al Qaeda financier as the senior “facilitator and financier in Iran.”
“Al-Fadhli was among the few trusted al Qaeda leaders who received advance notification that terrorists would strike the United States on Sept.11, 2001,” the statement said. “He raised money to finance the Oct. 6, 2002, attack on the French ship MV Limburg off the coast of Yemen, which killed one, injured four crew members, and released 50,000 barrels of crude oil along 45 miles of coastline.”
Al-Fadhli and three other terrorists in 2003 were convicted in a Kuwaiti court for funding terrorist activities and military training in Afghanistan for terrorist purposes, the statement said.
Saudi Arabian authorities in June 2005 designated al-Fadhli as one of their most wanted terrorists for his role in a series of al Qaeda attacks in the kingdom.
He was placed on the Treasury Department’s designated terrorist list in 2005.
The harboring of al Qaeda financiers in Iran contradicts those who have said that there are no links between Iran and al Qaeda because the Iranians are predominantly Shiite Muslims opposed to al Qaeda’s brand of Sunni extremism.
Al Fadhli also helped al Qaeda shift “multiple operatives” from Pakistan through Iran and Turkey to Europe, North Africa, and Syria. He is suspected of continuing to move “experienced al Qaeda operatives to reinforce and gain influence in these areas,” the State Department said.
Al-Fadhli, 31, is also known as Muhsin Fadhil ’Ayyid al Fadhli, Muhsin Fadil Ayid Ashur al Fadhli, Abu Majid Samiyah, and Abu Samia.
Al-Harbi, the deputy in Iran, “facilitates the travel of extremists to Afghanistan or Iraq via Iran on behalf of al Qaeda and is believed to have sought funds to support al Qaeda attacks,” the statement said.
Al-Harbi is also wanted by the Saudi government for terrorism and was charged with going to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and for providing technical support on the Internet to the group.
Al-Harbi, 25, is also known as Abu Ali Muharib, Adel Radhi Sager Alharbi, and Muharib.
At the Treasury Department, terrorist financier al-Harbi was added to the list of six designated terrorists who are key members of al Qaeda’s network “operating in Iran.”
A Treasury statement said the designation “underscores that Iran continues to allow al Qaeda to operate a core pipeline that moves al Qaeda money and fighters through Iran to support al Qaeda activities in South Asia.”
“This network also sends funding and fighters to Syria,” Treasury said.
“Today’s action, which builds on our action from July 2011, further exposes al Qaeda’s critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network,” said undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David S. Cohen.
“We will continue targeting this crucial source of al Qaeda’s funding and support, as well as highlight Iran’s ongoing complicity in this network’s operation.”
The designation freezes any assets held by al-Harbi in the U.S. and prohibits any U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with him.
Al Qaeda financiers in Iran were first made public in July 2011 when a network of people led by Yasin al-Suri and five others were found to be using Iran as a transit point.
“This network uses Iran as a critical transit point and operates under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government,” Treasury said.
“Under the terms of the agreement between al Qaeda and Iran, al Qaeda must refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.”
The Iranian government in return provides the Iran-based al Qaeda operatives “freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families,” Treasury said.
A resurgence of al Qaeda in north Africa and the Middle East in recent months has prompted President Obama to appear to tone down recent claims about the group’s decline.
At the Democratic National Convention, Obama said that al Qaeda was on the “path to defeat.”
However, during a campaign speech in Ohio this week, Obama left out all references to al Qaeda’s decline.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, when asked about the apparent shift in tone by the president, said on Thursday that Obama has made clear that he is refocusing efforts on those who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our efforts against al Qaeda have inarguably led to success and progress, but the work is not yet done,” Carney said.
However, later Thursday Obama told supporters during a Manchester, N.H., campaign speech that al Qaeda is “on the path to defeat.”