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Iraq no-frills carrier says no grounds for US sanctions

Iraqi no-frills carrier Fly Baghdad has condemned Washington’s imposition of sanctions, saying the US Treasury provided no proof of its allegation the airline had assisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. In a statement on Monday, the US slapped sanctions on Fly Baghdad and its CEO, Basheer Abdulkadhim Alwan al-Shabbani, accusing them of “providing assistance to the Quds Force”, the foreign operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards, “by delivering material and personnel throughout the region” including weapons. The company responded to US sanctions on Monday evening in a statement, saying the US decision was “based on misleading and unreal information that cannot stand up to the law”. Fly Baghdad demanded the US Treasury provide evidence that could “convict the company or its management”. Namir al-Qaissi, Fly Baghdad’s director of aviation security, called the American sanctions a “great injustice”. “Dialogue and discussions continue between the CEO of Fly Baghdad and the Civil Aviation Authority, the transport ministry and the prime minister’s office in order to resolve the issue”, he told AFP on Tuesday. The low-cost carrier, which offers flights to Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Dubai, Istanbul, Mumbai and Tehran, said its services were “continuing as usual and have not been suspended”. Qaissi said however that immediately after Washington’s announcement on Monday, “two flights were delayed”, advising travellers to “contact customer service before going to the airport”. However videos circulating on social media, which AFP could not independently verify, purported to show passengers at Baghdad airport venting their frustration over a flight cancellation. Under US sanctions, property in the United States of individuals designated by the Treasury are blocked and must be reported. Financial institutions and others are restricted in their transactions with sanctioned entities. On Monday, the Treasury also announced that it had imposed new sanctions against “three leaders and supporters” of Kataeb Hezbollah, a pro-Iran armed group in Iraq. It accused Kataeb Hezbollah of having “used Fly Baghdad flights on multiple occasions to transport bags of US currency and US-made weapons… from Iraq to Lebanon”. It also accused Fly Baghdad of having transferred “hundreds of Iraqi fighters” affiliated with pro-Iran groups “in support of the Iranian proxies’ attacks on Israel”. Qaissi said, “can we ignore all the laws to this extent to put weapons on our planes?” “In any country, how can a plane with weapons land and take off without the state knowing?” The US sanctions come after a spate of attacks on US troops in Iraq and neighbouring Syria since an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 by Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas sparked war with Israel in Gaza. Since mid-October, more than 140 attacks have targeted US and other foreign troops in Iraq and Syria, most of them claimed by pro-Iran armed groups.

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