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U.S. sanctions two Iranian officials for abduction of FBI agent

Image of Robert Levinson issued by the FBI. Photo courtesy of the FBI<br>
Image of Robert Levinson issued by the FBI. Photo courtesy of the FBI

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The Trump administration announced sanctions Monday on two Iranian intelligence officials in connection with the 2007 kidnapping and possible death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson from a Persian Gulf island.

Levinson was last known to be on the tourist spot of Kish Island, off the coast of Iran, on an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gain information on Iran's nuclear program.

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Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai were both described in a U.S. Treasury Department statement as high-ranking members of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, that country's equivalent to the CIA.

"The government of Iran pledged to provide assistance in bringing Bob Levinson home, but it has never followed through," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. "The truth is that Iranian intelligence officers -- with the approval of senior Iranian officials -- were involved in Bob's abduction and detention. While no one should be as cruelly treated as Bob was, this situation is personal because Bob served as a special agent for 22 years and will always be a part of the FBI family."

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Senior U.S. government officials publicly acknowledged on Monday Levinson most likely died in captivity, a conclusion his family came to in March. The Levinson family sued the Iranian government in 2014 for his imprisonment and coverup.

"The abduction of Mr. Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime's willingness to commit unjust acts," Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. "The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson's detention and probable death."

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