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$25 million reward for info on ex-FBI agent believed to be held captive by Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks to the media in the press briefing room at the State Department of State April 22, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Michael Gross/Zuma Press/TNS)
November 05, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday raised the stakes for information leading to the location, recovery and return of Robert Levinson, a former FBI employee believed missing and held by Iran for over a decade.

Pompeo added $20 million to the FBI’s existing $5 million reward for Levinson, making $25 million available to whoever provides the information that leads to his return, Fox News reported. If alive, Levinson would be the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.

Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998 and went on to work as a private investigator. In March 2007, at the age of 58, Levinson traveled to Kish Island, Iran as part of what may have been an unauthorized CIA mission. According to the Fox News source in 2016, Levinson was supposedly investigating cigarette smuggling and working on a book but may have altered his mission after finding Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive.

Salahuddin, also known as David Belfield and Hassan Abdulrahman, is an American fugitive still wanted for the 1980 murder of an Iranian diplomat in Maryland. Having met Salahuddin, Levinson may have attempted to deliver him as an asset for the CIA. The Fox News source said Levinson was likely using the recruitment of Salahuddin to gain his full-time employment with the CIA.

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Levinson went missing after meeting Salahuddin. The last available proof that Levinson is alive came in the form of a 2011 photo of Levinson in an orange jumpsuit. While the Iranian government claims never to have taken Levinson as a political prisoner, Iran’s judiciary has acknowledged an open case file on Levinson to the United Nations and the man’s family. Levinson’s family believes Iran is behind his capture.

“This is the 40th anniversary of the day in 1979 when 52 Americans were taken hostage and held for 444 days. Bob Levinson has been held more than 10 times longer – for 4624 day,” Levinson’s family said in a statement provided to Fox News. “Bob Levinson must come home, and Iran’s hostage-taking as government policy must end.”

Prior to the latest $20 million addition to the reward for Levinson’s return, the reward for his return was set at $1 million in 2012 and raised to $5 million in 2015.

On Monday, Pompeo also called on the Iranian government to provide for the whereabout of other U.S. citizens thought wrongfully detained.

“The Trump administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We will not rest until they are reunited with their families.”

The Trump administration on Monday also raised new sanctions on nine Iranian government, military and judiciary officials who comprise the core support for Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

The new pressure comes amid Iranian moves to increase enriched uranium production necessary for developing nuclear weapons.