US seizes domain names linked to Iran-backed militia group

Prosecutors said the domains were owned by a U.S. company operating out of Virginia

U.S. authorities have seized two domain names linked to an Iran-backed terrorist group operating in Iraq, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The websites, “Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com,” were being used by Kata’ib Hizballah, a group that the U.S. Secretary of Treasury in 2009 designated a terrorist organization.

Visitors to "Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com" will be greeted with this picture. 

Visitors to "Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com" will be greeted with this picture.  (DOJ)

The group, which operates in Iraq and is backed by Iran, is accused of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.

The DOJ said “Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com” acted as Kata’ib Hizballah’s media arm by publishing content designed to destabilize Iraq and recruit others to join their cause.

“Al-etejah TV,” founded in 2009, functioned as a live online television broadcast channel.

Pursuant to a seizure warrant, federal authorities seized “Aletejahtv.com” and “Aletejahtv.org” in late August. A few weeks later, federal agents found the content from these websites on “Aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com.”

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The content reportedly included false information about the coronavirus pandemic designed to damage perception of the U.S. among Iraqi citizens and further destabilize the region to Iran’s benefit.

Prosecutors said “aletejahtv.com” and “kataibhezbollah.com” were owned operated by a U.S. company based in Reston, Va. The Eastern District of Virginia issued a seizure warrant on Oct. 14 and the United States domains were seized.

The DOJ said Kata’ib Hizballah did not obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to registering the domain names,. According to federal law, entities like Kata’ib Hizballah obtaining or utilizing goods or services, including website and domain services, in the U.S. without a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

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Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said seizures like these are critical to preventing terrorist organizations from using U.S. websites to recruit  members and promote their world views.

“While this case is a reminder that terrorists don’t need to step foot in our country to further their aims, today’s actions show that the Department will do what it takes to stop them,” Demers said.