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US Formally Blames Iran for Abduction of American in 2007

FILE - An FBI poster showing a photo and an age-progressed composite image of former FBI agent Robert Levinson is displayed in Washington, D.C., during a news conference, March 6, 2012.

The United States has sanctioned two Iranian nationals for their suspected involvement in the abduction and “probable death” of former FBI agent Robert Levinson on Iran’s Kish Island in March 2007.

It is the first time the U.S. has formally blamed Iran for the disappearance of the retired FBI agent. There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.

The two Iranians were identified as Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, both of whom the Treasury Department said are “high-ranking” officials with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and were involved in Levinson’s abduction.

Levinson disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting Kish Island as a private investigator. He had retired from a 22-year career with the FBI nine years earlier. In 2013, several U.S. news outlets reported that Levinson had been part of a rogue CIA intelligence mission, a claim that U.S. authorities have not confirmed.

In 2010, the Levinson family received a “proof of life” video of Levinson. In 2011, they received photos showing a disheveled Levinson.

According to The Associated Press, the U.S. determined Levinson was dead nine months ago.

The White House said the move makes clear the Trump administration will hold accountable those who are involved in “hostage-taking as a tool of ‘diplomacy.”

“No family should ever endure the pain the Levinson family has for nearly 14 years,” read a statement from the White House press secretary. “Iran is responsible and can end this nightmare by answering questions for which only they hold the answers. Any future talks with Iran must include resolution to this case. We stand by the Levinson family, and we will never cease in our efforts to bring justice for Bob and his family.”