Western anti-terrorism officials are growing concerned Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militia Washington has labeled a terrorist group, is basing operations in Venezuela.But don't call them anti-semitic for targeting Jewish targets. They are strictly anti-Zionist. They love Jews!
Linked to deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s, Hezbollah may be taking advantage of Venezuela's ties with Iran, the militia's longtime sponsor, to move "people and things" into the Americas, according to a Western terrorism expert.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has established warm diplomatic relations with Iran. The Bush administration, Israel and other governments worry Venezuela is emerging as a base for anti-U.S. extremist groups and spy services.
Several joint Venezuelan-Iranian business operations have been set up in Venezuela, and the two nations have formed a $2 billion program to pay for social projects in Latin America. Those ties worry U.S. officials because Iranian spies around the world have been known to work with Hezbollah, sometimes using Iranian embassies as covers, experts say.
The most concrete allegations of a Hezbollah presence in Venezuela involve money-raising. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelan citizens as Hezbollah supporters and froze their U.S. assets.
In March 2007, the ties between Venezuela and Iran led to the start of weekly Air Iran flights from Tehran to Caracas that stop in Damascus, Syria.
Agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah have allegedly set up a special force to attempt to kidnap Jewish businesspeople in Latin America and spirit them to Lebanon, according to the Western anti-terrorism official.
Iranian and Hezbollah operatives traveling in and out of Venezuela have recruited Venezuelan informants working at the Caracas airport to gather intelligence on Jewish travelers as potential targets for abduction, according to a Western anti-terrorism official.
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