Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mexico slows down Hezbollah's South American network

Haaretz reported last week:
Mexico foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to establish a network in South America, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Hezbollah operatives employed Mexicans nationals with family ties to Lebanon to set up the network, designed to target Israel and the West, the Al-Seyassah daily said.

According to the report, Mexican police mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there.

Police say Nasr also made frequent trips to other countries in Latin America, including a two-month stay in Venezuela in the summer of 2008.

Nasr was living in Tijuana, Mexico at the time of his arrest, the report said.

The report follows warnings from the United States that Hezbollah and its backer Iran are stepping up operations in the region.

In June, a U.S. congresswoman wrote to the Department of Homeland Security to warn that Hezbollah was increasing its presence in Central and South America.

In her letter, Congresswoman Sue Myrick called on the U.S. to work with Mexican forces, as there was intelligence that Hezbollah was working in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2009 a U.S. commander tasked with overseeing U.S. military interests in the region said Hezbollah was linked to drug-trafficking in Colombia.
Hezbollah's activities in Central and South America are a bit more long-term and entrenched, however. From The Sunday Paper, May 21, 2007:
Argentina linked Hezbollah to the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Argentine-Israeli Community Center in 1994, both in Buenos Aires. A car bomb loaded with 300 kilograms of explosives was used to execute the latter attack, which killed 81 people.

In February 2000, Paraguayan authorities arrested Ali Khalil Mehri, a Lebanese businessman with financial links to Hezbollah, in the country's Tri-Border Area, so called because Brazil and Argentina's borders meet Paraguay's there. In November of that year, Paraguayan authorities arrested Salah Abdul Karim Yassine, a Palestinian who allegedly threatened to bomb the U.S. and Israeli Embassies in Paraguay, and charged him with entering the country illegally.

As reported by the Washington Times on Aug. 21, 2001—less than a month before Sept. 11—U.S. Special Forces were training Paraguayan soldiers here in anti-drug operations "that closely resemble counterinsurgency operations," while hundreds of U.S. soldiers spent four months in Paraguay which had "long been a home to Arabs linked to the Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad militias."

As reported in international Spanish newspaper El Pais in November 2001, an investigation by the National Direction of Civil Aeronautics determined that 16 foreigners enter Paraguay illegally on a weekly basis via the airport of Ciudad del Este, paying some $5,000 in advance, but many more are believed to enter by land.

According to the state department, since 2003, "al-Said Mokhles was extradited from Uruguay to Egypt, Ali Nizar Dahroug was convicted in Paraguay of tax evasion and sentenced to 6.5 years in prison, and Assad Ahmad Barakat, the Hezbollah financial kingpin in the Tri-Border Area, was extradited from Brazil to Paraguay also to face tax evasion charges."

[Quoting Forbes] Iran is the biggest patron of Hezbollah, delivering $100 million or so a year to the terrorists ...Last year, Rady Zaiter, a Lebanese citizen, was arrested in Colombia for allegedly heading a cocaine smuggling outfit in Ecuador that sent most of its profits to Hezbollah … The Party of God gets $10 million a year from the area where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet.
Hezbollah's international reach is barely reported in the MSM, as it continues to morph Western perceptions of the organization from a worldwide terrorist group into just another Lebanese political party.