Hezbollah and fresh security challenges in Nigeria

Recent discovery of asserted weapons of mass destruction in Kano, linked to an international terrorist organisation, Hezbollah, has raised fresh concerns about security challenges in the country. National Mirror Correspondent, MADU WEST, reports:

The discovery recently in Kano of a bunker in which assorted weapons of mass destruction were concealed and its link to the international terrorist group Hezbollah, raises serious concern about the security and safety of the country in the face of the Boko Haram insurgency.

It also fuels the suspicion that the Boko Haram militant group, which had held sway in the Northern part of the country, is also being backed by some foreign terrorist organizations.

Director of the State Security Service, SSS, Mr. Bassey Etang, while briefing newsmen on the shock discovery at the scene of the discovery on May 30, 2013, admitted that the Hezbollah fighters can lend support to the Boko Haram extremist organization. He concluded however that at the moment it is not certain whether the two have any link in this incident but that investigation now ongoing will determine that.

National Mirror investigations over the Kano raid, which led to the discovery of massive secret weapons cache, showed the items intercepted in the bunker which includes anti-tank missiles, up to a ton of high explosive materials and a range of other lethal military hardware, followed an intense investigation by Nigerian counterterrorism and police authorities, during the course of which three Lebanese men living in Nigerian were detained.

This discovery by security agents sheds lights on how Lebanese Hezbollah is operating in Africa in order to prepare ground for terrorism on a startling scale.

It includes widespread use and exploitation of local Shiite communities, Lebanese Shia abroad, and a cynical use of diplomatic and cultural outreach by experienced Hezbollah operatives. The security operatives it was gathered began inquiries into these individuals after they uncovered terror activities being pursued by a number of Iranian cells to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Quds Force in Nigeria in recent months.

With their shared radical Shiite roots and worldviews, Iran and Hezbollah make no secret of their close political and military strategic cooperation around the world. Indeed, Hezbollah was originally set up by the Iranian regime and has coordinated terror activity with its Iranian sponsors for decades. Further enquiry shows that the SSS-led investigation on the Quds Force agents led to the arrest of Moustafa Reda Darwish- Fawaz, 49, a wealthy businessman and significant donor to the Lebanese Hezbollah organization.

A joint Nigerian-Lebanese passport holder, Darwish-Fawaz owns the AMIGO Supermarket and the Wonderland Entertainment Park in Abuja where he lives.

However, he also works for Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) – the special section of the Lebanese militia group that conducts terror attacks abroad (sometimes referred to as Hezbollah’s External Security Organization or by its codename: Unit 910). In this capacity, Darwish- Fawaz relayed information to his Hezbollah colleagues about potential targets for attack, including the U.S Embassy in Abuja. Darwish- Fawaz was arrested on May 10, 2013, after which he disclosed details to the SSS about various Hezbollah activities.

This included information about the other members of his cell and also about a specific property belonging to his IJO co-operative, Abd-el- Hasan Taher Fadlallah, in the northern city of Kano, that they were using to advance terror activities. Fadlallah, aged 60, a citizen of Lebanon and Sierra Leone, owns the Fantazia Supermarket in Kano.

Fadlalla spends his time between Nigeria and the U.S. Fadlalla was out of town when the SSS raided his home in Kano and discovered the Hezbollah military arsenal. The arms were being guarded by a third IJO cell member, Talal Ahmed Reda, aged 50, who holds joint Nigerian-Lebanese citizenship.

Reda provided further details to the Nigerian security services, that Hezbollah had supplied the weapons and that he personally had been assigned with the collection of information and attack targets from his Hezbollah commanders. He also confirmed the “secret hideout” in large purpose-built storage bunker buried beneath a prayer room in the house, camouflaged by layers of ceramic tiles, flooring and concrete plates.

The military inventory discovered by men of the Kano Joint Task Force officials upon penetrating the bunker is both extensive and diverse, offering great flexibility to Hezbollah in the kinds of terror activity it is able to pursue in the continent of Africa.

Among the weapons confiscated are anti-tank missiles, 81 mm and 120 mm rockets, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), launchers, military-grade hand grenades, sub-machine guns, hand pistols, AK-47 assault rifles, and over 10,000 7.62 mm bullets.

In addition, 1,545 packages containing as much as a ton of the chemical explosive TNT were found stored in protective cases. The third Hezbollah operative to have been detained as a result of Darwish- Fawaz’s interrogation is Abdalla Asad Tahini, 48, a veteran in the organisation and a longtime fundraiser. Tahini too is a joint Liberian-Lebanese passport holder. However, unlike the other three Hezbollah operatives- all of whom belong to the same terror cell of the IJO, Tahini is a permanent representative of Hezbollah’s so called “Foreign Relations Division” based in Abuja.

The division claims to be responsible for “community relations” wherever Lebanese citizens or Shiite Muslims live around the world, but this is essentially a façade intended to create an image of legitimacy for the organization. In reality, its main purpose is to spot recruits for special military units of the organization and help create a supporting infrastructure for the elite overseas terror units of Hezbollah in Africa and all other regions of the world in which it is operational.

This successful counter-terrorism operation by the Joint Task Force (JTF) points to the need for the utmost vigilance by the people of Nigeria in order to maintain security in the face of these persistent threats from radical Shiite terrorist groups. Efforts have been stepped up in recent months among African nations and internationally in the ongoing fight against global terror, and this latest operation is a testament to how new counter-terror measures are working effectively.

The development no doubt created some kind of disquiet within the Lebanese community in Kano, which weighed the implications of the involvement of the kinsmen in the country in terrorism related activities. Apparently worried over the arrest of some of their nationals, the Lebanese community promptly issued a statement disassociating the community from the incident and pledged total support to the federal government in its effort to bring the culprits to justice.

The statement reads in part “The Lebanese community in Kano in particular and Nigeria in general state unequivocally that it condemns crime in whatever form and manner and in the strongest possible terms irrespective of who the culprits may be.”

The statement signed by the chairman of the community in Kano, Mr. Tahir Fadlallah stated further that the Lebanese community in Kano has been living in Nigeria for about a century and has been noted as peace loving with its members conducting their lawful business in a manner mutually beneficial to all and has never been associated with any crime during this period of stay in Nigeria.

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