Mexico thwarts Hezbollah bid to set up South American network
Militant group employed Mexican nationals with ties to Lebanon to target Israel and the West, Kuwaiti newspaper reports.
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.
"We have seen... an increase in a wide level of activity by the Iranian government in this region," Admiral James Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"That is a concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah," he said.
In February a U.S. court in Miami indicted three men for raising funds for Hezbollah, which the U.S. classifies as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah is believed to have been behind the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires in 1994, in which 85 people were killed.