Officials: Hezbollah Planning Attack on Israelis in West Africa

Israelis in west Africa asked to take special precautions as Shi'ite group bids to avenge Mughniyeh killing.

A specific warning of Hezbollah's intent to attack Israeli citizens in west Africa has reportedly been received.

Security officials have headed to Africa to ask Israeli nationals living there to take special precautions.

Hezbollah is believed to be planning an attack in revenge for the killing in Damascus in February of its senior activist Imad Mughniyeh, which it attributes to the Mossad.

West Africa has a fairly large Arab community, which includes Shi'ite immigrants from Lebanon. Already after the killing of Mughniyeh, Israeli security officials envisioned strikes against Israelis in developing countries that can be relatively easily infiltrated and where security around them may be lax.

Hezbollah may also be planning a "low profile" attack. These would involve it not publicly claiming responsibility, so as to avoid political repercussions. This was the case in the two attacks in Argentina at the beginning of the 1990s.

On July 18, 1994 the Jewish community association building in Buenos Aires, AMIA was bombed, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. All suspects were deemed to have local connections only. Two years earlier, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing 29 and injuring some 242.

Unlike in previous cases, the Counter Terrorism Bureau did not issue a travel advisory to Israelis going to West Africa or present there. Instead, Israeli officials visited communities of Israelis to warn them. There are hundreds in the region, working both in large construction projects and in the diamond trade.

After the assassination of Mughniyeh, killed when his jeep exploded in Damascus, Iran and Hezbollah have threatened to avenge his death.

At least one revenge plot is known to have been thwarted in the advanced stages of preparation, according to Israeli security officials: About two months ago, Shi'ite activists connected to Hezbollah were arrested in Canada. They had apparently been engaged in surveillance of Israelis.

During the three weeks since the prisoner swap with Hezbollah, the group has escalated its anti-Israel statements. Israeli intelligence officials say Hezbollah is looking for a chance to "settle accounts" over Mughniyeh and that it will not show the same caution it did close to the time of the swap so as not to hamper it. Intelligence officials also say Hezbollah is looking for pretexts that will allow it to continue its struggle against Israel to justify its image as protecting Lebanon against Israeli "aggression."

Hezbollah has recently been attempting to heat up Lebanon's border with Israel, especially over Israeli air force penetration of Lebanese airspace. According to reports in Arab newspapers, the organization is preparing to install an anti-aircraft array in the mountains in Lebanon against Israeli flyovers.