Nigerian security forces uncovered a Hezbollah terrorist cell that had been planning attacks against Western and Israeli targets in western Africa, Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau stated on Thursday evening.
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According to the counter-terrorism officials, a raid on one of the suspect's residences uncovered an extensive weapons cache. An investigation indicated that the cell had been active in Nigeria for a few years, and has planned numerous attacks against western and specifically Israeli targets.
The officials said that the cell is "part of the Shi'ite terror campaign against Israeli targets throughout the world," and is currently investigating claims that the cell was active in other African nations as well.
Nigerian military spokesman Captain Ikedichi Iweha said in a statement on Thursday that the three Lebanese suspects were arrested between May 16 and May 28 in the north's biggest city of Kano. All had admitted to being members of Hezbollah under questioning.
A raid on the residence of one of the suspects had uncovered 11 60 mm anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank landmines, two rounds of ammunition for a 122 mm artillery gun, 21 rocket-propelled grenades, seventeen AK-47s with more than 11,000 bullets and dynamite, he said.
"The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria," Iweha said, but did not elaborate.
The secret service detained the first suspect, Mustapha Fawaz, on May 16 at his supermarket in Kano. His interrogation led to other suspects, including Abdullah Tahini, who was later arrested at Kano airport with $60,000 in undeclared cash.
The third, Talal Roda, a Nigerian and Lebanese citizen, was arrested on Sunday at the house where the weapons were found two days later.
"The search team uncovered an underground bunker in the master bedroom where a large quantity of assorted weapons of different types and caliber were recovered," Iweha said. "All those arrested have confessed to have undergone Hezbollah terrorist training."
The possibility of a link with Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, which Nigerian forces are battling in the northeast, was being investigated, Iweha said at a news conference.
An alliance between Salafist Sunni Muslim Boko Haram and Shi'ite Hezbollah would be unusual, and there has never previously been evidence of such a link.
There are an several thousand Shi'ite Muslim Nigerians, a legacy of Muslim radical Ibrahim Zakzaky's preachings since the 1980s. Zakzaky still leads Nigeria's main Shi'ite movement and has campaigned for an Islamic government and stricter adherence to Sharia, or Islamic law.
Iweha declined to say if any link to Zakzaky was being investigated, and his movement is currently seen as largely peaceful.
A Nigerian court sentenced an alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison this month over an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized in the main port of Lagos in 2010.