Entries in Hezbollah (16)


Missile Strikes in Beirut Could Heat Up Syrian Conflict

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BEIRUT) -- A rocket attack in Beirut is stirring fears that Syria's two-year conflict could drag Lebanon into a no-win situation.

On Sunday, two missiles struck a neighborhood where the militant group Hezbollah makes its headquarters.

While only four injuries were reported, it's believed the strike was a message from Syrian rebels to Hezbollah to stop supporting President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Hezbollah has sent fighters into Syria to assist al-Assad's attempt at remaining in power. However, Sunni Muslims in Lebanon oppose their involvement, siding with rebels who seek a new government in Syria.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has reiterated his group's commitment to help defeat his allies' enemies.

In a statement, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby "urged the leaders of Hezbollah to reconsider their stance and not get involved in the killing in Syria, stressing that the only way to protect to protect Lebanon's internal unity."

The Arab League is concerned that sectarian violence could turn Lebanon into the next Syria.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


State Department 'Strongly Objects' to Iraq's Release of Hezbollah Leader

WATHIQ KHUZAIE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Friday that the United States “strongly objects” to Iraq’s decision to release Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq. Her remarks followed Senator McCain’s earlier comments, calling the action an “outrage,” and questioning whether the United States needs to rethink its alliance with Iraq.

U.S. officials believe Daqduq played a role in a 2007 kidnapping which resulted in the death of five soldiers. He was under U.S. custody until December of last year, when Iraq refused to extradite him, but gave assurances that he would remain in prison.  Nuland was uncharacteristically blunt about the nature of the conversation between U.S. and Iraqi officials over his release.

“We didn't want it to happen, and we were concerned about it. We said that to the Iraqis. They have said back to us that they didn't have a legal basis to continue to hold him,” she said.

She also had a warning for Daqduq, who is now believed to be heading to Lebanon.

“Let me add to that that as with other terrorists who we believe have committed crimes against Americans, we are going to continue to pursue all legal means to see that Daqduq sees justice for the crimes of which he is accused,” she said refusing to characterize exactly what those “legal means” would entail.

She also did not confirm or deny that the United States would take some type of retaliatory action against Iraq, a country America has spent billions of dollars rebuilding following the fall of Saddam Hussein, for the decision. However, Nuland maintained that despite the administration’s “deep dissatisfaction” with the Daqduq situation, the long-term relationship between the United States and Iraq remains stable.

“There are many, many things that we work together with the Iraqis on, both in terms of the internal situation in Iraq as well as our regional work together, not least being Syria and our efforts to ensure that Iraqi air and land space is not abused to arm the Syrians. There are many things that we work together on. But as I said, you know, we objected very strongly to this particular decision, and we've made that clear to the Iraqis.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hezbollah: That Was Our 'Iran-Made' Drone Over Israel

Salah Malkawi/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The leader of Hezbollah claimed Thursday his group was responsible for an unidentified drone that flew deep into Israeli airspace on Saturday before it was shot out of the sky by the Israeli Air Force, and that the aircraft was Iranian-made.

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the militant Lebanon-based group, made the revelations in a televised address Thursday and boasted that the drone had been able to fly hundreds of kilometers undetected before it entered Israel, then tens of kilometers over Israel before it was eventually shot down.

"Today we are uncovering a small part of our capabilities, and we shall keep many more hidden," Nasrallah said, adding that it is Hezbollah's "natural right" and the group "can reach any place we want."

He said the drone was able to film strategic and sensitive Israeli facilities -- it was downed near the Dimona nuclear facility -- and claimed that his group plans to put more drones in the air over Israel. In addition to surveillance drones like this one, he said some of Hezbollah's drones could be armed as well.

The Israeli military said the drone entered Israel from the Mediterranean Sea, flying over the Gaza Strip and then the Negev desert before it was shot down south of the West Bank. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon said it had not detected any drone flying from Lebanese airspace into Israeli airspace on Saturday.

A Lebanese television station close to Hezbollah had reported the drone was Hezbollah's but Nasrallah's address was the first official claim. Shortly after Israel downed the drone, fighter jets streaked over southern Lebanon, causing a sonic boom, according to Lebanese media. Israel crossing into Lebanese air space, however, is a common occurrence, a fact reiterated by Nasrallah.

Nasrallah said the weekend's drone was assembled by Lebanese experts but made in Iran, which has a much-publicized drone development program. Following the Israeli destruction of the drone, an Iranian commander said the incident had shown the "weakness and inefficiency" of Israeli defense systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his country's military for taking the drone out and said Israel will "continue to defend our borders by sea, land, and air to guarantee the security of our citizens."

In apparent response to the drone incursion, earlier this week Israel deployed Patriot missile batteries to Haifa, some 20 miles from Lebanon's southern border.

Ted Harshberger, director of Project Air Force at the RAND Corporation thinktank, wrote in U.S. News and World Report that the incident should not have come as a surprise considering how easy it is to develop relatively unsophisticated drones.

"Practically any country that aspires to an indigenous aviation industry (as most countries do, even if only for national pride) has a reasonably capable, medium-altitude unmanned drone system in development or flying already," he wrote.

In his address, Nasrallah also denied widespread reports that Hezbollah fighters are in Syria fighting for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and that they'd been killed. He said there were "Lebanese villages" inside Syria, apparently meaning villages that straddle the border, and that some of the 30,000 residents of the villages had taken up arms to defend themselves. If Hezbollah goes to fight in Syria, Nasrallah said, the group would make it public.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hezbollah Leader Warns Iran Will Hit US Bases If Attacked by Israel

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIRUT) -- The leader of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah boasted that U.S. bases in the Middle East would be in danger if Israel launches a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, a close ally of Tehran based in Lebanon, says that Iran would strike at Americans even if Washington had no role in a unilateral assault on Iran by the Israelis.

Nasrallah told Lebanon's state media, "The response will not be just inside the Israeli entity -- American bases in the whole region could be Iranian targets.  If Israel targets Iran, America bears responsibility."

Nevertheless, the Hezbollah leader doubted that Israel would conduct a strike against Iran anytime soon, citing divisions within its government.

However, he added that Hezbollah could be drawn into the conflict if its ally Iran is attacked, alleging "widespread destruction" against Israel.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Targets Hezbollah, Iran in New Syria Sanctions

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Treasury Department has announced new sanctions targeting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its supporters, including Hezbollah -- saying the group, which was already a designated terrorist organization, is playing an “integral role in the continued violence the Assad regime is inflicting on the Syrian population.”

Iran is also named as being an actor is supporting Assad by providing support to Hezbollah to train Syrian government troops and pro-Assad militias.

The U.S. State Department also announced that new sanctions will be imposed on Syria's state-run oil company, Sytrol, for having provided gasoline to Iran.

"Though these sanctions are a direct result of Syria's provision of gasoline to Iran, the United States views Iran's broader support for the Assad regime as completely unjustifiable," department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a written statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iraq to Free Hezbollah Commander Accused in US Troop Slay Plot

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- In a decision that will likely strain relations between Washington and Baghdad, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq announced Monday that it was freeing a jailed Hezbollah commander who allegedly plotted the deaths of five American soldiers in January 2007.

The Iraqi court plans on releasing Ali Musa Daqduq based on what it claimed was a lack of evidence against him.

At the time of Daqduq's capture in March 2007, the military said he confessed to helping to train Iraqi militants to kill U.S. and coalition forces at joint training camps run by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah near Tehran.

Daqduq remained in U.S. custody until last December when the military officially handed over all prisoners to Iraq as part of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed with Baghdad.

At the time, some Republican members of Congress insisted that Daqduq should not be left behind in Iraq but their request was overruled by the Obama administration, which said it would be a breach of the new security pact.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds: American Used Car Dealers Funding Terrorists 

Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg News(NEW YORK) -- More than two dozen U.S. car dealerships were allegedly involved in an international half-billion-dollar money laundering scheme for Lebanon-based Hezbollah, a group considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, federal officials said.

Federal agents served restraining orders and grilled employees at as many as 30 used car dealerships around the country, as part of a civil case that also named a Lebanese bank and two exchange houses as part of the plot.

According to a 62-page complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the scheme involved the purchases of used cars in the U.S. for shipment and sale abroad with funds provided by the banks, currency exchanges and associates of the Lebanon-based terrorist group.

The restraining orders are intended to seize the assets of all of the used car dealerships named in the federal complaint, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. "We're looking to shut down this trade-based money laundering scheme," DEA agent Derek Maltz told ABC News. "And we're looking to take the profits away from Hezbollah and other terror groups around the world."

The complaint alleges that banks in Lebanon wired over $300 million into the U.S. for the purchase and shipment of used cars to West Africa. Proceeds from those sales were then allegedly funneled back to Lebanon to support Hezbollah causes.

"In this case, the used cars that are purchased in the United States are being shipped into West Africa and they [alleged Hezbollah supporters] are making 15, 20, 25 percent profit and the proceeds are all being sent back into Lebanon. And Hezbollah is benefitting," said Maltz.

ABC News spoke with owners of several of the dealerships named in the complaint, who all claimed to know nothing of the scheme or the federal action. Some owners said they were being unfairly targeted because they are Lebanese.

According to the complaint, at the heart of the scheme was the Lebanese Canadian Bank, described as the "primary laundering concern," now in the process of dissolution with its certain assets acquired by another Lebanon-based bank. In addition, African couriers and an alleged Hezbollah finance kingpin, Ayman Saied Joumaa, were critical to the alleged scheme. Its proceeds have reportedly enabled Hezbollah to fund political, social service, land acquisition and militia activities in the middle east, the complaint says.

The U.S. government accuses Hezbollah of being behind the deadly truck bombings on the U.S. Embassy Annex in 1984 and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Joumaa, whose whereabouts are unknown, is alleged to have arranged multi-ton South American cocaine shipments through West Africa, laundered the money -- as much as $200 million per month -- and paid Hezbollah fees for transportation and laundering.

Dubbed a narcotics kingpin by the U.S. government, Joumaa was charged in November 2011 with conspiracy to sell narcotics and conspiracy to launder money.

The current civil action seeks penalties of $483,142,568 from LCB and the other firms and individuals alleged to have engaged in money laundering.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hezbollah Reveals Alleged CIA Ops, Identities

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(BEIRUT, Lebanon) -- Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group considered by the U.S. government to be a terrorist organization, revealed what it said were the details of the CIA's extensive operations in Beirut, from high-value recruitment targets to clandestine meeting locations and even the identities of several CIA officers, in a video over the weekend.

At least two of the names belong to CIA officers who have served in Beirut, two former intelligence officials told ABC News. Neither is currently stationed in Lebanon.

Saturday's broadcast came after an admission by U.S. officials last month that a large CIA espionage network in Beirut had been "rolled up" by Hezbollah. According to current and former U.S. officials, two Hezbollah double agents managed to penetrate the network by pretending to go to work for the CIA.

Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.

From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers.

In the video released by Al Manar, Hezbollah's media arm, the group used computer-generated models to show such meetings taking place in Pizza Hut and McDonald's. It also claimed to know who the CIA attempted to recruit -- from government employees to politicians and religious figures -- and how often the CIA officers had clandestine meetings with their agents. The video said the agency had constructed a large network of informants from across all segments of society.

A CIA spokesperson said Hezbollah's claims were suspect, but did not elaborate on which specific claims the agency doubted.

Last month one U.S. official, speaking for the record but without attribution, gave grudging credit to the efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to detect and expose U.S. and Israeli espionage.

"Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk," the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust said then.

But others inside the American intelligence community say sloppy "tradecraft" -- the method of covert operations -- by the CIA is also to blame for the disruption of the vital spy networks.

One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets.

"We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," the former official said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: CIA Spies Caught in the Middle East, Fear Execution

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a significant failure for the United States in the Mideast, more than a dozen spies working for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and the U.S. government fears they will be or have been executed, according to four current and former U.S. officials with connections to the intelligence community.

The spies were paid informants recruited by the CIA for two distinct espionage rings targeting Iran and the Beirut-based Hezbollah organization, considered by the U.S. to be a terror group backed by Iran.

"Espionage is a risky business," a U.S. official briefed on the developments told ABC News, confirming the loss of the unspecified number of spies over the last six months.

"Many risks lead to wins, but some result in occasional setbacks," the official said.

Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer who worked against Hezbollah while stationed in Beirut in the 1980s, said Hezbollah typically executes individuals suspected of or caught spying.

"If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don't think we'll ever see them again," he said.  "These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving."

Other current and former officials said the discovery of the two U.S. spy rings occurred separately, but amounted to a setback of significant proportions in efforts to track the activities of the Iranian nuclear program and the intentions of Hezbollah against Israel.

"Remember, this group was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group before 9/11," said a U.S. official.  The Hezbollah-linked attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 killed more than 300 people, including nearly 260 Americans.

The U.S. official, speaking for the record but without attribution, gave grudging credit to the efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to detect and expose U.S. and Israeli espionage.

"Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk," said the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust.

But others inside the American intelligence community say sloppy "tradecraft" -- the method of covert operations -- by the CIA is also to blame for the disruption of the vital spy networks.

In Beirut, two Hezbollah double agents pretended to go to work for the CIA.  Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case.  The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials.  Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut.  A current U.S. official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.

From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers.  Hezbollah then began to "roll up" much of the CIA's network against the terror group, the officials said.

One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets.

"We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," the former official said.

At about the same time that Hezbollah was identifying the CIA network in Lebanon, Iranian intelligence agents discovered a secret Internet communication method used by CIA-paid assets in Iran.

The CIA has yet to determine precisely how many of its assets were compromised in Iran, but the number could be in the dozens, according to one current and one former U.S. intelligence official.

The exposure of the two spy networks was first announced in widely ignored televised statements by Iranian and Hezbollah leaders.  U.S. officials tell ABC News that much of what was broadcast was, in fact, true.

Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, announced in June of this year that two high-ranking members of Hezbollah had been exposed as CIA spies, leading U.S. officials to conclude that the entire network inside Hezbollah had been compromised.

In Iran, intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi announced in May that more than 30 U.S. and Israeli spies had been discovered and an Iranian television program, which acts as a front for Iran's government, showed images of internet sites used by the U.S. for secret communication with the spies.

U.S. officials said the Iranian television program showed pictures of people who were not U.S. assets, but the program's video of the websites used by the CIA was accurate.

Some former U.S. intelligence officials say the developments are the result of a lack of professionalism in the U.S. intelligence community.

"We've lost the tradition of espionage," said one former official who still consults for the U.S. intelligence community.  "Officers take short cuts and no one is held accountable," he said.

But at the CIA, officials say such risks come with the territory.

"Hezbollah is an extremely complicated enemy," said a U.S. official.  "It's a determined terrorist group, a powerful political player, a mighty military and an accomplished intelligence operation, formidable and ruthless. No one underestimates its capabilities."

"If you lose an asset, one source, that's normally a setback in espionage," said Robert Baer, who is considered an expert on Hezbollah.  "But when you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that's a catastrophe, that just shouldn't be.  And the only way that ever happens is when you're mishandling sources."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Facing Unrest, Syrian Regime Blames Israeli Spy for Hezbollah Hit

EPA(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syria is now in month seven of a popular uprising that shows no signs of abating, and the U.N. has just imposed new sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's regime for killing demonstrators.

So what's an embattled ruler to do?  Change the subject by diverting the public's attention to an ancient foe.

More than three years after Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyah was killed by a car bomb, Syrian State Television has broadcast a taped "confession" by a Palestinian philosophy graduate who says he provided a crucial tip to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad right before Mugniyah was killed.

In the interview, titled "The Confessions of the Spy Eyad Youssef Enaim," 35-year-old Enaim says he was recruited by the Mossad in early 2006 and gave them the license plate number of one of the two cars in Mugniyah's convoy hours before the car was blown up on a Damascus street on Feb. 12, 2008.  Syrian State Television said the interview "uncover[ed] some of the threads of the conspiracy against Syria," implying Mossad's alleged role in the murder is more evidence of long-standing international efforts to overthrow the Assad regime, most recently embodied in the current public protests.

When Mugniyah was killed in 2008, Syrian authorities and their Hezbollah allies were quick to blame Mossad, and it's true that Mugniyah had been hunted by U.S. and Israeli intelligence for decades.  One of the world's most wanted terrorists, Mugniyah was linked to the attacks on the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 258 Americans.  He has also been tied to the kidnapping of U.S. citizens, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, and the bombings of the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, which killed 115 people.  The U.S. had posted a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture on the Rewards for Justice website.

But the Syrians never presented any evidence of Israeli involvement in 2008 even though earlier this month State television said Enaim has been detained since June 2008.  The Syrian regime was in fact on the list of suspects who might have wanted Mugniyah dead because of an intramural dispute with Hezbollah, according to Western intelligence officials.  A new confession unearthed more than three years later doesn't lend more credibility to accusations of Mossad's involvement, according to Robert Baer, a former CIA intelligence officer who spent more than a decade tracking Mugniyah down.

"No one, including the Syrians, has produced an authentic piece of evidence that would suggest they know who killed Mugniyah," Baer told ABC News.

Mossad is also a convenient target for Middle Eastern regimes battling for survival, both because of the spy agency's history of assassinations and other covert operations in the region, and because of popular hostility toward Israel.  During Tehran's Green Revolution in 2009, the Iranian regime tried to claim unrest was being fomented by Mossad.  Earlier this year, the Egyptian government accused Mossad of orchestrating the revolution that eventually overthrew the Mubarak regime.

After the broadcast, Eyad Enaim's eldest brother, Ahmad, presented Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad with official documents debunking the timeline put forth in the "confession."

In the Syrian TV interview, Enaim, a Palestinian refugee raised in Jordan, says he was attending his sister's wedding on the West Bank in late 2005 when he was arrested by Israeli authorities.  Ahmad asserts the wedding took place in January 2003, a date corroborated by an official marriage certificate.  Ahmad also disputes the claim made in the video that Enaim was arrested by Israeli authorities, presenting an affidavit from the Hebron Ministry of Detainees & Freed Detainees Affairs dated Sept. 18, 2011, certifying Enaim has never been detained by Israeli authorities.

The office of Hezbollah Member of Parliament Hussein Hajj Hassan declined to comment on Enaim's "confession."  Requests for comment were not returned by the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio