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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Back Story on Hezollah On Margarita Island in Venezuela, Coumbia's Maico

Originally published by CNS NEws Network
October 24, 2008

This provides much needed detail in the Connections between Hizbollah and Venezuel, and Jugo Chavez.

-Shimron

The smashing of a Colombian drugs and money-laundering ring linked to Hezbollah may help investigators who are probing links between the Lebanese terrorist group, its patron Iran, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian narco-terrorists.

Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shi’ite organization, on Thursday denied claims of any links to criminal activity in Colombia, a U.S. ally that Washington is helping in its fight against drug traffickers and left-wing rebels.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe earlier this week announced that among 100 suspects it had netted were three Arabs, accused of using profits from the drug trade to fund Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s mouthpiece, al-Manar television, said the group’s “international relations” official Nawwaf al-Mousawi met with Colombian Ambassador to Lebanon Georgina Mallat to protest.

In a note to the ambassador, Hezbollah said it was a friend to the Colombian people and attributed the claims to “a misleading Zionist imperialist campaign” to slander the organization.

“Hezbollah is a Lebanese national resistance movement, a political party that possesses a large popular base and allies from all Lebanese sects,” it said.

“Accusing the party of terrorism and criminality is an abominable and unacceptable work.”

The Colombian attorney-general’s office announced on Tuesday that at least 100 suspects had been arrested in Colombia and other countries on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering for Colombian criminals.

It said the network used routes in Venezuela, Central America, Europe and the Middle East. The statement named the three Hezbollah suspects as

  • Shukry Mahmoud Harb,
  • Zakaria Hussein Harb
  • Ali Mohammed Abdul Rahim.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said the development once again confirms suspicions about Islamic extremists operating in the Western Hemisphere.

“We must now assume that the ambitions of these Islamic radicals and state sponsors such as Iran extend beyond the Middle East and into Latin America, using the region as a launching pad for their nefarious activities,” she said. Ros-

Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised Colombia for its ongoing partnership with the U.S. and said she hoped Congress would move ahead with the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).....

..... There is a large Lebanese diaspora in Latin America, with sizeable populations in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. Chavez’ strengthening of ties with Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer, has added to the concerns.

At the same time, suspicions of the Venezuelan leader’s links to Colombia’s left-wing FARC rebels, whose activities include drug trafficking, have been reinforced by data seized during a Colombian military raid on a rebel camp last March.

The latest arrests in Colombia appear to draw some of the threads together.

Back in 2006, Frank Urbancic, principal deputy coordinator at the State Department’s counterterrorism office, told lawmakers that the administration was concerned about Chavez’ move to cut off counterterrorism cooperation with the United States while courting Hezbollah’s chief sponsor, Iran.

Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs terrorism subcommittee, Urbancic also mentioned Chavez’ relations with FARC, saying the Colombian narco-terrorists were using routes through Venezuela to import weapons and cash and to export drugs.

Venezuela has a large Arab, especially Lebanese population.

A 2002 Library of Congress report identified Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a free-trade zone north-east of Caracas, and the small Colombian city of Maicao, near the border with Venezuela, as hotspots for Arab radicals.

In June, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that a Venezuelan diplomat in Lebanon was working for Hezbollah and that the Chavez government was “employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers.”

The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said the diplomat,

  • Ghazi Nasr al-Din, had “counseled Hezbollah donors on fundraising efforts and has provided donors with specific information on bank accounts where the donors’ deposits would go directly to Hezbollah.” Nasr al-Din was added to a list of individuals tied to terrorism and OFAC said any assets in the U.S. would be frozen.
  • Another man based in Venezuela, an alleged Hezbollah financial backer named as Fawzi Kan’an, was also designated, as were two Caracas-based travel agencies owned by him.
  • In Kan’an’s case, OFAC said, he had “met with senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon to discuss operational issues, including possible kidnappings and terrorist attacks.”

“We will continue to expose the global nature of Hezbollah’s terrorist support network, and we call on responsible governments worldwide to disrupt and dismantle this activity,” said OFAC director Adam Szubin.

Kan’an denied the accusations, telling The Associated Press he did not know anyone in Hezbollah.

Terror-crime nexus At a conference in Miami earlier this month hosted by the U.S. Southern Command, experts discussed the nexus between transnational crime and terrorism in Latin America. David Luna, director for anticrime programs at the State Department’s bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said groups like Hezbollah and Hamas were generating tens of millions of dollars through

  • arms trafficking,
  • drug smuggling
  • counterfeiting
  • intellectual property-rights violations
  • and other crimes.

“Fighting transnational crime must go hand in hand with fighting terrorists, if we want to ensure that we ‘surface them,’” he told the gathering. “We cannot make progress on terrorism unless we dismantle the illicit architecture that enables the financing of terror, facilitation of international terrorist travel and other criminal enterprises,” Luna said.

“Anti-corruption, counterterrorist financing, anti-money laundering, border security, and other law enforcement tools will help expose terrorists from hiding and to identify any sleeper cells and support networks.”

Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Michael Braun told the meeting that the DEA could play a key role because of its sources tracking the narcotics trade. Pointing out that terrorists and drug traffickers often use the same money launderers and document forgers, he said DEA sources could help to identify terrorists in Latin America.

The Rest @ CNS News Network

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