How the U.S. Is Going After Hizbullah in America's Backyard

(Politico) Matthew Levitt - In October, a joint FBI-NYPD investigation led to the arrest of two individuals who acting on behalf of Hizbullah. One "conducted missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal," the Justice Department said. The other "conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City." The director of the National Counterterrorism Center warned: "It's our assessment that Hizbullah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook, and that is something that those of us in the counterterrorism community take very, very seriously." These cases are "likely the tip of the iceberg," one official said. On October 30, 2017, the FBI Miami Field Office website posted an updated bulletin seeking information about a Hizbullah suicide bomber newly identified as Ali Hawa Jamal. On July 19, 1994, the day after Hizbullah operatives blew up the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the group sent Jamal to take down a flight on Alas Chiricanas Airlines, a Panamanian commuter airliner carrying mostly Jewish passengers. The plane exploded shortly after take-off from Colon on its way to Panama City. The 21 passengers and crew were killed. Amazingly, given the tiny size of the Jewish community in Panama (about 8,000 people), 12 of the 18 passengers were Jewish, including four Israelis and three Americans. Investigators determined that the bomber carried out surveillance, including flying the route several times, presumably to test security and select the optimal seat to maximize the impact of the explosive device. The FBI appears to have collected new information which, together with evidence gleaned from other current investigations, is likely to serve as the basis for a variety of actions aimed at Hizbullah, Iran's most powerful proxy group. The writer, former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, directs the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2017-12-01 00:00:00

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