Lebanon’s drug lord has reportedly openly endorsed Hezbollah against the backdrop of the battle for the Syrian city of Aleppo in which the Shi’ite militia plays a role.
The news site Arabi21 reported that Nouh Zaaiter wrote on Facebook that he had always been, and forever would remain, a fervent Hezbollah supporter.
“This is a message to the emir of the believers, the great leader, his excellency Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah,” Zaaiter wrote. “Sir, we have paid a price for our loyalty to you and for our inability to protect ourselves from evil and injustice. But we are honorable men, loyal men, who pledge to continue to fight evil and its doers, the enemies of the nation. We will continue to be loyal to you, with the help of Allah.”
He later added: “Sir, you expect our support, and we say to you: We shall obey. We are at your service, whatever your request may be.”
The site reported that Zaaiter , who has been embroiled in criminal activity in Lebanon and enjoyed Hezbollah’s protection, has in the past visited the organization’s militants in Syria.
The paper also cited Lebanese sources saying that Zaaiter, who controls several Shi’ite villages in southern Lebanon where he grows marijuana, maintains extensive business ties with Hezbollah, providing them revenues from drug deals that they use to purchase arms.
According to the paper, some of Zaaiter’s employees have enlisted with Hezbollah to fight in Syria.
Hezbollah came under fire last year after its fighters were caught rubbing shoulders with Zaaiter.
The photos were first uploaded to a number of social media accounts on September 13, 2015. They were described as having been taken in the region of Qalamoun in western Syria, where Hezbollah fighters have been battling Syrian rebel groups alongside forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Many criticized Hezbollah’s cooperation with Zaaiter (who is usually referred to as the “drug king of Lebanon”) and the immunity that the organization, which is a member of the Lebanese government, has accorded to a man wanted by the police.
The photos put Hezbollah on the defensive, especially since the party has been accused of being implicated in a global drug ring in the past.
Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to help Assad in his fight against the rebels. Some reports revealed that over 1500 Hezbollah fighters has bee killed in Syria