Two citizens from Argentina with suspected links to Lebanon’s Hezbollah were arrested on Thursday, leading up to the G20 summit due to take place in Buenos Aires at the end of the month, Argentina’s security ministry said in a statement.
The two men, aged 23 and 25, were arrested in the capital, Buenos Aires. Police discovered a small arsenal that included a rifle, one shotgun and a number of pistols, among other weapons.
Police said they discovered evidence of travel abroad “along with credentials in Arabic and an image of the Hezbollah flag”.
Police did not specify the nature of the travel or credentials, and did not say whether the men had intention of attacking the G20 event.
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said on Thursday security forces were on the lookout for any suspicious activity ahead of the conference.
The Lebanese armed group along with Iran is suspected of having carried out the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.
Argentine courts have blamed the attack on Iran but no one has been brought to trial in either that case or the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish centre that killed 85 people.
On Tuesday, the US State Department designated Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, a terrorist and accused him of carrying out attacks against Israel in the occupied West Bank.
“Today’s designations seek to deny Nasrallah and AMB the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks,” the State Department said in a statement then.
It said the actions denied Nasrallah and AMB access to the US financial system.
Why Hezbollah Is in Argentina
Threat analysts of Middle Eastern terror organizations in Latin American countries are now focusing on why Hezbollah is in Argentina.
Argentina’s government initiated a first strike against a Hezbollah fundraising network in the Triple Frontier (the junction between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil), where one of Hezbollah’s cash cow operations engages in drug trafficking and money laundering.
In 2002, the Bush administration identified the Triple Frontier as a hotbed for terrorism finance activities that included Hezbollah. Counter-terrorism experts have identified the Triple Frontier as the most important Hezbollah base outside of Lebanon.
A key question surrounding this story centers around the question of why we’re seeing Hezbollah-specific activity in Argentina. Part of the answer includes the fact that Argentina hosts a large Lebanese expat community. Hezbollah’s staunch anti-Israel views are culturally welcomed in Argentina.
Hezbollah’s primary interest is establishing funding streams. The U.S. State Departments 2015 and 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism concluded that Hezbollah “continued to maintain a presence in the region [Latin America, extending] … an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, money laundering — all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations.”
In June of 2018, the Trump administration increased sanctions against Hezbollah, at the same time as a conflict rose with the Lebanese embassy in Paraguay (part of the Triple Border territories). As Foreign Policy reported in an article titled Lebanon is Protecting Hezbollah’s Cocaine Trade in Latin America, “The Lebanese Embassy in Paraguay attempted to block the extradition of alleged Hezbollah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat.”
The question is where else in Latin America is Hezbollah attempting to gain a stronghold?
Hezbollah is already ramping up south of the U.S. border, as discovered through arrests of operatives in Bolivia and Peru. The arrests there also pointed to a considerable stockpile of military equipment and explosives.
The Israeli Spy agency Mossad allegedly provided intelligence to Argentina which helped successfully thwart a Hezbollah plot to attack Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, according to Israeli Channel 2.
REUTERS / Agencies