Law enforcement and military sources are reporting the establishment of a Hezbollah presence in Mexico, possibly supported by Iranian elements, targeting Western interests in Latin America.
In June 2011, a computer hacker group, Luiz Security, targeted the Arizona Department of Public Safety claiming to have recovered a document from the Tucson Police Department mentioning the presence of Hezbollah militants operating on the U.S. border with Mexico. A few months earlier, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Seyassah published an article saying that operatives of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were employing Mexican nationals to set up a network in Latin America to target Israeli and Western interests. According to the newspaper, the Hezbollah group’s alleged leader, Ali “Jameel” Nasr, a 30-year-old Mexican national of Lebanese descent, was arrested in the Mexican city of Tijuana in July 2010.
With the arrest of Jameel Nasr concerns have risen concerning Hezbollah’s presence in Mexico and the implications due to Hezbollah’s expertise in the making of improvised explosive devises (IED’s). The use of IED’s in Mexico and Hezbollah’s extensive use of IED’s raises strong suspicion concerning a possible connection. Hezbollah is believed to have been behind the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires in 1994, in which 85 people were killed. In the first week of July 2010, a car bomb that had “Hezbollah-like sophistication” killed four people in Ciudad Juarez.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a public-private information sharing network sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, acknowledges that Hezbollah has a meaningful presence in Mexico but believes the vast majority of its activity is financial (i.e. moving money into and out of the US. OSAC does not sees current evidence of operational activity by Hezbollah in Mexico.
Congresswoman Sue E. Myrick reports that in the U.S., particularly in the Southwest, officials are beginning to notice that tattoos of gang members in prisons are written in Farsi, implying an Iranian influence that can be traced back to its proxy army, Hezbollah. In the document hacked by LulzSec it is possible to see photos of these tattoos on individuals in jail; some of them portraying a crossed AK-47 gun, the symbol of Hezbollah.
Michael Braun, former assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has stated that members of the elite force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are showing up in Latin America. Roger Noriega, former assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, in testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security stated that “as a result of the support Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and others are giving to the terrorist organization, a more active role for Hezbollah should be expected in the future.” Noriega predicted that Iran and Hezbollah will carry out an attack on U.S. personnel and interests in the Americas the U.S. using their networks in Latin America as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe that they are capable of such an operation without implicating their Iranian sponsors.
There appears to be an increasing threat of targeting American interests, which certainly could include mission agencies, in Central and South America by Hezbollah elements. It is CCI’s opinion that such a threat includes any Christian ministry or faith-based NGO. Initiating any actual attack against a target, however, requires advance planning and surveillance. This provides an opportunity for potential targets and victims to detect and deter well before an attack actually begins.
It is recommended that organizations working in the region implement and/or enhance efforts to detect and report any surveillance or suspicious activities. Staff training is critical. Information-sharing with like-minded entities is strongly recommended along with regular monitoring of local media sources. Finally, many of the venues most likely to become targets of a Hezbollah style attacks can be pre-identified and avoided (places like larger restaurants, sports facilities, clubs and discos, and other places where crowds, especially expatriates, congregate).
Increased security measures at churches and places of assembly for worship, increased vigilance for suspicious activity and surveillance, and the presence of visible protective officers (police officers or private security guards) are all steps that should be considered.
CCI stands ready to support Christian agencies in the response to this increased threat, to conduct site-specific assessments, to provide training and to assist agencies in the implement these recommendations and additional actions; and to discuss specific issues and situations. We remain the only Christian agency in the world that provides real-time on-site support and assistance in crises and emergencies without charging fees.
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