Nigeria discovers 'Hezbollah terrorist cell', weapons trove
Issued on: Modified:
A ‘terrorist cell’ believed to be linked to Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and housing weapons intended to attack Israeli and Western targets has been discovered in a compound in northern Nigeria, the country’s security services said on Thursday.
Nigeria's security services said Thursday they had discovered a home in the northern city of Kano where Lebanese nationals had stored weapons intended to attack Israeli and Western targets in Nigeria.
The Kano state intelligence chief, Bassey Etang, and a separate military statement described the compound as hosting a "terrorist cell" tied to the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
No evidence was provided linking the home to the Lebanese group.
Journalists were brought to the compound in the upmarket Bompai neighbourhood of Kano and taken to a bunker dug beneath a bedroom where weapons had allegedly been stored.
"The weapons include anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled guns, anti-tank (and) anti-personnel mines among other dangerous weapons," the military statement said.
The military said three Lebanese nationals had been arrested in connection with the illegal arms cache, while a fourth suspect was at large.
"This is the handiwork of Hezbollah. What has just been discovered is the cell of Hezbollah and what you have seen here is a Hezbollah armoury," said Etang area director of the Department of State Services, Nigeria's main intelligence branch.
"These weapons are meant to be used to target Israeli and Western interests in Nigeria," he told reporters.
"Investigations are still ongoing to determine" if the Lebanese nationals "are really connected to Boko Haram," the intelligence chief said.
Analysts see Boko Haram primarily as a domestic group that has possibly sought closer ties to Al-Qaeda's west Africa franchise.
The military statement said that one suspect, Mustafa Fawaz, was arrested on May 16, and his "confession unveiled other members of the foreign terrorists network."
A second suspect, Abdullah Tahini, was arrested several days later while trying to board a flight to Beirut from the Kano airport, according to the military.
The third detained Lebanese national, Talal Roda, was arrested at the Kano home on May 26 while Fauzi Fawad was identified as the suspect who is at-large.
Mustafa Fawaz, reportedly owns a leading supermarket as well as an amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland.
An employee who answered a call to a number listed for Wonderland told AFP that Fawaz had not been in the office this week.
Nigeria is home to a sizeable Lebanese population, including in the mainly Muslim north.
In February, the DSS said it had discovered a militant cell receiving instructions from Iranian agents that had sought to attack Israeli and Western targets in Nigeria.
DSS National spokesman Marilyn Ogar said at the time the group also planned to assassinate Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.
Reacting to the latest claims, a security official in Israel said Nigeria was a "destination state for Shiite terror and global Jihad groups, which are boosting their efforts in Africa as part of international terror efforts."
"The cell exposed and arrested is part of a Shiite terror campaign against Western and Israeli targets around the world which has been taking place for a number of years," the official said.
"The possibility that members of the cell acted under Hezbollah's orders in other African states, such as Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Benin and Ghana is also being examined," he added on condition of anonymity.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe