A Senior State Department official said yesterday that two Hezbollah operatives are planning a terrorist attack in the US.
Nicholas J. Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, said: “It is our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook.”
He noted that, before 11 September 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other foreign terrorist group and said: “With all the focus on ISIS and Al-Qaeda, I can assure you that those of us who have focused on terrorism for the entire period since 9/11 have never taken our eye off of the Hezbollah threat.”
One of the suspects is Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s external security organisation. Hamiyah is on the US State Department wanted list and the US is offering $7m for his capture.
The second Hezbollah operative is Fu’ad Shukr, whom the US believes played a central role in the planning and execution of the 23 October 1983 US Marine Corps Barracks Bombing in Beirut, in which 241 US service personnel were killed. The US is offering $5M for his capture.
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Shukr currently serves on Hezbollah’s highest military body and played a vital role in Syria helping Hezbollah fighters and forces loyal to the Assad regime fight insurgents.
Nathan Sales, the US counterterrorism coordinator, said that the rewards are the first offered by the US for Hezbollah officials in a decade. Sales said that “today’s rewards are another step to increase the pressure on them and their organisation”.
New US measures against Hezbollah are likely to be included in a new US Iran strategy, which is expected to be published on Thursday. Sales said that the US would press countries that have yet to designate Hezbollah as an international terrorist group to do so. Referring to the UK and the European Union, he said that “some countries have chosen to designate only Hezbollah’s military wing, leaving its so-called ‘political wing’ untouched. But that is a false distinction. Make no mistake, Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organisation, a terrorist organisation, and it is rotten to its core”.
The State Department declared Hezbollah a terrorist organisation in 1997 and US sanctions have been imposed since 2001. Earlier this year, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council voted to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. Hezbollah’s military wing is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK and support for the group is a criminal offence.