This post is the second in a series.
From Hezbollah, Illegal Immigration, and the Next 9/11, of April 28, 2006:
The greatest hub of terrorist activity in Latin America is in the border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, known as the Triple Frontier or Tri-Border Area, which has long been known as a haven for smuggling, counterfeiting, money laundering and drug trafficking. Officials estimate that at least 30,000 Middle Eastern immigrants reside in the Triple Frontier, with Hezbollah being the most active and dominant group in the area. In a detailed October 2002 New Yorker report, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg found that many immigrants in the area have established business with the help of loans provided by Hezbollah, businesses which are “taxed” by Hezbollah at 20 percent of gross revenues after the loans are paid off. Erick Stakelbeck of the Investigative Project cites Paraguayan Interior Minister Julio Cesar Fanego as saying that Hezbollah received anywhere from $50-$500 million from illegal activities in the Triple Frontier from 1999 to 2001 alone. A research report issued by the Library of Congress Federal Research Division, Organized Crime and Terrorist Activity in Mexico, 1999-2002, quotes (p. 43) Mexican former national security advisor and ambassador the United Nations, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, as saying that “Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge.” The report also cites an El Norte Spanish-language news report that there are approximately 400,000 Arabic speakers in Mexico mostly located among the large Lebanese and Palestinian communities of the northern city of Monterrey, nearby the U.S.-Mexican border. According to a Dec. 2003 report by Terrence Jeffrey of Human Events, the Mexican consul in Beirut, Imelda Ortiz Abdala, was arrested by Mexican authorities in November 2003 for her role in helping to smuggle Arab migrants into the U.S. from Mexico by selling Mexican visas, including the one sold to Mahmoud Khourani. Jeffrey has also recently written more about the Hezbollah/Mexico connection. Hezbollah was responsible for the greatest anti-Semitic attack since the Nazi Holocaust when a suicide truck-bomb drove into the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing more than a hundred people. As a result, Jewish synagogues and cultural centers around Latin America have been turned into virtual fortresses to protect them. In May 2001, Mexican authorities announced that measures were being increased to dismantle terror training camps along the US border run by Hezbollah and the Spanish Basque Fatherland and Liberty Party (ETA). In 2005, Mexican authorities arrested Amer Haykel, a British citizen of Lebanese birth, who was sought by US authorities for his connection to the 9/11 attacks. Haykel was arrested near the U.S. border in the northwest Mexican state of Baja California. According to a June 2005 BBC report, Ecuadorian officials busted up an international Hezbollah drug ring run out of a Lebanese restaurant in Quito, in which authorities say cocaine was obtained in Colombia and trafficked to Europe, the Middle East and the rest of South America. Up to 70 percent of the profits from each $1 million shipment went to Hezbollah. In addition to the suspects arrested in Ecuador, 19 other people were arrested in connection with the Hezbollah drug ring in US and Brazil. One major Hezbollah terrorist, still at large, has had his hands in all of the attacks against America — Imad Mugniyeh — chief of Hezbollah’s military operations. Reports indicate that Mugniyeh and Osama bin Ladin have met to establish a concordant and exchange technical expertise. National Security expert Patrick Devenny has called Mugniyeh, Tehran’s Terror Master, and has identified his critical role in Hezbollah’s operations in North and South America. Even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, 20-year CIA veteran Robert Baer has said: “He is the most dangerous terrorist we’ve ever faced. He’s a pathological murderer. Mugniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else.”
Additionally, the article mentions,
America’s enemies have identified this vulnerability; according to a March 2005 Time Magazine report, al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi instructed jihadists to bribe their way into Honduras and cross the U.S. southern border to attack soft American targets. From an intelligence perspective the indicators and warnings of the threat cannot be clearer.
First post: Hezbollah in Latin America.