Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America, however, it is relying on Mexican narcotics syndicates that control access to transit routes into the U.S. Hezbollah relies on “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels,” said Michael Braun, who just retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Although there have been no confirmed cases of Hezbollah moving terrorists across the Mexico border to carry out attacks in the United States, Hezbollah members and supporters have entered the country this way.
However, another U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed that the U.S. is watching closely the links between Hezbollah and drug cartels and said it is “not a good picture.” A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing operations in Latin America, warned that al Qaeda also could use trafficking routes to infiltrate operatives into the U.S. “If I want to get somebody across the border – that’s a way to do it,” the defense official said. “Especially foot soldiers. Somebody who’s willing to come and blow themselves up.”
Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command and the nominee to head NATO troops as Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, testified before the House Armed Services Committee last week that the nexus between illicit drug trafficking – “including routes, profits, and corruptive influence” and “Islamic radical terrorism” is a growing threat to the U.S.
In October, another interagency operation led to the arrests of several dozen people in Colombia associated with a Hezbollah-connected drug trafficking and a money-laundering ring. Hezbollah uses these operations to generate millions of dollars to finance Hezbollah operations in Lebanon and other areas of the world, he said.
“Identifying, monitoring and dismantling the financial, logistical, and communication linkages between illicit trafficking groups and terrorist sponsors are critical to not only ensuring early indications and warnings of potential terrorist attacks directed at the United States and our partners, but also in generating a global appreciation and acceptance of this tremendous threat to security,” he said.
The DEA thinks that 60 percent of terrorist organizations have some ties with the illegal narcotics trade, said agency spokesman Garrison Courtney.
EXCLUSIVE: WASHINGTON TIMES
In 2002, a Hezbollah Terror Cell was found to be operating in Charlotte, North Carolina. Seven years later, it STILL is.
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