US accuses Hezbollah of stockpiling weapons and ammonium nitrate across Europe
The US has accused Hezbollah of storing caches of weapons and ammonium nitrate for use in explosives across Europe in recent years, with the alleged aim of preparing for future attacks ordered by Iran.
The allegation was made by the state department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, who called on European countries to take a tougher line on the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shia political movement and militia.
The claim that Hezbollah has been moving and storing ammonium nitrate around Europe comes six weeks after a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate detonated in Beirut’s port, devastating the Lebanese capital.
An investigation is under way into the blast and how the chemical, which is used as a fertilizer as well as in explosives, came to be left at the port for six years after being confiscated from a ship. Hezbollah is reported to have significant influence in the running of the port.
“I can reveal that such [Hezbollah weapons] caches have been moved through Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. I can also reveal that significant ammonium nitrate caches have been discovered or destroyed in France, Greece, and Italy,” Sales said in a video appearance at the American Jewish Committee, a US-based advocacy group.
“We have reason to believe that this activity is still under way. As of 2018, ammonium nitrate caches were still suspected within Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.”
Sales added: “Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil? The answer is clear. It can conduct major terror attacks whenever its masters in Tehran deem it necessary.”
The EU has designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, but not its political wing, due to lack of unanimity on the issue. The UK and Germany have named the whole organisation as a terrorist entity earlier this year, and the US has been lobbying for the rest of Europe to follow suit.
“Hezbollah represents a clear and present danger to the US today. Hezbollah represents a clear and present danger to Europe today,” Sales said.
“The bottom line is that the EU’s approach since 2013 simply hasn’t worked. The limited designation of Hezbollah’s so-called military wing hasn’t dissuaded the group from preparing for terrorist attacks across the continent. Hezbollah continues to see Europe as a vital platform for its operational, logistical, and fundraising activities. And it will continue to do so until Europe takes decisive action, as the UK and Germany have both done.”
The US allegations came at a time of steadily rising tension with Iran since Donald Trump withdraw the US from a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and began imposing a broad economic and financial embargo.
This weekend, the US will claim that UN sanctions on Iran will be back in force, after a five year suspension following the nuclear agreement, though almost all the other members of the UN security council dispute the US has the right to trigger the reimposition of the sanctions.