by Anna Mahjar-Barducci
In June, a computer hacker group, Luiz Security, commonly abbreviated as LuizSec, targeted the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS). LuizSec has claimed responsibility for several high profile attacks; this time, however, the 440 megabytes AZDPS documents displayed a bulletin mentioning the presence of Hezbollah militants operating in smuggling corridors on the U.S. border with Mexico.
The document, from the Tucson Police Department, is dated September 20, 2010. At the time, just few months earlier, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Seyassah published an article saying that operatives of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were employing Mexican nationals to set up a network in Latin America to target Israeli and Western interests. According to the newspaper, the Hezbollah group's alleged leader, Ali "Jameel" Nasr, a 30-year-old Mexican national of Lebanese descent, was arrested in the Mexican city of Tijuana in July 2010. The Kuwaiti daily also mentioned that for a period before his arrest, Nasr was under surveillance by Mexican authorities. He was also reported to be travelling frequently to Lebanon to receive instructions from Hezbollah, and making trips around Latin America, including a two-month stay in Venezuela in 2008.
As reported in 2010 by Fox News, however, U.S. and Mexican officials did not (or did not want to) confirm that a Hezbollah leader had been arrested in Mexico. "Police officials in Tijuana told FoxNews.com that they have no information pertaining to Nasr [...]. U.S. State Department officials said they could not confirm Nasr's arrest, but would be unable to do so if the arrest occurred in Mexico. [...] The Department of Homeland Security said it does not have 'any credible information' that terrorist groups are operating along America's Southwest border," wrote FoxNews.com.
After a year, in June 2011, LulzSec disclosed instead not only that the Tucson police were informed about the arrest of Nasr, but that LuisSec was seriously worried about Hezbollah infiltrations in the U.S. through its neighbor, Mexico. The document states the following:
"Based on a study done by Georgetown University, the number of immigrants from Lebanon and Syria living in Mexico exceeds 200,000. Along with Iran, Syria is one of Hezbollah's strongest financial and political supporters, and Lebanon is its country of origin.
"In July of this year, Mexican authorities arrested Jameel Nasr in Tijuana, Baja California. Nasr was alleged to be tasked with establishing the Hezbollah network in Mexico and throughout South America.
"In April of last year , the arrest of Jamal Yousef – in New York City - exposed a weapons cache of 100 M-16 assault rifles, 100 AR-15 rifles, 2,500 hand grenades, C4 explosives and antitank munitions. According to Yousef, the weapons, which were being stored in Mexico, had been stolen from Iraq with the help of his cousin who was a member of Hezbollah.
"With the arrest of Jameel Nasr and Jamal Yousef, obvious concerns have arisen concerning Hezbollah's presence in Mexico and possible ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO's) operating along the U.S.–Mexico border. The potential partnership bares alarming implications due to Hezbollah's long established capabilities, specifically their expertise in the making of vehicle borne improvised explosive devises (VBIED's).
"Recent incidents involving the use of VBIED's in Mexico mark a significant change in tactics employed by DTO's and conjures images expected to be seen in the Middle East. While no connection has been made, Hezbollah's extensive use of VBIED's raises strong suspicion concerning a possible relation to Mexico's DTO's."
The case of Jamal Youssef, arrested in New York City, is even more worrying than the arrest of Jameel Nasr in Tijuana. As reported by the Center of Immigration Studies in February 2011, Jamal Yousef, a former member of the Syrian military and senior agent of Hezbollah, was conducting a business deal to provide thousands of new U.S. arms stolen from American forces in Iraq that had been shipped and stored in Mexico, and were to be sold to the terrorist group Colombian FARC, allegedly supported by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in exchange for drugs that were to be couriered into the U.S. by Mexican cartels.
In a letter that U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-NC addressed to Homeland Security a year ago, she called for more "intelligence gathering" on Hezbollah's presence along the U.S.-Mexico border." "Many experts believe Hezbollah and drug cartels have loosely been working together for decades. We have seen their cooperation in countries across South America […] Hezbollah operates almost like a Mafia family in this region, often demanding protection money and "taxes" from local inhabitants," Myrick wrote.
Congresswoman Myrick adds in her letter that in the U.S., particularly in the Southwest, officials are beginning to notice that tattoos of gang members in prisons are written in Farsi, implying an Iranian influence that can be traced back to its proxy army, Hezbollah. Further, these tattoos in Farsi are usually seen in combination with gang or drug cartel tattoos, meaning that the individuals in jail are tied both to Hezbollah and to gangs and drug cartels. In the document hacked by LulzSec it is possible to see photos of these tattoos on individuals in jail; some of them portray a crossed AK-47 gun, the symbol of Hezbollah.
Arturo Zamora Jiménez, a Mexican congressman affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, recently stated that Hezbollah is operating in drug trafficking in the North of Mexico. Without any doubt, he said, the Lebanese terrorist group has links with Mexican drug cartels and has trained Mexican organizations on how to handle guns and explosives. Zamora also stated that Hezbollah is using drug revenues to buy weapons to fight in the Middle East. Moreover, political analysts point out that tunnels used for connecting drug trafficking are also used to infiltrate Hezbollah operatives in the U.S.
As noticed by the Center for Immigration Studies, the presence of Hezbollah on the U.S. border provokes several questions about security, and on how to face the problem: "These questions go beyond the horrendous cartel violence in Mexico we are witnessing on both sides of our border, bringing to light the national security aspect of drug- and gun-running, the volatility of our southwest border, and the playground northern Mexico has become for extreme lawlessness and anti-American activity."
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