U.S. imposes sanctions on three Nigerian Hezbollah operatives

African securityU.S. imposes sanctions on three Nigerian Hezbollah operatives
Published 2 March 2015

Nigeria is home to a small Shiite Lebanese population, many members of which emigrated for work in the mid-1900s.Roughly five million Shiites living in Nigeria support the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), an organization initially funded by Iran in the early 1980s to establish an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.Last Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three Nigerians of Lebanese descent, accusing them of being part of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department (FRD) in the Nigerian capital Abuja.Hezbollah is operating in at least forty-five countries, eleven of which are in Africa.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Abdallah Tahini, and brothers Mustapha Fawaz and Fouzi Fawaz. The men, all born in Lebanon, are accused of being part of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department (FRD) in the Nigerian capital Abuja. While the Fawaz brothers used their businesses in Nigeria, Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park and Resort, to fund Hezbollah operations, Tahini is accused of recruiting and supporting Hezbollah’s African networks.
“We will track Hezbollah’s illicit activities to all corners of the earth,” Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin wrote in a statement released Thursday. “Together with our international partners, we are tirelessly working to dismantle Hezbollah’s financial apparatus. Wherever this terrorist group may seek to raise funds, we will target and expose its activity.”
TheWall Street Journal reports that Hezbollah, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, is operating in at least forty-five countries, eleven of which are in Africa. It is considered to be one of the richest groups on the U.S terrorist list, with roughly $500 million in financial assets.
Nigeria is home to a small Shiite Lebanese population, many members of which emigrated for work in the mid-1900s. According to Dawit Giorgis, a visiting fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, roughly five million Shiites living in Nigeria support the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), an organization initially funded by Iran in the early 1980s to establish an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.
Giorgis believes that just as is the case with Hezbollah, IMN operates as an Iranian proxy. “Iran’s objectives are to establish a local power base to exert influence over the national government and to act against Western interests,” argues Abel Assadina, a senior Iranian diplomat who defected in 2003.
In April 2013, Nigerian police arrested Mustapha Fawaz and three other Lebanese nationals connected to an Hezbollah-owned armory in Kano, a northern Nigerian state which has suffered some attacks from Boko Haram. Weapons found in the armory included eleven anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and twenty-one RPG missiles, seventeen AK-47s, two sub-machine guns, and seventy-six grenades. According to Bassey Ettang, director of the State Security Service in Kano, the weapons were allegedly intended to be used in an attack against “Israeli and Western interests.”
Mustapha Fawaz, who gave officials names of several other Nigerian-based Hezbollah members, also reportedly told Nigerian officials that Hezbollah had an operating cell in the country.
“The FRD claims to be in charge of ‘community relations;’ but the primary goal of the FRD in Nigeria is to scout recruits for Hezbollah’s military units, as well as to create and support Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure for its operational units in Africa and globally,” read the Treasury’s statement.
U.S. officials have not mentioned whether a link exists between IMN or Hezbollah and Boko Haram, but according to Ettang, the armory in Kano “is the handwork of Hezbollah.” “You can also be sure that if a group like this is existing then it may even lend support to some of the local terrorists we have on the ground.”

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