President Trump is going hunting for Hezbollah in our Latin-American backyard. A pair of terror operations were uncovered in October, following the arrest, on U.S. soil, of Hezbollah commandos associated with the group Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO). The infiltrators arrested in Michigan and New York “conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City.”
During the Obama years, Hezbollah’s Latin American presence thrived, allowing IJO’s Southeast Asian commander to take over South American operations across Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. The recently apprehended infidels also “conducted missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies. Under questioning, they further admitted operations “to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal.”
According to counter-terrorism officials, this is just “the tip of the iceberg.” Responding to a press release the Justice Department put out, detailing the October penetrations, the National Counterterrorism Center’s director assured, “It’s our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook, and that is something that those of us in the counter-terrorism community take very, very seriously.”
As part of the effort to beat the South American bushes for Iranian spies, an official Request For Information (RFI) bulletin was issued seeking a wide range of data. The RFI asks every government agency and department to “scour their files and collect new information that could be used to identify targets and help direct and inform the implementation of forthcoming actions.”
One piece of valuable information has already come back up the tree, prompting the Miami Field Office of the FBI to release a “Seeking Information” bulletin that updates a version of a similar notice circulating since the 1990’s.
Formerly the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah does Iran’s bidding as part of what government spooks in the intelligence community call the “Iran Threat Network.” Back in 1994, Hezbollah blew up a Jewish Community center in Argentina. The next day, they gave an Alas Chiricanas Airlines ticket and a bunch of explosives to a man traveling under the name, “Jamal Lya.”
The commuter flight out of Panama, carrying mostly Jewish passengers, exploded and crashed. The bomber did his homework well, “Investigators would determine that the bomber carried out pre-operational surveillance leading up to his actual attack, including flying this commuter plane route several times, presumably to test security and select the optimal seat selection to maximize the impact of his explosive device.” He didn’t speak Spanish or English. “in order to communicate instructions to people he used hand signals or wrote notes.”
Families claimed all of the bodies except one, which bore the marks of having been the center of the explosion. After 23 years, the body has been provisionally identified as “Ali Hawa Jamal.”
The reason this is important decades later is that police still want to know what happened to his buddies. Authorities are hoping now that his true identity is known, links will be found to the “additional parties” who “assisted Jamal in the bombing.”
Security officials are especially interested in finding Jamal’s handler, Salman al-Reda, aka, Salman Raouf Salman. Al-Reda was not only the “on the ground coordinator of the 1994 bombing, he most likely directed the October New York and Panama missions this year.
Also in 1994, Uruguayan police raided “a Hezbollah-run weapons smuggling operation with ties to the tri-border area, an infamously lawless region where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Argentina meet. The area is a well-known epicenter of criminal activity, with a significant Hezbollah presence.”
As recently as 2014, al-Reda has been implicated as being in charge of a plot to hit Jewish and Israeli targets in 2014 using an operative smuggled into Peru. Mohammed Amadar showed up on U.S. intelligence radar in November of 2013 when he married a woman with dual U.S.-Peruvian citizenship shortly after arriving in Peru. The FBI Miami Field office perked up their ears and started keeping close tabs on him.
Not long after that, Amadar moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. When he tried to go back to Lima in 2014, he was met at the airport gate by Peru’s anti-terror unit, who then promptly put him under surveillance. He was arrested three months later for planning terror attacks. Amadar named al-Reda as his boss, admitting to three separate meetings in Turkey to “plan the Peru operation.”
Tensions have been rising recently between Iran and the United States, Salman al-Reda remains on the loose and continues directing Hezbollah operations in Latin America. The Trump administration is out to accomplish two main goals. The primary objective is to “disrupt the group’s ongoing fund-raising, logistics, and operations,” says Nicholas Rassmussen.
The second goal is to “highlight the disconnect between the group’s terrorist and criminal activities and its attempts to portray itself as a legitimate political party.” The director of the National Counterterrorism Center says his people are on the job. “We have and will continue to monitor closely Hezbollah activity around the world and work aggressively to disrupt any instances of Hezbollah operating within our borders.”