Hezbollah runs a complex network of front companies in Lebanon, the Gulf states and Europe that trade in counterfeit medicine, Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported on Tuesday.

This international business in counterfeit medicine “facilitates the group’s terrorist operations,” the report stated, and includes Iranian citizens.

The group exploits the free trade zone in the Gulf and in Europe to run its business.

Hezbollah also steals drugs from shipments of drugs donated to African countries, sources quoted by the paper said.

The Lebanese movement had these criminal actions justified by a fatwa from the head of its religion committee, Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek, who allows the sale of illicit drugs to anyone who is not a Shi’ite follower of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Joel Parker, a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University who is closely following developments in Syria and Lebanon, told The Jerusalem Post that in time, many Lebanese might not take kindly to the efforts to target Hezbollah assets and allies in the Gulf.

“This is because such attempts cause unintentional collateral damage” by making life difficult for non-Hezbollah Shi’ites, said Parker. In addition, measures against Lebanese Shi’ites in the Gulf may also hurt the Lebanese economy, which is already under strain.

“This may ultimately exacerbate the political situation in Lebanon, because the leading coalition, which includes both Hezbollah and other Shia and Christian parties, will have more reasons to disparage the Gulf-backed Future Movement and its allies in the opposition’s March 14 coalition,” he said.

“It may also undermine some of the efforts to help the several hundred thousand Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” said Parker, adding that their lives depend on basic political cooperation in Lebanon.

Further reflecting the Shi’ite- Sunni tensions in the region, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said the Shi’ite Hezbollah’s intervention in the conflict in Syria was an attempt to promote Iranian hegemony over the country, according to an audio recording posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

“It has become clear to the Muslim nation that he [Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah] is but a tool in the Safavid, rejectionist project which seeks to impose the authority of Shi’ite jurisprudence...

on the nation of Islam through slaughter, repression, torture and by supporting one of the most corrupt, tyrannical and criminal regimes,” the al-Qaida leader said.

And in Nigeria, federal prosecutors expanded the charges on Monday in an indictment against three Lebanese-Nigerian dual nationals who are alleged to be Hezbollah members.

The Nigerian authorities accused the trio – and a fourth suspect who fled – of planning to attack Israeli, US and Western targets in the most populated country in Africa.

The Nigerian prosecutor’s office added charges of moneylaundering and the importation of firearms and ammunition.

There are now 16 terrorism- related charges.

The suspected Hezbollah members, Mustapha Fawaz, Abdallah Thahini and Talal Ahmad Roda, were arrested in May with a massive cache of weapons. The arsenal included anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank/antipersonnel mines, 17 AK-47 assault rifles with more than 11,000 bullets, and dynamite.

The defendants pleaded not guilty. The trial is being conducted in the capital city of Abuja, where Federal Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola is overseeing the judicial process.

Prosecutor Simon Egede said, “We want to be sure that all elements of every offense disclosed by the investigation is properly before the court,” AFP reported.

Ademola restricted access to the hearing, permitting journalists and a small number of the defendants’ relatives to be present. The judge granted the prosecution’s wish to shield the identities of the state’s witnesses for security purposes.

During the course of their testimony, security agents from the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s intelligence agency, covered their faces with hoods.

The prosecutor submitted $61,170 in illicit cash and weapons as part of the newly widened indictment. The confiscated funds were found on the defendant Thanini at Aminu Kano Airport in the northern city of Kano. The illicit importation of firearms by the defendants covers the period from 1998 to 2008 in Kano.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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