A policeman stands guard at a house where police discovered almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in Larnaca, Cyprus.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Cyprus believes it thwarted a Hezbollah plot to attack Israelis or Jews, its foreign minister said on Monday, after bomb-making material was found in a house on Cyprus.
A 26-year-old Lebanese-Canadian man is in custody related to the discovery of a massive amount of ammonium nitrate in the basement of a home in Larnaca last month.
Earlier this month, Israel said Cyprus had told it that the fertilizer was to be used for bombs by Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia hostile to Israel, and that Israelis or Jews on Cyprus may have been intended targets.
Asked about that account, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said: "Your information you mentioned is correct." Asked whether a Hezbollah bomb plot had indeed been foiled, he said: "Most probably."
A senior Israeli official, citing information received from Cyprus, told Reuters that the ammonium nitrate was apparently intended to make a large store of bombs that would be kept "on hand" for future attacks.
"It does not look like there was an immediate terrorist action planned in connection with this haul," the official said.
Hezbollah officials in Beirut could not immediately be reached for comment.
Cyprus, which lies on the European Union's southeastern flank, has steered clear of the upheaval in the Middle East, even though it is less than 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Syria. Its last major security incident was a botched bomb attack against the Israeli embassy in Nicosia in 1988 that killed three people.
Kasoulides also confirmed rumors which first surfaced in mid-2014 that would-be jihadists were using Cyprus as a transit point to Turkey, by arriving in government-controlled areas of the island, then heading into the Turkish-held north and from there on to Turkey.
Authorities were aware of a "few" cases where prospective fighters volunteering for Islamic State may have used Cyprus as a route to the insurgent group's Middle East fiefdoms.
Authorities had stepped up screening processes, particularly for European passport holders, Kasoulides told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Israel.
"There were a few incidents ... very few," Kasoulides said.