A policeman stands guard at a house where police discovered almost two tonnes of ammonium nitrate, in Larnaca, Cyprus, May 29.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli security sources are closely monitoring the arrest and investigation of a suspected Hezbollah operative in Larnaca, Cyprus, who was caught in possession of a massive quantity of explosive material.
Cypriot police suspect that a man arrested on Wednesday was planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island after they found almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in his basement, newspapers on the island reported Friday.
The 26-year-old man, who is Lebanese-born and has a Canadian passport, was detained after authorities discovered the stockpile.
Security sources in Israel say they believe the apartment in which the suspect was captured was an explosive- materials storeroom that belonged to Hezbollah and was supposed to constitute an outlet for carrying out a large-scale series of terrorist attacks across Europe against Jewish, Israeli and Western targets.
Israel has been updated on the details of the arrest and the investigation. The arrest is “further evidence of deep Iranian involvement in international terrorism.
This is an international mechanism that the Iranians activate, with the intention of building and utilizing a terrorism infrastructure in Europe,” Israeli security sources said Saturday. “Hezbollah, the contractor, is funded by Iran, and its operatives are trained by Iranian experts. In this case, like in other cases, the head is in Tehran, the orchestration is Iranian, the funding is Iranian and the one that carries it out is Hezbollah.”
Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Israelis and the island hosts an Israeli embassy in Nicosia. Authorities are investigating possible links to Hezbollah, three Cypriot newspapers said Friday.
The unnamed individual may have a close link with the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, two newspapers reported.
“There is some information that he could possibly be connected with them [Hezbollah], and this is something that is under investigation,” a security source told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
The suspect arrived in Cyprus in the third week of May and stayed in the coastal town of Larnaca. The ammonium nitrate – a fertilizer that can create a powerful explosive when large quantities are mixed with other substances – was found in the basement.
Police declined to comment beyond saying they are investigating all possibilities.
Cyprus has little terrorist-related activity despite its proximity to the Middle East. The island, which is in the EU, hosts two British military bases and receives intelligence from Western agencies.
Its last major security incident was a botched attack on Israel’s embassy in 1988, in which three people were killed.
In 2013, a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent was jailed in Cyprus on charges of plotting to attack Israeli tourists.
Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.