Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters chant slogans during last day of Ashura, in Beirut, Lebanon September 20, 2018.
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
The European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, Giles de Kerchove, said in an interview last week that after Hezbollah operatives murdered five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver in 2012, some European countries sought to classify the entire Lebanese Shi’ite organization as a foreign terrorist entity.
De Kerchove told the Brussels-based media outlet EURACTIV, which asked a question in response to an exclusive report from The Jerusalem Post: “Why is it that the military branch was put on the terrorist list – it’s because there were divided views, some member states put the whole organization and some member states think that Hezbollah is important for the political and social fabric of Lebanon and they want to keep a line open to keep talking to Hezbollah as a political actor in the Lebanese context.”
He added the European communication corridor to Hezbollah is “more a foreign policy issue you can discuss with the European external action service.”
The EU anti-terrorism chief responded in the interview to a question about a Post article in January that noted the Bulgarian state prosecution office has decided not to charge Hezbollah with involvement in the 2012 bomb attack at a Bulgarian airport in the seaside resort town of Burgas. EURACTIV asked de Kerchove: “You mentioned the Burgas terrorist attack and said Hezbollah was behind it. But the Bulgarian legal case didn’t finalize their work and the name Hezbollah doesn’t appear on the accusation act…”
De Kerchove answered: “I don’t have the latest information, but at the time, the ministers who had to decide whether to put the military branch of Hezbollah on the terrorist list or not, got a lot of quite convincing information. Without going into confidential details, the investigation showed clear links, I can tell you. There were smoking guns.”
The Post reported that the Bulgarian prosecutors indicted the two men allegedly involved in the Burgas attack as if they were terrorists or even regular criminals who acted without connection to an organization. The word “Hezbollah” does not appear in the indictment. It is unclear why Bulgarian prosecutors are ignoring the “smoking guns” stated by de Kerchove in the prosecution in absentia of the two Hezbollah operatives who are currently in Lebanon. The Lebanese government has refused to extradite the suspected terrorists.
Bulgaria’s interior minister at the time, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said in 2013: “We have established that the two [accused] were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” He also said, “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.”
De Kerchove said, “We put the military branch of Hezbollah on the EU list of terrorist organizations because of the Burgas [attack]. That’s acknowledged, because we drew the consequence of several plots in Cyprus, and an attack in Bulgaria, to put the military branch of Hezbollah on the list.”
A Hezbollah member was convicted by Cypriot court in 2013 for plotting to murder Israelis.
The Netherlands, the US, Canada, the Arab League and Israel designated all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hezbollah, termed by many as “the A-Team of terrorists,” considers its organization to a be a single entity. Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, told the Los Angeles Times in 2009: “We do not have a military wing and a political wing.”
The US state department announced on Wednesday, “The United States and Europol convened the seventh meeting of the Law Enforcement Coordination Group (LECG) on countering Hezbollah’s terrorist and illicit activities in Europe.” The state department added, “Hezbollah continues to plot terrorism and raise money around the world, and countering the threat of Iran-backed terrorist groups is a top priority for the administration. The LECG remains a crucial vehicle to improve international cooperation on combating Hezbollah’s terrorist and criminal schemes.”
Dr. Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism & Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has written that Hezbollah is “deeply involved in a wide array of criminal activities on the continent.” These entail “drug trafficking and money laundering” that finances terrorist and other paramilitary actions, as well as “fund-raising and weapons procurement” and “counterfeiting European and other currencies.”Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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