British gov't to ban military wing of Hizbullah

Brown says action taken after reports surface that organization supporting Iraqi, Palestinian terror.

Brown 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Brown 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The British government is set to outlaw Hizbullah's military wing in the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on Wednesday. If passed by Parliament, the order will criminalize belonging to, fund-raising for, or encouraging the Islamist group in the UK. Brown told lawmakers at the House of Commons that Britain would ban "Hizbullah's entire military wing on the sole grounds of new evidence of its involvement in terrorism in Iraq and in the occupied Palestinian territories." Home Office Minister Tony McNulty echoed Brown's comments. "It is because of this support for terrorism in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories that the government has taken this action," McNulty said. "It [the ban] sends out a clear message that we condemn Hizbullah's violence and support for terrorism. We continue to call on Hizbullah to end terrorist activity and its support for terrorism in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, abandon its status as an armed group and participate in the democratic process on the same terms as other Lebanese political parties." Hizbullah's political, social and humanitarian activities would remain unaffected, he added. The pending order would criminalize arranging meetings in support of Hizbullah's military wing, and wearing clothing or carrying anything in public that arouses reasonable suspicion that a person is a member or supporter of the radical group. Brown's announcement was welcomed by the Community Security Trust (CST), a nonprofit group that provides security, training and advice for the protection of British Jews and represents them to police, government and media on anti-Semitism and security issues. "CST welcomes the government's decision to ban Hizbullah's military wing due to its promotion of terrorism," said Mark Gardner, CST's communications director. "There has been a dramatic escalation in the open promotion of Hizbullah in Britain in recent years, and we hope that this decision helps to counter it." Israel's ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor also spoke highly of the government's decision. "This is specifically important in light of last month's events in Lebanon which revealed the true colors of Hizbullah, which does not have mercy on the lives of the Lebanese citizens. It is about time that the entire international community understood that the distinction between the military and political wing of the organization is artificial. The international community must therefore close ranks in order to save Lebanon from the strangling grip of Hizbullah," Prosor told The Jerusalem Post. Speaking in Beirut, Hizbullah's secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said he was not surprised as "this is the state which established the Zionist entity and usurped the Palestinians" and the state which "sheltered Salman Rushdie who blasphemed our prophet." AP contributed to this report.