FBI: Hizbullah avoiding attacks on US

Intelligence report says Hizbullah wary of harming fund-raising efforts in US.

Hizbullah march 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah march 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah hasn't conducted attacks in America out of concern that it would provoke too strong a response and disrupt the organization's fund-raising in the US, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation assessments. "They want to maintain a low profile by engaging in criminal activity [but] not direct attacks," Thomas Fuentes, special agent in charge of the FBI's International Operations, said Wednesday at a foreign press briefing. "They've not been enthusiastic about doing it on US soil because of the attention and reaction that would occur." Fuentes said any attack in America would mean a large boost in US resources devoted to countering Hizbullah. Fuentes described the FBI as having a "close relationship" with Israel when it comes to combating terrorism, adding that that was also true for the FBI's counterparts in neighboring countries. Fuentes contrasted Hizbullah's strategy with that of al-Qaida. "If they could come in an attack us again, they would," he said of the latter. Hizbullah, for its part, has focused its efforts in America on recruiting money. "These are fund-raising support cells in the organization as opposed to planning cells," according to Fuentes. He pointed to a case in Charlotte, North Carolina in which brothers Muhammad and Chawki Hamoud were sentenced in 2002 for funneling funds to Hizbullah. They made money by smuggling cigarettes, for which they and their ring were also charged, along with money laundering, credit card fraud, marriage fraud and immigrations violations. Speaking generally, Fuentes said organized crime syndicates will sometimes perform services such as document falsification for terrorists. But, he explained, that doesn't mean there are "true partnerships" between the two entities, as terrorist and organized crime groups tend not to trust each other and don't have shared goals. "The motive of a terrorist is to make a statement - political, religious," Fuentes said. "Usually the motive of organized crime is greed."