US: Hizbullah operating building firm

Lebanese construction firm scoffs at US decision to freeze its assets A Lebanese construction company that the US government said is owned and operated by Hizbullah scoffed Wednesday at Washington's decision to freeze its assets under US jurisdiction, saying its projects would not be affected by the American measure. Stuart Levey, the US Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Tuesday that Hizbullah uses the company, named Jihad al-Bina, for its construction needs and to attract "popular support" though civilian construction services. Hizbullah's media chief, Hussein Rahhal, said he did not know if Jihad al-Bina was owned and operated by the militant group. But a senior Hizbullah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk to the press, said the company was operated but not owned by Hizbullah. Kassem Aleiq, general manager of Jihad al-Bina, said the company's development projects, mainly in predominantly Shiite Muslim areas in Lebanon, would not be affected by the US decision. He said Jihad al-Bina is a not-for-profit development and services group. "This matter does not concern us. Our projects and programs to serve our people will continue and will not be affected," Aleiq said. "Our work is within our (Shiite) community, villages and towns all inside Lebanon. Any project we carry out is covered under the country's laws," he added. Jihad al-Bina, or "construction for the sake of the holy struggle," rebuilds homes damaged in Israeli attacks and provides water and garbage collecting services to residents of southern and eastern Lebanon.