Nigerian authorities today announced the arrest of three men believed to be tied to Hezbollah. Authorities also announced the discovery of a weapons cache linked to the Iranian-backed terror group in Kano.
According to Nigeria’s State Security Service, the weaponry was intended to be used against “Israeli and Western interests.” The BBC reported that authorities in Kano showed off “11 anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and 21 RPG missiles, 17 AK-47s, two sub-machine guns and 76 grenades.”
The cell was reportedly active in Nigeria for a few years before being arrested. Israeli counterterrorism officials said the cell is “part of the Shi’ite terror campaign against Israeli targets throughout the world.”
Nigerian authorities stated that the three members of the cell were arrested within the past two weeks and that during questioning all admitted to being members of Hezbollah. A fourth member of the cell is believed to be outside of the country.
Mustapha Fawaz was arrested on May 16 and led authorities to Abdullah Tahini, who was arrested with approximately $60,000 in undeclared cash at an airport in Kano. Talal Roda was eventually arrested at the site of the weapons. According to a Nigerian official, “The search team uncovered an underground bunker in the master bedroom where a large quantity of assorted weapons of different types and caliber were recovered.”
Today’s announcement comes approximately three months after Nigeria’s State Security Service announced the arrest of three members of an Iranian-backed terror cell that was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on US and Israeli interests as well as on former Nigerian officials. In addition, just over two weeks ago, a Nigerian court sentenced a member of the IRGC and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison for illegally shipping arms in 2010 to Nigeria.
The targeting of Israeli and Jewish targets by Iran and Hezbollah appears to be on the rise over the past two years. Between May 2011 and July 2012, over 20 attacks tied to Iran and Hezbollah against Israelis and Jews abroad were thwarted. These thwarted attacks, not all of which were publicly reported, took place in Cyprus, Turkey, Kenya, India, Thailand, and Azerbaijan, and elsewhere. The only successful attack thus far was in July 2012 in Burgas, Bulgaria, when Hezbollah operatives exploded a bomb on a bus carrying Israeli tourists. On Feb. 5, Bulgaria declared that Hezbollah was responsible for the terror attack in Burgas. The two primary suspects are believed to be residing in Lebanon.
The Counterterrorism Bureau at Israel’s National Security Council recently warned that Iran and Hezbollah are still looking to exact revenge for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyah and are likely to do so by targeting Israelis abroad via suicide attacks or kidnappings.