Hizballah operatives are making news in the Middle East and North America, as American security officials express concern about the possible release of a Hizballah terrorist in Iraq and the organization threatens to send missiles to Israel's southern-most town in any pending conflict.
In addition, a Canadian man has been arrested in an extortion scheme that allegedly helps finance the group's operations.
Ali Mussa Daqduq, who is being held in Baghdad, is scheduled to be transferred to Iraqi custody under terms of an agreement between the United States and Iraq. U.S. authorities, however, are hesitant to follow through with the exchange in light of Iraq's poor history with detainee security as well as its recent efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with Iran.
Daqduq reportedly worked with Iranian agents to train Shiite militias in Iraq to fight American soldiers. According to U.S. officials, Daqduq was involved in a 2007 raid that resulted in the abduction and killing of four American soldiers in Karbala. Bob Baer, a former CIA officer who tracked Hizballah for years, described Daqduq as "the worst of the worst."
Iraqi Justice Ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi rebuffed the insinuations that Daqduq would escape from Iraqi custody and said Wednesday the transfer would take place by the end of the week. Army Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, however, said the U.S. "was not under pressure to resolve this this week."
Lest anyone doubt Hizballah's belligerence, its leaders on Thursday threatened to bomb all parts of Israel if a maritime border dispute prompts a confrontation.
"If Israel launches an attack, rockets of the resistance will cover all of Israel. Even the city of Eilat won't be spared," warned MP Muhammad Raad from the Hizballah-led Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, according to Beirut's The Daily Star newspaper.
Israel is planning to outline permanent maritime borders between the two countries based on a Lebanese agreement with Cyprus, which Beirut is arguing was meant to be temporary. Muhammad Qabbani, head of the parliamentary public works committee, has thus argued that Israel is demonstrating "aggression" by infringing on rightful Lebanese territorial waters.
In Ontario, Canada, another alleged Hizballah operative, Kamal Ghandour, was implicated in an extortion scheme involving car theft. As part of the scheme, Ghandour threatened the Lebanese relatives of a Toronto native, Aline Ajami, to coerce her into opening credit and checking accounts for Ghandour and his accomplices and using fake credit information to purchase luxury cars.
Ghandour's acquaintances expressed doubt over whether the extortionist was truly a member of Hizballah, but Detective Kelly Labonte from the Ontario Provincial Police Provincial Anti-Terrorism Section (PATS), confirmed Ghandour's claims.
Rick Dubin, vice-president of investigative service at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the type of scam Ajami was involved in was quite typical and Hizballah has frequently used luxury car theft to finance its terrorist activities.
In fact, in February the U.S. Treasury blacklisted the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) when it was discovered that the bank, with the aid of U.S. car dealers, was laundering up to $200 million a month in drug money on behalf of an international drug ring with ties to Hizballah. The car dealers would ship cars to West Africa and then send the proceeds from the sale of the cars to Hizballah in Lebanon.