More than two dozen Hizballah operatives are setting up an operations base in Cuba, an Italian newspaper reports, with the objective of plotting revenge attacks for the 2008 assassination of former terrorist operations chief Imad Mughniyeh.
The operatives will start with a $1.5 million budget, working to make "new contacts, obtain and produce travel documents for various South American countries, recruit informants, and develop relationships with smugglers that move merchandise and are involved in human trafficking," according to a translation of the Corriere della Serra article.
Most of the operatives were handpicked by Talal Hamia, who reportedly runs Hizballah's clandestine operations.
The Lebanese-based terrorist group already has established a vast network of operatives throughout Latin America, particularly along the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, engaging in drug trafficking and other criminal operations. In addition, Cuban ally Hugo Chavez of Venezuela reportedly held a secret summit last year in Caracas, hosting leaders of Hizballah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Dozens of people have been arrested in the United States for providing support to the group. Law enforcement officials fear some of those supporters could be used to launch attacks against American interests ordered to do so by Hizballah leaders or the group's Iranian patrons.
Now Hizballah appears to be planting seeds in this hemisphere for precisely that reason.