Cyprus uncovers covert Iranian terror plot across Europe from arrested Hezbollah agent

Israeli security sources believe the home in Cyprus that held 2 tons of ammonium nitrate to make explosives, was meant for an Iranian-orchestrated, Europe-wide terror campaign against Israel.


Israeli security sources are closely monitoring the arrest and investigation of a Lebanese citizen in Larnaca, Cyprus, who is suspected of being a Hezbollah operative caught in possession of a massive quantity of explosive material.


A policeman stands guard at a house where police discovered almost two tons of ammonium nitrate, in Larnaca, Cyprus, May 29. – Photo: REUTERS

Cypriot police suspect a man arrested on Wednesday was planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island after they found almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in his basement, newspapers on the island reported on Friday.

The 26-year-old man is Lebanese-born and has a Canadian passport. He was detained by police after authorities discovered the stockpile.

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Security sources in Israel assess that the apartment in which the suspect was captured was a Cyprus-based explosive material storeroom that belonged to Hezbollah, and which was supposed to constitute an outlet for carrying out a large-scale series of terror attacks across Europe against Jewish, Israeli, and Western targets.

Israel has been updated on the details of the arrest and the investigation.

Israeli security sources said on Saturday that the arrest is “further evidence of deep Iranian involvement in international terrorism. This is an international mechanism that the Iranians activate, with the intention of building and utilizing a terrorism infrastructure in Europe. Hezbollah, the contractor, is funded by Iran and its operatives are trained by Iranian experts. In this case, like in other cases, the head is in Tehran, the orchestration is Iranian, the funding is Iranian, and the one that carries it out is Hezbollah.” Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Israelis and the island hosts an Israeli embassy in Nicosia.

Authorities are investigating possible links to Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, three Cypriot newspapers said on Friday.

Police suspect Israeli interests were the target, the Simerini, Politis and Phileleftheros newspapers said.

The unnamed individual may have a close link with the group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, two newspapers said.

“There is some information that he could possibly be connected with them (Hezbollah), and this is something that is under investigation,” a security source told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

The suspect arrived in Cyprus in the third week of May and stayed in the coastal town of Larnaca. The ammonium nitrate — a fertilizer that can create a powerful explosive if large quantities are mixed with other substances — was found in its basement.

Police declined to comment beyond saying they are investigating all possibilities.

Cyprus has little militant-related activity despite its proximity to the Middle East. The island, which is in the EU, hosts two British military bases and receives intelligence from Western agencies.

Its last major security incident was a botched attack on the Israeli embassy in 1988, which killed three people.

In 2013 a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent was jailed in Cyprus on charges of plotting to attack Israeli tourists.

In that year, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, one of the suspects in a thwarted terrorist attack against Israelis in Cyprus in July, admitted on Wednesday in a Cypriot court that he is a member of Hezbollah.

Yaacoub, a 24-year old Lebanese-Swedish citizen, faced eight charges in the criminal court in the city of Limassol. The Cypriot authorities charged him with membership in a criminal organization whose aim is “carrying out missions in any part of the world, including the Cyprus Republic, against Israeli citizens,” among seven other crimes – reduced from an original 17 terrorism-related charges.


Benjamin Weinthal and Reuters contributed to this report.
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