BERLIN – Nigeria’s security agency issued last week new terrorism charges against three Lebanese men suspected of membership in Hezbollah who were captured with a massive weapons cache.
The Nigerian media outlet Vanguard reported on Saturday that a legal representative for Nigeria’s State Security Service, Clifford Osagie, termed Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist entity.
Nigeria’s military said in May that the weapons were to be used in attacks on American and Israeli targets.
Osagie said, “We have proofs that the applicants belong to the military wing of Hezbollah which is a terrorist organization and in the coming days, this country will know more about them.”
The remark by Osagie appears to be the first explicit government acknowledgment of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group.
Bahrain, the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Australia have either fully sanctioned Hezbollah for terrorism or outlawed its military wing.
The three suspected Hezbollah operatives, Mustapha Roda Darwish Fawaz, Talal Roda and Abdulla Tahini, cited in the Vanguard report, are charged with importing arms. The weapons cache included antitank weapons, rocket-propelled guns, anti-tank/antipersonnel mines, seventeen AK-47s with more than 11,000 bullets, and dynamite.
Nigerian authorities arrested the men, including a fourth suspect, Hussain Nurudeen Kossdi, in late May.
Robert Clarke, a defense lawyer for the men, disputed the arrests, stating at an earlier court proceeding in June: “We are asking the court for 1 billion naira in damages for unlawful incarceration. The liberty of the individual as guaranteed under the constitution, we are asking this court to enforce it by releasing them on bail or try them through due processes of court,” said Clarke.
Nigerian authorities said the men admitted Hezbollah membership. The suspects are from Nigeria’s largest northern city, Kano, where they work as businessmen.
A second defense attorney, Ahmed Raji, according to a Voice of American report, said being a member of Hezbollah does not constitute a crime in Nigeria because the government does not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist entity. Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization, has over the years expanded its criminal and terrorism activities in Western and Central Africa, say US counter-terrorism experts.
A Nigerian court sentenced in May a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison. The men were convicted of delivering an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized to a port in Lagos in 2010. Nigeria’s security and military forces are engulfed in a bloody conflict with a radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the north.
Reuters contributed to this report.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/International/Nigeria-ups-charges-against-3-suspected-Hezbollah-men-317744