Failed London bomb plot exposes Hezbollah’s criminal activities in Europe
TUNIS - An alleged terror plot said to be linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah was interrupted by British police four years ago, the Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported.
The report claimed that in the fall of 2015, Metropolitan Police raided sites in north-west London, seizing an estimated 3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate frozen in disposable ice packs. A man in his 40s was arrested in connection with the raid, though he was subsequently released. No further information about his identity was made public.
Then British Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May were informed of the discovery but neither the public nor parliament were told. Some speculation that the operation’s proximity to the signing of the Iran nuclear deal may have led to the information blackout.
The Telegraph said the investigation followed information from a foreign country. Israeli newspapers attributed the source of the intelligence to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
Citing information provided to the Telegraph from sources during a months-long investigation, British officials established that the London cache was part of an international plot intended to lay the groundwork for attacks.
That assertion was supported by the arrest in May 2015 of a Lebanese-Canadian man, Hussein Bassam Abdallah, in Cyprus, who was found with 8.2 tonnes of explosives in his home. Abdallah admitted stockpiling the material and his membership of Hezbollah’s military wing.
No information was provided suggesting that the United Kingdom was intended as a target for a Hezbollah attack. Rather, given the early stages of preparation, indications suggested that the alleged plot was in a planning stage.
At the time of the raid, the United Kingdom only recognised the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. The British parliament changed that classification in February 2019 and regards all membership of the group as a criminal offence.
Former British Army officer Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons expert, said, “This is a massive amount of ammonia nitrate and 3 tonnes converted to explosives could flatten several blocks.
“Ammonia nitrate is the key component of the fertiliser bombs we saw a good deal of in Afghanistan and favoured by the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
Despite its deadly potential, ammonium nitrate itself is not explosive. However, it “readily forms explosive mixtures when combined with fuel oil or aluminium powders or other explosives,” de Bretton-Gordon said.
“It is very dangerous and depends how much you have but 3 metric tonnes could produce a massive explosion. This is more (ammonium nitrate) than was used in the Oklahoma bomb of 1995, which killed 168 people.”
Hezbollah’s reach extends beyond the Middle East, including the United States and the tri-border region of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. It has also established a foothold in Venezuela and is said to be close to its embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
“Europe has always been a logistical hub for Hezbollah and a place for money to move and elicit goods in and out, to include seemingly legitimate charitable organisations,” said Fred Burton, chief security officer at risk analysis and intelligence consulting firm Stratfor. “Europe is also a great playground for spies of countless intelligence agencies and a place to meet informants. Europe is also a location where Hezbollah does have a fair amount of political support.”
Burton said: “In the last decade, we’ve seen Hezbollah linked to other successful and thwarted attacks in Bulgaria, France, Cyprus and Denmark. Therefore, the explosives stash in London doesn’t surprise me.
“Hezbollah also likes having off-the-shelf plans for contingency sake. The explosives in the safe house may have been for future operations in the event of American hostilities with Iran or a spoke for distribution.”
Contacted by the Telegraph, the Iranian Embassy in London said: “Iran has categorically rejected time and again any type of terrorism and extremism, has been victim of terrorism against its innocent people and is in
the forefront fighting this inhuman phenomenon. Any attempt to link Iran to terrorism, by claims from unknown sources, is totally rejected.”