The United States is offering millions of dollars in award money for information that could lead to the arrest of two Hezbollah leaders, a senior State Department official said yesterday.
Nicholas Rasmussen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington D.C., also said Hezbollah has actors within the U.S. homeland as part of its ongoing global terrorism campaign.
The individuals of concern are senior leaders in Hezbollah, and have been active in that organization for many years. $7 million was offered for Talal Hamiyah and $5 million for Fu’ad Shukr. Rasmussen said that Hezbollah has individuals inside the United States working “on behalf” of the terror group, and is seeking the ability to launch attacks inside the U.S.
Hamiyah and Shukr have been known to the U.S. for some time. The timing of such an announcement is likely to coincide with the Trump administration’s broader hard-line strategy against Iran. Trump is likely to announce a new U.S. policy towards Iran this week, to possibly include nullifying the so-called “Iran Nuclear Deal” that has been in place since 2015.
Rasmussen elaborated on the threat posed by the Iranian-backed terror group, enumerating the dozens of attacks conducted by Hezbollah operatives over the last few decades. While the U.S. has focused its counter terrorism efforts against groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in recent years, Hezbollah has continued building an international presence and capability. Notably, Rasmussen said the group is “laying the ground work for attacks in places like Azerbaijan, Egypt, Thailand, Cyprus, and Peru.”
Over 2000 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in action fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria. Iranian special operations advisors have trained and coordinated Hezbollah activities in Syria.
U.S counter-terrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said during the same briefing that “some countries have chosen to designated only Hezbollah’s military wing, leaving its so-called political wing untouched,”
“But that is a false distinction. Make no mistake. Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organization, a terrorist organization, and it is rotten to its core.”
“Today’s rewards are another step to increase pressure on them and their organization,” he said.
Image courtesy of the U.S. State Department