‘Sleeper’ cells belonging to militant Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah are present in Western Europe, Latin America and in southeast Asia and been ordered to be ready to carry out terrorist attacks should Israel prolong its military offensive against Lebanon, according to unnamed German intelligence sources.
A similar alarm was raised two days ago by Israel’s Shin Bet security service and Israeli embassies and institutions have been put on high alert. Hezbollah reportedly has sleeper cells in more than 20 countries, including Italy, and is alleged to have already been involved in several spectacular attacks.
These include Argentina’s deadliest bombing and the largest single incident of terrorism against Jews since World War II: the 1994 car-bomb attack on the AMIA building in the capital Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people – most of them Jewish – and injured over 300.
Eight days after the AMIA attack, the Israeli Embassy in the British capital, London, was car-bombed by two Palestinians allegedly linked to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has also been blamed for an earlier suicide bomb attack in 1992 that destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242.
Hezbollah is believed by the United States and some other countries’ intelligence agencies to have kidnapped over 30 Westerners between 1982 and 1992, including US journalist Terry Anderson, British journalist John McCarthy, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy, Terry Waite, and Irish citizen, Brian Keenan.
Hezbollah was accused by the US government of being responsible for the April 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut that killed 63; of being behind the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, a suicide truck bombing that killed 241 US Marines in their barracks in Beirut in October 1983; of bombing the replacement US Embassy in East Beirut on 20 September, 1984, killing 20 Lebanese and two US soldiers; an attack that killed 58 French soldiers in their barracks; and of carrying out the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome.
A Lebanese newspaper has estimated 1,000 people have been killed in terror attacks by Hezbollah. The group denies involvement in any of these attacks.