British intelligence discovered a huge stockpile of bomb-making chemical in London in 2015, arresting a Hezbollah terrorist only to release him and then cover up the plot.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday that more than three tons of ammonium nitrate was discovered leading to the arrest only months after the UK joined other countries in signing the Iran nuclear deal. Speculation mounting that the discovery was hushed up to avoid derailing the agreement with the Iranian regime, which is the main sponsor of Hezbollah.
Concern has also been raised by CUFI regarding why it took four years for Hezbollah to be banned outright in the UK, despite authorities’ knowledge of the plot along with other clear evidence that Hezbollah was and remains a threat to the UK.
The Telegraph reports that the MI5 and the Metropolitan Police raided four properties in North West London after receiving a tip from a foreign intelligence agency. They discovered thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate, which is a common ingredient in homemade bombs.
A man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorism, but was eventually released without charges. The paper quoted “well placed sources” as saying that “the plot had been disrupted by a covert intelligence operation rather than seeking a prosecution.”
According to the report, the plot was part of a wider Hezbollah plan to lay the groundwork for future attacks and noted foiled Hezbollah operations in Thailand, Cyprus and New York. All those plots were made public and were believed to have targeted Israeli interests around the world.
The Telegraph said the Cyprus case was strikingly similar to the one in London. In 2015 in Cyprus, confessed Hezbollah agent Hussein Bassam Abdallah was sentenced to six years in jail after he was found with 8.2 tons of ammonia nitrate in his home. He had reportedly planned to attack Israeli targets.
The Telegraph said its information came after a three-month investigation in which more than 30 current and former officials in Britain, America and Cyprus were approached and court documents were obtained.
The Telegraph said that in Cyprus the ammonia nitrate was also stored in ice packs, saying that they were a convenient, seemingly harmless and easy to transport.
Sources told the Telegraph that the UK plot was at a very early stage and no targets had been selected. It said UK intelligence used to opportunity to try and establish what Hezbollah was up to and so did not disrupt it immediately.
“MI5 worked independently and closely with international partners to disrupt the threat of malign intent from Iran and its proxies in the UK,” a UK intelligence source told the paper.
“The Security Service and police work tirelessly to keep the public safe from a host of national security threats. Necessarily, their efforts and success will often go unseen,” said Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace.
Speculation over the Iran Deal
However questions are being raised over why the arrest was kept quiet and why it took the UK government another four years before finally banning Hezbollah in full.
The Telegraph speculates that the incident was kept quiet because the US had just signed the Iran nuclear deal.
“It raises questions about whether senior UK government figures chose not to reveal the plot in part because they were invested in keeping the Iran nuclear deal afloat,” the paper said.
The US, under President Donald Trump, has since pulled out of the deal and hit Iran with fresh sanctions, but the UK and other European countries remain supportive of the deal.
Hezbollah banned in UK
In March, Britain finally declared Hezbollah’s political wing illegal after years of wrongly distinguishing it from its military wing.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the UK now believes that any distinction between its military and political wings “does not exist.”
However, Labour, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn once referred to Hezbollah as his “friends,” said the Home Office had not provided evidence to justify its change in stance on the Iran-backed organisation’s political wing.
Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war and fought a 2006 war with Israel. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, regularly threatens to target Israel with thousands of advanced missiles that can reach all major Israeli cities.
Iran is a major sponsor of Hezbollah as has been confirmed many times.
“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader has previously said.