Nigeria charges four Lebanese suspected of Hezbollah ties

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2013 2:12 PM

ABUJA (Reuters) - A Nigerian court charged four Lebanese men suspected of having links to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah with terrorism and possession of illegal arms on Wednesday, after authorities said they found heavy weapons in one of their homes.

Secret service agents arrested the suspects between May 16 and May 28, and a military official told Reuters all had said they were members of the Lebanon-based Shi'ite Muslim organization.

A raid on one of the men's' residences in the main northern city of Kano uncovered a stash of anti-tank weapons, landmines, heavy artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, authorities said.

The military said last week that the weapons were to be used in attacks on American and Israeli targets.

But a security source told Reuters on Wednesday there were no doubts about the Hezbollah link and officials were looking into the possibility the suspects had simply meant to sell the arms on for profit.

The four - Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini, Talal Roda and Hussain Nurudeen Kossdi - appeared in court to hear the charges.

Authorities have said they are investigating to see if there is a link with the Nigerian Islamist fighters Boko Haram - though it would be unusual for Shi'ite Hezbollah to form an alliance with the Sunni Muslim Nigerian organization.

The security source told Reuters authorities were also looking into the possibility of a link to Iran.

An alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice were sentenced to five years in prison earlier this month over an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized in Lagos in 2010.

Authorities said it was believed those arms were destined for Senegal's Casamance rebels. Most Nigerian Muslims are Sunni, but there are also several thousand Shi'ites in the country.

(Reporting by Camillus Eboh; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens)