Daily Telegraph says Iran-backed terror group stockpiled three tons of ammonium nitrate, but discovery was kept quiet, perhaps in effort not to derail just-signed Iran nuke deal.
British intelligence in 2015 caught an alleged Hezbollah terrorist stockpiling more than three tons of ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in homemade bombs, on the outskirts of London, but never divulged the plot, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.
The report said the arrest came just months after the UK joined the US and other world powers in signing the Iran nuclear deal and speculated that it was hushed up to avoid derailing the agreement with Tehran, which is the main supporter of the Lebanese Hezbollah group.
Acting on a tip from a foreign intelligence agency, MI5 and the Metropolitan Police raided four properties in North West London, discovering thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate, the Telegraph said.
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.”
An undated photo of Ali Kourani, a naturalized US citizen from Lebanon who allegedly plotted attacks on behalf of Hezbollah in New York City. (screen capture: YouTube)
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.
But the Telegraph speculated 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.
The paper also raised questions as to why the information was not revealed as the UK debated banning the entire Hezbollah organization earlier this year.
In March, it finally declared Hezbollah’s political wing illegal too after years of distinguishing it from its military 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.
The group is considered a terror organization by Israel, the US and the Arab League. The European Union and Australia only designate the group’s military wing as such.
It has been blamed for a string of attacks against Israelis including the 2012 attack on a bus load of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that killed five, the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29, and the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.
Britain blacklisted Hezbollah’s military wing in 2008 but had until now made no move against its political wing.
However, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK now believes that any distinction between its military and political wings “does not exist.”
The move came after the group was included as part of Lebanon’s new government. While the cabinet is headed by Saad Hariri, a Western-backed Sunni politician who has held the job since 2016, Hezbollah made significant gains at the expense of the largest Sunni party and now controls three government ministries.
Tehran is a major supporter of Hezbollah and its “resistance” against the Islamic Republic’s arch foe, Israel.
During the debate, 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 organization’s political wing.
“Decisions on the proscription of organizations as terror groups are supposed to be made on the advice of civil servants based on clear evidence that those organizations fall foul of the proscription criteria set out in legislation,” Labour said in a statement.
CHARLESTON, SC—A Black Lives Matter protest in South Carolina started to get out of hand, with people screaming at police officers stationed nearby. It threatened to get violent until the protestors paused after noticing they were all white.
“We will not let your system oppress us!” shouted one protestor, to which a black officer responded, “What do you mean by ‘we’?” The protestor said he meant people of color, but it was at that time that he took inventory of the protestors behind him and was unable to find anyone other than white people.
The protestors insisted they had some black people with them earlier, but it appeared that they had all left when the protest started to get out of hand. “It’s possible they had jobs,” suggested one protestor.
Though initially shaken by the lack of black lives in their Black Lives Matter protest, the protestors soon got back to throwing things and screaming at police officers in their attempt to battle racism. “We still need to fight for black lives,” said one protestor, “even if they want nothing to do with us.”
The group has taken out a want ad hoping to hire a few black people to join their next event.
President Trump on Thursday said Joe Biden implying that a black journalist is a “junkie” was a “great insult to the black community.”
Biden chastised CBS correspondent Errol Barnett this week after he asked if the former vice president had taken a cognitive test.
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In a bizarre answer, Biden said:
“No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man,” Biden said. “That’s like saying to you, before you got on this program if you had taken a test were you taking cocaine or not. What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?”
It’s not the first time Biden lost his cool when asked about his mental acuity. Last month, he pushed back on the notion that he is losing his faculties, telling reporters he is “constantly tested” for evidence of cognitive decline.
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“Some have speculated that you are subject to some degree of cognitive decline,” Fox News’ Doug McKelway said. “I’m 65, I don’t have word recollection that I used to have, I forgot my train of thought from time to time. You got 12 years on me, sir. Have you been tested for some degree of cognitive decline?”
“I’ve been tested and I’m constantly tested,” Biden said. “Look, all you got to do is watch me and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”
A recent Zogby International poll of 1,007 “likely voters” found that 55% said they think the former vice president “is in the early stages of dementia.”
“Overall, subgroups who normally approve of Trump’s job as president were the most likely to believe Biden could be suffering from dementia,” the poll found. “Thus, majorities of Republicans (77% more likely/23% less likely) and Independents (56% more likely/44% less likely) thought Joe Biden had early-onset dementia; while nearly a third of Democrats (32% more likely/68% less likely) thought this was the case.”
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