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Nigeria: Suspected 'Hezbollah cell' armory uncovered in Kano city

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 2, 2013 in World
Kano - Nigerian authorities say they have uncovered in the northern commercial city of Kano, a hidden arms cache belonging to Lebanese residents with suspected links to Hezbollah. The Nigerian authorities say they have also arrested three Lebanese men in Kano.
Reuters reports that according to a military spokesman Captain Ikedichi Iweha, the three suspects were arrested between May 16 and May 28 in Kano. Authorities claim the men have admitted to being members of Hezbollah.
The first suspect Mustapha Fawaz, was arrested on May 16 at his supermarket in Kano. Fawaz is the owner of Abuja's popular Wonderland Amusement Park and Amigo Supermarket.
A second suspect Abdullah Tahini, was arrested at Kano airport with $60,000 in undeclared cash. A third suspect, reportedly a Lebanese with Nigerian citizenship, was arrested last Sunday.
Al Jazeera reports that Iweha said a raid on the private premises of one of the Lebanese revealed 60mm anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank landmines, two rounds of ammunition for a 122mm artillery gun, 21 rocket-propelled grenades, seventeen AK-47s with more than 11,000 bullets and some dynamite.
Reuters reports Iweha said: "The search team uncovered an underground bunker in the master bedroom where a large quantity of assorted weapons of different types and caliber were recovered. All those arrested have confessed to have undergone Hezbollah terrorist training."
According to the BBC, Brig Gen Ilyasu Isa Abba, coordinator of the Kano State Joint Task Force, said that 11 anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and 21 RPG missiles, 17 AK-47s, two sub-machine guns and 76 grenades were found.
Iweha explained: "The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria."
Euronews reports Abba said: "Even if it is targeted against Israel or Western interests, in most of these places you will find a lot of Nigerians working there. And these properties are inside Nigeria, so definitely whatever destruction will be done, will not just affect Israel or Western interests, but it will be against Nigerian interests."
Bassey Etang, the Kano State director of State Security Service, told reporters on Thursday: "This is the handwork of Hezbollah. What has just been discovered is a cell of Hezbollah and what you have seen here is a Hezbollah armory. You can also be sure that if a group like this is existing then it may even lend support to some of the local terrorists we have on the ground."
There are concerns in official circles about growing involvement of Middle East groups and groups linked to al-Qaeda in Nigeria, especially at a time that the Nigerian military is involved in a campaign against Islamic Boko Haram militants in the northeastern part of the country. Nigerian authorities say they are investigating the possibility of a link with Boko Haram.
However, analysts say a direct link between Hezbollah and Boko Haram is unlikely given that Boko Haram is Salafist and Hezbollah is Shia.
Although the bulk of Nigerian Muslims are Sunni, there is a substantial Shia minority led by the preacher Ibrahim Yaquob El Zakzaky, who founded the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), but whose campaign for stricter Sharia law, apart from an isolated incident in September 2009 in which members of his group clashed with the police, has not been associated with militancy.
However, a former Iranian diplomat Adel Assadinia, had claimed that the IMN was set up with the financial backing of the Iranian government and modeled after Hezbollah. He reportedly said that Iran has provided IMN with training in "guerrilla warfare: bomb-making, use of arms such as handguns, rifles and RPGs, and the manufacturing of bombs and hand grenades." He said IMN could be used against Western interests in Nigeria.
Al Jazeera reports that Iweha declined to say if the authorities were investigating links between IMN and the alleged Hezbollah cell.
This is not the first time that the Nigerian authorities have alleged involvement of a group linked to Iran in arms trafficking in the country. Digital Journal reported that authorities arrested an Iranian on charges of attempting to smuggle weapons to Gambia through the country. Digital Journal also reported that authorities claimed they uncovered a group linked to Iran in February.
Nigeria has a thriving community of Lebanese citizens involved mostly in trading and light manufacturing.
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