Germany arrests two suspected Hezbollah members over ‘recruiting activities’

BEIRUT — German authorities announced on Wednesday the arrest of two suspected members of the Lebanese Iran-funded Hezbollah group, which Germany designated a terror organization in 2020.

The German Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the pair were arrested in northern Germany on suspicions of recruiting and organizing activities for the Shiite militant group. They face charges of belonging to a foreign terrorist organization.

The statement identified the suspects as Lebanese national Hassan M. and German-Lebanese dual citizen Abdul-Latif W. 

Hassan M. has been a member of the group’s Department for External Relations since 2016 and was in charge of providing logistic and ideological support for Lebanese associations in northern Germany, according to the statement.

Abdul-Latif W. is believed to have joined Hezbollah in 2004 “at the latest,” the statement estimated. He was a member of the Radwan Battalion, an elite unit of Hezbollah’s military arm, which has sent troops to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.

The two suspects were due to appear before a judge later on Wednesday “who will decide whether to remand them in custody,” the statement added.

Hezbollah officials in Lebanon have yet to comment on the arrest.

Germany designated Hezbollah a terror organization in April 2020 and banned the activities of the group’s political wing on its soil. Back then, the Lebanese group condemned the move, stressing that it was not active in Germany.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called it a “political decision that reflects Germany’s submission to America’s will and to pleasing Israel.”

German authorities have since been cracking down against any association or individual linked to Hezbollah in the country. Last year, authorities in Bremen in the north closed down Al-Mustafa Community Center, which Abdul-Latif W. chaired, citing its “support for terrorism against Israel.”

Hezbollah’s increasing capabilities

Hezbollah was established in 1985 in Lebanon as a resistance group against Israel in the south. It is one of Iran’s main proxy arms in the Middle East and has been involved in regional wars, including in Syria and Yemen. Iran provides Hezbollah with weapons, funding and military training. 

The group has an estimated 20,000 active fighters as well as some 20,000 reserves, according to 2020 data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The group is believed to hold a massive arsenal of small arms, tanks, drones and various long-range missiles. 

Hezbollah has also developed a global network of drug smuggling and money laundering, reaching as far as South America. Despite US and Western sanctions against individuals and entities linked to the group worldwide, Hezbollah continues to flourish and hold massive sway inside Lebanon.

The United States designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. The European Union, for its part, only blacklisted the movement’s military wing in 2013.

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