Colombian authorities have arrested two members of the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, Colombia’s Defense Minister Diego Molano told the local paper El Tiempo on Sunday.
Hezbollah reportedly planned to murder an Israeli businessman and ex-intelligence officer in revenge for the killing of the Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad airport in January 2020. While Soleimani was eliminated by the United States, Iran blames Israel for assisting Washington in the operation. Tehran is also blaming Jerusalem for the killing of Iran’s nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Iran in November 2020.
The Colombian defense minister revealed in the interview that the arrest had taken place some months ago.
“Two months ago we had to deal with a situation where we had to organize an operation to capture and expel two criminals commissioned by Hezbollah with the intention of committing a criminal act in Colombia,” Molano said.
Without mentioning specific names, Molano also revealed in the interview, that Colombia had been in contact with several international intelligence agencies and that “there are concerns about the presence of Hezbollah in Venezuela and its relationship with terrorist groups and their financing.”
The Colombian paper reported that the target of the botched Hezbollah operation was an Israeli businessperson and ex-intelligence officer who was residing in the capital Bogota.
Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency reportedly discovered that the Israeli citizen as well as several U.S. diplomats in the city had been under surveillance and alerted Colombian authorities. The Israeli was reportedly quickly evacuated from Colombia to Israel.
The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah has a strong presence in parts of South America and has been exploiting the fact that a large community of Lebanese expats reside in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia.
Colombia has a tense relationship with its neighbor Venezuela, which Colombian authorities accuse of harboring terrorists and politically motivated guerrillas fighting against the Colombian government. In recent years, Hezbollah’s presence has grown in Venezuela due to the country’s close ties with the Iranian regime.
The perceived security threat from Hezbollah is considered so grave that Colombian defense minister said there was a “risk with Hezbollah in Venezuela and what its links to drug traffic or terrorist groups on the Venezuelan side [of the border] could generate for national security.”
Last week, Colombian President Ivan Duque Márquez visited the Jewish state and officially opened a Colombian diplomatic mission in Israel’s capital Jerusalem. While much of the visit focused on bilateral trade and cooperation between Colombia and Israel, the threat of Hezbollah and its Iranian patron loomed large throughout the visit.
During his meeting with the Colombian president, Israeli President Isaac Herzog presented Hezbollah and the Iranian regime as shared threats for Colombia and Israel.
“Like Israel, I know that Colombia is concerned about Iran and Hezbollah’s terror cells being established on your border with Venezuela. From many years of experience, it is clear that these forces must be stopped swiftly – if not a minute sooner,” Herzog stated.
Following the arrest, Colombian authorities decided to deport the two Hezbollah operatives, reported the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.