The US authorities have warned of Beirut-style explosions in European cities, adding that Hezbollah militants have stocked up huge quantities of chemicals in several countries. The countries that are at the greatest risk are Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
The Iran-backed Shi'ite Islamist group that holds considerable political power in Lebanon has moved huge caches of ammonium nitrate to various strategic locations throughout Europe, Nathan Sales, State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said.
More than 200 people were killed when a huge explosion destroyed Beirut's port area on August 4. The blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse near the port. The magnitude of the blast was such that it blew out windows of buildings as far as 6 miles away from the port. Tremors from the explosion were felt in neighboring Cyprus, which is about 150 miles from Beirut.
In a startling revelation, the US authorities have said Iran-backed Hezbollah moved ammonium nitrate to various points in Europe in first aid kits. They added that this has been happening since 2012 and that supplies are in place throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain, the Associated Press reported.
"I can reveal that such caches have been moved through Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. I can also reveal that significant ammonium nitrate caches have been discovered or destroyed in France, Greece and Italy, have reason to believe that this activity is still underway," Sales said. He said this showed the threat Hezbollah poses to European capitals.
"Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil? ... The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary," Sales said during an online discussion hosted by the American Jewish Committee.
The senior State Department official called for a European ban on Hezbollah. "And that is why we renew our call for more countries to designate Hezbollah in its entirety, and for the European Union to expand its 2013 designation of the so-called military wing to reach the entire organization," Sales added.
The U.S. designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. The European Union had designated the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist group but its political activities are allowed in the EU. Germany banned Shi'ite Islamist group Hezbollah in April this year, setting the stage for a pan-EU ban on the outfit.
The ban in Germany will strike at the root of Hezbollah's ability to raise funds, especially at a time when the funds from Iran are likely to dry up in the post-pandemic financial squeeze.