Iranian, Hizballah terror cells rolled up in time in Nigeria and Cyprus
Nigerian secret police spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar reported breaking up a terrorist group “backed by Iranian handlers” for assassination and gathering intelligence on locations frequented by Americans and Israelis as targets for attack. She spoke to journalists in Lagos Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Three members were arrested before they could launch attacks.
The leader identified as Abdullahi Mustaphah Berende, a 50-year old Shiite leader from the northern town of Ilorin, took photos of the Israeli culture center in Lagos which he sent to his handlers, she said. A fourth member remains at large.
Berende confessed to planning to kill people and expand a new terrorist network from the Muslim north to the predominantly Christian south with the aid of a group from Iran. He also confessed to spying on American, Israeli and other Western countries’ interests in the oil-rich African country for the purpose of attacking their facilities. He received some $30,000 in cash to fund the group’s planned operations.
According to Ogar, “Berende… was observed to have made several suspicious trips to Iran from 2006 where he interacted with some Iranian elements known to operate high profile international terrorist network.”
In 2011, he was trained in the use of AK-47 assault rifles and the production of improvised explosive devices. Berende also conducted surveillance on USAID and the US Peace Corps. Nigeria’s former military ruler, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, was targeted for assassination.
In Cyprus, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, admitted at his trial to being a member of Hizballah. He was arrested last July, and found with a notebook recording the license plates of buses ferrying Israelis, just two weeks before Hizballah blew up a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israelis and a Bulgarian. Yaacoub denied being part of a terrorist cell, admitting only to acting as a courier for Hizballah in European Union countries. After staking out locations frequented by Israelis in Limassol, he said he would be picked up in a van to meet his handler, whom he knew only as “Ayman” and whom he claimed always wore a mask.
Yaacoub, who has both Swedish and Lebanese passports, said that he had been a member of Hizballah since 2007, and worked for the group for four years. He owned a trading company in Lebanon and visited Cyprus in 2008 and 2011.
He said that he had been on “previous missions for Hizballah,” in Antalya, on Turkey’s southwest coast; Lyon, France; and Amsterdam.
On June 26, 2012, Yaacoub traveled to Sweden to renew his passport there. He returned to Cyprus via Heathrow Airport. Ayman asked him to stake out two locations, a parking lot behind a Limassol hospital and a hotel called the Golden Arches. He was also supposed to acquire two SIM cards for cellphones and locate Internet cafes in Limassol and the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. Ayman also asked him to locate restaurants that served kosher food, but Yaacoub said he could not find any.
The court found enough evidence to proceed on all eight counts against him. The verdict is due in March.