US task force to probe Hezbollah 'narcoterror'
The US Justice Department announced on Thursday the creation of a special task force to investigate what it called "narcoterrorism" by the powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
The unit will comprise specialists on money-laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism and organised crime, targeting Iran ally Hezbollah's sprawling network, whose reach extends across Africa and into Central and South America, the department said.
"The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organisations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organisations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operations."
The move comes amid a stepped-up effort to battle Iran's growing influence in the Middle East and the expanded military capabilities of Hezbollah, a dominant force in Lebanese politics.
But Sessions said the creation of the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team was also a response to allegations that former president Barack Obama held back from cracking down on Hezbollah's global networks, investigated under the previous Project Cassandra, in order to achieve the nuclear deal with Iran.
"The HFNT will begin by assessing the evidence in existing investigations, including cases stemming from Project Cassandra, a law enforcement initiative targeting Hezbollah's drug trafficking and related operations," the department said.
Officials in Washington and US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, have increasingly raised the alarm over Hezbollah's growing power in Lebanon and around the world. (AFP)