- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

The indictment of 11 persons last week on federal racketeering charges in connection with an alleged scheme to fund Hezbollah is a stark reminder that al Qaeda is hardly the lone terrorist group operating in the United States.
The indictment, unsealed last Tuesday, alleges that the conspirators nine from the Detroit area and two from the New York-based Seneca Indian tribe ran a cigarette smuggling ring to funnel assistance to Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group save al Qaeda.
The federal government charges that the smugglers purchased more than $500,000 worth of cigarettes in North Carolina, where taxes are 50 cents a carton, and illegally transported them to Michigan, where cigarettes are taxed at $12.50 per carton. The plot also involved smuggling cigarettes to Michigan from a New York Indian reservation, where cigarettes are untaxed.
One Dearborn, Mich., man named in the indictment is Hassan Makki, who told federal agents that he had "membership/official status" in Hezbollah. Another, Elias Mohamad Akhdar of Dearborn, had also taken part in military exercises with Hezbollah in Lebanon, prosecutors said. The government contends that the conspiracy is linked to Mohamed Hammoud, who was convicted in Charlotte, N.C., in June for helping to run a cigarette smuggling ring that funnelled profits to Hezbollah.
The Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah claims responsibility for such attacks as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (63 killed) and the October 1983 suicide bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, which killed 241. Hezbollah also committed such crimes as the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight, during which U.S. Navy SEAL Robert Stethem was tortured and killed. William Buckley, the CIA's Beirut station chief, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Hezbollah. An offshoot called Saudi Hezbollah carried out the 1996 bombing of a military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who only a few months ago urged Palestinians "to take suicide bombings worldwide," called on Arabs on Friday to take up arms in support of Saddam Hussein if war breaks out. Given Hezbollah's long history of killing Americans, its support for the Iraqi dictator should not be ignored. And the U.S. government must remain vigilant against any efforts by Hezbollah to raise funds on American soil.

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