Some 30 mosques and cultural centers in Germany have ties to the U.S.-classified terrorist organization Hezbollah, according to a Hamburg intelligence agency report. The U.S. government and a bipartisan group of American lawmakers have urged Berlin to outlaw the Lebanese terrorist group in Germany.
“In Germany, there are currently about 30 known cultural and mosque associations in which a clientele regularly meets that is close to Hezbollah or its ideology,” wrote the intelligence agency.
According to the 282-page intelligence document and other German reports reviewed by Fox News, there are 1,050 Hezbollah supporters and members in Germany.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell told Fox News: “The danger that Hezbollah sympathizers are raising funds in Hamburg is further evidence that Hezbollah must be banned from Germany in its entirety. Any funds bound for Hezbollah are used by the Iranian regime to support Assad’s violence in Syria and sponsor terrorism around the world.”
Grenell previously worked as a Fox News contributor. Iran’s regime is a major financial sponsor of its chief proxy Hezbollah. Both Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Hamburg intelligence report states “the collection of donations is one of the most important tasks of the associations” where Hezbollah operatives meet. Do the findings raise questions about how much money German Hezbollah members and supporters are sending to Lebanon to aid their organization in advancing terrorism in the U.S. and Europe and waging war against Syrian civilians?
According to the report, “the associations are characterized by the effort to strengthen the bonds of the Lebanese living here [in Hamburg] with their homeland and to the organization.” The document noted that there are 30 Hezbollah supporters in Hamburg.
Additional German intelligence data shows that Hezbollah operatives across Germany send funds to the terrorist group’s headquarters in Beirut. The Hamburg intelligence report covers a wide range of security threats targeting the city-state.
In addition to the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Israel, and the Arab League have designated Hezbollah’s entire movement as a terrorist organization. In 2013, Germany and the European Union merely proscribed Hezbollah’s so-called military wing as a terrorist entity.
In June, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressional representatives — Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., Grace Meng, D-N.Y., Ted Deutch, D-Fl., and Gus Bilirakis, R-Fl — urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a letter “to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”
“We write to you today to express our concern over the recent failed vote in the Bundestag to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. We appreciate your government’s commitment to fighting terrorism, and we believe that taking the step to designate the political wing of Hezbollah [as terrorist] will have a significant impact on Hezbollah’s activity in Europe and around the globe,” the legislators wrote.
“The growth of support for Hezbollah will also contribute to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, which has already resulted in deadly attacks against Jews. That is why we strongly urge Germany to take substantive action against Hezbollah through sanctions and other means that will hamper their ability to project influence in the region.”
In May, a Manhattan federal jury convicted Bronx resident Ali Kourani of eight offenses that included providing support to Hezbollah to launch terrorist attacks against facilities in New York City. The 34-year-old Kourani, who was born in Lebanon, engaged in surveillance of a Secret Service facility in Brooklyn, two military sites in Manhattan, and 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan — which at 41 stories is the tallest federal office building in the U.S., and contains the FBI’s New York field office.
Merkel has vehemently rejected a full ban of Hezbollah in Germany. The chancellor snubbed her country’s Jewish community in May after the nearly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany asked her to outlaw Hezbollah.
The president of the council, Dr. Josef Schuster, said at the time that “a full ban of Hezbollah’s organization has already happened in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom”, adding that the group is “heavily financed by Iran, and poses, in its entirety, a threat to the entire world.”
The United States government has labeled Iran’s regime the leading international state-sponsor of terrorism. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Merkel during his visit in May to proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist entity.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal