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Highly explosive: the Hezbollah threat in Italy

US counterterrorism official Nathan Sales claimed on Thursday that the militant group Hezbollah has been shipping ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland since 2012, as immediately reported by

The highly explosive chemical compound, generally used as fertiliser, is believed to be the cause of the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4th, 2020, where a long-abandoned storage unit filled with it accidentally caught fire.

Mr Sales, who is the US State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said that the US believes Hezbollah might still be moving and stockpiling the compound across European nations to “conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deem necessary.”

He also said he had “reason to believe” such deposits still exist in Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.

The Italian government neither supported nor disputed the existence of the threat, which has been substantiated by intelligence from the US and Israel. In recent years, the UK and Germany were able to find and neutralise clandestine deposits of ammonium nitrate.

The announcement was made during a press event of the American Jewish Committee, participated by, where calls for the EU to blacklist the entire organisation intensified. Mr Sales called the Iran-backed Lebanese movement presents an “evident threat to Europe.”

The EU currently distinguishes between Hezbollah’s militant wing (listed as a terrorist organisation) and its political wing, which has been active in Lebanese politics in past years. Some countries, such as the UK and Germany, have ceased to distinguish and banned the organisation at their national level.

On Friday, the Italian senator Lucio Malan took to our website to reinforce the message that the EU should be banning Hezbollah in its entirety, something he had been working towards since July, when he also filed a request to support the arms embargo on Iran.

In the parliamentary interrogation he had called to discuss these issues, the senator had reminisced the threats voiced by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in a video, where he boasted about targeting Israel with high-precision missiles.

“This arsenal, as I underlined, could be used against the forces of the UNIFIL mission, participated by a strong Italian contingent, on the border between Lebanon and Israel,” he wrote, before detailing instances of foiled terror attacks across Europe in recent years.

Mr Malan accused the Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio of ignoring his questions on these matters and avoiding them altogether. “I believe this is the government’s approach to the terrorist threat of Hezbollah: ignoring the problem and pay homage to the Iranian regime.”


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