A terrorist organization whose home base is in the Middle East has established another home base across the border in Mexico.
"They are recognized by many experts as the 'A' team of Muslim terrorist organizations," a former U.S. intelligence agent told 10News.
The former agent, referring to Shi'a Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, added, "They certainly have had successes in big-ticket bombings."
Some of the group's bombings include the U.S. embassy in Beirut and Israeli embassy in Argentina.
However, the group is now active much closer to San Diego.
"We are looking at 15 or 20 years that Hezbollah has been setting up shop in Mexico," the agent told 10News.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. policy has focused on al-Qaida and its offshoots.
"They are more shooters than thinkers
it's a lot of muscles, courage, desire but not a lot of training," the agent said, referring to al-Qaida.
Hezbollah, he said, is far more advanced.
"Their operators are far more skilled
they are the equals of Russians, Chinese or Cubans," he said. "I consider Hezbollah much more dangerous in that sense because of strategic thinking; they think more long-term."
Hezbolah has operated in South America for decades and then Central America, along with their sometime rival, sometime ally Hamas.
Now, the group is blending into Shi'a Muslim communities in Mexico, including Tijuana. Other pockets along the U.S.-Mexico border region remain largely unidentified as U.S. intelligence agencies are focused on the drug trade.
"They have had clandestine training in how to live in foreign hostile territories," the agent said.
The agent, who has spent years deep undercover in Mexico, said Hezbollah is partnering with drug organizations, but which ones is not clear at this time.
He told 10News the group receives cartel cash and protection in exchange for Hezbollah expertise.
"From money laundering to firearms training and explosives training," the agent said.
For example, he tracked, along with Mexican intelligence, two Hezbollah operatives in safe houses in Tijuana and Durango
"I confirmed the participation of cartel members as well as other Hezbollah individuals living and operating out of there," he said.
Tunnels the cartels have built that cross from Mexico into the U.S. have grown increasingly sophisticated. It is a learned skill, the agent said points to Hezbollah's involvement.
"Where are the knowledgeable tunnel builders? Certainly in the Middle East," he said.
Why have Americans not heard more about Hezbollah's activities happening so close to the border?
"If they really wanted to start blowing stuff up, they could do it," the agent said.
According to the agent, the organization sees the U.S. as their "cash cow," with illegal drug and immigration operations. Many senior Hezbollah leaders are wealthy businessmen, the agent said.
"The money they are sending back to Lebanon is too important right now to jeopardize those operations," he said.
The agent said the real concern is the group's long-term goal of radicalizing Muslim communities.
"They're focusing on developing
infiltrating communities within North America," the agent told 10News.
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