Iran has established a Hizbullah terrorist training base in northern Nicaragua, according to a report by local media there. Operatives are being trained at the base to attack Israeli and U.S. targets in the event of a raid on Iranian nuclear installations, according to a report quoting the media, broadcast Thursday on Israeli radio.
Some 30 members of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization are allegedly stationed at the base, located near the border with Honduras. The base reportedly also serves as a central hub for weapons smugglers and money laundering by organized crime lords and drug cartels.
The area has been blocked off the local residents, and all supplies are reportedly being shipped in from Tehran.
Less than two weeks ago, a group of 18 people was arraigned in a Managua courtroom after being accused of being involved in organized crime and money laundering. The group, posing as Mexican journalists, were detained while entering Nicaragua from Honduras following a tip-off and a subsequent search of the six vans they were travelling in yield bags of cash containing $9.2 million, according to local media. It is not still not clear who the suspects were, and under whose auspices they were funded.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Jose Enrique Barantas has warned against the growing Iranian influence in Nicaragua, and its danger to Latin America. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has spent the past five years carefully making the rounds of Latin American countries, where he has taken the trouble to curry favor and invest heavily with the continent's most powerful regimes.
Among those with whom Iran has built up some of its strongest diplomatic relations are Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who heads the nation with the largest oil reserve in the Western hemisphere. Chavez, who has been battling cancer for more than a year, is also fighting to stay in power as he campaigns for re-election in the national polls on October 7, although the likelihood the ballot will fair seems dim.
Hizbullah, meanwhile, has for years been quietly developing its own drug trafficking routes and other illegal activities throughout Latin America in order to fund its terrorism against Israel.
U.S. officials last month seized $150 million in laundered funds linked to the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
Last year, Hizbullah was caught using American banks and other financial institutions to process money earned from trafficking drugs and other items in South America and Africa.