Hezbollah planned to assassinate an Israeli national in Bogota as part of an operation that also targeted Americans to avenge the January 2020 killing of Iranian al-Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, a Colombian newspaper reported Sunday.
The El Tiempo newspaper said the Israeli targeted by the Lebanese terror group was a former intelligence officer who had been stationed in the city as a member of the diplomatic corps, then opened a company involved in the import and sale of surveillance cameras and technology.
The report, citing unnamed sources in Colombia’s military intelligence services, said Israel’s Mossad security service discovered that the businessman had been spied on at a number of locations.
The Colombian daily said an intelligence dossier on the matter, including information provided by Mossad, indicated that in addition to the Israeli, members of a US delegation in the city were also under surveillance by the terror group.
The report said Colombian authorities were notified that evidence indicated that the Israeli was going to be assassinated, and that the group was additionally spying on other foreigners in the Colombian capital.
The newspaper said the Israeli national was quickly whisked out of Bogata, back to Tel Aviv.
The report said that three senior officials from Mossad recently visited the Latin American country amid growing concerns about it being used as a base for terror operations. Until now, it had been thought that Hezbollah was only using Colombia for financial operations.
The report came as Colombia said Sunday that it is monitoring Hezbollah’s activities, and accused the terror group of having conducted “criminal” activities in the country.
“Two months ago we had to deal with a situation where we had to organize an operation to capture and expel two criminals commissioned by Hezbollah with the intention of committing a criminal act in Colombia,” Defense Minister Diego Molano said in an interview with the same newspaper, without providing any details on the operation, which the report implied was related to the assassination plot.
Colombia has a sizable Lebanese community and Hezbollah has a presence in neighboring Venezuela as well as other Latin American countries. In addition, Hezbollah and Iran, its patron, have long been linked to the 1994 bombing that killed 85 people and injured hundreds at a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
Molano said there was a “risk with Hezbollah in Venezuela and what its links to drug traffic or terrorist groups on the Venezuelan side [of the border] could generate for national security.”
Colombia has long accused Venezuela of sheltering and supporting guerrillas fighting against Bogota.
The El Tiempo report said it was believed that Hezbollah was planning to use former members of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had been trained in Venezuela, to carry out the attack on the Israeli, as implied by Molano’s use of the phrase “criminals commissioned by Hezbollah.” In addition, Venezuela has close ties with Iran.
On November 8, while accompanying President Ivan Duque on an official visit to Israel, Molano said the two countries had a “common enemy in Iran and Hezbollah,” which he said not only operated against Israel but supported the leftist regime in Venezuela.
But on Sunday, Molano said he had spoken “hastily.”
His remarks in Israel were sharply criticized in Iran — with which Colombia has had diplomatic relations since 1975 — and by its ambassador to Bogota, Mohammad Ali Ziaei, who said “the destruction of this relationship does not profit the people.”
Duque later said that “Colombia does not use the word ‘enemy’ to designate a country,” while adding, “that does not mean that we don’t have divergences on specific questions with Iran.”