Could Hizballah Attack Israeli Targets in Africa?

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The violence in the Middle East has sparked some concern that Hizballah may seek to expand its war against Israel by targeting Israeli facilities in Africa.

The security intelligence consulting group Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) recently said that if Hizballah did choose to attack Israel elsewhere, it would likely target developing countries with strong ties with Israel.

The thinking was that such countries' relatively weak national security systems could be exploited, without the terrorist organization risking damaging retaliation for carrying out any attacks.

"South Africa and Kenya ... are sufficiently removed from Hizballah's lucrative diamond business in West Africa to be safe for action, and they are target-rich environments," said Strafor's Fred Burton.

Both nations have strong diplomatic relations with Israel, according to the ministry of foreign affairs in Jerusalem. South Africa and Kenya, along with Angola, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Senegal, all host Israeli embassies. Like all Israeli diplomatic missions, they are considered highly secure.

South Africa also has a sizeable Jewish community, currently about 92,000-strong.

Samuel Mbithi, executive director of International Commission of Jurists (Kenya), said there was a strong possibility that the Hizballah-Israel conflict could have a spillover effect in Africa, which was why Africa was keen to see the conflict resolved peacefully.

He thought any Hizballah attack on African soil would be counterproductive for the Shi'ite group, because it may erode such sympathy and support that it now enjoys from Africans.

Hizballah has carried out terrorist attacks abroad in the past. It was accused of bombing the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and a Jewish community center there two years later. The two attacks killed 114 people.

Israeli facilities in Africa have been attacked by Muslim terrorists before.

Thirty years ago, the hijacking by Palestinians of an Air France flight carrying 250 passengers and crews, including 100 Israelis, culminated in a rescue by Israeli commandos at Uganda's Entebbe airport.

In 1980, Palestinian terrorists bombed the Jewish-owned Norfolk Hotel in the heart of Kenya's capital. In 2002, an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa was bombed and a simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet failed.

Israel's deputy ambassador to Kenya, Sharha Azani, said the overall assessment was that Hizballah would likely seek to carry out attacks against Israeli facilities in Africa.

"This is an al-Qaeda-like organization and we do not expect any form of morality from it. That is why we are beefing up security all through."

He cited the bombings in Argentina in the 1990s

The Israeli Embassy in Kenya also oversees diplomatic relations with Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and the Seychelles.

Africa's reaction to the Israel-Hizballah conflict has largely been calls for a peaceful resolution, although South Africa has been particularly outspoken in its criticism of Israel.

The African Union has so far not taken a common position on the war.

Jimmy Waruingi, a political scientist here, said taking such a stance would be difficult because of Muslim-Christian divide in Africa.

"As it is now, I think our leaders do not see the need to appropriate much time to a conflict that may be resolved soon by the big boys in the West."

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