Last updated: 23 November, 2011

Hezbollah claims victory in intelligence war with CIA

Lebanon’s Hezbollah-dominated government on Wednesday announced it would summon the US ambassador to Beirut after the powerful Shiite group said it had succeeded in exposing CIA operatives.

“The cabinet has decided to summon US Ambassador Maura Connelly to question her on this issue,” said Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan, who represents the Iran-backed Hezbollah in the 30-seat government.

“This is not the first aggression of its kind on Lebanon… and cannot be divided from Israeli (spies),” Hajj Hassan told reporters during a break from a cabinet meeting.

The statement comes hours after the militant group said it succeeded in uncovering Central Intelligence Agency operatives who had infiltrated Hezbollah and urged the government to take immediate measures against the US embassy.

“Lebanese intelligence vanquished US and Israeli intelligence in what is now known as the intelligence war,” said Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, who heads parliament’s telecommunications committee.

“Our security… has exposed several American and Israeli plots on Lebanon,” Fadlallah told reporters outside parliament.

“We call on the Lebanese government to take immediate action… and raise the issue with the United Nations and embassies, so that the whole world is aware of what the US embassy in Lebanon is doing.”

Wednesday’s comments follow reports earlier this week which said Hezbollah had uncovered several operatives within the movement working for the CIA.

In the first acknowledgement of infiltration since the group’s founding in the 1980s, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in June had said members of his group confessed to being CIA agents.

Nasrallah accused his arch-foe Israel of turning to the US spy agency after failing to infiltrate his party, slamming the American embassy in Beirut as a “den of spies.”

The US embassy in Beirut dismissed the accusations as “empty.”

More than 100 people in Lebanon have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel since April 2009, including military personnel and telecoms employees.

Lebanon and Israel technically remain in a state of war, and convicted spies face life imprisonment or the death sentence if found guilty of contributing to Lebanese loss of life.

Lebanon has protested to the United Nations over the alleged Israeli spy networks.