På onsdagen läste den svenske medborgaren Hossam Taleb Yaacoub upp sitt vittnesmål inför rätten i Limassol på Cypern, där han står åtalad för terroristbrott. Svensklibanesen erkände att han var agent för Hizbollah, att han hade vapenträning, och han berättade om sina arbetsuppgifter och om sin kontaktman.
New York Times:
"Breaking with the group’s ironclad discipline and practiced secrecy, the operative, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, described being handled by a masked man he knew only as Ayman. He told of doing simple tasks at first: picking up a couple of bags in Lyon, France, taking a cellphone, two SIM cards and a mysterious package wrapped in newspaper from Amsterdam to Lebanon.
In written testimony read in Greek by his interpreter, as he sat quietly beside her, Mr. Yaacoub described how he would be picked up in a van to meet with his handler, Ayman, and used code words to confirm his identity. 'I never saw the face of Ayman because he was always wearing a mask,' Mr. Yaacoub said.
He said he was trained in the use of weapons and had acted as a courier for the group inside the European Union; with his Swedish passport, Mr. Yaacoub was an ideal candidate for such missions. He also acknowledged staking out the locations where Israelis appeared in large numbers — a parking lot behind a Limassol hospital and a hotel called the Golden Arches.
Mr. Yaacoub, who has both Swedish and Lebanese passports, said that he had been a member of Hezbollah since 2007 and worked for the group for four years. He also ran a trading company in Lebanon. He had visited Cyprus in 2008 but first came for business in December 2011. Though he traded in shoes, clothing and wedding goods, he said, he was interested in branching out into importing fruit juice.
It was unclear from his testimony exactly how he got involved with the man he called Ayman. He said that he had been on 'previous missions with Hezbollah,' in Antalya, on Turkey’s southwest coast, as well as in Holland and France.
On June 26, 2012, he traveled to Sweden to renew his passport. He returned to Cyprus via Heathrow Airport in London. Ayman asked him to observe two locations, the parking lot and the Golden Arches hotel. He was also supposed to acquire two SIM cards for cellphones and to locate Internet cafes in Limassol and Nicosia."I Jerusalem Post kommenterar Magnus Ranstorp:
"Magnus Ranstorp, a Hezbollah expert at Sweden’s National Defense College, told the Post on Tuesday that Hezbollah uses 'talent scouting' to recruit operatives for its activities abroad. Though Hezbollah had no 'overt presence' in Sweden, he said, its members from Sweden keep 'popping up regularly.'
Last year, Thai authorities charged Atris Hussein, a Hezbollah operative and a Swedish-Lebanese citizen, with planning to use explosives to strike against American and Israeli citizens.
The Cypriot prosecution is slated to cross-examine Yaacoub on Thursday, and the case may run until March 7, with a verdict anticipated in mid-March.
Yaacoub is not married and lived in the Swedish town of Lidköping, where his father runs a pottery business. The Post could not confirm a report that when Yaacoub was arrested he was studying journalism in Lebanon.
Ranstorp told the Post there was a pattern by Hezbollah 'to use individuals to bypass Israeli security,' citing the example of the two Burgas bombing suspects using Australian and Canadian passports to enter Bulgaria and plan their terrorist attack."I sammanhanget kan det vara värt att lyfta fram Magnus Norells debattartikel från i tisdags: "Dags att terrorstämpla Hizbollah".
New York Times rapporterar om torsdagens förhör med svensklibanesen.
"During a cross-examination, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub described himself as 'an active member of Hezbollah' with the code name 'Wael,' and that he had received a salary of $600 a month since 2010. Asked why he had a code name, he answered through an interpreter, 'In general, the party is based on secrecy between members. We don’t know the real names of our fellow members.'
Mr. Yaacoub said that his handler, a shadowy figure known only as Ayman, told him to track the landing times for an Arkia Israel Airlines flight between Tel Aviv and Larnaca, Cyprus. Ayman also asked him to look into the rental prices of warehouses, he said.
Mr. Yaacoub also described the group’s military training in some detail. He said that he was picked up in vans with the curtains drawn so he would not know where he was going and was driven to open-air training camps.
A typical training class had 10 to 13 people, Mr. Yaacoub said. Instructors taught them to use rocket-propelled grenades of the type RPG-7, the PK series of machine gun and M-16 and AK-47 automatic rifles.
He said that he had several main contacts since joining Hezbollah, the first named Abu Ali, an Arabic appellation that means 'father of Ali.' Abu Ali paid for his first trip to Cyprus, though he was confused whether it was in 2008, as he said in his written testimony, or 2009.
Mr. Kannaourides, the prosecutor, said that the trip was intended to help establish Mr. Yaacoub’s cover story as a businessman, and that he flew via Dubai using his Swedish passport so as not to arouse suspicions."