WASHINGTON – A grand jury in Philadelphia indicted four men Tuesday for an alleged plot to support the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah through illegal schemes, including buying the group more than a thousand machine guns.
The indictment comes just a day after officials in Philadelphia said they disrupted a similar scheme to acquire anti-aircraft missiles and send them to Syria — though in that case, authorities have yet to accuse anyone of trying to help a specific terror group.
The indictment filed Tuesday says two suspects sought to provide roughly 1,200 Colt M4 machine guns to Hezbollah, but their efforts were thwarted by an undercover operative. The plotters allegedly sought to purchase the weapons in Philadelphia and ship them to a port in Syria where they would eventually be routed to Hezbollah.
The indictment charges eight others with lesser offenses related to schemes to traffic in stolen or counterfeit goods.
In total, authorities say 13 suspects are in custody and 11 more are being sought.
Founded in 1982, Hezbollah gained notoriety in the West when it was linked to the kidnapping of Western hostages and a series of bombings against Western targets.
The United States lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It caters mainly to Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiite Muslims, the country's largest single sect.
Hezbollah has over the years grown to run a network of interests — clinics, schools, a TV station and a weekly newspaper.
In the case announced Monday, federal authorities said a separate scheme to transport stolen cell phones, laptops and video game systems grew into a plot to ship anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.
According to court documents, the chief suspect in that case — who was arrested Saturday — paid $20,000 cash to an undercover operative in July as a deposit on machine guns and shoulder-fired Stinger missiles, and traveled to Philadelphia last week to inspect the merchandise.