KANO, Nigeria – Soldiers in northern Nigeria uncovered a hidden arms cache that authorities believe belonged to members of the Lebanese political party and militant movement Hezbollah, the military and secret police said Thursday.
Officials showed journalists the weapons, which they said soldiers confiscated from under the master bedroom of a home in Kano, the north's largest city. The weapons had been packed into small coolers and concealed under several layers of concrete, the military said in a statement.
The arms, later shown on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority, appeared to include badly corroded rocket-propelled grenades, land mines, hand grenades, assault rifles and magazines. Some of the weapons appeared to have been charred.
The military did not explain why the men held the weapons, other than to say they were part of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim political party.
"The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria, however, the security agencies are making frantic efforts to unveil the true situation," the military's statement read. "At the end of investigation, all those involved will be prosecuted."
The military did not say which targets had been chosen to be attacked. They said three Lebanese men had been arrested, including one who was caught at Kano's international airport trying to board a flight to Beirut carrying some $60,000 in cash.
It was not immediately clear Thursday night whether the men had lawyers.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 160 million residents, has a large Lebanese community that has interest in businesses across the country. However, this was the first time that Nigerian authorities have claimed that Hezbollah had an operational interest in the country.
Iran, which backs Hezbollah, has recently been implicated in two incidents in Nigeria. An Iranian and his Nigerian accomplice were sentenced to five years in prison earlier this month over trying to smuggle a weapons shipment heading to Gambia through Nigeria. U.S. authorities and the United Nations have linked the Iranian to his nation's Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In February, Nigerian authorities broke up what they described as an Iranian-backed group that was gathering intelligence about locations frequented by Americans and Israelis, as well as making lists of famous people for possible attacks. Those arrested in the operation have yet to face charges.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.