The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a bulletin Friday to state and local law enforcement authorities advising them to watch for potential retaliatory strikes by Hezbollah, one day after the Lebanese militia group vowed to avenge the death of a top commander by attacking Israeli and Jewish targets around the world.
“While retaliation in the U.S. homeland is unlikely, Hezbollah has demonstrated a capability to respond outside the Middle East to similar events in the past,” said the intelligence bulletin sent to about 18,000 state and local law enforcement officials late Friday afternoon.
The FBI also said it was intensifying its domestic intelligence-gathering efforts to identify any potential Hezbollah threats in the United States in the aftermath of Tuesday’s car-bomb assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Syria.
On Wednesday, the FBI sent a confidential internal bulletin to its 101 Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country warning of the possible domestic consequences of Mughniyah’s killing. As part of that effort, FBI officials at headquarters told the bureau’s field offices and multiagency task forces to increase monitoring and surveillance of suspected Hezbollah operatives and to conduct fresh interviews with sources and informants about the U.S.-designated terrorist group, according to two FBI officials.
U.S. authorities have long described Hezbollah as the “A-Team” of terrorism, with far more discipline than Al Qaeda, vast financing from the government of Iran, and a global network of sleeper operatives who could be called on to launch an attack at any time. Various federal investigations and prosecutions have uncovered dozens of Hezbollah fundraisers and supporters in the United States, but few people are believed to be actual “bomb throwers,” according to a senior FBI counter-terrorism official who focuses on Hezbollah.