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Hezbollah operatives are living freely in Venezuela under the protection of President Nicolás  Maduro’s government, according to a hacker collective aligned with the Venezuelan opposition.

In an operation the hackers said had been carried out in cooperation with former state intelligence officials, access was gained to the country’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence. Among the information they uncovered was that Hezbollah operatives had entered the country as Spanish-language students under the cover of “government language studies programs” via Margarita Island, a member of the hacker ring told Israel Hayom.

The operatives appear to be involved in arms and drug trafficking, as well as money laundering, to finance terror, according to the group. Many of the operatives are allegedly members of the Maklad family, originally from the Druze village of As-Suwayda, near the Jordanian border in southwestern Syria.

Jalal Maklad, for example, is described in a report by the collective as being “involved in the cocaine trade and the trafficking of strategic minerals and international terror financing.” He is said to reside in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.

Another alleged operative, Rabi Maklad, is involved in the cocaine and strategic mineral trade, the trafficking of women and minors, and money laundering to finance terrorism. According to the report, he “is one of the organized crime heads with trade ties in Columbia.”

Majdi Maklad is involved in the cocaine trade and weapons and ammunition trafficking.

Hayyan al-Matthani, another operative that reportedly appears in the database, is active in the Druze community and resides in Nueva Esparta. He has been involved in similar crimes as well as the trade of weapons and ammunition with the British Virgin Islands and Dutch islands in the Caribbean.

A source on Margarita Island claimed to know some of the individuals in the report personally. He said active agents in the military intelligence had a hand in leaking the report.

“The Maklad family has lived there for four generations, but the ties to Hezbollah were forged not long ago,” the source said.

“They are the sole owners of the local airport in Santiago Marinho,” the source continued, “and they have direct ties to Petroleum Minister [Tareck] el-Aissami. They are very protected and they don’t get off the island. It’s their kingdom, and they have immunity,” he said.

Western intelligence organizations have warned for years of the presence of international terrorist organizations on Venezuelan soil. One of Iran’s greatest allies in South America, Venezuela is known as a diplomatic refuge for terrorists and local guerilla fighters. In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Aissami over money laundering and facilitating the drug trade. Two years later, in 2019, he was put on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Most Wanted List.

Tehran and Caracas maintain close ties. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently announced the two countries would soon sign a 20-year strategic agreement. An Iranian-flagged oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels of heavy crude provided by Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA departed the South American country last week.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The post Hezbollah operatives being sheltered in Venezuela, hacker group claims appeared first on JNS.org.

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