Government says it will ban Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation

Hezbollah fighters

The government has said it will ban the Lebanese group Hezbollah from Friday onwards subject to Parliament’s approval.

Bans will also be applied to Ansaroul Islam and JNIM who operate in the Sahel region in Africa, meaning that being a member, or inviting support for the groups will be a criminal offence, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The government said it took the decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety on the basis that it is no longer tenable to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings.

Hezbollah was established during the Lebanese civil war and is committed to armed resistance against Israel. It fought two major conflicts with Israel in 2000 and 2007, forcing Israel to leave the majority of Lebanese land during the former.

As a political party Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government and holds ministerial portfolios.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

But the UK says Hezbollah “continues to amass weapons in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions, putting the security of the region at risk. Its involvement in the Syrian war since 2012 continues to prolong the conflict and the regime’s brutal and violent repression of the Syrian people.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “My priority as Home Secretary is to protect the British people. As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organisation which threatens our safety and security, whatever their motivations or ideology which is why I am taking action against several organisations today.

“Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilase the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “We are staunch supporters of a stable and prosperous Lebanon. We cannot however be complacent when it comes to terrorism – it is clear the distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings does not exist, and by proscribing Hezbollah in all its forms, the government is sending a clear signal that its destabilising activities in the region are totally unacceptable and detrimental to the UK’s national security. This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship.”

Meanwhile, the Home Office says Ansaroul Islam seeks to impose its own strict “Salafist Sharia law in northern Burkina Faso and are known to target other ethnic groups in the region leading to substantial internal displacement of people.”

And JNIM “was established in March 2017 as a federation of Al Qadea aligned groups in Mali and aims to impose a strict Salafist interpretation of Sharia law in the Sahel region and has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the region in which people were killed.”

There are currently 74 international terrorist organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, alongside 14 organisations connected to Northern Ireland proscribed under separate legislation.

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