US offers $12 mln bounty on two Hezbollah leaders, cites 'homeland' threat

US offers $12 mln bounty on two Hezbollah leaders, cites 'homeland' threat

In praising the resilience of the Lebanese people in fighting terrorism, Trump said that "Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda and Hezbollah".

Avigdor Lieberman made his comments in a speech to army officers at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv on Monday on the eve of the Yom Kippur holiday.

"It is our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook", Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Both France and the United States have provided Lebanon with advanced weaponry, and this past summer, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) received 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and 50 grenade launchers from the United States as part of an aid package to bolster the Middle Eastern country against the threats posed by militant groups.

It has been pointed out that the new rewards come at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Tehran as President Trump prepares to scrap the 2015 nuclear deal.

A Hezbollah commander said last month that the group has more than 10,000 fighters in southern Syria ready to confront Israel.

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The rewards were announced at a press conference by U.S. Department of State Bureau of Counterterrorism official Nathan Sales. However, Hezbollah, under the name "Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc", has members in the Lebanese parliament and ministers in the country's Cabinet.

The US has offered a total of $12 million in rewards for the capture of two senior Hezbollah officials, saying the Iranian-backed group is plotting attacks inside the US.

Tuesday marked 20 years since the US designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist group. In 2012, Israel accused the group of bombing a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. After a July meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in July, Trump suggested the organization was an enemy of the government.

In February this year, the US offered a $5 million bounty for Mohammed Ali Hamadei, a Hezbollah member who allegedly took part in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in which US sailor Robert Stethem was killed.

"The United States and the United Kingdom provide generous military assistance to the Lebanese army and they ensure its continued armament and express their confidence in it. Would London and Washington arm Hezbollah, in accordance with Liberman's words?" the source asked. He added that the US does not recognize any distinctions within the group. "They're not on a suicide mission".

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