|Logo of Hezbollah, the international|
terrorism and crime organization
headquartered in Lebanon
Arab-American citizen with alleged terrorist ties arrested in Mérida, raising new concerns about Hezbollah cells in Mexico and Central America - and Yucatán.
By Edward V. Byrne
Guadalajara, JAL, Mexico – A U.S. citizen of Lebanese origin, alleged to be a member or supporter of the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, has been arrested in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state.
The story was reported in today's edition of The Yucatán Times, a peninsular English language news service, and other press sources.
Rafic Mohammad Labboun Allaboun, 44, was taken into custody at a private residence in Colonia Francisco de Montejo on Saturday evening (Sept. 8), according to the paper. The arrest was carried out by Mexican federal immigration (INM) agents, and heavily armed state security police (SSP) units. Eight other persons with him were also detained. The operation was without incident, and there were no injuries.
A Mexican news service, Sipse.com, today reported that authorities used an armored military vehicle equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun when they surrounded the house. Quoting an SSP official, Sipse said that American agents did not participate in Labboun's arrest.
|Rafic Labboun; a.k.a. Rafic Mohammad|
Labboun Allaboun; a.k.a. Wilhelm Dyck
Hezbollah, founded in Lebanon in 1982, is classified by the United States government as an international terrorist organization. Mérida has a heavy presence of Lebanese residents, many of whom are successful business persons and among the most respected members of the community.
In November 2011, Texas governor and former Republican presidential candidate Ricky Perry charged that Hezbollah and Hamas, another designated terrorist group, were operating on Mexican soil (Rick Perry throws another wild punch). Sipse suggests that Perry's claims may have been correct. Today's story reports that U.S. security agencies are investigating the possible presence of Hezbollah cells in Central America and Yucatán.
Last December Patricia Espinosa, Mexico's Foreign Minister, dismissed the idea of any link between the country's drug cartels and terrorist groups. She said that Mexico had no evidence of a connection between domestic criminals and international organizations. The Labboun case may cause the issue to resurface, since narcotics traffickers launder hundreds of millions of dollars annually in illicit profits (U.S. agents help Mexican drug cartels launder millions in dirty profits, says New York Times).
The Yucatán Times said that Rafic Labboun was carrying a fraudulent Belize passport when arrested. Belize shares a border with Quintana Roo state, in the extreme southeastern corner of the country.
News sources are reporting that Rafic Labboun is wanted on criminal warrants in Houston. MGRR was unable to find any Texas filings involving Labboun. However, he does have an extensive federal criminal record in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, at San Jose, where he was convicted of seven counts of bank fraud on April 1, 2010. Labboun was sentenced to 27 months in custody, and was also ordered to pay restitution of $102,000. He was released on June 29, and ordered to report to a halfway house. Labboun failed to do so, apparently opting for Mérida instead (Yucatán a haven for Mexican fugitives).
A probation office pleading filed in June, together with an electronic docket sheet entry for a sealed court document dated July 26 (below), suggest that an arrest warrant may have issued for Labboun on the latter date, serving as the basis for his detention by Mexican authorities. Criminal warrants are often sealed until executed. Labboun was returned to the U.S. on Sunday, according to press reports.
This article was first published by Mexico and Gulf Region Reporter.
Rafic Labboun is an imam with the Northern California-based Shia Association of Bay Area (Saba Center of San Jose) and Fatimiyya Islamic Center of Hayward.