British spies discovered a secret Hezbollah bomb-making set-up on the outskirts of London in 2015 but kept it quiet as the ink dried on the just-signed Iran nuclear deal.
The Daily Telegraph reported how Met Police officers and MI5 agents raided four properties in north-west London four years ago, finding thousands of disposable ice packs stuffed with ammonium nitrate, a crucial ingredient in bombs.
A man in his 40s was arrested but released without charge. No information was released publicly.
The newspaper said its investigation had taken three months, its reporters speaking to more than 30 officials in several countries.
They revealed that the bomb-making set-up near London was part of the Iran-backed group’s preparations for attacks around the world, notably against Israeli targets.
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Cypriot sources were consulted because in the same year that the four properties were raided near London, a Hezbollah agent in Cyprus was jailed for six years after police found him with 8.2 tons of ammonium nitrate in his home. He reportedly planned to attack Israeli targets.
While the then-prime minister David Cameron and the then-home secretary Theresa May were informed at the time, parliament was not.
Analysts this week asked why the UK raids did not come to the public’s attention in 2015, suggesting that British diplomatic support for the Iran nuclear deal was a probable factor.
However the Telegraph reported that British intelligence kept the raid low-profile because it wanted to follow the trail of the Lebanon-based militia group’s activities.