The trial of a clandestine Hezbollah operative in Cyprus is shedding light on the inner workings of what many believe to be the organization's terrorist activities. But even being a terrorist has its perks. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub is a 24-year-old Lebanese man facing eight separate charges for allegedly plotting attacks against Israelis on the popular Mediterranean vacation destination in the name of Hezbollah. Yaacoub was arrested last July after a bus bombing in Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists, but the operative insists that he was nothing more than a pawn for the Lebanese Islamic militant group. Though he described himself as "an active member of Hezbollah," Yaacoub didn't even know the faces of the men he reported to. "In general, the party is based on secrecy between members," he told the Cypress court. "We don't know the real names of our fellow members."
If that's a drawback, there are at least a few advantages to doing the bidding of would-be terrorists. Yaacoub said that he was paid $600 a month since 2010 for doing relatively simple tasks, like carrying discrete packages between European cities, taking trips to exotic locales like Dubai or recording the activities of buses that carry Israeli tourists. (The latter assignment is of particular interest to the court.) Yaacoub said that he was also asked to buy SIM cards discretely so that he and his fellow operatives could communicate with their Hezbollah bosses and to record arrival times of flights from Israel. In case anything went wrong along the way, Hezbollah had trained Yaacoub how to use RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades, the PK machine gun and the AK-47.
Regardless of the motives of all these other activities, the young operatives maintained that he didn't actually have to commit any acts of violence. "If I was asked to participate in attacks, I had the right to refuse." Not that he necessarily would. "I work for my party," Yaacoub added. "Whenever they asked me to do something, I delivered."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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