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UK to ban Hizballah's political wing under anti-terror laws

The ban is subject to a vote in parliament this week. [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2019

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The British government's decision to ban the political wing of Hizballah will make membership of the movement or support for it a crime.

The UK on Monday said it will ban the political wing of Hizballah, making membership of the movement or inviting support for it a crime.

The decision follows outrage over the display of the Hizballah flag, which features a Kalashnikov assault rifle, at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London.

"Hizballah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East," Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.

"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."

The ban is subject to a vote in parliament this week.

Hizballah is a Shia militant movement established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war. It now a major political party in Lebanon, holds three cabinet posts. It has also played a lead role in aiding Bashar al-Assad's forces fight rebels throughout Syria's war, which has left at least 500,000 dead since 2011.

"It is clear the distinction between Hizballah's military and political wings does not exist," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in Monday's statement.

"This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship," he said.

Israel praised the UK’s decision to ban Hizballah and urged the European Union to classify the political movement as a terrorist organisation.

"All who truly wish to combat terror must reject the fake distinction between 'military' & 'political' wings," Israeli Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a tweet thanking his British counterpart, Sajid Javid. "Now is the time for the #EU to follow suit!"

The EU blacklisted the group's military wing in 2013 but has not outlawed its political arm.

The Arab League in 2016 declared Hizballah a terrorist organisation, a week after similar move by Arab Gulf states.

The British government is also banning Ansarul Islam, a jihadi group which emerged near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso in 2016, and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The UK currently has 74 international terrorist organisations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000.

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