WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department announced on Tuesday it is putting sanctions on four Lebanese citizens accused of acting as "revenue supporters" of Hezbollah in West Africa.
The Treasury designated "four revenue supporters of Hezbollah responsible for aiding Hezbollah's attempts to extend its malign influence throughout west Africa," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen in a conference call with reporters. The four were operating on behalf of the organization in Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Gambia, Cohen said.
The United States is sending a "strong message that it can no longer behave with impunity at home or abroad," Cohen said.
The new sanctions on Hezbollah, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, come as the Syrian rebels are losing ground in the civil war against the Hezbollah-tied Syrian government. Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly considering arming the rebels and a decision could be made as early as this week.
Cohen said the new sanctions aren't intended specifically to coincide with what's happening in Syria.
"There is nothing special about the timing other than we have been aggressively pursuing Hezbollah's financial networks and the facilitators for their financial activity in Lebanon for some time now," Cohen said.
Asked if it was "counterproductive" to continue designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Cohen responded, "Hezbollah is a terrorist organization ... that's what it is," and that the group remains an "active and threatening" force.