Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The British government will add Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to its list of banned terrorist organizations, the Home Office said Monday.
Hezbollah's military wing was already blacklisted by London as terrorist, but until not its political wing had not. Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's coalition government, holding several seats in parliament.
Being a member of the Shia Islamic group or supporting it would be a criminal offense under the new ban. The group formed during the Lebanese civil war, has fought Israel for decades and has intervened in Syria.
"My priority as Home Secretary is to protect the British people," Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement Monday. "As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organization which threatens our safety and security.
Javid said the group is trying to "destabilize the fragile situation" in the Middle East, and the blacklisting is being done because it's no longer possible to distinguish between its military and political wings.
A draft order was put before Parliament Monday and the ban will take effect Friday, if it's approved by British Parliament.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the British government is sending a clear message with the move.
"We cannot however be complacent when it comes to terrorism," he said. "It is clear the distinction between Hezbollah's military and political wings does not exist."
Javid also announced similar bans Monday against the Ansaroul Islam and JNIM groups, which operate in the Sahel region of Africa.
The issue of Hezbollah being considered terrorist is a divisive one. The United States, Britain, Israel, France and Canada have all designated it as terrorist -- while Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela and Iran have not.
Today I've announced the banning of three groups - including Hizballah. We will continue to outlaw terrorist organisations that threaten our safety & securityhttps://t.co/KMuYXmmu39- Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) February 25, 2019