The U.S. Justice Department said it is setting up a new team to investigate alleged drug trafficking by Hizballah, the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi'ite group that the United States has branded a terrorist organization.

The announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on January 11 came as Republicans in Congress are criticizing former President Barack Obama for allegedly stymieing a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operation that targeted Hizbillah's drug-trafficking activities out of concern it might hamper U.S. efforts to negotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

A Politico article last month reporting about Obama's alleged move to quash the DEA's so-called Project Cassandra investigation into Hizballah was cited by Sessions in setting up the new investigative team.

Sessions said the Justice Department will assemble leading investigators and prosecutors to man the Hizballah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team and ensure all investigations targeting Hizballah are completed.

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