U.S. government: 2 men charged with plotting terror attacks

NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill made a point of saying, "As part of his work for Hezbollah, Kourani and others allegedly conducted covert surveillance of potential targets, including USA military bases and Israeli military personnel here in New York City".

In 2011, El Debek traveled to Panama to photograph the American and Israeli embassies security measures.

Ali Kourani was arrested in the Bronx, while Samer El Debek was arrested in MI.

Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim said the men tried to provide support to "Hezbollah's" Islamic Jihad organization after receiving military training from the group.

Both were also arrested for a related weapons offense, which involved explosives, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns. He became a US citizen in 2009.

The federal government says he conducted "pre-operational surveillance" of potential military and intelligence targets in NY.

The charges were unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, one week after federal agents raided a Dearborn home in what they described as an operation involving national security.

In 1997, the US Department of State designated Hizballah a Foreign Terrorist Organization, pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it remains so designated today.

In announcing the charges, the Justice Department offered a detailed account of the defendants' alleged criminal activities and how they fell on the government's radar. "I'd like to thank the hundreds of investigators who comprise the FBI's New York JTTF and display constant vigilance on our behalf, and I encourage the public to remain engaged and to immediately report suspicious activity to law enforcement". Sources familiar with the case tell the Free Press the raid involved el Debek, who was arrested in Livonia that same day and subsequently charged with numerous crimes - though none involved plotting attacks in NY.

The Department of Justice said El Debek attended several military training sessions from Hezbollah in Lebanon from around 2008 through around 2014. He received a salary from Hezbollah through 2015, according to authorities.

The authorities stated that he flew to Thailand in 2009 "on his USA passport to help clean up explosive residue left behind in a safehouse used by members of a Hezbollah backed terror cell". He legally entered the U.S.in 2003 and obtained a bachelor's degree in 2009. From 2008 through 2104, the terror group taught him how to make bombs, handle weapons and conduct surveillance and countersurveillance. El Debek received training in "basic military tactics, the handling of various weapons, surveillance and counter-surveillance techniques and the creation and handling of explosives and explosive devices", the DOJ said.

Ali Kourani, a 32-year-old man from the Bronx, faces similar charges. On his first trip, he located the USA and Israeli embassies, gathered information about the security procedures at the Panama Canal and the Israeli Embassy and located hardware stores where explosive materials could be bought, according to the Justice Department. He also allegedly assessed areas of weakness at the Panama Canal in 2012.

New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill said Kourani and others conducted covert surveillance of potential targets, including U.S. military bases and Israeli military personnel in New York City. Between 2014 and 2017, he conducted 258 Facebook searches using search terms such as "martyrs of the holy defense", "martyrs of Islamic resistance", "Hezbollah martyrs" and "martyrs of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon".

  • Leroy Wright