Two American nationals have been charged with scouting possible terrorism targets in the U.S. and Panama for the terrorist organization Hezbollah, the FBI announced on Thursday.
Ali Kourani, 32, of New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, from Dearborn, Michigan, were arrested last week and charged with weapons-related crimes, in addition to multiple counts of providing material support for a terrorist organization. Both are naturalized U.S. citizens, but they received military training from the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon.
According to officials, Kourani, who immigrated to the US from Lebanon in 2003, conducted “pre-operational surveillance” of potential military and intelligence targets in New York, including LaGuardia Airport and the FBI’s New York headquarters.
It turns out that when he applied for American citizenship, Kourani did not mention that he had attended Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon when he was 16 years old. Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997.
Officials said that el Debek traveled to Panama, where he scouted the American and Israeli embassies and looked for “security vulnerabilities” in the Panama Canal. More than 250 searches of sites with terms like “Hezbollah martyrs” and “martyrs of Islamic resistance” were allegedly found on his computer.
According to acting US Attorney for the Southern District Joon Kim, Kourani and el Debek “received military-style training, including in the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns for use in the support of the group’s terrorist mission.”
To see more stories like this, sign up below for Dennis Michael Lynch’s email newsletter.
Sign up to get breaking news alerts from Dennis Michael Lynch.
Speeding pickup mows down officers on D.C. street