The Department of Justice has announced terrorism charges against two U.S. men tied to Hezbollah who had been plotting attacks against Americans and Israelis in the U.S. and Panama.
Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, were arrested for allegedly training with and supporting Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based group the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization. The two men documented security protocols at Kennedy International Airport in New York in preparation for potential attacks as well as IDF military attaches in New York.
The 2 U.S. men received weapons and bomb-making training from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Today, we announce serious terrorism charges against two men who allegedly trained with and supported the Islamic Jihad Organization, a component of the foreign terrorist organization Hezbollah,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, in a statement, using alternative spelling for Hezbollah.
“Recruited as Hezbollah operatives, Samer El Debek and Ali Kourani allegedly received military-style training, including in the use of weapons like rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns for use in support of the group’s terrorist mission. At the direction of his Hezbollah handlers, El Debek allegedly conducted missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal.
“Kourani allegedly conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City. Thanks to the outstanding work of the FBI and NYPD, the allegedly destructive designs of these two Hezbollah operatives have been thwarted, and they will now face justice in a Manhattan federal court.”
According to Linkedin, Kourani studied in the U.S., obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering from City College in New York and a master’s in business administration from Keller Graduate School. He was recruited to join Hezbollah by 2008, the Justice Department said.
El Debek, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Dearborn, Michigan, was first recruited by Hezbollah in late 2007. He was trained as a bomb maker.
El Debek’s house in Dearborn, Michigan
In 2011, El Debek traveled to Panama to photograph the American and Israeli embassies security measures.
A search of El Debek’s computer turned up almost 300 searches for sites like “Hezbollah martyrs” and “martyrs of Islamic resistance.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim called the terrorism charges “serious,” adding Debek and Kourani “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.