New York Men Arrested as Hezbollah Operatives
Two men with ties to Hezbollah were arrested by Federal authorities on terror-related charges. Ali Kourani was arrested last week, and Samer El Debek was arrested in Michigan and brought back to New York. They were allegedly doing “pre-operative surveillance” or in other words, scouting targets.
Kourani became a naturalized citizen in 2009, but lied on his application. He had received weapons training with Hezbollah since he was 16 years old. He was an active member of the Islamic Jihad Organization, and was even alleged to have traveled to the Guangzhou region of China where bomb making materials for the group have been purchased.
El Debek joined Hezbollah in 2008, and traveled to Lebanon several times. Allegedly he received bomb making training during his trips. According to officials, he went to Thailand to assist in cleaning up residue of explosives from a Hezbollah safe house. He reportedly went to Panama and scouted the US and Israeli Embassies there.
Both men are said to have searched for vulnerabilities of potential targets in New York City- such as law enforcement and military facilities. They also were looking to buy weapons to send to the group.
According to the report in NBC, there were 250 searches in El-Debek’s computer for “Hezbollah marytrs” and other terrorist sites. NBC stated they did not publish the information last week because it might have compromised the investigation. Officials finally released the documents on Wednesday.
They have been charged and appeared in court previously. They are being held without bond.
Though there was no plot…yet…these men actively engaged in scoping out targets to cause harm. But there are some things not said that are concerning:
They were seeking to “buy weapons to send to the group.” How they would do this is unclear. Is there a network that can either bypass US laws entirely or make large straw purchases – which are illegal?
Hezbollah has been out of the news recently because of concerns over ISIS. But the Shia group has been well known since the 80s for worldwide terrorist activity. They are sponsored by Iran. And they are in America.