A Bronx man was arrested earlier this month and charged with allegedly aiding the terrorist group Hezbollah by scouting out potential terror targets, including Kennedy Airport in Queens.
Ali Kourani, 32, was arrested along with an accomplice, 37-year-old Samer Debek of Michigan.
The men appeared separately in Manhattan federal court on June 2 and 5, respectively.
“Thanks to the outstanding work of the FBI and NYPD, the allegedly destructive designs of these two Hizballah operatives have been thwarted, and they will now face justice in a Manhattan federal court,” said Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim.
Kourani is charged with providing, as well as attempting and conspiring to provide material support to Hezbollah and IJO, as well as naturalization fraud in connection with an act of international terrorism, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
He faces up to 25 years in prison.
“As part of his work for Hezbollah, Kourani and others allegedly conducted covert surveillance of potential targets, including U.S. military bases and Israeli military personnel here in New York City,” stated NYPD Commissioner James O’Neil.
Hezbollah, also known as Hizballah, is an Islamic terror group based in Lebanon.
The Islamic Jihad Organization, or IJO, is an intelligence arm of Hezbollah that works to coordinate acts of terror.
The aspiring terrorist also received military-styled training in using weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers in 2000 when he was 16.
Kourani entered the United States legally in 2003, and proceeded to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2009 and a master’s degree in Business Administration in 2013, according to the indictment.
Kourani had lived with his cousin at an apartment building at 183 W. 238th Street at the corner of Bailey Avenue for several months.
His cousin Ibrahim Kourani told reporters he did not know of his cousin’s activities, but said federal agents had interviewed him several times.
He could not be reached for comment.
In 2009 Kourani travelled to China to meet with IJO, and was assigned a mentor who he communicated with via coded email communications.
He later received additional training in 2011 in Lebanon.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said the case highlights the need for continued vigilance in the face of terrorist threats at home and abroad.
“I applaud our men and women in local law enforcement for successfully thwarting this attack, and for all the work they do to keep us safe,” Dinowitz said. “New York continues to be a target for those who want to disrupt our freedoms and our way of life. That’s why we must continue working together, to say something if we see something, and help ensure New York remains the safest big city in the country.”