U.S. man charged for terrorist activities on behalf of Hezbollah
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Affected Countries: united-states;
The US Justice Department (DoJ) announced Thursday that a New Jersey man, Alexei Saab, is charged with a nine-count indictment for offenses related to his support for Hezbollah and separate marriage-fraud offenses.
“Saab allegedly was trained by Hezbollah’s external terrorist operations component in bomb-making and conducted intelligence-gathering in New York City and elsewhere in support of Hezbollah’s attack-planning efforts,” the DoJ said in a statement.
“According to the allegations, while living in the United States, Saab served as an operative of Hezbollah and conducted surveillance of possible target locations in order to help the foreign terrorist organization prepare for potential future attacks against the United States,” said Assistant Attorney-General for National Security John Demers in the statement. “Such covert activities conducted on US soil are a clear threat to our national security and I applaud the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation and prosecution.”
US attorney Geoffrey Berman added that Saab is facing “significant prison time for his alleged crimes.”
According to the indictment and complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996. His first Hezbollah operation occurred in Lebanon, “where he was tasked with observing and reporting on the movements of Israeli and Southern Lebanese Army soldiers in Yaroun.
“In addition to his attack-planning activities in the United States, Saab conducted operations abroad. For example, Saab attempted to murder a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy. Saab pointed a firearm at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire. Saab also conducted intelligence-gathering for Hezbollah in Istanbul, Turkey,” according to the indictment.
“In approximately 1999,” the indictment continues, “Saab attended his first Hezbollah training. The training focused on the use of firearms, and Saab handled and fired an AK-47, an M16 rifle, and a pistol and threw grenades. In 2004 and 2005, Saab attended explosives training in Lebanon, during which he received detailed instruction in, among other things, triggering mechanisms, explosive substances, detonators and the assembly of circuits.”
He entered the United States in 2000 using a Lebanese passport. In 2005, he applied for naturalized citizenship, “and falsely affirmed, under penalty of perjury, that he had never been a member of or in any way associated with a terrorist organization.” In August 2008, Saab became a naturalized US citizen.
“While living in the United States, Saab remained an IJO [Islamic Jihad Organization] operative, continued to receive military training in Lebanon and conducted numerous operations for the IJO,” the indictment says. “For example, Saab surveyed dozens of locations in New York City – including the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building and local airports, tunnels and bridges – and provided detailed information on these locations, including photographs, to the IJO. In particular, Saab focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveyed in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction.”
Saab’s reporting to the IJO included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or “soft spots” that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future. Saab conducted similar intelligence gathering in a variety of American cities. The FBI recovered photographs from Saab’s electronic devices reflecting his surveillance activities, including photographs of New York City landmarks.