The US Justice Department Thursday said it arrested two men tied to Hezbollah who had been plotting attacks against Americans and Israelis in the US and Panama.
On June 1, Samer El Debek was arrested in Livonia, Michigan, while Ali Kourani was arrested in the Bronx. Both men are being held in New York City.
A statement from US authorities claims that the men tried to provide support to “Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad organization” after receiving weapons and bomb-making training from the group in Lebanon.
El Debek allegedly looked for potential targets in Panama, including US and Israeli embassies, while Kourani surveilled American targets, including Israeli military personnel and US military and law enforcement facilities in New York City.
“Pre-operational surveillance is one of the hallmarks of Hezbollah in planning for future attacks,” New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said.
Defense lawyers did not immediately comment.
William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the New York FBI office, said the charges “reveal once again that the New York City region remains a focus of many adversaries, demonstrated as alleged in this instance by followers of a sophisticated and determined organization with a long history of coordinating violent activities on behalf of Hezbollah.”
O’Neill noted that Kourani, who was born in Lebanon, received sophisticated military training overseas on at least two occasions, including the use of a rocket-propelled grenade. He said El Debek also was charged with possessing extensive bomb-making training from Hezbollah.