Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Dana Boente, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that ALI KOURANI and SAMER EL DEBEK, a/k/a “Samer Eldebek,” were arrested on Thursday, June 1, 2017, on charges related to their alleged activities on behalf of Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
KOURANI was arrested in the Bronx for providing, attempting, and conspiring to provide material support to Hizballah; receiving and conspiring to receive military-type training from Hizballah; a related weapons offense that is alleged to have involved, among other weapons, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and machine guns; violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”); and naturalization fraud to facilitate an act of international terrorism. KOURANI was presented on Friday, June 2, 2017, before Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses in Manhattan federal court.
EL DEBEK was arrested in Livonia, Michigan, outside of Detroit, for providing, attempting, and conspiring to provide material support to Hizballah; receiving and conspiring to receive military-type training from Hizballah; use of weapons in connection with a crime of violence that is alleged to have involved, among other weapons, explosives, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and machine guns; and violating and conspiring to violate IEEPA. EL DEBEK was presented on Monday, June 5, 2017, before Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman in Manhattan federal court.
KOURANI’s Alleged Support of Hizballah
KOURANI, who was born in Lebanon, attended Hizballah-sponsored weapons training in Lebanon in 2000 when he was approximately 16 years old. After lawfully entering the United States in 2003, KOURANI obtained a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering in 2009, and a Masters of Business Administration in 2013.
KOURANI and certain of his relatives were present during the summer 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon, when a residence belonging to his family was destroyed. KOURANI was subsequently recruited to join the IJO by 2008. In August 2008, KOURANI submitted an application for naturalization in the United States in which he falsely claimed, among other things, that he was not affiliated with a terrorist organization. In April 2009, KOURANI became a naturalized citizen and was issued a United States passport. Despite claiming in his passport application that he had no travel plans, KOURANI traveled to Guangzhou, China – the location of Guangzhou Company-1 – on May 3, 2009. He later claimed to the FBI that the purpose of the trip was to meet with medical device manufacturers and other businessmen.
KOURANI was assigned an IJO handler, or mentor, responsible for providing him with taskings, debriefings, and arranging training. KOURANI sometimes communicated with his handler using coded email communications, including messages sent by the handler that informed KOURANI of the need to return to Lebanon. In order to establish contact with his handler when KOURANI returned to Lebanon, KOURANI called a telephone number associated with a pager (the “IJO Pager”) and provided a code that he understood was specific to him. After KOURANI called the IJO Pager, the handler would contact KOURANI to set up an in-person meeting by calling a phone belonging to one of KOURANI’s relatives. The IJO also provided KOURANI with additional training in tradecraft, weapons, and tactics. In 2011, for example, KOURANI attended an IJO military training camp located in the vicinity of Birkat Jabrur, Lebanon, where he was provided with military-tactics and weapons training, including training in the use of a rocket propelled grenade launcher, an AK-47 assault rifle, an MP5 submachine gun, a PKS machine gun (a Russian-made belt-fed weapon), and a Glock pistol.
Based on requests from IJO personnel, which were conveyed during periodic in-person meetings when KOURANI returned to Lebanon, KOURANI also conducted operations that included searching for weapons suppliers in the United States who could provide firearms to support IJO operations, identifying individuals affiliated with the Israeli Defense Force, gathering information regarding operations and security at airports in the United States and elsewhere, and surveilling U.S. military and law enforcement facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. KOURANI transmitted some of the products of his surveillance and intelligence-gathering efforts back to IJO personnel in Lebanon using digital storage media.
KOURANI, 32, of the Bronx, is charged with providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine; conspiracy to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; conspiracy to possess, carry, and use firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to crimes of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; making and receiving a contribution of funds, goods, and services to and from Hizballah, in violation of IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; conspiracy to make and receive a contribution of funds, goods, and services to and from Hizballah, in violation of IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and naturalization fraud in connection with an act of international terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
For more on El Debeek read Michigan: Lebanese Muslim arrested, supported & received training from Hizballah.