A New Jersey man named Alexei Saab — who was allegedly scouting targets in the New York area, including the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and Times Square — was charged with providing material support to Hezbollah’s external operations wing, Islamic Jihad.
Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown has been a member of Hezbollah and a spy for the organization since 1996 and received training in bomb making outside of the United States.
Saab moved to the U.S. in 2000, and began scouting targets. Twelve years later, he had graduated from Baruch College — part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system — with a master’s degree in business administration. By 2015, he received another master’s degree from the college in science information systems.
He later was hired by the college as an adjunct lecturer in the business school, where he taught graduate courses in IT strategy, computer information systems and business data modeling.
Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization and Iranian proxy, was responsible for the Beirut bombing of a Marine barracks in 1983.
“As a member of the Hizballah [Hezbollah] component that coordinates external terrorist attack planning, Alexei Saab allegedly used his training to scout possible targets throughout the U.S,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
“Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hizballah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds, including U.S. citizens and military personnel.
“Thankfully, Saab is now in federal custody, and faces significant prison time for his alleged crimes,” according to a Justice Department press release.
Kourani, who was residing in New York, scouted targets including JFK Airport and 26 Federal Plaza for Hezbollah. The other part of his assignment was to procure weapons for the terrorist group.
The concerns are bigger than that, though. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute, an expert on Shiite extremism, writes, “Kourani went on to describe himself to the FBI as being part of a “sleeper cell,” and explained, “There would be certain scenarios that would require action or conduct by those who belonged to the cell.”
Kourani said that in the event that the United States and Iran went to war, the U.S. sleeper cell would expect to be called upon to act. And if the United States were to take certain unnamed actions specifically targeting Hezbollah, their leader Hassan Nasrallah or Iranian interests, Kourani added, “in those scenarios, the sleeper cell would also be triggered into action.”
Clarion Project has done thorough investigations into New York and New Jersey in relation to support for Shiite extremism. There is a degree of ideological support for Hezbollah in both states, but proven material support is more rare.