An Hezbollah agent in NY was found guilty of eight counts relating to terrorism, sanctions and immigration offenses.
Ali Kourani, a naturalized citizen living in the Bronx, was working for the Lebanese terror group and was part of a secret unit that plans and carries out terror attacks on foreign soil.
Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group, is one of the most powerful terrorist organizations in the world.
“Ali Kourani was recruited, trained, and deployed by Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization to plan and execute acts of terrorism in the United States,” United States attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said. “Kourani’s chilling mission was to help procure weapons and gather intelligence about potential targets in the US for future Hezbollah terrorist attacks.”
Kourani, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2003, admitted to the FBI in 2016 and 2017 that he was a “sleeper” agent of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad carrying out “black ops” for Hezbollah and “the Iranians.”
Kourani began training for Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2000 when he was only 16-years old. Under questioning by the FBI, he explained he was accepted by Hezbollah because his family is connected to a top official in the terrorist group.
He said one of his brothers is the “face of Hezbollah” and boasted that his family’s name is like the “Bin Laden’s of Lebanon.” Still, he was able to slip through. Yet in 2003 (two years after the 9/11 attacks), after lying about his connections to terrorism, he was allowed to enter the U.S. where he became a student. In 2008, he then joined Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad branch.
The next year, he applied and became a citizen. Although during his naturalization process he denied any plans to travel overseas, only a month after becoming a citizen, he went to Guangzhou, China on a “business trip.” The city is home to a medical company that produces chemicals that can be used in bombs. Stolen chemicals from the company were later found in the possession of Iranian terrorists in Thailand planning bombings.
In 2011, Kourani went to Lebanon for a second round of terrorism training in RPG and various firearms. He then came back into the U.S. to use the skills he acquired.
On the orders of his Hezbollah handler, he began identifying and surveilling targets. According to the criminal complaint against him, his handler directed him to “surveil and collect information regarding airports, including the layout of terminals, the locations of cameras and personnel, and other security features. In response, Kourani provided detailed information to [his handler] regarding specific security protocols, baggage-screening and collection practices and the locations of surveillance cameras, security personnel, law enforcement officers and magnetometers at JFK and an international airport in another country.”
It is interesting to note that the plan to attack JFK is not the first time Iran has targeted the busy and famous airport in New York. In 2007, Iran planned to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines going to the airport.
The FBI confirmed that one of the individuals involved in this plot had links to “militant groups” in Iran and Venezuela and had regularly contact with Iranian authorities.
Kourani also used Google Maps to research LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York (specifically its terminals) in April 2011. He also looked up the U.S. Armed Forces Career Center in Queens in February 2013.
Kourani conducted surveillance on a governmental building in Manhattan with FBI offices inside; an Army National Guard office in Manhattan; an Army Armory building in Manhattan and a Secret Service office in Brooklyn. He also looked for people tied to the Israeli military and was further tasked with making contacts who could provide firearms to Hezbollah operatives in the U.S.
In addition, Hezbollah wanted Kourani to do something in connection with Mexico and Canada. His handler talked about possibly having him fly to one of these countries and cross into the U.S. by land using his passport. Hezbollah has ties to Latin American drug cartels, which may have something to do with the talk of a trip to Mexico.
“Kourani has fittingly been convicted for his crimes in a courthouse that stands in the shadow of one of his potential targets,” Berman said.
Kourani is expected to be sentenced in September.