'Hezbollah scout' plotted possible Times Square attack, say prosecutors

'Hezbollah scout' plotted possible New York attacks, US prosecutors claim
2 min read
20 September, 2019
According to prosecutors, 42-year-old New Jersey resident Alexei Saab, who became a naturalised US citizen in 2008, began training in 1999 with Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah.
Prosecutors also accused Saab of entering into a marriage to apply for citizenship [AFP]
A US citizen was charged on Thursday with transmitting information to Hezbollah for possible terrorist attacks in the US, the Justice Department said.

According to prosecutors, 42-year-old New Jersey resident Alexei Saab, who became a naturalised US citizen in 2008, began training in 1999 with Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, which the US designated as a terrorist organisation in 1997.

It is alleged that Saab became a member of the Hezbollah branch concerned with foreign operations - such as a 2012 attack on Israeli tourists at an airport in Bulgaria - and since his 2000 arrival to the US, Saab passed information to the group about possible targets in major American cities, such as New York's Empire State Building, Times Square, bridges, tunnels and airports.

Outside the US, he is accused of attempting to kill a man suspected of being an Israeli spy, the Justice Department said.

"Alexei Saab allegedly used his training to scout possible targets throughout the US," said New York US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a statement. 

"Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds," Berman said.

Saab faces nine indictments, including a charge related to supporting a terrorist organisation, for which he could face 20 years in prison if convicted. 

Prosecutors also accused Saab of entering into a "marriage fraud conspiracy" for the purpose of applying for citizenship for an unidentified spouse in 2012. 

Saab could face 25 years in prison if convicted of offenses related to the fraudulent marriage charges. 

In May, another American of Lebanese origin, Ali Kourani, was found guilty of supporting Hezbollah attacks and collecting information about the security operations of US airports, including John F. Kennedy in New York. 

His sentencing is set for later this month.

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