New Jersey Man Arrested for Allegedly Scouting out Locations in US for Terror Attacks

September 19, 2019 Updated: September 19, 2019

A New Jersey man has been charged for allegedly scoping out locations across several U.S. cities including New York City as potential targets for terror attacks on behalf of Hezbollah, the Justice Department (DOJ) said in a statement.

Alexei Saab, 42, also known as Ali Hassan Saab, Alex Saab, or Rachid, was charged with nine counts for offenses related to his support for the terrorist group along with separate marriage-fraud offenses. Saab’s indictment and a complaint were unsealed at a Manhattan federal court on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Saab, who lawfully entered the United States using a Lebanese passport in 2000, is accused of surveilling and providing intelligence to Hezbollah on dozens of buildings in locations across New York City and other American cities, such as on the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, as well as local airports, tunnels, and bridges, according to the DOJ.

“According to the allegations, while living in the United States, Saab served as an operative of Hizballah and conducted surveillance of possible target locations in order to help the foreign terrorist organization prepare for potential future attacks against the United States,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in the statement.

“Such covert activities conducted on U.S. soil are a clear threat to our national security and I applaud the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation and prosecution,” Demers added.

Saab, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008, joined the terrorist organization in 1996 when he conducted his first operation for the group in Lebanon. At the time, he was tasked with “observing and reporting on the movements of Israeli and Southern Lebanese Army soldiers in Yaroun, Lebanon.” Moreover, he also reported on patrol schedules and formations, procedures at security checkpoints, and the vehicles used by soldiers.

He attended his first training with Hezbollah in 1999, which focused on the use of firearms. There, Saab learned how to use an AK-47, an M16 rifle, a pistol, and also how to throw grenades.

A year later he transferred into Hezbollah’s unit Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) that was responsible for the external operations of the terrorist group. There, he received training on weapons and military tactics, including how to construct bombs and other explosive devices. He furthered this explosive training in Lebanon in 2004 and 2005.

After entering the United States, Saab remained an IJO operative and continued to receive training from the organization. During that time, he also conducted operations abroad, such as in one mission where he attempted to kill a man who he later thought was a suspected Israeli spy.

Saab has also been accused of marrying an individual so that that person could apply for naturalized citizenship in the United States.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in the statement.

Hezbollah is a Shia Islamic political and social organization based in Lebanon, which was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997. State Department officials described Hezbollah as the “most technically capable terrorist group in the world” in 2010, according to the statement.

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