On September 19, a Hizballah operative in New Jersey was indicted for allegedly conducting surveillance on critical infrastructure in major US cities, highlighting the continued intent of the group to collect information on potentially vulnerable targets, including those in the District. Arrests of Hizballah operatives in recent years indicate the group is engaging in long-term operational planning for future terror attacks, soliciting intelligence from operatives on potential physical targets worldwide.
Alexei Saab, a 42-year-old naturalized US citizen, was arrested in July 2019 for his support to Hizballah. Since 2000, Saab reportedly received extensive weapons and military training from the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), the militant arm of Hizballah that conducts international terrorism and counterintelligence operations. After arriving in the United States in 2000, Saab routinely surveilled and provided intelligence to Hizballah on critical infrastructure and landmark targets in New York City, Boston, and the District—including the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. He identified structural weaknesses and opportunistic locations to place explosives.
In June 2017, Hizballah operatives, Ali Kourani and Samer El Debek, were arrested for providing material support to Hizballah, receiving military training from the IJO, and related weapons offenses. Under the direction of Hizballah leadership, Kourani surveilled a variety of potential targets in New York City, including airports, military installations, and law enforcement facilities. El Debek allegedly collected intelligence on the United States and Israeli embassies in Panama and the Panama Canal. According to the indictments, the operatives provided Hizballah with photos of the infrastructure and intelligence on areas of weakness and potential access points.
Hizballah is a Lebanon-based Shia political party and militant group that the United States labelled a terrorist organization in 1997. Hizballah receives material support from Iran and Syria and maintains extensive security operations as well as a social services network in Lebanon.