Hezbollah member convicted in US for planning attacks

Ali Kourani was convicted of eight allegations including conspiracy to use weapons in a violent crime.
Friday 17/05/2019
A view of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, New York, one of the sites Hezbollah member Ali Kourani reportedly surveyed for attack. (AFP)
A view of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, New York, one of the sites Hezbollah member Ali Kourani reportedly surveyed for attack. (AFP)

NEW YORK - A US federal court in New York on Thursday convicted a man of charges that he bought weapons and plotted attacks on behalf of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.

Ali Kourani, a 34-year-old American of Lebanese descent, was convicted of eight allegations including conspiracy to use weapons in a violent crime, which is punishable by life in prison.

"Kourani's chilling mission was to help procure weapons and gather intelligence about potential targets in the US for future Hizballah terrorist attacks," US attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement, using an alternate spelling for the group.

The targets Kourani surveyed include the JFK International Airport and a federal building in Manhattan.

"Today, Kourani has fittingly been convicted for his crimes in a courthouse that stands in the shadow of one of his potential targets," Berman said.

Born in Lebanon but naturalised by the US in 2009, Kourani attended several Hezbollah training camps in his country of birth and took orders from agents of the Iran-backed organisation after his 2003 arrival in the US.

He is now set to be sentenced on September 27.

Another man who was taken into custody in Michigan on the same day Kourani was arrested in 2017, Samer El Debek, is still awaiting trial. He is also accused of belonging to Hezbollah.

Washington considers Hezbollah, which was created by Iran in the early 1980s, a terrorist organization.

The group has been blamed for attacks in France, Lebanon and Bulgaria, and is one of the main allies of Syria's government against the country's rebels.

(Agence France-Presse)