At a Glance | June 12

Two Hizballah Operatives Arrested in New York and Michigan

The recent arrests of two alleged Hizballah operatives in New York and Michigan—announced last week by the Justice Department—indicate a more active operational Hizballah presence in the United States, including the New York City metropolitan area, than previously assessed. Ali Kourani, age 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, age 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, both arrested on June 1, allegedly conducted preoperational surveillance for potential terror attacks in the New York City area and at the Panama Canal. El Debek is also a trained bombmaker. The defendants have both been charged with providing and conspiracy to provide material support to Hizballah, among other charges, including weapons offenses. Both were allegedly members of the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), “a compartmentalized component of Hizballah responsible for the planning, preparation, and execution of intelligence, counterintelligence, and terrorist activities outside of Lebanon,” according to the criminal complaints.

In response to tasking from his IJO handler in Lebanon, Kourani allegedly conducted surveillance of federal law enforcement offices and military facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn, according to the criminal complaint. He also conducted surveillance and collected information on security at airports, including JFK International Airport (see photo).

Kourani was also directed to cultivate contacts in the New York City area who could provide firearms for use in potential future IJO operations in the United States, according to the criminal complaint. He was also tasked to identify and collect information on Israeli Defense Forces personnel who were in the United States.

Kourani transmitted reports on his surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities to IJO personnel in Lebanon.

El Debek is a skilled bombmaker and, based on an assessment of information he provided to FBI bomb technicians, he has a high degree of sophistication and training in Hizballah's bombmaking techniques and methods. According to the criminal complaint, el Debek received an e-mail in 2010 that contained a list of raw materials, including items often used in explosive devices, that could be sent from Syria or Dubai.

El Debek also conducted missions for Hizballah in Thailand and Panama. During trips to Panama in 2011 and 2012, he was tasked to collect information on security procedures at the Panama Canal (see photo). He was also asked to identify areas of weakness and construction at the Canal, and how close someone could get to a ship passing through the Canal.

Also in Panama, el Debek was tasked to locate the US and Israeli Embassies, to assess security procedures at the Israeli Embassy, and to locate hardware stores where precursors for explosives could be bought. When el Debek returned from Panama in 2012, his IJO handlers requested photographs of the US Embassy and details on security procedures there.


Interfaith Issues: Kansas Man Charged With Federal Hate Crime in Shooting of Indian Men at a Bar

A Kansas man who had been charged with fatally shooting an Indian national at a bar in Olathe, near Kansas City, has been indicted on federal hate crime and firearms charges. The Justice Department announced the new charges against Adam Purinton, age 51, of Olathe, last week. On February 22, Purinton allegedly yelled “Get out of my country” at two Indian men in the bar before shooting them, killing one and wounding the other. He also shot and wounded a third man who attempted to intervene. The federal indictment alleges that Purinton shot and killed the victim because of his actual and perceived race, color, religion, and national origin. Purinton also faces federal charges for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.


For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.