Hezbollah man charged with terrorism offenses targeting US landmarks

The UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, was among the landmarks reportedly scouted by Alexei Saab of Morristown on behalf of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Hezbollah man charged with terrorism offenses targeting US landmarks

  • Alexei Saab of Morristown was arrested after being questioned during 11 separate sessions with FBI agents since the spring
  • Authorities said Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 and attended training in 1999 and in 2004 and 2005 on firearms and explosives

NEW YORK: A New Jersey man who allegedly photographed or recorded video of landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the White House and Boston’s Fenway Park as potential terrorism targets in the early to mid-2000s has been charged with terror offenses by authorities who say he was working on behalf of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.
Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown, was arrested July 9 after being questioned during 11 separate sessions with FBI agents since the spring. Besides terror charges in a nine-count indictment returned Thursday, he was also charged with marriage fraud. A message for comment was left with Saab’s attorney.
During interviews, Saab told agents he took photographs of buildings and locations including Quincy Market and the Prudential Center in Boston and the Capitol Building, Congress and the White House in Washington, D.C., according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. A video of Fenway Park that authorities say was recovered from one of Saab’s electronic devices was included in the complaint.
Authorities say Saab took surveillance at dozens of locations in New York City, including the United Nations, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building and airports, tunnels and bridges and provided information on those locations to the Islamic Jihad Organization.
Besides surveillance activities in the United States, authorities said he also operated abroad, including trying to murder a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy and gathering intelligence for Hezbollah in Istanbul, Turkey. The complaint said he pointed a weapon at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire.
Authorities said Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 and attended training in 1999, where he learned about firearms, including how to handle military assault rifles and grenades. In 2004 and 2005, he was trained in explosives in Lebanon, they said.
Saab entered the US legally in November 2000 and became a citizen in 2008.
Saab was charged with marriage fraud for allegedly marrying a co-conspiracy in 2012 under false pretenses.
“As a member of the Hizballah component that coordinates external terrorist attack planning, Alexei Saab allegedly used his training to scout possible targets throughout the US 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 US citizens and military personnel,” US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release. Hizballah is an alternate spelling for Hezbollah.
William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York’s FBI office, said the charges against Saab highlight “the persistent efforts of a sophisticated international terrorist organization to scout targets at home and abroad, identifying vulnerabilities, and gathering essential details useful for a future attack.”
He said what law enforcement authorities can do to prevent terrorism has its limits.
“We cannot do this work alone. I would like to thank the countless private security professionals who protect many of these sites, remind them to remain vigilant in order to make the enemy’s job more difficult, and I would ask the general public to continue to report suspicious activity to law enforcement like you have so many times in the past,” Sweeney said.
Charges lodged against Saab include providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy, receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization, unlawful procurement of citizenship to facilitate international terrorism and citizenship application fraud. The most serious charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 25 years in prison, though the charges collectively carry potential penalties of over 100 years in prison.


UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

Updated 17 min 1 sec ago

UK opposition chief Corbyn apologizes for Labour’s worst election debacle

  • But veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down
  • Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit

LONDON: Britain’s main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized to supporters on Sunday for overseeing his Labour party’s worst election defeat since before World War II.
But the veteran socialist defended his far-left campaign platform and gave no clear indication of when he might step down.
“I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country,” Corbyn wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
“I wanted to unite the country that I love but I’m sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it.”
Thursday’s snap general election handed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union at the end of next month.
Corbyn said on Friday that he would step down at some point early next year.
But the century-old party has no clear successor and is being riven by infighting within its senior ranks.
Labour’s campaign was dogged by voter doubts about its vague position on Brexit and allegations of anti-Semitism within the party’s senior ranks.
Corbyn tried to shift the campaign’s focus on bread-and-butter social issues traditionally important to Labour voters.
“But despite our best efforts, this election was ultimately about Brexit,” Corbyn admitted in his letter.
“The Tory campaign, amplified by most of the media, managed to persuade many that only Boris Johnson could ‘get Brexit done’,” he said in reference to Johnson’s campaign slogan.
“We will learn the lessons of this defeat, above all by listening to those lifelong Labour voters who we’ve lost in working class communities.”