The United States Justice Department announced that Ali Kourani – an operative for Hezbollah’s external security organization, Islamic Jihad Organization – would be sentence to 40 years in prison. The ruling was made on the basis that Kourani violated numerous American laws, including involvement in a listed terrorist organization, immigration fraud and violation of international sanctions on Hezbollah. Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) is different from Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“While living in the United States, Kourani served as an operative of Hezbollah 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. "With today’s sentence, he is being held accountable for his crimes."
Ali Kourani was recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah’s (IJO) to plan and execute acts of terrorism around New York City, explained US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York. He said that after Kourani spent years conducting surveillance on the city’s critical infrastructure, federal buildings, international airports and even daycare centers, he is now the first IJO operative to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes against the United States.
Kourani, originally from Lebanon, was involved with Hezbollah from an early age, attending sponsored weapons training in 2000 at the age of 16. After legally entering the United States in 2003, Kourani gained a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering in 2009, followed by a Master of Business Administration degree in 2013.
During his Bachelor of Science degree, Kourani applied for naturalization in the United States, falsely claiming that he was not affiliated with a terrorist organization. He received citizenship in 2009, and then traveled to China in order to funnel chemical ingredients commonly used to make explosives back to the States.
Following his recruitment to Hezbollah, IJO provided Kourani with a handler, who was responsible for giving him tasks, debriefs and training. IJO also gave him training in trade-craft, weapons and tactics, in addition to him attending a Hezbollah training camp in Lebanon, where he learned how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, AK-47 assault rifle and MP5 submachine gun.
“Ali Kourani’s arrest was a reminder to us all that New York City and its surrounding areas remain primary targets for those looking to conduct a violent attack against our way of life,” said FBI assistant director William F. Sweeney Jr. “His sentencing today, however, is also a reminder of the many successes of our FBI JTTFs nationwide, and their never-ending determination to disrupt the plans of those working to harm us.”
Hezbollah has long been involved in terrorist activities following its formulation in the early 1980s, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, and after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah has allegedly engaged in terrorist attacks against both Israeli, American and other foreign citizens, including the Tyre headquarters bombing in 1982, the April 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, the 1994 Amia bombing in Argentina and the 2012 Burgas bus bombing.
In 2006, Israel fought a 34-day-long war against Hezbollah. Law enforcement authorities in numerous countries have also arrested many IJO operatives, including for surveying Israeli targets in Cyprus and attempting to acquire bomb-making materials in Thailand in 2012, in addition to attempts at attaining dangerous materials through China.