Hezbollah operative in New York sentenced to 40 years in prison
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Hezbollah operative in New York sentenced to 40 years in prison

Ali Kourani convicted of surveilling federal buildings, airports, daycare centers for terror attacks

An undated photo of Ali Kourani, a naturalized US citizen from Lebanon who allegedly plotted attacks on behalf of Hezbollah in New York City. (screen capture: YouTube)
An undated photo of Ali Kourani, a naturalized US citizen from Lebanon who allegedly plotted attacks on behalf of Hezbollah in New York City. (screen capture: YouTube)

A New Yorker convicted of providing material support to Hezbollah by seeking targets in New York City for terrorist attacks was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison.

Ali Kourani, 35, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein after the Lebanon-born Kourani was convicted at a May trial. He could have faced life in prison.

US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release that Kourani spent years conducting surveillance for the terror group at federal buildings, airports including Kennedy International Airport and even daycare centers after he was recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.

The prosecutor said Kourani was the first operative of the group to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes against the US.

Authorities said Kourani came to the US legally in 2003, earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2009 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2013. He became a naturalized US citizen in April 2009 and was issued a US passport.

Hezbollah fighters hold flags, as they attend the memorial of slain leader Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 13, 2016. (Mohammed Zaatari/AP)

Prosecutors said Kourani was recruited by the terrorist group after a family residence was destroyed in 2006 during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

They said he traveled to Lebanon in 2011, when he learned to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, assault rifles, a submachine gun, a machine gun and a Glock pistol.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said Kourani served as a Hezbollah operative, helping the organization prepare for potential future attacks against the US.

He said trial evidence showed that Kourani searched for suppliers who could provide weapons for attacks against the US. Demers said the evidence also showed that Kourani identified people who could be recruited or targeted for violence and gathered information or conducted surveillance of possible terrorism targets.

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