A New Jersey man scouting potential strike points for the Hezbollah terrorist group had the New York Stock Exchange, the Port Authority bus terminal and two the city’s two airports on his list, federal officials said Thursday.
Prosecutors said Alexei Saab, 42, scoped out attack targets across the Northeast, including sites in New York, Boston and Washington D.C.
Saab, of Morristown, NJ, was indicted in Manhattan Federal Court, where authorities accused him of being a Hezbollah member since 1996, during which time he honed his firearms and bomb making skills, according to court records.
His other New York hit spots included Herald Square, the George Washington Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, officials said.
He also placed targets on Fenway Park in Boston and the Washington Monument, prosecutors said.
“As a member of the Hezbollah component that coordinates external terrorist attack planning, Alexei Saab allegedly used his training to scout possible targets throughout the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds, including U.S. citizens and military personnel.”
Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s with support from Iran after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and its mission includes establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state in Lebanon.
Since its formation, the organization has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds. In 2010, State Department officials described Hezbollah as the most technically capable terrorist group in the world, and a continued security threat to the U.S.
Saab signed up with Hezbollah in 1996, prosecutors said, and attended his first military training three years later. He was taught to handle an AK-47 and an M!5 rifle, and learned how to thorw grenades, officials said.
He was also tasked with observing and reporting on the movements of Israeli and Southern Lebanese Army soldiers in Lebanon.
In 2000, Saab lawfully entered the U.S. using a Lebanese passport. In 2005, he applied for naturalized citizenship and falsely affirmed, under penalty of perjury, that he had never been “a member of or in any way associated with . . . a terrorist organization.”
In 2008, Saab became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
He is charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison