Category Archives: New York City

US arrests Hezbollah operatives in Michigan, New York who planned to attack Israeli embassies

US federal authorities said they’ve interrupted efforts to identify potential terrorism targets in New York City and Panama, including US and Israeli embassies, by arresting a man in Michigan and another in New York.Court papers unsealed Thursday charge the two men with providing support to a terrorist organization.

Samer El Debek of Dearborn, Michigan, was arrested June 1 in Livonia, Michigan, while Ali Kourani was arrested in the Bronx. Both men are being held in New York City.

In a statement, authorities said the men tried to provide support to Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad organization after receiving military training from the group.They say El Debek looked for potential targets in Panama while Kourani surveilled American targets, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City.

Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon H. Kim said, “At the direction of his Hezbollah handlers, El Debek allegedly conducted missions in Panama to locate the US and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal.

“Kourani allegedly conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City. Thanks to the outstanding work of the FBI and NYPD, the allegedly destructive designs of these two Hezbollah operatives have been thwarted, and they will now face justice in a Manhattan federal court.”

Kourani was arrested in the Bronx and brought before a judge for the first time last Friday. It was reported that he was born in Lebanon and in 2000, when he was only 16, received weapons training funded by Hezbollah. He legally immigrated to the United States in 2003, received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering six years later, and later on, an MBA. During the Second Lebanon War, a house owned by his family was destroyed. He would communicated with his operators in the organization via encrypted emails.

El Debek was arrested in the city of Livonia, Michigan, and brought before a judge for the first time last Monday. It was reported that he was recruited to Hezbollah for the first time in late 2007 or early 2008, and soon thereafter, began receiving a salary from the organization until 2015. During the Second Lebanon War, he distributed an email expressing his support for Nasrallah. El Debek was trained by Hezbollah members in Lebanon on several occasions between 2008 and 2014.

It was also reported that in May 2009, Al Debek was sent by Hezbollah on a mission to Thailand. He flew from Lebanon to Malaysia, and from there, to Bangkok, in order to hide explosives that other operatives of the organization left after they discovered they were being surveilled.

FBI arrests two Muslim women accused of plotting to plant pressure cooker bomb in New York City

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The two women, who are US citizens, referred to themselves as “citizens of the Islamic State”, according to court documents.

Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui are said to be roommates living in the Queens section of New York City.

Ms Siddiqui had several gas tanks and instructions on turning them into bombs, the documents say.

Ms Siddiqui “had repeated contact with members of the foreign terrorist organisation al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” the documents said.

Her accomplice, Ms Velentzas referred to Osama Bin Laden as a hero, according to the US Department of Justice.

‘Pleasing Allah’

Ms Velentzas apparently criticised a US Air Force veteran who was recently arrested for attempting to travel to Syria engage in violent jihad.

She questioned why people would try to travel overseas when there were targets in the United States that provided opportunities for “pleasing Allah”, the Justice Department said.

The documents say the women have been meeting with an undercover agent for several years.

Ms Siddiqui reportedly told the agent that Ms Velentzas had a particular interest in pressure cookers, which were used in the attacks on the Boston Marathon in 2013.

The two women are set to appear in court in New York in a few hours.

Mayor de Blasio: NYC public schools to close on 2 Muslim holidays

The New York City public school system is set to observe a pair of Muslim holidays for the first time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the system will close for Eid al-Adha (eed al-AHD’-hah) for the first time next September.

Summer school will also close for Eid al-Fitr (ayd ahl-FIH’-tur) in 2016.

They are the first Muslim holidays to be recognized by the nation’s largest school system, which educates 1.1 million kids.

De Blasio says the change means “hundreds of thousands” of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between sending their kids to school or observing the holidays.

The mayor made the announcement at a Brooklyn school where more than one-third of students were absent last Eid al-Adha.