A “QUIET” New Jersey resident spent 22 years undercover as a spy for Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah – while scoping out landmarks to attack, it is alleged.
Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown, was arrested in July and is accused of providing the extremist killers with intelligence on various sites in New York and Washington DC.
The US landmarks which Alexei Saab scouted for the terror group, it is alleged[/caption]
Saab, also known as Ali Hassan Saab, Alex Saab, or Rachid, scouted locations such as the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Empire State Building.
He was charged yesterday in a nine-count indictment for allegedly providing material support to the sick organisation, reports The New York Post.
Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a Shia Muslim terror group based in Lebanon which emerged during the country’s civil war in the 1980s
Funded by the hard-line rulers of Iran, the group carried out several attacks on US diplomats during the war including an attack on the American embassy in Beirut in 1983 which killed 17 US citizens.
According to indictment, Saab gave Hezbollah photos and other detailed intel on New York City landmarks and transportation hubs as far back as 2003.
He scouted dozens of locations in the city – such as New York’s Port Authority, Grand Central Terminal and the city’s Stock Exchange, according to a federal indictment.
Saab also scoped out federal offices at 26 Federal Plaza, and local airports, tunnels, and bridges, including the George Washington Bridge.
In 2000, he lawfully entered the United States using a Lebanese passport and he became a naturalised US citizen in 2008, it is alleged.
His former neighbours in Jersey City were stunned by the news.
“He was a nice guy, but quiet, private,” said an unnamed local resident who lives across from Saab’s former rental apartment.
She added: “He said hi to me and my baby.”
The detailed information recovered from his computers included photographs and details on the structural weaknesses — or “soft spots” — of these locations, officials alleged.
He has also surveilled sites in cities around the US — including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Boston’s Fenway Park stadium, The New York Post reports.
The charges do not allege that Saab conducted any recent surveillance.
Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996, and his earliest activities with the group include spying in Lebanon on the movements of Israeli and Southern Lebanese Army soldiers.
He also conducted intelligence-gathering in Istanbul, Turkey, the indictment alleges.
Who are Hezbollah?
- Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a Shia Muslim political party and terror group based in Lebanon, funded by Iran, which emerged during the country’s civil war in the 1980s
- In April 1983, Washington blamed Hezbollah for carrying out a bombing attack on the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon which killed 17 Americans.
- In November of that year, two truck bombs in Beruit killed 241 US peace keepers. The US again blamed Hezbollah for the incident.
- Officials in Britain have accused the Iranian-backed organisation of destabalising the Middle East.
- In 2019, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party.
- “Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”
The spy trained in the use of firearms, including AK-47s, and in 2000 he received extensive training in military tactics, including how to construct bombs and other explosive devices, the indictment claims.
In 2005, Saab attempted to murder a suspected Israeli spy, pointing a firearm at close range and twice pulling the trigger, only to have the gun malfunction both times, officials said.
Around the same time period, he attended explosives training in Lebanon during which he received detailed instruction in, among other things, triggering mechanisms, explosive substances and detonators, the indictment alleges.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said the IT worker was working undercover for the Iranian-funded terror group.
He said: “According to the allegations, while living in the United States, Saab served as an operative of Hezbollah and conducted surveillance of possible target locations in order to help the foreign terrorist organisation prepare for potential future attacks against the United States.
“Such covert activities conducted on US soil are a clear threat to our national security and I applaud the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation and prosecution.”
Saab provided detailed intel on sites in Washington DC for the terror group[/caption]
The alleged spy scouted out ‘soft spots’ in landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial[/caption]
He also identified New York’s Times Square as a potential terror target[/caption]
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