Dearborn Man Trained As Bombmaker Charged With Assisting Terrorist Group Hezbollah

DEARBORN (WWJ) – Federal officials in New York have announced charges against a Dearborn man, accused of providing support to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Samer El Debek, 37, was arrested last Thursday in Livonia.

WWJ Newsradio 950 is working to confirm that his arrest was connected to a raid at a home on Johnson St., in the area of Ford Rd. and Schaefer, in Dearborn the same day.

The U.S. Justice Department says El Debek, who appeared in federal court on Monday, was recruited by Hezbollah and received money from the group until 2015. He also allegedly received extensive training from the group as a bombmaker and on the handling of various weapons and explosive devices, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.

He is charged with the following:

  • Providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
  • Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
  • Receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine.
  • Conspiracy to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
  • Possessing, carrying, and using firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to crimes of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
  • Making and receiving a contribution of funds, goods, and services to and from Hizballah, in violation of the The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
  • Conspiracy to make and receive a contribution of funds, goods, and services to and from Hizballah, in violation of IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, El Debek traveled twice to Panama in 2011 and 2012, on a mission for Hezbollah to look for areas of weakness in security and construction at the Panama Canal.

In 2017 he allegedly conducted more than 250 Facebook searches using search terms such as “martyrs of the holy defense,” “martyrs of Islamic resistance,” “Hizballah martyrs,” and “martyrs of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.”

A second man, Ali Kourani of New York, also arrested in the case faces similar charges.

“The charges announced today reveal once again that the New York City region remains a focus of many adversaries, demonstrated as alleged in this instance by followers of a sophisticated and determined organization with a long history of coordinating violent activities on behalf of Hizballah,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr.

“Our announcement today also reveals, however, that the dozens of agencies working together with our FBI JTTFs (Joint Terrorism Task Forces) nationwide are just as determined to disrupt the plans of those working to harm our communities.”

State Department officials in 2010 described Hizballah as the most technically capable terrorist group in the world, and a continued security threat to the U.S. The group is allegedly responsible for various attacks around the world, including a bus explosion that killed six Israeli tourists and injured 32 others in Bulgaria in 2012.

In a statement released following developments in this case, David Gelios, Special Agent in Charge for the Detroit Division of the FBI, stressed that the bureau remains vigilant against terrorist threats, working routinely with local, state and federal partners to identify and investigate any that emerge.

“Last week’s arrest related to alleged illegal activity which did not occur in Michigan,” he added. “FBI Detroit has no credible information to suggest any terrorism threat to the Metropolitan Detroit area.”

That said, Gelios urges the public as always to remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity to local law police or to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323. Tipsters can also submit tips via an online form at this link.

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