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New Yorker sentenced to 40 years for aiding Hezbollah

By Darryl Coote

Dec. 4 (UPI) -- A New York man convicted of performing covert terrorist activities within the United States for Hezbollah has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Ali Kourani, 35, was sentenced Tuesday for convictions on terrorism, sanctions and immigration charges, the Justice Department said in a statement.

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According to court documents, Kourani worked as an operative of Hezbollah's international attack-planning arm, the Islamic Jihad Organization, and prepared for future attacks in New York City.

Kourani's work included searching for weapons suppliers, identifying future targets and recruits and gathering information about New York City federal buildings, airports and military establishments and police stations, prosecutors said.

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"After spending years conducting surveillance on the city's critical infrastructure, federal buildings, international airports and even daycare centers, he is now the first Islamic Jihad Organization operative to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes against the United States," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said.

Kourani became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009 and earned a bachelor's of science in biomedical engineering that same year before getting a master's in business administration in 2013, authorities said.

However, Kourani was recruited by Islamic Jihad Organization in 2008 and was also receiving weapons, tradecraft and tactics training, prosecutors said, adding as an example that in 2011 he attended a weapons training camp in Lebanon where he used a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, an AK-47 assault rifle and other high-powered weaponry.

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Kourani was arrested June 1, 2017, and was convicted in May on a slew of charges, including providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, among others.

In addition to his prison term, Kourani was sentenced to five years of supervised release.

"The lengthy prison term imposed today on Kourani sends an important message to Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad Organization: If you are caught planning harm against this city and its residents, you will face justice and be held accountable," Berman said.

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