Feds: NJ man was looking for terror attack targets in NYC

JERSEY CITY, NJ SEPT 17: The architectural spire at the top of One Vanderbilt begins to take shape as it rises on the skyline of midtown Manhattan. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice unveiled charges Thursday against a New Jersey man accused of scouting locations for terror attacks in New York on behalf of Hezbollah. 

Authorities say that Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown was charged in a nine-count indictment for offenses related to his support for Hezbollah and separate marriage-fraud offenses.

“According to the allegations, while living in the United States, Saab served as an operative of Hizballah and conducted surveillance of possible target locations in order to help the foreign terrorist organization prepare for potential future attacks against the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Such covert activities conducted on U.S. 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 allegedly joined Hezbollah in 1996, receiving training in the use of firearms, bomb-making and more. He legally entered the U.S. in 2000, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008.

While living in the U.S., authorities say that Saab surveilled dozens of locations in New York City, including the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and local airports, tunnels, and bridges. He allegedly focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction. 

“As a member of the Hizballah 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 S. Berman.  “Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hizballah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds, including U.S. citizens and military personnel.  Thankfully, Saab is now in federal custody, and faces significant prison time for his alleged crimes.”

Saab is facing multiple charges, including with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“I would like to thank the efforts of the investigators and our Counter-Terrorism law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly to assemble the case that prevents this individual from caring out his plans,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.  “This case sends a clear message of deterrence to all those who plot to promote violence here in the U.S. and abroad.”