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US accuses Lebanese-born man of long-standing ties to Hezbollah

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — A New Jersey man who acquired US citizenship in 2008 after lying about his ties to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah has been charged with carrying out surveillance in New York City and Washington, DC, to support possible terrorist attacks, federal prosecutors said.

The indictment includes nine counts of Alexei Saab, 42, of providing material support to Hizbollah, military training with the group and two counts of conspiracy.

Saab also faces five immigration charges, including one related to his marriage in July 2012, so that his wife can get the benefits of citizenship and is reported to have paid him $ 20,000 for marriage.

Prosecutors said Saab has been detained since his July 9 arrest in Manhattan. His lawyer, Marlon Kirton, declined to comment.

Hezbollah has been on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.

“As a member of the Hezbollah arm that coordinates the planning of terrorist attacks abroad, Alexei Saab is said to have explored potential targets across the United States using the training he received … although Saab acquired citizenship,” Manhattan Attorney General Jeffrey Berman said in a statement. America’s true loyalty was to Hezbollah.”

Prosecutors said Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 and initially undertook missions inside Lebanon, and in 2000 moved to Islamic Jihad, an arm of the group that handles activities in other countries.

Prosecutors said Saab entered the United States in 2000 with a Lebanese passport, monitored dozens of sites there, took photographs and looked for structural weaknesses to help Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad “achieve maximum destruction of their goals”.

Among the sites he reportedly collected information include the Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the United Nations, eight bridges, tunnels and three major airports.

Saab faces up to five, 10, 20 or 25 years in prison on each of the charges.

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