Alleged Hizballah 'Fighter' Snuck Into U.S. from Mexico

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury on November 19 alleges that a Hizballah “member, fighter, recruiter and fundraiser” snuck across the Mexican border into the United States in 2001, and then conspired here in the U.S. to “provide material support” to Hizballah, which is designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. The indictment was unsealed January 15.

Nabih Ayad, lawyer for the accused man, Mahmoud Kourani, told the Detroit Free Press that the charges against his client were wrong. There is “no shred of evidence” Kourani has any ties to Hizballah, said Ayad. “This is another ploy by the government to attack a vulnerable community after 9/11,” he told the Free Press after his client pleaded not guilty. “They’re going after someone because of his blood relations,” he said. “That’s unconstitutional. It’s guilt by association.”

The indictment alleges that Kourani’s brother “was the Hizballah Chief of Military Security for Southern Lebanon.”

“Hizballah’s goals,” the indictment says, “include the eradication of ‘western imperialism’ from the Middle East represented in part by the United States (‘the Great Satan’) and Israel (‘the little Satan’). Hizballah has conducted numerous high profile terrorist attacks including the abduction, torture, and murder of U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel William R. Higgins from February 17, 1988 through July 1989.”

The indictment says: “At all times material to this indictment, Mahmoud Yousseff Kourani was a member, fighter, recruiter and fundraiser for Hizballah. Operating at first from Lebanon and later in the United States, Kourani was a dedicated member of Hizballah who received specialized training in radical Shiite fundamentalism, weaponry, spy craft, and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran. Kourani also recruited others within Lebanon to become members of Hizballah, overseeing their applications and detailed background checks. Among other duties, Kourani held the position of fund raising solicitor for Hizballah in the vicinity of Tyre, Lebanon.

“Kourani,” the indictment continues, “surreptitiously entered the country via the U.S./Mexico border on or about February 4, 2001, took up residence in the Dearborn, Michigan area, and continued his allegiance and support of Hizballah. Kourani’s activities within the United States were overseen by his brother, an unindicted co-conspirator, who at all times material to this indictment was the Hizballah Chief of Military Security for Southern Lebanon.”

The Free Press reported: “Kourani has been in custody since May 3, when he was arrested for harboring an illegal immigrant. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail in that case and was set to be released Dec. 31. A federal judge also ordered him deported.”

The Free Press further reported: “The indictment in the earlier case said Kourani concealed a man identified as Ghaleb Youssef Kdouh at his home in Dearborn for two months in 2003. Kourani said the man was his cousin. Prosecutors said the house-sharing arrangement was part of a continuing scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants from Lebanon to the United States through Mexico.”

The indictment, unsealed January 15, can be viewed here.