(WJBK) - A Dearborn man has been arrested after authorities say he received Hezbollah training in bomb-making, and that he gathered intelligence around the world in support of attack-planning efforts.
Samar El Debek, 37, was arrested in Livonia and was in court earlier this week on related terrorism charges. El Debek is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
El Debek is alleged to have been a member of the Islamic Jihad Organization, which is a component of Hezbollah responsible for the planning, preparation and execution of intelligence, counterintelligence and terrorist activities outside of Lebanon. He's alleged to have been a member from about 2007 to about 2016.
Authorities say El Debek received "extensive training" from Hezbollah and the IJO, including training in bombmaking, weapons, tradecraft and military tactics training.
Based on information El Debek provided to the FBI, FBI bomb technicians have assessed that El Debek has a "high degree of technical sophistication" in the area.
The complaint states El Debek also traveled on missions on behalf of Hezbollah to Panama and Thailand.
In Panama, authorities say he assessed "vulnerabilities" of the Panama Calan and ships in the Canal, and located the U.S. and Israeli Embassies. In Thailand, authorities say El Debek removed explosive materials from a Hezbollah safe house that was believed to have been compromised.
El Debek has also searched more than 250 times on Facebook terms such as "martyrs of the holy defense," "martyrs of Islamic resistance," "Hezbollah martyrs," and "martyrs of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon."
El Debek is charged with providing 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 of 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 Hezbollah, in violation of IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and conspiracy to make and receive a contribution of funds, goods and services to and from Hezbollah, in violation of IEEPA, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
A New York man has also been arrested and faces similar terrorism-related charges.
Since Hezbollah's formation, the organization has been responsible for numerous terrorists attacks, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in which 241 Marines were killed.
The Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Division of the FBI, David P. Gelios, released this statement:
“As it relates to Detroit Metropolitan area and the state of Michigan, Counterterrorism (CT) threats are the #1 investigative priority of the FBI. FBI Detroit routinely conducts CT investigations. Arrests and/or search warrants in CT investigations are not unprecedented and reflect our commitment to protect and defend the United States against terrorist threats. Hizballah is a designated foreign terrorist organization and its Islamic Jihad Organization has been responsible for terrorist activities and incidents outside of Lebanon. FBI Detroit is always vigilant against terrorist threats and works routinely with our local, state, and federal partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force to identify and investigate any threats that emerge”.
“Last week’s arrest related to alleged illegal activity which did not occur in Michigan. FBI Detroit has no credible information to suggest any terrorism threat to the Metropolitan Detroit area. That said, we urge the public to remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency or to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323”.