NJ man charged with terrorism offenses targeting landmarks

Posted: Updated:

NEW YORK (AP) - A New Jersey man who allegedly photographed or recorded video of landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the White House and Boston's Fenway Park as potential terrorism targets in the early to mid-2000s has been charged with terror offenses by authorities who say he was working on behalf of Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization.

Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown, was arrested July 9 after being questioned during 11 separate sessions with FBI agents since the spring. Besides terror charges in a nine-count indictment returned Thursday, he was also charged with marriage fraud. A message for comment was left with Saab's attorney.

During interviews, Saab told agents he took photographs of buildings and locations including Quincy Market and the Prudential Center in Boston and the Capitol Building, Congress and the White House in Washington, D.C., according to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. A video of Fenway Park that authorities say was recovered from one of Saab's electronic devices was included in the complaint.

Authorities say Saab took surveillance at dozens of locations in New York City, including the United Nations, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building and airports, tunnels and bridges and provided information on those locations to the Islamic Jihad Organization.

MORE: Click here to read indictment
MORE: Click here to read complaint

Besides surveillance activities in the United States, authorities said he also operated abroad, including trying to murder a man he later understood to be a suspected Israeli spy and gathering intelligence for Hezbollah in Istanbul, Turkey. The complaint said he pointed a weapon at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire.

Authorities said Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 and attended training in 1999, where he learned about firearms, including how to handle military assault rifles and grenades. In 2004 and 2005, he was trained in explosives in Lebanon, they said.

Saab entered the U.S. legally in November 2000 and became a citizen in 2008.

Saab was charged with marriage fraud for allegedly marrying a co-conspiracy in 2012 under false pretenses.

"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. 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," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release. Hizballah is an alternate spelling for Hezbollah.

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York's FBI office, said the charges against Saab highlight "the persistent efforts of a sophisticated international terrorist organization to scout targets at home and abroad, identifying vulnerabilities, and gathering essential details useful for a future attack."

He said what law enforcement authorities can do to prevent terrorism has its limits.

"We cannot do this work alone. I would like to thank the countless private security professionals who protect many of these sites, remind them to remain vigilant in order to make the enemy's job more difficult, and I would ask the general public to continue to report suspicious activity to law enforcement like you have so many times in the past," Sweeney said.

Charges lodged against Saab include providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy, receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization, unlawful procurement of citizenship to facilitate international terrorism and citizenship application fraud. The most serious charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 25 years in prison, though the charges collectively carry potential penalties of over 100 years in prison.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • Aftermath of shooting that left 4 dead in Brooklyn

    Aftermath of shooting that left 4 dead in Brooklyn

    Gunfire broke out inside an illegal gambling club in Brooklyn early Saturday, police said, leaving four people dead, three wounded, and investigators trying to piece together what prompted the bloodshed.
    Gunfire broke out inside an illegal gambling club in Brooklyn early Saturday, police said, leaving four people dead, three wounded, and investigators trying to piece together what prompted the bloodshed.
  • VROOM! RAND Luxury is holding a motorcar auction this weekend

    VROOM! RAND Luxury is holding a motorcar auction this weekend

    Friday, October 11 2019 10:34 AM EDT2019-10-11 14:34:17 GMT
    Bradford Rand, one of the organizers, brought a De Tomaso Pantera and a 1999 Ferrari 456 to the News 12 studios.Bradford Rand, one of the organizers, brought a De Tomaso Pantera and a 1999 Ferrari 456 to the News 12 studios.
    Bradford Rand, one of the organizers, brought a De Tomaso Pantera and a 1999 Ferrari 456 to the News 12 studios.Bradford Rand, one of the organizers, brought a De Tomaso Pantera and a 1999 Ferrari 456 to the News 12 studios.
    RAND Luxury is holding an auction of collectible motorcars from brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche & beyond at the Nassau County Museum of Art Saturday, Oct. 12.
    RAND Luxury is holding an auction of collectible motorcars from brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche & beyond at the Nassau County Museum of Art Saturday, Oct. 12.
  • Dog Day Fridays for Oct. 11

    Dog Day Fridays for Oct. 11

    Friday, October 11 2019 10:16 AM EDT2019-10-11 14:16:52 GMT
    Astro is an almost 10-year-old Spaniel mix who was abandoned. He is heartworm free, microchipped, up to date on his vaccines and neutered.Astro is an almost 10-year-old Spaniel mix who was abandoned. He is heartworm free, microchipped, up to date on his vaccines and neutered.
    Astro is an almost 10-year-old Spaniel mix who was abandoned. He is heartworm free, microchipped, up to date on his vaccines and neutered.Astro is an almost 10-year-old Spaniel mix who was abandoned. He is heartworm free, microchipped, up to date on his vaccines and neutered.
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Bobbi and the Strays. The shelter is located at 2 Rider Place in Freeport. Their phone number is (516) 378-4340.
    This week's dogs are up for adoption at Bobbi and the Strays. The shelter is located at 2 Rider Place in Freeport. Their phone number is (516) 378-4340.
sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."