NEW YORK -- A New Yorker convicted of providing material support to Hezbollah by seeking targets in New York City for terrorist attacks was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison.
Ali Kourani, 35, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein after the Lebanon-born Kourani was convicted at a May trial. He could have faced life in prison.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release that Kourani spent years conducting surveillance at federal buildings, airports including Kennedy International Airport and even daycare centers after he was recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.
The prosecutor said Kourani was the first operative of the group to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes against the U.S.
Authorities said Kourani came to the U.S. legally in 2003, earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2009 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2013. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 2009 and was issued a U.S. passport.
Prosecutors said Kourani was recruited by the terrorist group after a family residence was destroyed in 2006 during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
They said he traveled to Lebanon in 2011, when he learned to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, assault rifles, a submachine gun, a machine gun and a Glock pistol.
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said Kourani served as a Hezbollah operative, helping the organization prepare for potential future attacks against the U.S.
He said trial evidence showed that Kourani searched for suppliers who could provide weapons for attacks against the U.S. Demers said the evidence also showed that Kourani identified people who could be recruited or targeted for violence and gathered information or conducted surveillance of possible terrorism targets.