A common characteristic that nearly all Islamist terrorist organizations share is an adherence to Sunni Islam (as opposed to Shia Islam). Al-Qaeda, The Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, Abu Sayaff, Jaysh al-Islam (“The Army of Islam”), and many others share the Sunni ideology.
There are few Shia Islamist organizations (though in all fairness, this could simply be because 85-90% of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, not because the ideology differs much). However, that doesn’t mean there are none. Next to Saudi Arabia, Iran is one of the largest state sponsors of terror, and they’re a Shia state. Iran funds the Houthi rebels (whose motto is “Death to America! Death to Israel!”) and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, both of which are Shia terrorist organizations.
Much like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah acts more like a government than your typical terror organization. They maintain seats in the parliament and cabinet of Lebanon, and are regarded by some as a legitimate political party. Of course, just because they look to rise to power democratically rather than by force (as ISIS does), that doesn’t mean they’re any less dangerous (or that they don’t have a terror arm), and recent news out of New York is a reminder of that.
Two U.S. citizens are charged with scouting possible targets in New York and elsewhere for terrorist attacks by the Iranian-linked terrorist group Hezbollah, according to courts documents made public on Thursday.
Ali Kourani, 32, of New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, were arrested last week on weapons-related charges and multiple counts of providing material support for a terrorist organization and receiving military training from a terrorist organization, according to the documents, which were unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Dearborn Michigan is often referred to as “Dearbornistan” for their large, mainly un-assimilated, Muslim population.
The FBI said in charging documents that no specific plot was underway but that Kourani and el Debek conducted extensive “pre-operational surveillance” to assess security vulnerabilities at the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Panama, as well as potential military and intelligence targets in New York.
Both men, who are naturalized U.S. citizens, appeared in court in the past week and could face life in prison if convicted, U.S. officials said.
Kourani was born in Lebanon and legally entered the United States in 2003, prosecutors said. He is accused of conducting surveillance of potential military and intelligence targets in New York.
According to the FBI, Kourani — sometimes using the alias “Jacob Lewis” — began attending Hezbollah training programs when he was 16 and was a member of the Islamic Jihad Organization, which the U.S. government says is the name Hezbollah uses for its terrorist operations.
Hezbollah has never attacked America directly, but it’s clear that we’re not off their radar. In 1983 the group was responsible for two suicide bombings in Lebanon that targeted the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks.