An American of Lebanese descent was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Tuesday for buying weapons and plotting attacks on behalf of the Lebanese Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah.
Ali Kourani, 34, was found guilty in May of gathering intelligence on potential attack targets, including New York's JFK International Airport and a federal building in Manhattan.
A federal court in America's financial capital convicted him of eight allegations including conspiracy to use weapons in a violent crime.
Geoffrey Berman, attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the lengthy sentence sent an important message to Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
"If you are caught planning harm against this City and its residents, you will face justice and be held accountable," Berman said in a statement.
Born in Lebanon but naturalized by the United States in 2009, Kourani attended several Hezbollah training camps in his country of birth and took orders from agents of the Iran-backed organization after his 2003 arrival in the United States.
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.
Demers 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 terrorist targets.
First published: 09:14 , 12.04.19