A Dearborn man was arrested June 1 for participating in missions and military training on behalf of a foreign terrorist organization, according to the Department of Justice.
Samer El Debek, 37 is accused of being recruited into Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia Islamic organization with political, social and terrorist components, in late 2007 or early 2008.
El Debek was a naturalized United States citizen who began receiving a salary from Hezbollah and was paid through 2015, officials said. An email sent in June 2006 revealed El Debek expressing his support for Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.
The Department of Justice said El Debek attended several military training sessions from Hezbollah in Lebanon from around 2008 through around 2014. El Debek received training in "basic military tactics, the handling of various weapons, surveillance and counter-surveillance techniques and the creation and handling of explosives and explosive devices," the DOJ said.
Based on information El Debek provided to the FBI, FBI bomb technicians believe he received extensive training as a bomb-maker and has a high degree of technical sophistication in the area.
El Debek received, by email in 2010, a list of raw materials that could be sent from Syria or Dubai, including items often used in explosives and improvised explosive devices.
El Debek is also accused of conducting missions for Hezbollah in Thailand and Panama. In May 2009, he traveled from Lebanon, through Malaysia, to Thailand, where his mission was to clean up explosive precursors in a house in Bangkok that others had left, because they were under surveillance, the DOJ said. El Debek is accused of using his U.S. passport to enter and leave Thailand, on instruction from Hezbollah, so he could travel from Malaysia to Thailand without obtaining a visa.
El Debek is accused of traveling to Panama for Hezbollah in 2011, where his operational tasks included "locating the U.S. and Israeli Embassies, casing security procedures at the Panama Canal and the Israeli Embassy and locating hardware stores where explosive precursors could be purchased," the DOJ said.
Shortly before traveling to Panama, El Debek updated his status on Facebook with a post that read, in part, “Do not make peace or share food with those who killed your people.”
In early 2012, El Debek again traveled to Panama for Hezbollah, passing through New York and New Jersey, and was asked to identify areas of weakness and construction at the Panama Canal, as well as provide information about how close someone could get to a ship passing through the canal, the DOJ said. When he returned, El Debek's Islamic Jihad Organization handlers asked him for photographs of the U.S. Embassy there and details about its security procedures.
El Debek told the FBI that he was detained by Hezbollah from December 2015 to April 2016 and falsely accused of spying for the United States.