Terrorist threats made against Panama


Two Americans suspected of belonging to the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah movement were arrested and charged with monitoring suspected targets of terrorist attacks, including the Panama Canal, the US Justice Department said on Thursday. 

One of them, 37-year-old Samer El Debek of Dearborn, Mich., conducted missions in Panama to locate the US and Israeli embassies and assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships on the canal, said Southern District Prosecutor Joon Kim. 

The other is a Lebanese who arrived in the United States in 2003 and was naturalized in 2009. Prosecutors said Ali Kourani, 32, a resident of the Bronx, New York, allegedly monitored potential targets in the United States, including military and police facilities in New York

In Panama, the State Department of Communications reported that the National Security Council, "in coordination with its counterpart in the United States," monitored airports and border crossings for Samer El Debek and Ali Kourani . 

"The United States authorities alerted Panama to the possible arrival of El Debek in July 2014. Immediately, the actions contemplated by the law were taken to prevent them from entering the country," said a press release from the State Department of Communication.

Comunicado de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá. Expandir Imagen
Comunicado de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reported that it has worked in close collaboration and coordination with Panamanian state security agencies.

The two men arrested carried out evaluation tasks at the two embassies and the waterway in 2011 and 2012. 

"Daily ship risk assessments are carried out and strict access control measures are maintained, especially in installations vital to the operation and transit of ships," said the ACP. 

Kourani was arrested in the Bronx, New York, on June 1. Meanwhile, El Debek was arrested that day, but in Livonia, Michigan. 

According to information from the Justice Department, El Debek and Kourani reportedly received military-type training, including the use of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rifles "and are accused among other charges of supporting a terrorist organization and receiving Hezbollah training," Said Joon Kim. 

Created in the 1980s, Hezbollah is considered one of the main allies of the Syrian government of Bashar al Asad.



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