The New York Police Department has boosted security to thwart potential terrorist attacks following Iran’s threats to punish America for killing its top military general, Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq. Though officials say that the NYPD has received no specific credible threats, the history of Iranian operatives has raised concerns that New York could be vulnerable to cyber or other asymmetric attacks.
In the past two years, the NYPD in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified and arrested what a senior police officer called three “card-carrying members” of Hezbollah, the Iranian terror proxy. “Because we know that they have had sleeper cells here, as well as sympathizers, we must assume there may be more,” said Thomas Galati, head of NYPD intelligence.
The NYPD encountered Hezbollah methods long before President Trump ordered Soleimani’s killing. In June 2017, the NYPD and the FBI announced the arrest of two naturalized Americans from Lebanon who had been recruited and trained to conduct pre-terror surveillance missions.
Ali Kourani, then 32, and Samer El Debek, 37, had maintained low profiles and seemed to be leading ordinary lives. But both were accused of being operatives for Hezbollah’s external intelligence and attack-planning component. Kourani, arrested in New York, had “searched for suppliers who could provide weapons for . . . attacks, identified people who could be recruited or targeted for violence and gathered information about and conducted surveillance of potential targets,” according to court documents.
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