An operative for the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah collected “detailed information” about Toronto’s Pearson airport, according to a report released by Canada’s air safety agency on Tuesday.
Ali Kourani, a member of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), which is also known as the External Security Organization and 910, served as a sleeper agent based in the United States and visited Pearson seven times to gather sensitive information about security measures at the airport until his arrest in 2017.
The Hezbollah operative also scouted New York’s JFK airport and U.S government facilities, as well as identifying Israelis in the United States who could be targeted by the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group. He passed on the findings of his illicit surveillance activities to terrorist handlers in Lebanon on digital storage devices.
“While living in the United States, Kourani served as an operative of Hezbollah in order to help the foreign terrorist organization prepare for potential future attacks against the United States,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.
Matthew Levitt, an expert on Hezbollah and a former Treasury official, noted that “most of his activities occurred in the United States, but Hezbollah also sent Kourani to China, where the group had previously procured chemicals used to make bombs of the kind the group built in Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Thailand.”
A 2012 Hezbollah terror attack that targeted a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing six and injuring 32, was carried out by IJO.
In several interviews with the FBI, Kourani explained that because of family connections to the terror group, he had been allowed to attend a Hezbollah training camp when he was 16. Kourani told the FBI that he was recruited in 2008 by Hezbollah and had a handler named Fadi. Fadi told Kourani to obtain U.S. citizenship, which he did in 2009.