A question about Hizballah and Mexico

Terry Jeffrey
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Posted: Jan 28, 2004 12:00 AM

Politicians serious about preventing another Sept. 11 should listen to the leader of Hizballah, and then read an indictment unsealed this month in Detroit.

"Let the entire world hear me," said Sheik Hassan Nasrallah on Sept. 27, 2002. "Our hostility to the Great Satan is absolute."

There's good reason to take this sheik seriously. In 1983, his Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group attacked the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. According to the opinion of U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in the case of Peterson v. the Islamic Republic of Iran, Nasrallah attended the meeting in Baalbek, Lebanon, where the 1983 attack was planned. Until Sept. 11, it remained the deadliest terrorist strike ever against the United States.

The sheik's Sept. 27, 2002, rally in Beirut celebrated the Palestinian intifadah. It was broadcast live on Lebanese TV and monitored by the BBC.

"Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September," Nasrallah said that day, "Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America!"

Six months later, according to the BBC, Nasrallah warned Americans that if the U.S. invaded Iraq, "The region's people will receive you with rifles, blood, arms, martyrdom and martyrdom operations."

Now, turn to May 3, 2003. That's when FBI agents searched the Dearborn, Mich., residence of Mahmoud Kourani, a 32-year-old illegal alien from Lebanon.

In a statement submitted last week in federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Chadwell revealed words the FBI found on audiotapes there: "You alone are the sun of my lands, Nasrallah! Nasrallah!/. . . your voice is nothing less than my jihad."

"We offer to you Hizballah, a pledge of loyalty," said a tape. ". . . Rise for Jihad! . . . I offer you, Hizballah, my blood in my hand."

Kourani pleaded guilty to harboring an illegal alien. A judge sentenced him to six months. On Jan. 15, a second indictment was unsealed, charging Kourani with conspiracy to provide material support to Hizballah.

"Kourani was a member, fighter, recruiter and fundraiser for Hizballah," said the indictment. "Operating at first from Lebanon and later in the United States, Kourani was a dedicated member of Hizballah who received specialized training in radical Shiite fundamentalism, weaponry, spy craft, and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran."

"Kourani," Chadwell added in his statement, "is charged with conspiring with individuals at the highest levels of the terrorist organization, including one of his brothers who is the Hizballah chief of military security for southern Lebanon."

Kourani got to America, the prosecutors allege, with the help of a Mexican official.

"On approximately Feb. 4, 2001, Kourani surreptitiously entered the United States by sneaking across the U.S./Mexico border in the trunk of a car," wrote Chadwell. "He reached Mexico by paying $3,000 used to bribe an official in the Mexican Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, to give him a Mexican visa."

Do prosecutors believe that official was Imelda Ortiz Abdala, the one-time Mexican consul in Beirut who was arrested by Mexico in November, according to the Associated Press, "on charges of helping a smuggling ring move Arab migrants into the United States from Mexico"? "They are not sure if that is the person that received the money," said Sandy Palazzolo, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Jeffrey G. Collins of Detroit. "They have information that she worked there during this time frame, but they don't know if that is in fact the person that he did bribe."

In a sentencing memorandum in Kourani's alien-harboring case, Chadwell told the court Kourani's "offense of conviction was part of a continuing scheme to bring illegal aliens to the United States from Lebanon through Mexico."

Kourani has pleaded not guilty to providing material support to Hizballah. I asked his attorney, Nabih Ayad, about the claim in the indictment that Kourani was a member, fighter, recruiter and fundraiser for Hizballah. "He denies all that," said Ayad. Kourani also contests the government's assertion that he bought a Mexican visa for $3,000 in Beirut. "My client told me specifically," said Ayad, "that he got it legitimately through the Mexican consulate."

Why did Kourani come to America? "I think why millions of Americans, the immigrants, come to the United States," said Ayad. "Basically, to make some money. . . . According to his statements to the FBI agents, he was here to make some money to go back with $10,000 for his wife and children."

Whatever the eventual outcome in this case, simple prudence demands that a question be asked of our political leaders: If they don't secure our borders against illegal immigration, how can they secure our country against Hizballah?

And Hizballah, as Sheik Nasrallah says, seeks "Death to America!"