DOJ: Hezbollah member scouted Boston landmarks for potential terrorist attack

BOSTON — A New Jersey man is facing federal charges for allegedly scouting potential terror targets including several landmarks in Boston.

Federal prosecutors say 42-year-old Alexei Saab of Morristown, New Jersey was a scout of the militant group Hezbollah and was looking at locations in Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. "in order to help the foreign terrorist organization prepare for potential future attacks."

Federal prosecutors say Saab was sending information about the locations back to the terrorist group's leaders in Lebanon.

Boston's Fenway Park, Prudential Center, and Faneuil Hall were among the alleged targets.

The charges were unveiled Thursday afternoon in a complaint that has been sealed since July when Saab was arrested.

The government says Saab was a Hezbollah member since 1996 and has extensive training in weapons and military tactics, including how to build and set off bombs.

Saab faces charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as a variety of conspiracy and other charges in a nine-count indictment returned Thursday.

The 42-year-old legally entered the U.S. in 2000 with a Lebanese passport. In 2008, he became a naturalized citizen.

Other locations the feds say he has scouted were the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the Washington Monument, as well as airports, tunnels, and bridges.

The FBI Boston Division tells Boston 25 News the photos acquired were taken before 2006:

"We're going to decline comment on this specific case as it's now a pending matter before the Southern District of NY. However, the unsealed court documents reveal an alleged nexus to Boston.

Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts, to include the Boston Police Department have been briefed on this alleged nexus.

It should be noted that photographs acquired during the investigation were taken prior to 2006 and are not a result of specific tasking by Hezbollah.

We were not aware of any specific or credible threats to the City of Boston during the time the photos were taken as it relates to this matter.  Additionally, we currently are not aware of any specific or credible threats to the City of Boston."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told us Thursday that there is no credible threat and Boston has had increased security since news came out in 2017 that the Las Vegas shooter who killed nearly 60 people at a concert had researched locations in Boston.

The Boston Police Department reiterated that they are not aware of any credible threats at this time:

"The Boston Police Department has been working closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure the continued safety of the residents of the City of Boston.    The Boston Police Department has been briefed by the FBI and we have subsequently notified the properties impacted by the information revealed within these indictments, as well as the respective security teams of these findings.

Along with the FBI, the Boston Police Department wants to reiterate that there were no active or credible threats at the time the photos were taken, and we are currently not aware of any active or credible threats at this time."

Mass. State Police say they have been in close communication with the FBI and Boston Police:

"Regarding today's federal charges in New York against ALEXEI SAAB, the Massachusetts State Police have been in close communication with the FBI and Boston Police and have determined that there is no current or specific threat to the Commonwealth.

Over the past several years, the MSP's Commonwealth Fusion Center has continued to enhance its threat detection and assessment capabilities, and has implemented several new security best practices for special events and large gatherings.

The Governor's Large Venue Security Task Force, State Police, and the Fusion Center work together daily to identify and mitigate threats, share relevant information with our public and private partners, including the City of Boston, and to enhance safety at these locations. The Large Venue Security Task Force has also been working with private sector partners to formulate recommendations to enhance public safety at large venues, such as arenas and stadiums, that will reflect proven best practices."

>> Related: Boston Police: Las Vegas shooter researched locations including Fenway

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