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March 20, 2014 12:00 am

Michigan Man Arrested Trying to Fight for Hezbollah in Syria

avatar by Steven Emerson

Gruesome footage of an execution of Syrian Army soldiers by rebel forces. Photo: Screenshot.

Gruesome footage of an execution of Syrian Army soldiers by rebel forces. Photo: Screenshot.

A Dearborn resident was arrested Sunday night and charged with providing material support to the Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah.

Mohammad Hassan Hamdan, who was born in Lebanon and has been living in the United States since 2007, tried to travel to Syria to fight alongside Hezbollah fighters in the civil war that has been raging there for the last three years.

According the complaint, Hamdan told an FBI informant around Christmas that he wanted to go to Syria to fight with Hezbollah. He couldn’t leave yet because his sister took away his Lebanese passport to prevent him from going overseas to wage jihad. Hamdan, a permanent U.S. resident, applied for naturalization as an American citizen. He also applied for a new Lebanese passport.

Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy based in Lebanon, has a history of violent attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets. The U.S. designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and the European Union recently added the military wing of the Lebanese group to its list of terrorist organizations.

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Syria’s civil war has been a magnet for radical Islamists throughout the world seeking to join the jihad. But most of those foreign fighters have sided with rebel groups fighting Assad, including several with al-Qaeda ties. In July, Amir Farouk Ibrahim, a Pittsburgh resident, reportedly died fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A Michigan woman, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, was killed in Syria in May.

Also Sunday, a 20-year-old California man was arrested at the Canadian border and charged with attempting to travel to Syria to join forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Hamdan claimed to have been active with Hezbollah before coming to America, the complaint said. That included the terrorist group’s 2006 war with Israel. He told the informant he received military training and worked with Hezbollah’s public assistance programs. He did not disclose this in his U.S. immigration papers.

He said he would be paid between $500 and $1,000 by “the party” (Hezbollah) to fight in Syria, the complaint said. “I am leaving behind a family…My uncles tried to convince me [not to go to Syria]…but this is my decision and no one else’s,” Hamdan said.

On Saturday, he booked a roundtrip Air France flight to Lebanon through Paris. Authorities arrested Hamdan at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport after he had cleared security and was waiting to board his flight.

He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He denied any plans to join Hezbollah and fight in Syria, instead claiming that he was undertaking the trip to Lebanon to undergo some dental work.

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