DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Federal agents say they arrested 22-year-old metro Detroit man before he could fly to the Middle East to fight Syrian rebels.
Mohammad Hamdan of Dearborn Heights, Lebanese national living locally as a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 2007, is charged with breaking a law that prohibits support for terrorist organizations.
The government says Hassan planned to fight with Hizballah, a Shiite Muslim group in Lebanon that the U.S. classifies as terrorist. Hizballah fighters have been aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The complaint alleges that Hamdan planned to fly to Lebanon and onto Syria to fight in the Syrian civil war, providing "material support to a foreign terrorist organization."
Hamdan, who was arrested Sunday at Detroit Metro Airport, told the FBI he was traveling for dental work, not war in Syria.
The FBI says an informant recorded conversations with Hamdan during which he said he was going to Lebanon to help Hizballah, and that he intended to become an active member. On the recorded calls, Hamdan also allegedly said he'd been involved with Hizballah before he immigrated to the U.S., and that he had received military training from the group.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office — because Hizballah is a designated terrorist organization under U.S. law — it's illegal to provide money, goods or services to the group.
Defense attorney Art Weiss says Hamdan is "adamant that he didn't do anything wrong."
Hamdan appeared in federal court Monday and was returned to jail to await a March 24 court hearing.
Talking to WWJ Newsradio 950's Jon Hewett outside the courthouse, Humdan's aunt, Rehab Beydoun, said her nephew was set up by a local man who tipped federal investigators.
"He was telling us, this guy is up to something; he keeps calling me, asking me questions. Why would he do that? So, he wanted to play a game with him to see where he's going, and he got in trouble," she said.
Beydoun said that Humdan may have been showing off during the recorded conversations, but he is no terrorist.
"He never did nothing bad here. He'd just go hang out with his friends," Beydoun said.
Also talking to WWJ on Monday was Hussein Awda who said he's been a friend of Hamdan's since childhood.
"I know this guy; I've been knowing this guy for a long time. He would not do such a thing as this ... like, join any terrorist something," Awda said. "This terrorist (group) that they're talking about, it's very religious. He's not that religious. He does not even pray!"
If convicted Hamdan faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI says Hizballah terrorists attacks, among others, have included suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983; the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in 1984; and the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, during which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. Elements of the group were also responsible, according to the U.S. government, for the kidnapping, detention and murder of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s; and for providing explosives training to select Iraqi Shia militants since 2004. [Read more in the complaint]
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