Canadian accused of aiding Hezbollah
A Lebanese-born Canadian, whose family lived in Toronto, is accused of using a fake passport in an attempt to enter Israel and conduct a bombing on behalf of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, according to an indictment unsealed in U.S. federal court in Detroit.
Faouzi Ayoub, 44, who is on the FBI's most-wanted list of terror suspects, faces one count of passport fraud, according to the August 2009 indictment that was only unsealed in U.S. District Court in Detroit within the past week.
The FBI's office in Detroit could not discuss the case Wednesday, or say where Ayoub was believed to be now, or explain why the indictment was unsealed, spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
But she noted that he should be considered armed and dangerous, and that anyone with information about him should contact their local FBI office, or nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
"Future indictments may be handed down as various investigations proceed in connection to other terrorist incidents," according to a posting about Ayoub and others on the FBI's website.
Federal prosecutors accuse Ayoub, whose last known U.S. residence was in southeast Michigan, of using a passport under the name of Frank Mariano Boschi to enter Israel in October 2000. The indictment does not indicate whether authorities believe Ayoub, who is also known as Fawzi Ayoub, participated in any bombing.
Ayoub was arrested in June, 2002 in the West Bank city of Hebron and held as an accused "illegal fighter." Israeli authorities alleged that he was an operative of Hezbollah sent to the Palestinian area to organize attacks against Israel.
A statement from the Israeli prime minister's office at the time called him "a senior Hezbollah fighter" who took part in operations inside and outside Lebanon, "including events in which many civilians were casualties."
The operations outside Lebanon in which Ayoub allegedly took part were not specified, but Israeli officials have accused Iran and Hezbollah of being responsible for the car-bomb attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994. A total of 113 civilians were killed in the two attacks.
In 2004, Ayoub was reported to have been among 436 prisoners the Israeli government swapped in exchange with Hezbollah for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers killed in October 2000 while on patrol in northern Israel.
The U.S. government classifies Hezbollah, which dominates the Lebanese government coalition, as a terrorist group. Hezbollah fought a devastating, 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead. Lebanon and Israel technically remain at war.
It was not clear how long Ayoub's name had been on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list, at the top of which is Egyptian Islamic Jihad founder Ayman al-Zawahiri, indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. The attacks killed 224 people. Al-Zawahiri's group later merged with al-Qaeda.
With files from The Canadian Press