By BOB OLIVER
HEIGHTS — A 22-year-old resident is in federal custody on terrorism charges alleging that he was attempting to leave the country to fight alongside Hizballah in Syria.
Mohammad Haffan Hamdan, 22, was arrested by officers of the FBI Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport March 16 while before boarding an Air France flight bound for Paris before transferring onto another flight to Lebanon.
Hamdan is charged with trying to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Hizballah, a Shiite Muslim group based in Lebanon, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and it is illegal to provide money, goods or services to any terrorist organization.
Hamdan appeared before U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Magistrate R. Steven Whalen March 17 for an arraignment where a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Because the government asked that Hamdan be detained until the proceedings, the defendant is being held without bond.
He will next appear in the U.S. District Court for a hearing at 1 p.m. Monday.
If convicted, Hamdan faces penalties of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to published reports, Hamdan is a Lebanese national and legal U.S. resident who has been in this country since 2007 and recently began the process of applying for citizenship.
According to the criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, an informant told the FBI that Hamdan wanted to travel to Syria to fight with Hizballah on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad and that he had previously been involved with the group in 2006, where he received military training.
The report also states that after Hamdan was arrested he denied having plans to join Hizballah and said he was traveling to Lebanon for dental work.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)