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An Iranian-directed plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and possibly attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington has been disrupted, Justice Department officials announced this afternoon.
Saying that the alleged “deadly plot … [was] directed by factions of the Iranian government” and involved an attempt to hire killers from a Mexican drug cartel, Attorney General Eric Holder also said Iran will be held to account.
The criminal complaint “filed today in the Southern District of New York,” Justice says, “charges Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force,” in the scheme. Among the charges against them:
“Conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives); and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries.”
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. More Details In The Allegations:
According to the Justice Department’s statement, Arbabsiar “met on a number of occasions in Mexico with a DEA confidential source (CS-1) who has posed as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel. … According to the complaint, Arbabsiar arranged to hire CS-1 and CS-1’s purported accomplices to murder the Ambassador, and Shakuri and other Iran-based co-conspirators were aware of and approved the plan. …
“Arbabsiar allegedly discussed bombing a restaurant in the United States that the Ambassador frequented. When CS-1 noted that others could be killed in the attack, including U.S. senators who dine at the restaurant, Arbabsiar allegedly dismissed these concerns as ‘no big deal.’ “
Update at 2:40 p.m. ET. White House Calls The Disruption A “Significant Achievement.”
“The President was first briefed on this issue in June and directed his Administration to provide all necessary support to this investigation. The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the President is enormously grateful for their exceptional work in this instance and countless others.” — Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman, in a statement just emailed to reporters.
Update at 2:35 p.m. ET. The Justice Statement.
Click on the title “Alleged Plot” in the box below to pop up a copy of the Justice Department’s statement about the allegations.
Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. More Details:
The Justice Department has posted a statement about the case here. It says, in part:
“A criminal complaint filed today in the Southern District of New York charges Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force, which is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad. …
“The criminal complaint alleges that, from the spring of 2011 to October 2011, Arbabsiar and his Iran-based co-conspirators, including Shakuri of the Qods Force, have been plotting the murder of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. In furtherance of this conspiracy, Arbabsiar allegedly met on a number of occasions in Mexico with a DEA confidential source (CS-1) who has posed as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar arranged to hire CS-1 and CS-1’s purported accomplices to murder the Ambassador, and Shakuri and other Iran-based co-conspirators were aware of and approved the plan. With Shakuri’s approval, Arbabsiar has allegedly caused approximately $100,000 to be wired into a bank account in the United States as a down payment to CS-1 for the anticipated killing of the Ambassador, which was to take place in the United States.”
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. “Directed By Factions Of The Iranian Government,” Holder Says:
The attorney general just announced that the court complaint alleges this was a “deadly plot … directed by factions of the Iranian government.”
Authorities say the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is behind the plot, Holder said, and that the scheme was “conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran.” The plan was to have members of the Mexican drug cartel carry out the attacks, authorities say.
Arbabsiar, he added, has been in custody since Sept. 29 and has been providing information about the plot. Shakuri is “at large,” Holder said.
Our original post:
“FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a ‘significant terrorist act in the United States’ tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.”
The network adds that:
“The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.”
Reuters reports that:
“U.S. authorities broke up an alleged plot to bomb the Israeli and Saudi Arabian embassies in Washington and assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, court documents and a U.S. official said on Tuesday. The criminal complaint, unsealed in federal court in New York City, identified the two alleged plotters as Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Both were originally from Iran and Arbabsiar is a naturalized U.S. citizen, it said.”
CNN is reporting the story as well.
Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials are due to brief reporters in the next few minutes. We’ll be updating this post with more information.