US accuses Iran of bomb plot to kill Saudi ambassador in Washington

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Los Angeles

The US has accused Iran of a "flagrant" violation of international law after claiming the government in Tehran was involved in a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington in what officials called a "deadly murder plot".

At a press conference, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, described the alleged conspiracy to detonate a bomb in a restaurant frequented by the diplomat, Adel al-Jubeir. Had it succeeded, scores of bystanders could also have been killed. Two men, including a member of Iran's special-forces unit, the Quds, were charged with orchestrating the plot. One of the duo, Manssor Arbabsiar, has been arrested and appeared in New York Federal court last night, wearing blue jeans and a dress shirt. The other, Gholam Shakuri, is still at large.

The allegations will dramatically ratchet-up tension between the US and Tehran. They represent the first time in recent history that the country, a member of the so-called "Axis of Evil", has been accused of sponsoring attempted terrorist activity on US soil.

Washington immediately announced economic sanctions against five Iranian individuals connected to the affair. "In addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions," said Holder. The news also sent an immediate diplomatic shockwave through the Middle East. King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, was informed of the plot two weeks ago, and officials in Riyadh predicted that they would send Iranian-Saudi relations to "their lowest point yet".

Iran's mission to the United Nations responded by denying any involvement in the alleged bomb conspiracy "We categorically reject these baseless allegations," it said.

Details of the supposed plot, and how it was uncovered, were still emerging late last night. Robert Meuller, the FBI director who appeared alongside Holder at the press conference, said the case "reads like the pages of a Hollywood script". Documents lodged in court say that it unwound because of an alleged drug smuggler who was arrested earlier this year and, in order to avoid incarceration, had agreed to act as an informant for the Drugs Enforcement Administration.

The unnamed informant posed as a member of the Zetas drug cartel and agreed to meet with Arbabsiar and Shakuri in Mexico in May. Subsequent meetings took place in the US over the coming months, And further details of were hashed-out over the telephone.

Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalised US citizen, outlined the specifics of his plot during a meeting in July. He apparently told the informant that he wanted Mexican drug cartel members to carry out attacks on the Israeli and Saudi embassies, as well as seeking to assassinate al-Jubeir. Hiring Latino assassins would prevent the operation from being traced back to Tehran. He added that the planned strikes had been authorised by his superiors, who were relaxed about the prospect of them causing "mass casualties".

"They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed]," Arbabsiar is alleged to have said during one conversation. When told that bombing the Saudi's favourite restaurant could potentially kill US congressmen who also regularly dined there, he replied "no big deal".

The informant negotiated a fee of $1.5m for the operation. On 29 September, shortly after he had received a down-payment of $100,000, Arbabsiar was arrested at New York's JFK Airport as he travelled to Mexico to finalise details of the plan.

Holder stressed no explosives were ever acquired for the plot, meaning that the public were never in danger.

Arbabsiar and Shakuri are charged with "conspiracy to murder a foreign official," two counts of "foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire," as well as "conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction" and "conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. If convicted, they face life in prison.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit