Two Charged in Plot to Assassinate Saudi Ambassador to U.S.

October 11, 2011 Updated Oct 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM EDT

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Attorney General Eric Holder

October 11, 2011 Updated Oct 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM EDT

Two individuals have been charged in New York for their alleged participation in a plot directed by elements of the Iranian government to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the United States with explosives while the Ambassador was in the United States, the Department of Justice announced in a news release on Tuesday.

The charges were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder; FBI Director Robert S. Mueller; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

A criminal complaint filed Tuesday 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 that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad.

Both defendants are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official; 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.   Arbabsiar is further charged with an additional count of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

Shakuri remains at large. Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29, 2011, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and will make his initial appearance today before in federal court in Manhattan.   He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison if convicted of all the charges. 

“The criminal complaint unsealed today exposes a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives,” said Attorney General Holder. “Through the diligent and coordinated efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we were able to disrupt this plot before anyone was harmed.  We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously and bring those who have violated any laws to justice.”

 

“The investigation leading to today’s charges illustrates both the challenges and complexities of the international threat environment, and our increased ability today to bring together the intelligence and law enforcement resources necessary to better identify and disrupt those threats, regardless of their origin,” said FBI Director Mueller.

 “The disruption of this plot is a significant milestone that stems from months of hard work by our law enforcement and intelligence professionals,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.   “I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who helped bring about today’s case.”

“As alleged, these defendants were part of a well-funded and pernicious plot that had, as its first priority, the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, without care or concern for the mass casualties that would result from their planned attack,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.   “Today’s charges should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground.”  

Read the entire DOJ news release HERE.