Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged two men with conspiracy to assassinate Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, in what they allege is an Iranian government-backed plot.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri with conspiracy to murder a foreign official and for attempting to commit an act of international terrorism. The two men were also charged in a federal complaint with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The alleged plot to kill Al-Jubeir were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in a press conference this afternoon in which he was joined by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bharara said the defendants were part of a “well-funded and pernicious plot” and that the charges that were filed today “should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground.”
The plot also allegedly involved an attack on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.
As Forbes reported:
One of the men, Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was arrested on September 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. But Shakuri, described by prosecutors as an Iran-based member of a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as Qods Force, remains at large.
The 21-page criminal complaint, which can be read here, alleges that Arbabsiar, Shakuri, and other Iran-based agents initiated the plot this spring. It claims that Arbabsiar agreed to travel to Mexico in July to pay a drug cartel member $1.5 million to enact the killing, and that he paid a down payment of $100,000, but failed to realize that the drug cartel member was a confidential source of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
So far, Iran has rejected the charge, according to the latest Associated Press report. The IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, said the U.S. Justice Department’s accusations were part of “America’s new propaganda scenario” against Iran.
The men could face life in prison if convicted of all charges brought against them.