NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The Justice Department on Tuesday accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, with help from a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel.
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Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, whom authorities said was a Quds Force member. Arbabsiar was arraigned in Manhattan on Tuesday, but the second suspect is still at large.
WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported that, according to the federal complaint, Arbabsiar was in the market for military grade weapons and explosives and recruits from the drug cartel to carry out the assassination mission for $1.5 million.
EXTRA: Read The Complaint
“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 Attorney General Eric Holder.
Both men were charged in New York federal court. Holder said the bomb plot was a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.
“Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said.
Mueller said the arrest of Arbabsiar came after he met in Mexico with a government informant posing as a member of a drug cartel.
“These individuals had no regard for their intended victim, no regard for innocent citizens who might have been hurt or killed in this attempted assassination,” said Mueller.
“We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said.
Bharara says the plan was to possibly murder the ambassador in a restaurant.
“When the confidential source noted that there could be 100 or 150 people in a fictional restaurant where the requested bombing would take place, including possibly members of the United States Congress, the lead defendant, acting on behalf of a component of the government of Iran, said ‘no problem’ and ‘no big deal,'” said Bharara.
“This would be an unprecedented act by a foreign government,” Congressman Peter King told 1010 WINS. “It violates international law, it violates American law, and the president has every right to take whatever action he feels is necessary against Iran.”
Holder said the U.S. government would be taking unspecified action against the Iranian government as early as Tuesday afternoon. Asked whether the plot was blessed by the top echelons of the Iranian government, Holder said the Justice Department was not making that accusation.
Shakuri remains at large. Arbabsiar was arrested Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Prosecutors said he faces up to life in prison if convicted.
A spokesman for the the Iranian government called the charges “a fabrication,” CBS 2’s John Slattery reported. However, in a statement, the Justice Department said “the defendant has identified by name and in photographic arrays, goverment of Iran officials who participated in this plot.”
The Saudi Embassy in Washington said the assassination plot is a “despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity.”
The Saudi statement made no mention of the Iranian government.
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