By Tom Shoop
October 11, 2011This article has beeen updated.
Federal law enforcement agencies have disrupted a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, officials said Tuesday.
In a press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder characterized the plot as an "international murder-for-hire scheme" that involved elements of the Iranian government.
The conspiracy was "conceived, sponsored, and was directed from Iran," Holder said.
Federal officials filed a criminal complaint Tuesday in the Southern District of New York against Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports; and Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran's Qods Force, which is said to sponsor terrorist activities abroad.
Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29, at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Shakuri remains at large.
According to the complaint, Arbabsiar unknowingly approached a Drug Enforcement Administration informant earlier this year while seeking the support of a Mexican drug cartel in planning the attacks.
With Shakuri's approval, Arbabsiar allegedly arranged for $100,000 to be wired into a bank account in the United States as a down payment to the DEA confidential source on a $1.5 million plan to kill the Saudi ambassador.
The complaint alleges that Arbabsiar admitted the plan was to blow up a restaurant in the United States frequented by the ambassador, and acknowledged that many bystanders could be killed.
ABC News reported that the plot involved bombing the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington after the ambassador was killed.
The story "reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, [but] the impact would have been very real," said FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the details of the alleged plot "chilling, to say the least."
"Today's charges should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground," he added.
The ongoing investigation into the alleged plot is being conducted by the FBI's Houston Division and and the DEA's Houston Division, with assistance from the FBI's New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.
By Tom Shoop
October 11, 2011