From MSNBC.com, Reuters and the AP:
US: Iran faction plotted to kill Saudi ambassador
Saudi, Israeli embassies were also targeted, U.S. says; two men chargedNBC, msnbc.com and news service
WASHINGTON — Two men allegedly working for "factions of the Iranian government" have been charged with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and to attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.The criminal complaint, unsealed Tuesday in federal court in New York City, identified the two as Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri.
Holder said Arbabsiar, who was arrested on Sept. 29 in New York, was working for the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard and had confessed to a plot.
Shakuri, who is based in Iran, remains at large, Holder said. He allegedly is a member of Iran's Quds Force, a special unit of the Revolutionary Guard.
Both are originally from Iran and Arbabsiar, 56, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, the complaint said.
The Obama administration will be "taking further action" against Iran as a result, Holder said.
The indictment is the result of a sting operation conducted by the FBI, Holder said.
The case started when Arbabsiar, who lived in Texas, allegedly made contact with an undercover DEA informant in Mexico and asked for assistance from the Zetas drug cartel to assassinate the ambassador by blowing up a restaurant that he frequented.
No explosives were actually placed, and no one was in any danger, officials said.
A Justice Department statement said Arbabsiar claimed he was being directed by his cousin in Iran, described as a "big general" in the Iranian military and within the Quds Force.
Arbabsiar allegedly wired $100,000 to the informant as a down payment on a $1.5 million assassination fee.
Other sources told ABC News that he reportedly told the informant that Iran could provide "tons of opium" to the Zetas.
Arbabsiar was to make a first court appearance later Tuesday. He could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The Quds Force was designated a terrorist group by the United States in 2007, in part because of alleged support of the Taliban and other extremist groups.
A senior U.S. official told NBC News to look to Treasury and the State Department for the immediate response against Iran.
The official also said that U.S. intelligence has a "high-degree" of confidence that the "Quds Force at the highest levels" was involved in the alleged plot and that this was not some "rogue operation."
President Barack Obama was first briefed on the alleged plot in June, said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor."The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the president is enormously grateful for their exceptional work in this instance and countless others," Vietor said.
NBC's Pete Williams and Jim Miklaszewski, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, contributed to this report.