U.S. issues terror warning after alleged Iran plot; Texas town shocked at neighbor’s ID
The United States issued a terror warning to its citizens and international diplomats early Wednesday after claiming to have foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
The State Department said the alleged plot “may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain countries, to include possible attacks on the United States.”
“U.S. citizens residing and traveling abroad should review the Department’s Worldwide Caution and other travel information when making decisions concerning their travel plans and activities while abroad,” it said, according to AFP.
U.S. officials had earlier said that law enforcement had broken up the “chilling” plot planned high up in the Iranian government, in which elite Quds Force operatives sought to acquire explosives from a Mexican drug gang.
Iran denied the allegations, calling them an “evil plot” in a complaint submitted to the United Nations in which Tehran accused the United States and Israel of engineering the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists.
The exchange of accusations was likely to further deepen the rift between Washington and Tehran, already fiercely divided over Iran's nuclear program and support for anti-Israel militant groups in the Middle East.
Residents of this seaside Texas town were shocked to learn Tuesday that an Iranian extremist likely lived in their backyard as he hatched a plot to kill a Saudi envoy on U.S. soil, according to AFP.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding Iranian and U.S. passports, lived in Texas for decades.
U.S. federal authorities charged him and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of the Quds Force unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, with conspiring with Iranian government factions to blow up the Saudi Ambassador.
Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and appeared in court Tuesday in Manhattan. Authorities say he has confessed and provided testimony about the role of Iranian government elements in the plot.
The used-car salesman was also accused of trying to hire Mexican drug cartel assassins for $1.5 million.
According to property records from Nueces County, Texas, Arbabsiar owned several properties across Corpus Christi, including multiple businesses. Many of the properties have sale signs posted outside or were recently sold. He also had a criminal record with the county.
Neighbors said they had not seen Arbabsiar, known locally as “Jack” or “Scarface,” in the area for at least four months. He never appeared to be particularly devout and seemed more interested in business dealings, they said.
He was involved in, or partially owned, several used car lots. Arbasiar also owned a fast-food outlet at the Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, according to records.
Court documents showed Arbabsiar was arrested and charged with theft in 2001, but those charges were dropped the following year.
He was charged with possession of a controlled substance in Williamson County in March of 2010, but those charges were also dismissed. And in May 2004, Arbabsiar pleaded guilty to driving without a license.
Corpus Christi attorney Fred Jimenez said he represented Arbabsiar in the theft case in 2001.
Those charges stemmed from a business deal gone sour, according to Jimenez. A judge ruled that it was a civil matter and the case was dismissed.
“He was a talkative, outgoing person. The type of person you would imagine would be involved in several businesses,” Jimenez said, adding that there were no indications that Arbabsiar was linked to terror groups or activities.
Jimenez said Arbabsiar moved to Round Rock, Texas near Austin around four years ago after spending decades living in Corpus Christi.
During a visit to the last known residential address for Arbabsiar on the 1600 block of West Manor Street in Corpus Christi, some residents who were shown a photograph of the suspect said they remembered him but had not seen him in a while.
“I’ve seen him here. Not lately but probably like four months ago because this (new tenant has) been renting for four months already. (Arbabsiar) would come out and do the yard and stuff,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be named.
A man living in the home said Arbabsiar lived there 10 years ago, but would not confirm whether he was renting from the suspect.