World News

Timeline: Key dates in alleged Iran assassination plot in U.S.

(Reuters) - U.S. authorities said on Tuesday they had charged two men linked to the Iranian government with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States.

Following are some key dates in the alleged plot, as described by court papers filed in New York and by U.S. Justice Department officials at a news conference in Washington.

May 24 - One Iranian, Manssor Arbabsiar, met in Mexico with someone posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel, but who in reality was a confidential informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Arbabsiar asked about the informant’s knowledge of explosives and explained he was interested in attacking a Saudi embassy.

June 2 - Arbabsiar returned to Mexico and held more meetings with the informant in late June and early July. He allegedly said his associates in Iran had discussed a number of “violent missions” including the murder of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir.

July 14 - The informant allegedly told Arbabsiar that his price for carrying out the murder was $1.5 million and that he would use four men to carry out the assassination.

July 17 - The informant allegedly told Arbabsiar one of his workers had already traveled to Washington to conduct surveillance of the ambassador, and they allegedly discussed bombing a restaurant in the United States where the ambassador frequently dined.

When the informant said others, including U.S. senators who dined at the restaurant could be killed in the attack, Arbabsiar allegedly dismissed the concerns as “no big deal.”

Aug 1 and Aug 9 - Arbabsiar, with the approval of his co-defendant, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly sent two wire transfers totaling $100,000 as a downpayment for the assassination.

Sept 28 - Arbabsiar flew to Mexico, but was denied entry and placed on a return flight. The next day, during a flight layover, he was arrested by federal agents at JFK International Airport in New York City.

Oct 4-5 - Arbabsiar, who has been in U.S. custody since his arrest, made phone calls that were monitored by U.S. law enforcement agents to Shakuri, described as a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He is believed to be based in Iran.

Shakuri allegedly confirmed to Arbabsiar the plot should move forward as quickly as possible, stating “just do it quickly, it’s late.”

Reporting by James Vicini in Washington, Editing by Deborah Charles and Sandra Maler