U.S. agents have disrupted a $1.5 million "murder-for-hire scheme" involving Iran, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday. "The criminal complaint unsealed today exposes a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives,” Holder said. Read the latest developments here. Below is a timeline according to the federal complaint (PDF) filed in the case.
Spring 2011: In a plot code-named "Chevrolet," Manssor Arbabsiar, aka Mansour Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen with both U.S. and Iranian passports, and Iran-based Gholam Shakuri, aka Ali Gholam Shakuri, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and others conspire to kill a foreign official, U.S. authorities say.
Federal officials say Arbabsiar met "on a number of occasions in Mexico with a Drug Enforcement Administration confidential source." Posing as an associate of a sophisticated and violent international drug cartel, the source, called CS-1 in the federal complaint, was hired by Arbabsiar and his cohorts to assassinate the ambassador.
May 24: Arbabsiar travels back and forth from Texas to Mexico, meeting with the DEA source, CS-1. During the course of the meetings, Arbabsiar inquires about explosives, explaining that he was interested in attacking an embassy in Saudi Arabia. The agent tells Arbabsiar that he was knowledgeable about plastic explosives.
May 30: Arbabsiar flies to Houston, according to travel records.
June 23: Arbabsiar returns to Mexico, where he meets the agent, who is posing as a drug trafficker. At the meeting, Arbabsiar explains that his associates in Iran had discussed a number of violent missions for the source's criminal associates to execute, including the murder of the ambassador.
Editor's note: The FBI and the DEA have disrupted a plot involving Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and commit other attacks, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Two men - one arrested, the other at large - have been charged in connection with the plot, which the Justice Department says was directed by elements of the Iranian government.
The Justice Department says one of the men – Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding an Iranian passport – arranged to hire for the assassination someone in Mexico who he thought was an associate of a drug trafficking cartel. The person in Mexico actually was a DEA confidential source who was posing as a cartel associate, the Justice Department says.
Follow below for the latest developments and read the Justice Department complaint (PDF).
[Updated at 8:09 p.m. ET] In their investigation into an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, federal agents interrogated suspect Manssor Arbabsiar for 12 days, a senior counterterrorism official said Tuesday.
Cooperation from Mexican officials played a key role in the investigation, the official said. U.S. authorities arranged with Mexican officials for Arbabsiar to be denied entry into Mexico, the official said.
From there, he was placed on an airplane to New York, where he was taken into custody and quietly taken to a U.S. government facility, the counterterrorism official said. U.S. authorities interviewed him there every day and compiled dozens of intelligence reports.
[Updated at 8:04 p.m. ET] Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss released a statement Tuesday, congratulating the FBI, DEA and other federal agencies involved in the case.
"While I believe our justice system will deal appropriately with the defendant in custody, our government must also deal with the Iranian regime," Chambliss said. "In addition to allegedly sponsoring this plot, Iran has supported and provided weapons for attacks on our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has continued far too long with no repercussions."
[Updated at 7:41 p.m. ET] Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee responded to U.S. accusations that the Iranian government was involved in a murder-for-hire plot Tuesday night, telling CNN's Erin Burnett that the whole thing was "a lie."
“The whole issue is a provocation against Iran," Khazaee said. "We strongly reject this accusation," he said, suggesting that the narrative was a "blatant" ploy by Washington to terrorize the American public.
[Updated at 7:41 p.m. ET] Tom Kean, former chairman of the 9/11 Commission said the alleged plot "surprises me." Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett, Kean said the plot is "pretty close to an act of war. You don’t go in somebody’s capital to blow somebody up.”
[Updated at 7:07 p.m. ET] New York Rep. Peter King, speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett, said the alleged Iranian plot should be taken seriously by U.S. officials. “This would have been an act of war [if carried out]. It has raised this relationship, between the United States and Iran, to a very precipitous level,” King said.
“This violates all international norms, it violates all international laws. ... We can’t allow this to go without a strong reaction," King, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee," told CNN.
After saying he would back whatever action the administration might take, King said “we should at least consider a sign of military action. ... something to indicate how seriously we're taking this." He added that U.S. officials should even consider removing Iranian diplomats from the country. “I think everything should be kept on the table.”
[Updated at 6:52 p.m. ET] A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the alleged plot was "a child's story" and "a fabrication."
The Iranian government was awaiting details about the accusations, spokesman Ali Akbar Javanfekr said. He suggested U.S. authorities were attempting to distract American citizens.
"They want to take the public's mind off the serious domestic problems they're facing these days and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country," he said.
[Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET] Mexican immigration officials blocked Manssor Arbabsiar, now accused of plotting to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, from entering Mexico last month, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.
Mexican immigration authorities blocked his entry because of an arrest warrant issued by the United States, the foreign ministry said. U.S. authorities later arrested him in New York, it said.
[Updated at 5:57 p.m. ET] U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in recent weeks went to Saudi Arabia to brief Saudi King Abdullah on the terror plot, a senior administration official familiar with the terror plot said, according to CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
The Saudis were “outraged" not only because of the plot, but because the ambassador is "someone who is close to the king,” the official said.
The Obama administration has specific information tying senior officials in Iran's Quds Force – a special unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – the official said. One question, according to the official, is whether the Quds officials were freelancing or got approval from senior officials in the Iranian regime.
The administration intends to “go to other countries and say this is a serious escalation of Iran’s use of political violence,” the official said. “Some may build on their sanctions; some could cut off relations with the IRGC.”
[Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET] Mexico's foreign ministry, explaining why Arbabsiar was denied entry into Mexico on September 28, says Mexican immigration officials blocked him because of an arrest warrant issued by the United States.
U.S. authorities arrested Arbabsiar a day later in New York, where he had flown after being denied entry into Mexico, the U.S. Justice Department has said. The Justice Department says Arbabsiar had intended to go to Mexico to guarantee final payment for an assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Arbabsiar had arranged to hire someone for the assassination that he thought was a drug cartel associate, but actually was a DEA confidential source, the Justice Department says.
"In strict compliance with domestic and international law, Mexico was able to neutralize a significant risk to Mexico’s national security, while at the same time reinforcing bilateral and reciprocal cooperation with the United States," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement released Tuesday. "This operation confirmed that adequate mechanisms and procedures are in place to anticipate and prevent the presence in Mexico of individuals that pose a risk to national security and interests."
[Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the United States "will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended."
She also said the United States would consult with nations about possibly taking measures to "further isolate (Iran) from the international community."
Comments of the day:
"’Senate likely to be defeated in next election.’ Story at 6 o'clock. Want change? Vote out the scumbags and vote in people that will represent YOUR interests.” – IdahoJ
“And liberal morons everywhere will still blame the GOP for this.” – CitizenXXX
Defeat on the horizon for Obama’s Job’s bill?
The Senate will likely reject President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill Tuesday — legislation that includes a $265 billion extension of the payroll tax cut and a 5.6 percent surtax on people earning more than $1 million.
About the failure to pass the bill, CNN.com readers posted comments largely pointing fingers at a number of sources: Congress, the Republicans and Democrats and the President.
Coloradan said, “The GOP will keep trying to run out the clock and do nothing until the next election. That's a long time for the American people to wait for help. Too bad the money isn't going to Halliburton for phony construction that never gets completed in Iraq. Then it would be fast tracked by our Republican congressmen and women. Rebuild our own country though? Naaah. That might help Obama.”
sunsudo said, “Yes, yes. Blame the GOP even though Odummer and the Democrats had a supermajority for his first two years and NEVER had a passed budget. But please blame the GOP. I need a good laugh this a.m.
USATheFree responded, “sunsudo: I keep hearing people use that excuse ‘the Democrats had supermajority, why didn't they pass this and why didn't they pass that then.’ Two things: First, Republicans broke the filibuster record right out of the park during that time so it was amazing that anything got done at all. Second, why should it take one party's supermajority to do anything in this country? Shouldn't doing the right thing be the only thing that matters?” FULL POST
Rudy Giuliani made it official Tuesday. He's not running for president.
The former New York City mayor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate made his announcement at a Long Island Association event in New York State.
Giuliani's comments come one week after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin both separately formally declared that they would not make bids for the GOP nomination.
[Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET] Israeli Army Radio reports that the exchange could involve the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children.
Israeli media are reporting that Hamas will soon announce the names of Palestinian prisoners that Israel will release in exchange for the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
[Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit - captured in Israel in June 2006 by Palestinian militants - will be returning to Israel in the next couple of days after a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians was brokered to release his freedom.
"We will return Gilad healthy and whole to his family and all of Israel," Netanyahu said. "The negotiations were difficult... we had to make difficult decisions but (the) correct one. With all the change taking place in the Middle East we did not know if a better deal or any deal would have been possible."
[Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET] A tweet from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: "We have concluded ardeous negotiations with #Hamas to release #Gilad #Shalit. He will be coming home in the next few days."
A following tweet said: "the agreement to release #Shalit was signed in initials last Thursday and today was signed formally by the two parties."
[Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET] A deal has been brokered to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida confirmed to CNN.
[Posted at 2:23 p.m. ET] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a government meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the possible release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, an Israeli government official told CNN.
The official said Netanyahu would not have called such a meeting unless he thought that the proposals for Shalit's release were serious.
The judge in the federal trial of alleged "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab refused Tuesday to prevent the prosecution from calling the device he allegedly carried a "bomb."
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds also refused to exclude a photo of AbdulMutallab's burned genitals from the evidence.
Before the prosecution began its opening statement, defense standby counsel Anthony Chambers asked that the prosecutors not be allowed to use the words "explosive device" or "bomb" during the trial. It's up to the jury to decide whether the device AbdulMutallab was carrying was a bomb, Chambers argued.
"I'm going to deny that motion," responded Edmunds. "It makes no sense whatsoever."
As for the photo, the judge said it did not seem "unusually prejudicial."
Congressional investigators intend to issue subpoenas seeking communications from several top Justice Department officials - including Attorney General Eric Holder - relating to the discredited "Fast and Furious" federal gunrunning operation, according to a source close to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Operation Fast and Furious involved agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowing illegal sales of guns believed to be destined for Mexican drug cartels to "walk" from Phoenix, Arizona, gun stores into Mexico.
The idea was to track the sellers and purchasers of guns to Mexican cartels, but the program became mired in controversy after weapons found at Mexican and American murder scenes were traced back to the program. Mexican officials and critics in the United States called the program a failure, saying it exacerbated the longstanding problem of U.S. weapons getting into the hands of the violent Mexican cartels.
Korean pop and movie star Rain, whose real name is Jung Ji-hoon, joined his country’s military Tuesday, according to news reports.
“Thank you for coming. I’m sorry to make such a fuss while leaving. I’ll be back from my duties soon,” Rain told about 1,000 fans near a military base in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, the Korean Times reported.
The celebrity thanked screaming fans, managed a grin and gave them a solemn military salute before retreating into the camp. The farewell lasted five minutes, the Korean Times reported.
Rain, 29, will serve in the military for about 22 months. By law, all South Korean males must serve their country for two years by the end of the year they turn 30. Rain, who has been an international music star for about a decade, has chosen to cut it close.
Comment of the morning:
“What do you call canceling the first two weeks of the NBA season? A good start.” – YodarCritch
NBA deadlock continues
Players and management have yet to reach a deal on a new labor agreement. But, CNN.com readers said they’re tired of complaints from people who make millions of dollars. They also said they have plenty of other sports options to fill their time. Some said they wouldn’t mind if the NBA disappeared entirely.
Spiff59 said, “Cancel the whole season as far as I'm concerned. Crying that an average salary of 5 million a year is not enough is disgusting. What? Making a hundred times more than an average American isn't enough?”
stevenabb500 responded, “You try supporting two kids on less than seven million a year! I just can't imagine a family living on ONLY five million a year or something ... eggs and gas are expensive.”
anon123421 responded, “The $5 million or so average salary is a mean average. The median is far less. Just because a few stars are making $30 million does not mean others are making less than 80k.”
But 1121234 responded, “@anon123421. That's not accurate, the bare minimum, the BARE minimum that an NBA player will make is $300K a year. All NBA players make at least that. It's part of their bargaining agreement.”
A team of four NOAA veterinarians and a killer whale specialist from SeaWorld, San Diego will begin necropsies Tuesday on two wayward killer whales whose carcasses were found in Alaska's Nushagak River, according to NOAA.
The two whales that died and another that has not been spotted since the weekend had sparked concern from scientists who said they had been seen 30 miles up an Alaska river where they normally wouldn't have been.
Marine mammal scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service said the whales were likely suffering stress from being in fresh water for such an extended period. The scientists worried if the whales didn't head downstream soon, they'd be trapped in the river.
Water levels are dropping as colder temperatures reduce the flow from glaciers into the river. That could make it difficult for the whales to navigate certain sections of the river. And the Nushagak could freeze over by the end of October, according to the fisheries service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA biologist Barbara Mahoney said killer whales are sometimes seen where the Nushagak empties into Nushagak Bay near Dillingham, but none had ever been reported this far inland. In fact, this is the first time killer whales have spent a prolonged period of time in an Alaska river, according to NOAA.
Officials said the orcas are in an area where they are unlikely to encounter humans, but they are asking that people stay 100 yards away for their own safety and that of the animals.
The fisheries service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the local Bristol Bay Native Association are monitoring the situation to determine if and how the whales could be returned to salt water, federal officials said.
Fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig had been on the run for more than 16 years. Bulger was on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list in relation to 19 mob-related murders as head of a South Boston Irish gang before he fled an impending racketeering indictment in 1995.
So how exactly were officials able to take the big mobster down after so long?
In short, it's because of a stray cat, the watchful eye of a former Miss Iceland and a chance viewing of an FBI report on CNN, according to an extensive report by the Boston Globe.
Bulger and Greig were going by the names Charlie and Carol Gasko while on the run. They were a May-December couple living in the heart of sunny Southern California, just two blocks from the beach and an upscale outdoor mall, in a town known for its unapologetic liberalism. They were largely quiet and polite neighbors. Nothing they did seemed to mirror the lore Bulger had created after disappearing or his mobster persona, which became the inspiration for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film "The Departed."
Life on the lam: Bulger, girlfriend enjoyed ocean breezes, fine dining
Instead, they were seen as gentle people who neighbors had sympathy for. According to the Globe, Bulger and Greig had convinced people that he had Alzheimer's disease. And although they stayed inside and to themselves often, they found a friend of sorts outside their apartment in Santa Monica.
That's where Greig came upon a stray cat. She had no idea at the time that their affinity for the cat would be a key clue that led to their arrest after being on the lam.
The crew of an Italian ship seized by pirates on Monday was freed Tuesday thanks to an operation by U.S. and British troops working with the Italian military, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Eleven pirates who hijacked the Montecristo surrendered to the troops operating under NATO's Operation Ocean Shield, the ministry said in a statement.
The crew took refuge in a compartment in the ship and all crew members are safe, the ministry said. The captain sent a message Monday indicating that the vessel had been attacked by a ship with five armed people on board, the D'Alesio Group said in a statement.
The captain immediately activated security procedures, the statement said.
The crew included 23 people from Italy, Ukraine, and India, the D'Alesio Group said.
On the day of their release, and one day after they were captured, Italy is to start putting military guards on ships traversing the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia, the Defense Ministry announced Tuesday.
Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa is signing an agreement Tuesday with the confederation of Italian ship owners to put military guards on board vessels in the area of the Indian Ocean at risk from Somali pirates, the ministry told CNN.
Hurricane Jova closed in on Mexico's Pacific coast early Tuesday, a weakening but still powerful Category 3 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.
Jova was about 130 miles southwest of the resort town of Manzanillo at 8 a.m. ET, according to the hurricane center. It was moving north-northeast at about 6 mph, with 115 mph winds.
The outer bands of the hurricane were moving onshore Tuesday morning, the hurricane center said.
"Jova is expected to reach the coast of Mexico near major hurricane strength," the center said. The center of the hurricane will be near the Mexican coast by Tuesday afternoon or evening, it said.
A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta San Telmo north to Cabo Corrientes, near Puerto Vallarta, forecasters said. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Lazaro Cardenas to south of Punta San Telmo and north of Cabo Corrientes to El Roblito.
CNN.com Live is your home for gavel-to-gavel coverage of Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial.
Today's programming highlights...
11:45 am ET - Conrad Murray trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, who's accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.
[Updated at 7:48 a.m.] Two United Nations peacekeepers and a police officer were killed in an ambush in a camp for displaced people in Sudan's Darfur region, a U.N. representative told CNN Tuesday.
The two peacekeepers were armed; the police officer was not, said Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for the joint U.N. and African Union mission in the troubled region. Another five people were injured in the incident, three seriously.
They came under attack in North Darfur while the security unit was on patrol in the camp at about 11 p.m. Monday, Saiki said. One of the assailants was also killed.
It was unclear why the attack occurred.
The joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur is the world's largest at 20,000 authorized troops. Since it began in 2008, 33 peacekeepers have been killed.
Darfur is among the most dangerous areas of operation for U.N. personnel. The region remains a tinderbox. At least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others driven from their homes as a result of fighting between Sudanese rebel groups and the Khartoum government and its allied armed militia.
– CNN's James Partington contributed to the story.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators will leave the confines of Lower Manhattan Tuesday and head uptown, organizers said.
An afternoon march will take them past the homes of well-to-do folks like JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, billionaire David Koch and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.
Nearly four weeks into their protests, demonstrators typically have not strayed too far from downtown, where a home base of sorts has been established at Zuccotti Park.
Protesters plan to hop on the subway, emerging at 59th street near Central Park, where they will start their tour just after noon, according to organizers. It was uncertain how many people would take part.
Thailand's capital was braced for unprecedented flooding Tuesday, amid the monsoon rains that have overwhelmed much of the country and neighboring Cambodia in recent weeks.
So far 269 people have been killed in Thailand, according to the country's Flood Relief Operations Command. Some 60 of the country's 76 provinces have so far been affected, impacting some eight million people.
Syria's new umbrella opposition group is gaining key backers in the Arab world, with Libya's new authorities recognizing it as the "sole representative of the Syrian people" and a coalition of Egyptian democrats backing it.
The Democratic Alliance for Egypt held a meeting with a Syrian National Council delegation in Egypt, said Sayed el-Badawi, whose al-Wafd party is a member of the alliance.
"The meeting aimed to foster a stronger relationship between the Syrian Council and the Egyptian parties," Adeeb Shishakly, a senior member of the Syrian National Council told CNN. "At the conclusion of the meeting, the 43 parties recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people," he said.
Egypt's military and political leaders have not recognized the Syrian opposition group, despite the delegation's efforts.
The Arab League has not recognized it either.
A Pakistani court has suspended the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, a security guard who killed a liberal politician over the latter's remarks on the nation's controversial blasphemy law.
"Qadri was provoked by the governor and should therefore be tried for murder, not an act of terror which is what he was tried for earlier" said his attorney Raja Shuja Ur Rehman in confirming the judge's decision.
Earlier this month, a terror court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Pakistan's capital, sentenced Qadri to death. The Islamabad High Court suspended the sentence Tuesday until the appeals process is complete.
The court did not say when it will meet again to consider the case.
Police said Qadri, a policeman serving as a security guard for Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, fatally shot him in a market in Islamabad on January 4 because of Taseer's remarks on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.
Myanmar will grant amnesty to more than 6,000 prisoners, the country's state television said Tuesday.
The announcement said the government will release 6,359 prisoners Wednesday. But it was not clear whether the freed inmates will include political detainees.
Hours earlier, the government-appointed National Human Rights Commission had called for a pardon of "prisoners of conscience," according to reports carried in the local media.
Critics were skeptical when the government officially established the commission last month, saying many of its members had previously made statements defending Myanmar's human rights record.
The country is also known as Burma.
Since Myanmar held elections in November - its first in two decades - its leaders have been gingerly reaching out to critics.
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