Iran Says It Thwarted Plot to Assassinate Top Guards Commander

Golnar Motevalli

(Bloomberg) -- Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it thwarted plans by Arab and Israeli intelligence agencies to kill the commander of its elite Qods unit earlier this year, publishing details of its claims amid a tense standoff in the Gulf.

Several people were arrested in connection with the plot to assassinate General Qassem Soleimani, Guards spy chief Hossein Taeb was cited as saying by Sepah News.

Soleimani, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, is a household name in Iran where he’s feted for helping defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and largely keeping the group out of Iranian territory. He’s been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2007 and in May this year Washington designated the IRGC in its entirety a foreign terrorist organization, the first time the label has been applied to an official state institution or a country’s security forces.

Taeb said the plot involved a “team of terrorists” trained in neighboring countries who planned to place as much as 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of explosives in a tunnel beneath a religious shrine built by Soleimani’s late father in Kerman in central Iran.

The explosives were to be detonated while Soleimani took part in the annual Shia Fatimiyya mourning ceremony, he said, without giving exact dates for the attack or the arrests. Iran held the Fatimiyya holiday in early February this year.

According to Taeb, the IRGC’s own intelligence services tracked the three-member team as it prepared the attack. He didn’t explain the delay in going public.

Tensions between Iran and many of its neighbors have soared since the U.S. abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran’s economy and oil exports, severing a major source of income for the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and leading European nations all blame Iran for an attack on critical Saudi oil facilities last month. Tehran denies the claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Golnar Motevalli in London at gmotevalli@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Paul Abelsky

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