22 February 2013

Nigeria: Iran Denies Links With Spy Cell in Nigeria

The Islamic Republic of Iran has denied that it trained militants in Nigeria to carry out assassination and attacks on Israeli, American and Nigerian officials.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister, Hussein Amir-Abdollahian, was quoted by Iranian state television on Friday that the allegations were "made up as the result of the ill will of the enemies of the two countries' good relations".

"Iran and Nigeria have friendly and close relations and despite the vast efforts of the two countries' enemies in recent years, relations and cooperation's have always improved," he said.

Mr. Amir-Abdollahian's statement is the first by any Iranian official since the claims by Nigerian security officials on Wednesday. The Iranian Embassy in Nigeria is yet to officially react to the claims.

The State Security Service, Thursday, announced the arrest of members of a cell, whose leader, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende was allegedly trained in Iran to recruit others and carry out the attacks.

Those arrested and paraded in Abuja by the SSS include Mr. Berende and two others.

The security service said it became suspicious after Mr. Berende made several suspicious trips to Iran, where he interacted with Iranians in a "high-profile terrorist network".

It said Mr. Berende and his Iranian handlers were involved in "grievous crimes" against Nigeria's national security.

Mr. Berende, who will be charged to court soon, also confessed on Wednesday that he had carried out surveillance for the Iranians.

In 2004, Israeli sources said an Iranian diplomat was arrested on suspicion of spying on the Israeli embassy in Nigeria's capital Abuja. Tehran denied any arrest.

In 2010, authorities at a Lagos port found a hidden shipment of rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons from Iran, supposedly bound for Gambia. A Nigerian and an Iranian face criminal charges over the shipment.

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