Nigeria arrests Iranian 'bomb group'

Nigeria's special branch police said Thursday they have arrested members of an Iranian "terrorist cell" similar to those discovered in Thailand and other countries a year ago.

The State Security Service (SSS) alleged they broke the Iranian cell with the arrests of three Nigerians, after their leader made "suspicious trips to Iran", according to an AFP report in the Daily Nation newspaper of Kenya.

"There is conclusive evidence that (the alleged Nigerian contact) in collaboration with his Iranian handlers were involved in grievous crimes against the national security of this country," said SSS spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar.

Similar allegations were made last year on Valentine's Day when bombs exploded in Bangkok, and at least five Iranian citizens were linked to the blasts. Three Iranians await trial in a Bangkok prison.

Similar cells were discovered in India and Georgia after bombers attempted to attack Israelis in those countries.

The chief suspect arrested in Nigeria, 50-year old Muslim cleric, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, travelled to Teheran, where he was given instructions and aid by Iranian handlers, the Nigerian secret service alleged.

"His Iranian sponsors requested that he identify and gather intelligence on public places and prominent hotels frequented by Americans and Israelis to facilitate attacks," said Ms Ogar.

Berende was presented to local reporters in Abuja. He denied involvement in espionage or terror-related activities.

But, "As for surveillance, that one is true ... It is a regrettable phenomenon I shouldn't be proud of it," he said. Possible targets he watched were the offices of USAID and the Jewish Cultural Centre (Chabad) in Lagos, the SSS official said.

Related search: thaland, iran, teheran, nigeria, abuja, lagos, bombs, valentine's

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