A senior Iranian official says Tehran foiled a plot by Israeli and Arab spy agencies to assassinate Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
State-run media on Thursday quoted Hossein Taeb, IRGC’s intelligence chief, as saying that “three terrorists” had been arrested before they could attack Soleimani.
The suspects had plotted to kill Soleimani during the Ashura commemorations on September 9 and 10, according to Taeb.
They sought to buy a property near a mosque built by Soleimani’s father in the city of Kerman, dig a tunnel underneath the site and rig it with “350 to 500 kilogrammes of explosives”, he said.
The team planned to “blow up the entire place” as soon as Soleimani entered the mosque for the Shia mourning ceremony.
Taeb said the suspects “went to a neighbouring country” and “large sums of money were spent to train and prepare them” to carry out the attack.
The assassination plot was orchestrated “by Arab-Israeli secret services and had been decided a few years ago”, he added.
Taeb did not name the Arab countries allegedly involved in the plan.
It was not possible to independently verify the events described by the Iranian media.
Soleimani heads the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, which runs foreign operations, and is regarded as the mastermind of Iran’s military strategy in the region.
In March, Soleimani received Iran’s highest military award, the “Order of Zulfiqar”.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said at the time that Israel was working to “uproot” Soleimani, according to Israeli media.
The Quds Force has shored up support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad when he looked close to defeat in the country’s war and also helped militias defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in Iraq.
There have been repeated air attacks on Quds Force bases in Syria and in August Israel accused it of planning “killer drone attacks” and said its air raids showed Tehran that its forces were vulnerable anywhere.