Saudi Arabia says it has taken down a “terrorist cell” that had received training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, arresting 10 people and seizing weapons and explosives, while Tehran says the allegation is a “complete fabrication”.
A Saudi spokesman for the presidency of state security said in a statement published on the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Monday that three of those arrested had been trained in Iran while the rest were “linked to the cell in various roles”.
Cell members “received military and field training, including on how to make explosives, inside Revolutionary Guards sites in Iran” for several weeks in late 2017, he said.
The statement said weapons and explosives were confiscated at two locations, a house and a farm, in the Gulf Arab state, which is the world’s largest oil exporter and a key ally of the United States.
Among the items seized were improvised explosive devices (IEDs), dozens of stun guns, kilos of gunpowder and a variety of rifles and pistols, according to the statement. It did not say where last week’s raid or arrests were carried out.
“The competent authorities will conduct investigations with all those arrested to find out more information about their activities and the persons connected to them in the kingdom and abroad,” the statement read.
In response, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Tuesday called the Saudi claims a “complete fabrication” and a continuation of the kingdom’s “non-credible and repetitive” stances.
“By putting aside political rationality, and this time as part of a shabby display, Saudi rulers have chosen false frame-ups against Iran as a weapon to deflect public opinion and a method to cover up their own failed efforts,” he said during a news conference in Tehran.
Khatibzadeh said such methods will not benefit Saudi Arabia and called on the regional rival to “choose a path of honesty and wisdom”.
The controversy came a week after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz called on the United Nations General Assembly to devise a comprehensive solution to stop Iranian “expansionism” and prevent Tehran “from obtaining weapons of mass destruction”.
Iran said the kingdom was distorting facts and branded it as the “main financial and logistical supporter of terrorism in the region”.
Riyadh cut diplomatic relations with Tehran following the 2016 attacks by demonstrators on its missions in Iran after the kingdom executed revered Shia leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia state Iran are also locked in several proxy wars in the region, including in neighbouring Yemen and Syria, where proxies of the Shia Lebanese group Hezbollah fight in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Riyadh has blamed Iran for an unprecedented missile and drone attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities last year, a charge Tehran denies.