Abdullahi Mustapha Berende.
Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) announced the arrest of three members of an Iranian-backed terror cell that was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on US and Israeli interests as well as former Nigerian officials.
A spokesperson for the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said that the cell was led by a Shiite leader, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, who was arrested last December. Berende, who had received training in Iran, was aided by Sulaiman Saka, Saheed Adewumi, and Bunyamin Yusuf. Yusuf is still at large, according to the Premium Times.
Berende reportedly confessed to receiving training in Iran “in the use of AK 47 rifle and pistol” as well as “the production and detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).” The SSS said that “there is conclusive evidence that Berende, in collaboration with his Iranian handlers, were involved in grievous crimes against the national security of this country.” According to Haaretz, Berende last met his Iranian contacts in April 2012 in Dubai.
The cell was said to be planning attacks against a number of targets in Nigeria, including “the Lagos offices of the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID], the Haifa-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. and the Jewish Cultural Center,” according to Bloomberg. Additional press reports have indicated that the cell also staked out hotels frequented by Israelis and Americans.
The targeting of Israeli and Jewish targets by Iran and Hezbollah appears to be on the rise. Only weeks ago, Bulgaria declared that Hezbollah was responsible for the terror attack in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian national last July. And today in Cyprus, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a 24-year-old Lebanese-Swedish dual citizen who was arrested on July 7, 2012, admitted in court to being a member of Hezbollah and conducting reconnaissance for the Iranian-sponsored terror group.
Immediately following the Burgas attack, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division said Iran has “sharply increased its operational tempo and its willingness to conduct terrorist attacks targeting Israeli interests and the International Jewish community worldwide.” Between May 2011 and July 2012, over 20 attacks tied to Iran and Hezbollah against Israelis and Jews abroad were thwarted. These thwarted attacks, not all of which were publicly reported, took place in Cyprus, Turkey, Kenya, India, Thailand, and Azerbaijan, and elsewhere.