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Iran rejects Saudi accusation it trained terrorist cell uncovered in kingdom

Riyadh says it arrested 10 people earlier this month and seized weapons and explosives from the group
Saudi Arabia said the cell had received training from Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Reuters)

Iran rejected on Tuesday an accusation by Saudi Arabia that it had trained a terrorist cell, which Riyadh said it had taken down.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it had arrested 10 people earlier this month and seized weapons and explosives from a terrorist cell that had received training from Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

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The arrests were made last week after a probe uncovered the suspects' identities and two hideouts: a house and a farm, according to a statement made by the Presidency of State Security, a Saudi intelligence body.

A spokesman said in the statement that three of those arrested had been trained in Iran and had received "military and field training including on how to make explosives" between October and December 2017 at sites linked to the IRGC in Iran.

"The repetitive and worthless accusations of the Saudi rulers are not the way for Riyadh to achieve its goals, and our recommendation is that Saudi Arabia choose the path of honesty and wisdom instead of worthless scenarios," Iranian state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying.

Saudi Arabia did not reveal the identities of those arrested "for the interest of the investigation", as authorities sought to gather more information about their activities and connections both within and outside of the kingdom.

According to the statement, Saudi security forces seized more than 5kg of gunpowder, 17 packages containing chemicals, and military uniforms. 

It said they had also confiscated listening devices, computers, knives, Kalashnikov automatic rifles, pistols and ammunition.

Bahrain operation

Iran and its main regional rival Saudi Arabia have been involved in proxy wars across the Middle East from Syria to Yemen.

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The United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed a series of attacks against oil interests in the Gulf since last year on Iran. Tehran has denied the accusations.

Earlier this month, Bahrain's interior ministry said it had foiled a "terrorist attack" early this year that was also backed by the IRGC.

The Bahraini newspaper Akhbar al-Khaleej said the foiled attacks had been planned to avenge the January killing in Iraq of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike in Baghdad.

It said security forces had foiled the plot after finding an explosive device in the Badei area, meant to target a visiting foreign delegation. 

The newspaper said a case was being prepared against 18 accused individuals, of whom nine were now in Iran.