By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA (Reuters) — Nigeria charged two of its citizens on Wednesday with assisting an Iranian militant cell in planning possible attacks on Israeli targets, alleging that one had travelled to Tehran and Dubai to receive cash and had known about spying on Israeli interests.
The secret service (SSS) arrested Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and Saheed Oluremi Adewumi, plus one other Nigerian, in February. It accused them of being members of a "high profile terrorist network" that was planning attacks on home soil.
The alleged cell was not named in the charge sheet. Iran has never responded to the allegations.
Nigerian authorities are growing concerned about an apparent surge in interest in the West African country by Shia Muslim militant groups with links to Iran or Lebanon. Three Lebanese have been in court over an alleged Hezbollah plot since June.
Although the threat pales in comparison to Sunni Islamist groups like Al Qaeda or Nigerian outfit Boko Haram, recent cases have raised alarm.
Berende is accused of travelling to Iran to help with "material assistance and terrorist training ... in the use of fire arms, explosives and other related weapons."
He is also accused of knowing about spying on two Israeli targets in Lagos (the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish centre and the Lagos branch of AA Consulting) but failing to alert police.
The charge did not make clear whether he himself is accused of doing the spying, but the SSS had earlier suggested he did.
The charges also say he took $30,000 in funding to carry out operations. He and Adewumi were both accused of aiding an Iranian terrorist group, including by using cameras to help them.
Iran has been in the spotlight in Nigeria before. In 2010, authorities at a Lagos port found a shipment of artillery rockets, rifle rounds and other weapons from Iran. A Nigerian and an Iranian each received a five-year sentence in May for smuggling the weapons.
An Iranian diplomat was arrested in 2004 on suspicion of spying on the Israeli embassy in Nigeria's capital Abuja, Israeli sources said. Iran denied any arrest.
(Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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