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Israel Accuses Iran Of Cyprus Attack Plot After Alleged Hitman Arrested

The alleged hitman was arrested a week ago after crossing from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. (file photo)

The Israeli prime minister's office has accused Iran of orchestrating an attempted "act of terror” against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus, after a man suspected of being hired to carry out the attacks was arrested on the island.

Iran -- Israel's arch-foe -- swiftly denied the accusation on October 4, with the country's embassy in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, saying in a statement emailed to Reuters that Israel was "always making such a baseless allegation against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

According to local media reports, the suspect in the case is an Azerbaijani aged either 38 or 39 who used a Russian passport.

He was arrested a week ago in Nicosia after crossing from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. A gun with a silencer was found in his vehicle during his arrest, the reports said.

The man had reportedly arrived from Russia about three weeks ago and was under police surveillance.

Some reports in Israeli and Cypriot media have said that Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi was one of a number of Israeli businesspeople on a hit list.

But both the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Sagi's company denied that the tycoon was known to be a would-be victim.

"This is a foiled Iranian terrorist incident," the Sagi Group said in a statement. "The target for the assassination is not Teddy Sagi but Israelis in Cyprus."

Some Israeli media reports suggested that the plot could be linked to business disputes involving Sagi, whose ventures include online gambling and real estate.

In the past Israeli officials have accused Iran or its ally Hizballah of carrying out, or planning to carry out, attacks on Israelis abroad.

In 2012, Cyprus convicted a member of the Lebanese militant group of plotting to attack Israelis on the island.

The same year, Israel and Bulgaria accused Hizballah of carrying out a suicide bombing in the southeastern European country in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian were killed.

Both Iran and Hizballah have denied involvement in the incident.

With reporting by the BBC and Reuters
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