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Politics

Cyprus Discounts Iran Behind Alleged Plot to Kill Israeli Tycoon

NICOSIA — Cypriot officials have reportedly said that Iran – despite some initial media accounts – was not behind an alleged plan to assassinate an Israeli billonaire who has a business on the island.

Israel had said that a terror attack was planned but contradictory reports have continued, adding to the confusion of what was supposed to have taken place.

Also discounted were reports that the target was wealthy Israeli business owner Teddy Sagi, with initial stories claiming he was warned by Cypriot officials he would be killed by an Azerbaijani hit man.

Authorities now said that wasn't the case and that other members of his company were the targets, said the news site Philenews.

Sagi told Israeli's Channel 12 news that he was never tipped off or warned and decided to leave Cyprus for unrelated reasons. “The headlines sounded very scary, but it had nothing to do with me,” he said. “I didn’t receive any notification to leave.”

The alleged hired killer had on Cyprus on a flight from Russia using a Russian passport, had not been cooperating with police investigators but showed there he had rented cars, the news station said.

Landing in Larnaca he was said to have made his way to the city of Paralimni, near the northern, Turkish-occupied part of the island, where he rented a room and two vehicles, reports said.

Citing Cypriot police suspicions, Channel 12 news said that the suspect then traveled back to Larnaca, where he attempted to find Israeli businessmen in the Angumi business district, where most of the island’s Israelis work.

He reportedly crossed the Turkish-Cypriot border back and forth a number of times on a bike and then reportedly staked out an office complex known to be the workplace of multiple Israelis.

The Channel 12 report said he was caught on security cameras snooping around the neighborhood, evidence that was eventually used to apprehend him but it wasn't said who may have hired him or why, with Iran being dismissed.

The suspect was arrested in the capital Nicosia by Cypriot police from the Anti-Terrorism Unit with a gun and silencer on him that he had obtained while in Cyprus, according to media reports.

The website In-Cyprus though said officials in Nicosia now believe Sagi wasn't the target, but that it was officials from his gambling firm on the island, which is popular with Israelis tourists too.

After the suspect's arrest, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office released a statement on behalf of defense officials characterizing the incident as an Iranian terrorist attack on Israeli businesspeople on the island. The Iranian embassy in Nicosia had called the claim "baseless."

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