Azerbaijan arrests two over alleged anti-Shiite plot

AFP , Saturday 23 Nov 2013

Azerbaijan has arrested two men for allegedly plotting attacks on Shias in the mainly Shiite Muslim, but strictly secular, ex-Soviet state, the country's security agency said Saturday.

"Nariman Mirzayev and Mirzehmet Rustamov are suspected of planning terrorist attacks and acquiring a large amount of weapons, ammunition and explosives," Azerbaijan's ministry of national security said in a statement.

In October a Facebook user under the pseudonym Anakin Skywalker -- the original name of the villain Darth Vader in the Star Wars films -- allegedly posted a picture of the two Azerbaijani nationals brandishing weapons and calling for attacks on Shiite sites and the murder of a prominent cleric in Baku, the statement said.

Nestled between Iran and Russia's restive north Caucasus region, oil-rich Azerbaijan has long been concerned about the spread of radical Islam -- especially among the the large number of unemployed youth who feel left behind despite the country's recent oil boom.

Authorities in the tightly-controlled Caspian nation have also cracked down on moderate clerics and their supporters who have spoken out against the government of strongman President Ilham Aliyev.

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