Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Albania says it foiled Iranian plot to attack exiled dissidents

'Terrorist cell' was set up by Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, police say

Qassem Suleimani led the Quds Force before he was killed. AP
Qassem Suleimani led the Quds Force before he was killed. AP

Albanian security agencies thwarted a plot to attack exiled Iranian opposition members that was masterminded by the foreign operations unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the country’s police said.

Police said they uncovered a “terrorist cell” belonging to Iran’s elite Quds Force that had planned attacks on members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), including at a gathering for a religious festival in March last year.

"The Albanian authorities have identified these individuals and thanks to intelligence from informants inside the criminal organisations have prevented the plan of March 2018 and the eventual planning of attacks by organised crime members ... on behalf of Iran," General Police Director Ardi Veliu said.

Albanian police on Wednesday police published photos of three Iranians and one Turkish national allegedly involved in the terrorist cell.

The leader "resides in Turkey" and another "has an Austrian passport", police said.

Albania is hosting about 3,000 members of the MEK at the request of the United States and the United Nations. They currently live in a compound in the north-west of the country, near the port of .

Led by Paris-based Maryam Rajavi, the MEK casts itself as an alternative to Iran’s theocratic regime. Ms Rajavi is also the leader of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that includes the MEK.

France said in October 2018 that Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind a June plot to attack the NCRI's annual rally outside Paris. It seized assets belonging to Tehran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals and expelled an Iranian diplomat.

Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador and another diplomat last December for "damaging its national security", but did not provide any details.

"It is time that the Iranian regime’s embassies in Europe, including the one in Albania, be shut down. They are not diplomatic centres, but direct and facilitate the regime’s terrorist operations abroad,” Ali Safavi, an official with the NCRI foreign affairs committee, said in a statement after the announcement by Albanian police.

In January the European Union sanctioned Iran's intelligence services after accusing Tehran of being involved in plots to assassinate regime opponents in the Netherlands, Denmark and France.

Updated: October 24, 2019 06:22 PM

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