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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Iranian opposition names key regime 'terror plotter' in Europe

Exiled group says Tehran is stepping up operations against the West

Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, at the anti-regime conference allegedly targeted by Iranian terrorists. Reuters

An Iranian opposition group on Wednesday identified a senior regime official it claims is responsible for plotting an expanded programme of terrorist attacks in Europe.

The National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said that Iranian agents had stepped up their activities in the West since the start of 2018, citing alleged plots in Albania and Belgium and spying operations in the United States.

The group – which was the target of a foiled car bomb plot at a conference on the outskirts of Paris in June – identified Reza Amiri Moghaddam as the key player in planning terrorist attacks and said that he reported directly to the regime’s Intelligence Minister.

The group, citing information it had obtained from within the regime, said that the budget of the intelligence ministry had been increased with Mr Moghaddam heading a section responsible for overseas intelligence work. “He plays a key role in the regime’s terrorism in Europe,” the group said.

The NCRI said that the official had been responsible for instructing the regime’s Vienna-based intelligence chief, Assadollah Assadi, to oversee attack planning for the NCRI conference in France.

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The plot was foiled after Belgian police arrested an Iranian couple, residents of the port city of Antwerp, while driving a car loaded with explosives and allegedly on the way to the conference that was attended by thousands of people including prominent western politicians.

German prosecutors allege that Mr Assadi handed the couple the explosives in Luxembourg. He was arrested in Germany and faces extradition to Belgium.

Claims that Iran was expanding its overseas intelligence and terrorism capabilities comes despite attempts by European governments to salvage trading arrangements jeopardised by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

“The regime’s assessment is that Europe is very keen to maintain the status quo and thus will not have a serious reaction to its terrorist activities in Europe,” said the NCRI in a statement.

Albanian authorities had disrupted an earlier car bombing in March at an event due to be attended by Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and President Trump’s lawyer, according to NCRI officials.

Two Iranians, who identified themselves as journalists, were temporarily detained on suspicion of terrorism. A US State Department document said that the authorities in Tirana had disrupted attack planning but gave no further details.

The group’s claims follow comments in June by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, who surprised analysts when he said that Iran “conducts covert assassination operations in the heart of Europe” but gave no further detail.

The NCRI is controlled by the militant Mujahedin-e-Khalq which has long been considered a terrorist organisation by Tehran and has sought to disrupt its activities. Two Iranians were charged with spying last month for allegedly monitoring the activities of the group in the United States.

Iraj Mesdaghi, an exiled Iranian political activist, said that he was sceptical about the Tirana plot, but said that he believed the terrorist threat from the regime had increased.

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