Police identifies Iranian terrorists operating inside Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 24, 2019 23:00

Police identifies Iranian terrorists operating inside Albania

Story Highlights

  • Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu said that "terrorist cells are also responsible, among other things, for the March 2018 plan to carry out a terrorist attack during the celebrations of the Nevruz Festival, attended by high-level members of the to the Iranian opposition organization Mujahideen al Khalq (MEK), a plan that was prevented by increased State Police measures, thanks to accurate information.”

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TIRANA, Oct. 23 – Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), with over 2,000 members residing in Albania as refugees since 2014.

Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu and Head of Anti-terror Gledis Nano said the Iranian-government led terrorist cell is operating within Albanian borders.

During a press conference, Veliu said the “terrorist cell is also responsible, among other things, for the March 2018 plan to carry out a terrorist attack during the celebrations of the Nevruz Festival, attended by high-level members of the to the Iranian opposition organization Mujahideen al Khalq (MEK), a plan that was prevented by increased State Police measures, thanks to accurate information.” 

According to Albanian police, “the terrorist cell is run by a QUDS Forces operative, known under the name Peyman, a permanent resident of Iran, who remotely manages a number of operations in Albania and elsewhere in Central and Western Europe.” 

One of the cell members is Alireza Naghashzadeh, a former MEK member with an Austrian passport. “Naghashzadeh was sent by Peyman to gather information in Albania during several separate visits as part of plans for an attack that was eventually halted,” Veliu explained.

Another operative is Abdolkhalegh Malek Zadeh, an Iranian living in Turkey leading the cell’s operational work. 

“Malek Zadeh, also known by criminal connections under the nickname Ferhat, has worked over the past two years with Abdulselam Turgut, a well-known Turkish organized crime figure, to plan terrorist attacks at Peyman and the QUDS Forces behalf”, said Veliu.

Turgut is an infamous Turkish mafia boss and the head of an international drug trafficking, imprisoned recently in Turkey and Azerbaijan for drug trafficking accusations. He is also known by the Albanian authorities. 

In 2011, Turgut was also jailed in Albania on charges related to the alleged trafficking of about 1 tonne of heroin, but fled the country using a false passport after the court changed the security measure from imprisonment to house arrest. 

QUDS is the operational wing of IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which operate beyond Iran’s borders.

QUDS Forces are led by Qassem Soleimani, who is responsible, among others, for Iran’s activity in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 

Within the QUDS unit there is a sub-unit exclusively dealing with all opposition organizations. The unit’s Modus Operandi includes long-distance management of proxy forces, usually criminals and mafia members with various pasts who cover Iran’s terrorist activities. 

The criminal operatives based in the Balkans, responding to Turgut or a drug-dealer closely connected to him, have been sent to Albania since 2018 to advance the planned attacks against MEK, as ordered by Malek Zadeh. 

“We bring into attention that since 2014, in coordination with the US and EU, Albania has hosted a large number of MEK members, an organization which views itself as a long-distance opposition and as a practical alternative to the Iranian regime, and which in turn is considered a serious threat to the regime’s survival. MEK is a key target for the Iranian security forces, which aim to attach organization members wherever they live and operate outside of Iran,” Veliu said during the press conference. 

 

The March 2018 attack that was prevented

Under the excuse they were two journalists invited to participate in the Nowruz celebrations organized by the Bektashi Order Headquarters in Albania, two Iranian citizens entered the country in March 22, 2018.

It was later revealed the two were members of a terrorist organization planning attacks in Tirana, who were arrested by anti-terror agents as they were trying to enter the headquarters.

It was these two citizens’ entry into the country which raised doubts on the Iranian diplomatic service, which potentially helped the two citizens enter by providing them with diplomatic passports.

The State Information Service (SHISH) had allegedly received information since the start of 2018 that terrorist attacks could take place in Albania against the MEK community. 

SHISH, state police and the Serious Crimes Prosecution had been informed in detail about the arrival of the two citizens, who had managed to pass all checks until they were arrested, also due to their diplomatic passports. 

Upon interrogation, the two suspects told police they were journalists who visited Albania upon invitation, while sources claim that at the time police forces were also informed about a possible attack at the camp where the MEK community is residing, nearby Durres. 

Concerning the relations between MEK members and the Bektashi Order, World Leader of the Order Edmond Brahimaj told ‘News 24’ concerning the attacks that were prevented under celebrations that he was informed after everything had taken place and that although the order does not foster significant relations with MEK, the order’s religious activities are open to everyone.

Diplomatic expulsions 

Last December, Iran’s ambassador to Albania and another embassy diplomat was expelled from Albania. The foreign ministry reported at the time that “the two Iranian diplomats were declared unwanted after allegedly being involved in activities that threaten security in the country.”

The decision to declare Iranian diplomats undesirable – the Albanian Foreign Ministry further clarified – was taken in consultation with the Allied countries because of their activity in Albania in violation of their diplomatic status.

They were declared ‘non-grata,’ while the decision was congratulated by US President Donald Trump through a letter addressed to Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

“Thank you for your uninterrupted efforts by going against Iras and its destabilizing efforts in order to shut the mouths of all dissidents around the world,” Trump said, among other things, in his letter. 

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 24, 2019 23:00