Azerbaijan arrests suspected attack plotters with ties to Iran and Hezbollah


Police in Azerbaijan have arrested an unspecified number of people linked to Iran and to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah suspected of planning attacks in the country, state television said Tuesday.

State broadcaster AzTV, quoting the National Security Ministry, said police had detained people linked to Iranian intelligence services and Hezbollah who intended to stage attacks on foreign citizens in the country.

The report said the suspects had gathered intelligence on targets and bought explosives, guns and ammunition, but gave no further details.

The reported arrests come after a car bomb last week critically injured an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi while Georgian officials defused a second device in Tbilisi.

A suspected Iranian bomber had his legs blown off as he hurled a grenade at Thai police. Israel blamed Iran for the attacks which came at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

A senior Israeli official involved in counter-terrorism warned on Friday that Iran and Hezbollah were planning to carry out new anti-Israeli attacks around the world after the incidents in India, Thailand and Georgia.

Police in mainly Muslim but officially secular Azerbaijan last month also arrested two men with alleged links to Iranian intelligence on suspicion of plotting to kill prominent Israelis in Azerbaijan.

The allegations infuriated Tehran, which sent a diplomatic note of protest accusing Baku of collaborating with Israel’s spy services and helping assassins who have killed Iranian nuclear scientists.

Baku responded with a letter to Tehran calling the claim “absurd, unsubstantiated and false”, according to Azerbaijani media reports on Tuesday.

Tehran has been angered by Baku’s friendly links with Israel, while Azerbaijan has accused Iran of sponsoring Islamic radicals on its territory.

Relations between the ex-Soviet state and the Islamic republic are complicated by the presence of a huge ethnic Azeri minority in Iran, which far outnumbers Azerbaijan’s own population of 9.2 million.