Belgium charges couple over plot to attack Iranian opposition in France
search

Belgium charges couple over plot to attack Iranian opposition in France

Husband and wife ‘of Iranian origin’ accused of planning to blow up rally attended by 25,000 people, alleged accomplice arrested in France, Iranian diplomat detained in Germany

A woman leaves flowers at the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
A woman leaves flowers at the scene of a shooting in Liege, Belgium, May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Belgian prosecutors on Monday charged a husband and wife over a plot to bomb a weekend rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France.

Amir S. and Nasimeh N., both Belgian nationals, “are suspected of having attempted to carry out a bomb attack” on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, during a conference organized by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor said.

The couple, described by prosecutors as being “of Iranian origin,” carried 500 grams (about a pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.

Belgian prosecutors said an alleged accomplice was under arrest in France, while two others were released after questioning by French police.

The statement said that an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, a contact of the couple, was also arrested in Germany.

The newspaper Bild on Monday identified the diplomat as 47-year-old Assadollah A.

Police carried out five raids across Belgium on Saturday linked to the affair, authorities said, though they refused to detail any results of the operation.

The statement said about 25,000 people attended the rally in France.

The People’s Mujahedeen (MEK), formed in the 1960s to overthrow the shah of Iran, fought the rise of the mullahs in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It earned itself a listing as a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department in 1997 and was only removed from terror watchlists by the European Union in 2008 and by Washington in 2012.

Belgium has been on high alert since the smashing of a terror cell in the town of Verviers in January 2015 that was planning an attack on police.

Belgium further raised its terror alert level after the Paris attacks in November that year, and placed the capital Brussels on lockdown for a week.

Belgium was then hit by its own IS suicide attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station, which killed 32 people in March 2016. Both bombings used TATP explosives.

Police and an ambulance at the site where a gunman shot dead three people, two of them policemen, before being killed by elite officers, in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

In May, a gunman in the eastern Belgian city of Liege shot dead three people — two police officers and a passerby in a vehicle — before he was killed by elite officers.

The French-language Belgian news site LaLibre reported that the man had shouted “Allahu akbar” before police shot him.

read more:
less
comments
more