Iran behind failed attack on Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan, foreign minister says

Eli Cohen says Tehran a ‘global terror threat’ orchestrating series of attempts to harm Israelis abroad, after Afghan national arrested in Baku for terrorism

Fawzan Mosa Khan, an Afghan arrested in Azerbaijan on suspicion of planning an attack on Israel's embassy. (Screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Fawzan Mosa Khan, an Afghan arrested in Azerbaijan on suspicion of planning an attack on Israel's embassy. (Screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday said Iran was responsible for a foiled plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan.

“Tehran stands behind the attempt,” Cohen said in a statement during an official visit to Serbia.

“Iranian terror is a global threat, as we saw in the past few days in Azerbaijan in an attempted attack against the Israeli Embassy in Baku, as well as in recent months in Cyprus and Greece in attempted attacks against Israelis and Jews,” Cohen said, adding Iran had funded and issued instructions to the terror cell that attempted the attack.

Cohen called for the international community to come together to oppose Iran’s terror activities.

Azeri security forces arrested a 23-year-old Afghan national on suspicion of planning the attack on the embassy in Baku, the State Security Service announced Monday.

The statement did not specify that he was suspected of targeting Israel’s mission, but The Times of Israel has learned that he was observed near the embassy in the Hyatt Regency hotel and was questioned by Azeri officials.

“Fawzan Mosa Khan, a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, born in 1990, in conspiration with other individuals, has been planning to commit a terrorist act accompanied by an explosion, fire or other similar events resulting in the death of people, health injuries, property damage and other socially dangerous incidents in order to create panic among the population, influence decision-making by state authorities and international organizations,” the State Security Service said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen attends a Knesset committee hearing, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Azerbaijan said that Khan came from “a foreign country” in order to surveil “a third country embassy,” recruit a cell and obtain weapons and funding.

The security service was working to find other members of Khan’s cell.

Though the statement did not identify the country from which Khan arrived, neighboring Iran has been using third-party nationals to plan terror attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets.

Last month, Cypriot intelligence services revealed they had foiled an Iranian plot against Jews and Israelis.

In March, Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals who were allegedly planning mass-casualty terrorist attacks against a Jewish restaurant and Chabad House in Athens.

In November of last year, Georgian security officials revealed they had foiled a recent attempt by the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force, to kill a prominent Israeli-Georgian living in the capital Tbilisi.

The attempt followed other Iranian plots to harm Israelis in the region. In June of 2022, Turkey and Israel foiled a plan to attack Israelis in Istanbul, and in October 2021, there was an attempt to kill Israeli businessmen in Cyprus. According to reports, the hired killer was of Azerbaijani origin and had arrived in Cyprus on a flight from Russia using a Russian passport.

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, October 11, 2019. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Iran is also suspected of being behind the March 2023 kidnapping of Russian-Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov in Iraq.

Israel is in the midst of a public expansion of bilateral ties with Azerbaijan, a Shiite-majority country closely allied with Turkey that has seen its partnership with the Jewish state flourish.

In March, Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov opened Baku’s first-ever embassy in Israel.

President Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan in May, where he discussed the Iran threat and bilateral ties.

Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s leading arms suppliers. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel provided 69 percent of Baku’s major arms imports in 2016-2020, accounting for 17% of Jerusalem’s arms exports over that period.

Israel stepped up its weapons shipments to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan emerged victorious in that six-week war with Armenia, which claimed the lives of more than 6,000 soldiers and resulted in Baku regaining control over disputed territories.

It is an open secret that two of the pillars of the relationship are Azerbaijan’s location on Iran’s northern border and the fact that Israel buys over 30 percent of its oil from Baku.

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