Iranian opposition outlet names IRGC officer ostensibly behind Turkey terror plot

London-based Iran International says Javad Ghafari, who previously commanded Iranian troops in Syria, was appointed to orchestrate assassinations of Israelis in Istanbul

Illustrative: Turkish police seen in Ankara, Turkey, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/ Burhan Ozbilici)
Illustrative: Turkish police seen in Ankara, Turkey, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/ Burhan Ozbilici)

A London-based Iranian opposition news outlet on Friday published the name and details of an Iranian commander who it said was in charge of plans to kill Israelis in Turkey in recent months.

According to the Iran International report, Javad Ghafari, a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was appointed to head the operations after being expelled from Syria in November.

The report cited an unidentified former senior IRGC official. It could not be independently verified.

In June and July, Israel’s Mossad spy agency and its local counterparts managed to thwart several Iranian attacks targeting Israeli civilians in Istanbul, security officials said at the time. Iranian agents were said to be ready to kidnap or kill Israelis there as Tehran sought revenge for the killings of several senior officers blamed on Israel.

According to Iran International, Ghafari began his military career in Syria as one of the commanders at Iranian forces’ headquarters in Damascus. He was later appointed as the commander of Iranian forces in Aleppo, where he was known as “the Butcher of Aleppo,” according to Iran International.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Ghafari was in charge of a cell in Syria that planned to fly explosives-laden drones at Israeli territory in 2019.

Ghafari was forced to return to Iran over a “major breach of Syrian sovereignty,” a Saudi television network reported last year. The Al Hadath report said Ghafari led “a number of activities against the United States and Israel that almost led to the entry of Syria into an unwanted regional war.”

After returning to Iran, he was appointed as deputy head of IRGC’s Intelligence Organization for Special Operations, “where he orchestrated a series of failed attacks against Israeli citizens,” the Iran International report said, citing the former IRGC official.

Following the failed attacks, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei fired its longtime intelligence chief, Hossein Taeb. Taeb had also been named in Hebrew media reports as the man behind the planned attacks on Israelis in Turkey.

Hossein Taeb, former head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), looks on during a meeting in Tehran on June 24, 2018. (Hamed Malekpour/Tasnim News/AFP)

Iran International reported that the deputy head of Iran’s counterintelligence unit was also a “key figure” behind several unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Israelis in Turkey.

Rouhollah Bazghandi was in charge of a June operation to assassinate a former Israeli consul general in Istanbul, as well as three Israeli tourists, the ex-IRGC official told the outlet.

Launched in 2017, Iran International reaches millions of Iranians in Iran and around the world. It is considered an oppositional news outlet to Iran’s regime and has made headlines for covering issues like human rights violations, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights in Iran.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency was thought to have leaked the outlet information in recent months, including the arrest and questioning of a member of the IRGC in Iranian territory for his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey.

In 2018, The Guardian reported that the broadcaster was funded by a firm with ties to Saudi Arabia. Iran International denied the report.

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