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Terror threat forces cancelation of Iranian dissidents’ summit in Albania

Anti-regime group MEK axes annual conference after security warning from Albanian government; US embassy in Tirana urges citizens to stay away

MEK members at the Ashraf 3 camp wave Iranian flags during a speech by former US vice president Mike Pence at the Iranian opposition headquarters in Albania, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Franc Zhurda)
MEK members at the Ashraf 3 camp wave Iranian flags during a speech by former US vice president Mike Pence at the Iranian opposition headquarters in Albania, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Franc Zhurda)

Iranian dissidents in Albania on Friday said they had canceled a summit aimed at regime change in Iran following warnings from local authorities of a possible terrorist threat.

Some 3,000 Iranian dissidents from the group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, also known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or MEK, live at a site called Ashraf 3 in Manez, 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Albania’s capital, Tirana.

They had planned to hold the Free Iran World Summit at the site on July 23-24 to “call on the Biden administration to adopt a decisive policy against the Tehran regime.”

The event was supposed to be attended or joined online by various high-profile political delegations, including hundreds of lawmakers from six continents, organizers said.

A statement from the group said the summit was “postponed until further notice upon recommendations by the Albanian government, for security reasons, and due to terrorist threats and conspiracies.”

Albanian authorities did not respond to questions on the threat.

The US Embassy in Tirana warned its citizens that it was “aware of a potential threat targeting the Free Iran World Summit” and called on its citizens “to avoid this event.”

According to local media, prosecutors have opened investigations into a possible spy ring, ordered check-ups of the venue and questioned some former members of the group.

Shahin Gobadi, the dissident group’s Paris-based spokesperson, also mentioned “the plot to bomb the grand gathering of Free Iran on June 30, 2018, in Paris by one of [Iran’s] active diplomats, Assadollah Assadi.”

Last year, Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Belgium for masterminding a thwarted bomb attack against MEK in France.

MEK began as a Marxist group opposing the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but soon had a falling out with Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and turned against his clerical government, carrying out a series of assassinations and bombings in the Islamic Republic.

The group later fled to Iraq and backed dictator Saddam Hussein during his bloody eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, leading many people in Iran to oppose the group. Although now primarily based in Albania, the group claims to operate a network inside Iran.

The annual summit has been hosted in Albania after the Balkan country agreed to take in members of the group at the request of Washington and the United Nations in 2013.

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