Hizbullah blames Israel for his death. Imad Mugniyah (archives)
Photo: Reuters

Report: Plot to bomb Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan foiled

LA Times says in 2008 police forces in Baku captured two Hizbullah terrorists who intended to array three or four car bombs around embassy, set them off simultaneously as revenge for Mugniyah assassination

Azerbaijan's police forces foiled what authorities said was a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in the capital of Baku last year, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.


According to the report, police intercepted a fleeing car and captured two suspected Hizbullah terrorists. The car contained explosives, binoculars, cameras, pistols with silencers and reconnaissance photos.


The report quoted Western anti-terrorism officials as saying that the arrests a year ago thwarted retaliation by Shiite group and Iran for the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a top Hizbullah commander. Hizbullah blamed Israel for his death.


In 2006, 15 Azeris were charged with plotting violence against Israelis and Westerners with training and direction from Iranian security forces.


That case, Western anti-terrorism officials told the LA Times, resulted in surveillance that contributed to the discovery of last year's plot.


The LA Times said the prosecution remained largely a secret until this week, when closed court proceedings began for two Lebanese and four Azeris charged with terrorism, espionage and other crimes.


The paper also quoted an Israeli security official as saying, "They had reached the stage where they had a network in place to do an operation. We are seeing it all over the world. They are working very hard at it."


History of Iranian presence

Matthew Levitt, a former intelligence chief at the US Treasury Department, told the LA Times that the choice of Baku last year reflects Iran's influence, and described the alleged plot as "in the advanced stages."


"The Iranians have a history of a presence there," said Levitt, "and they wouldn't mind undermining the country, given Azerbaijan's Western leanings."


According to the report, the Lebanese suspects on trial are Ali Karaki, whom anti-terrorism officials describe as a veteran of Hizbullah's external operations unit, and Ali Najem Aladine, described as a lower-ranking explosives expert.


Anti-terrorism officials told the LA Times that the men allegedly traveled back and forth from Baku to Iran and Lebanon in early 2008. They used Iranian passports, stayed in luxury hotels and led a cell that laid the groundwork for an attack.


Prosecutors say the cell allegedly conducted reconnaissance on the Israeli Embassy, which is housed in the Hyatt Tower high-rise complex along with the Thai and Japanese embassies. The group cased other targets, developing plans to bomb a radar tower.


Officials familiar with the investigation told the LA Times as saying that the Azerbaijani investigation concluded that the suspects intended to array three or four car bombs around the embassy and set them off simultaneously. The group had hundreds of pounds of explosives, allegedly supplied by Iranian spies, and intended to accumulate more.


Anti-terrorism officials, the report said, assert that investigators believe that a bombing was weeks away when the suspects spotted the surveillance in early May 2008. Police moved in, but a number of Lebanese, Iranian and Azerbaijani suspects escaped by car into Iran.


פרסום ראשון: 05.31.09, 08:43
 new comment
This will delete your current comment