Azerbaijan foiled an attempt to stage terrorist attacks while the country was hosting the Eurovision Song Contest last week and arrested dozens of suspected plotters, the security ministry said Wednesday.
One of the hotels targeted by the terrorists was the hotel where the band representing Israel in the contest was staying at.
- Israeli band under heavy security in Baku
- Izabo to represent Israel in Eurovision
Israel denies it has access to Azerbaijan air bases
"The main goal of the group was to stage terrorist acts in Baku during the Eurovision," the National Security Ministry said in a statement. "As a result of the measures taken, 40 members of the group were arrested."
The group was planning attacks on the concert hall where the Eurovision was held, on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, on police buildings, hotels used by foreigners, mosques and other religious sites, it said.
Izabo performing at the Eurovision competition (Photo: EPA)
The group planned to attack the Hilton Baku, Hotel Absheron and the JW Marriot Hotel, where the Israeli group Izabo was staying at.
While in Baku, the members of Izabo were placed under heavy Israeli and local security due to fears that they might become the target of an attack by Iranian terrorists.
The band's publicist Alon Amir told Ynet that the Israeli band felt something strange was going on. "At first they placed three security guards with us, and then added more and more guards until there were 11 guards," he said. However, Amir added that the band members assumed that Iran and not Azerbaijan would be behind security threats.
Amir reiterated that the band was not informed of any unusual occurrences during their stay in Baku.
The terror group "obtained Eurovision tickets with the aim of (committing) a terrorist act at the Baku Crystal Hall" where the pop competition was held, the statement said.
Security services detained the alleged gang during operations in Baku, Ganja, Sumgayit as well as several other regions of the country, the ministry said without giving dates. Some of the alleged plotters put up armed resistance and one was killed, the statement further said.
According to the ministry, the rebels have links to insurgents in the Dagestan region of neighboring Russia.
"The National Security Ministry opted not to disseminate information about neutralizing the group during the Eurovision in order not to provoke panic among citizens and foreign guests," it said.
The world’s most-watched singing competition was held in Baku last Saturday, however Izabo dropped out of the competition after failing to make it into the finals.
Meanwhile, Izabo's members have recently made harsh claims towards the Israel Broadcasting Authority over their security detail in Azerbaijan. According to the band members, after they failed to make it into the finals, they were ordered to leave Baku and immediately return to Israel.
The order was given despite the fact that the group was assured it would be able to stay in Azerbaijan until the Sunday following the pop competition, in order to complete a film documenting their journey.
The band announced it was not willing to return to Israel, and decided to stay in Azerbaijan despite learning that they would be staying there as private citizens without any Israeli or local security detail.
Dudi Cohen and Eran Bar-On contributed to this story
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