Albanian police thwarted an attack allegedly planned by a Tehran-backed “terrorist cell” against opponents of the Iranian regime in the Balkan country last year, police said on October 23.
The cell belonged to the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) responsible for foreign operations, police said in a statement.
This cell “had planned, among other things, a terrorist act foiled in March 2018” targeting a religious ceremony of the Bektashi, a Sufi group, in Tirana, the statement said.
The ceremony was attended by members of the exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), according to police.
Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is not illegal in Iran but rights groups accuse the Iranian government of harassment and discrimination against their followers.
In 2013, Albania agreed to take in some 3,000 members of the MEK at the request of Washington and the United Nations.
They currently live in a compound in northwestern Albania.
Police on October 23 published photos of three Iranians and one Turkish national allegedly involved in the “terrorist cell.”
The leader of the alleged cell “resides in Turkey” and another “has an Austrian passport,” the statement said.
Police declined to say whether international arrest warrants had been issued.
Authorities also did not say whether the incident had any connection to Albania’s expulsion last year of two Iranian diplomats who the United States accused of plotting “terrorist attacks” in the Balkan country.
In January, the European Union sanctioned Iran’s intelligence services after accusing Tehran of being involved in plots to assassinate regime opponents in Europe.
Paris accused Iranian intelligence of being responsible for plotting a planned attack on a MEK rally north of Paris in June 2018.
Albania joined NATO in 2009.