An attempt to target the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia earlier this month may have been part of a larger plot by Iran to target Israeli, American and Emirati embassies in Africa, according to The New York Times.
The official Ethiopian statement on the arrest of 15 people did not mention who was behind the plot or the motive, but, according to the report, a 16th arrest in Sweden brought in Ahmed Ismail, believed to be the ringleader of the plot.
American and Israeli officials told the Times that the plot was arranged by Iran, with Iranian intelligence activating a sleeper cell in Addis Ababa last fall with orders to gather intelligence on the three embassies.
The plot was reportedly meant to serve as revenge for the US assassination of former Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and the alleged Israeli assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Israel has not officially confirmed its involvement in the assassination.
According to the Times, Rear Adm. Heidi K. Berg, director of intelligence at the Pentagon’s Africa command, citing Western intelligence sources, said that Iran was behind the plot and that Ethiopia and Sweden collaborated on thwarting the attacks.
A spokeswoman for the Iranian Embassy in Addis Ababa denied the report, stating, “These are baseless allegations only provoked by the Zionist regime’s malicious media. Neither Ethiopia nor the Emirates said anything about Iranian interference in these issues.”
A spokesman for the Ethiopian police declined to explain why Ethiopia did not blame Iran, but several diplomats told the Times that Ethiopia tends to avoid getting publicly involved in delicate issues involving major powers.
According to Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service, a second group of plotters was preparing to hit the Emirati Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. A Sudanese official confirmed that report.
The arrests were also linked by a US defense official to a failed Iranian plot to kill the US Ambassador to South Africa, which was reported by Politico last September, according to the Times.
Farzin Nadimi, a specialist on the Iranian armed forces with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Times that the plot may have been an attempt to send a message to the Biden administration that “unless they reach a deal with Iran quickly, this is what they get: a dangerous neighborhood.”
The Times report comes after KAN News reported at the beginning of February that a planned Iranian terrorist attack on Israeli, Emirati and American embassies in a country in east Africa was thwarted in January. The KAN report did not name which country was targeted.
Iran reportedly had sent agents to a country in east Africa to collect intelligence on the Israeli, American and UAE embassies to explore carrying out attacks against them. Some of the agents were European citizens with Iranian dual citizenship.
KAN reported at the time that a number of the agents were arrested in the African country and in other countries.
Iran has been behind a series of attempts to target Israeli and other foreign officials and institutions in Africa and around the world in the past.
The KAN report came just days after an explosion occurred next to the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, India, in January. No injuries were reported in the incident. A letter found at the site reportedly warned that “the explosion is just a trailer for what’s coming.”
A previously-unknown terrorist organization called Jaish-ul-Hind, affiliated with Iran, took responsibility for the attack.
Tensions remain high in the region in the aftermath of the assassination of Fakhrizadeh and Soleimani, as well as concerns that the US may return to the nuclear deal with Iran, with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi stating last month that he had ordered operational plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program to be ready if necessary.
Source » jpost