(CNSNews.com) – Denmark is withdrawing its ambassador and calling for concerted European Union action against the regime in Tehran, after foiling a plot to assassinate an Iranian dissident, the latest in a series of incidents exposing Iranian terror sponsorship in Europe.
“It’s hard to find words that can describe the severity of the matter we are dealing with,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told reporters Tuesday.
Denmark would examine the possibility of strengthening E.U. sanctions, a response that would be most effective if taken together with “like-minded partners,” he said.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) has in custody a Norwegian national of Iranian descent suspected of having reconnoitered the home of an exiled leader of an Iranian Arab separatist group as part of a plan to assassinate him.
“There is sufficient basis to conclude that an Iranian intelligence service has been planning the assassination of an individual living in Denmark,” PET said, adding that that conclusion was based not only on the case against the suspect, “but on comprehensive intelligence efforts.”
“We congratulate the government of Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. “For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Iran’s threats to peace and security.”
Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said his government had “chosen to publicize this in order to show Iran that we will not accept this behavior,” and added that the Iranians were similarly active in other countries.
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) is fighting for an autonomous state in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, where minority Arabs claim oppression at the hands of the regime.
Last November, ASMLA leader Ahmad Mola Nissi was shot dead in The Hague in a suspected regime assassination. Now the Danish authorities believe they prevented the assassination of another of the group’s leaders, in their country.
On September 28, a major security operation saw ferry services from Denmark to neighboring Sweden and Germany halted and important road bridges sealed off, as police and soldiers hunted for a Swedish-registered rental car in connection with what police at the time said was a “serious crime.”
Now, PET has confirmed that that operation was linked to the plot to kill the ASMLA leader, who had been under the agency’s protection since last spring “as a result of tangible threats which, in the assessment of PET, emanate from Iran.”
The suspect, who spied on the target’s house over the September 25-27 period, was arrested on October 21, and is being held in solitary confinement as investigations continue. PET said he is denying all charges.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Tuesday rejected “biased reports” of an assassination plot.
“The allegations are in line with the conspiracies and plots of the enemies of Iran who cannot stand the good and growing relations between Tehran and Europe in the current special situation,” he said, referring to Iran’s efforts to keep the nuclear deal and related trade opportunities alive after President Trump withdrew the U.S. last spring.
ASMLA is the group which Tehran blames for a terror attack on a military parade in Khuzestan province on September 22. At least 25 people, including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops but also civilians, were killed when four gunmen opened fire. ASMLA in a statement laid blame on a faction that had been expelled from the group in 2015 but still “claims to be a part of the ASMLA organization.”
(The regime also blamed ISIS, and on Oct. 1 the IRGC launched missiles at targets in Syria which it claimed were responsible for the Khuzestan attack.)
History of terror
Iran has been accused of assassinating dissidents in Europe for decades, including the murder of an Iranian Kurdish leader and two others in Vienna in 1989 and the killing of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant in 1992.
The killings in Vienna involved Iranians using diplomatic cover and the Berlin murders led to the E.U. restricting visas for Iranian intelligence personnel after a German court found the regime had ordered the assassinations.
In July this year, the Netherlands confirmed it had expelled two Iranian diplomats, a move believed linked to the killing last November of the ASMLA’s Nissi, and possibly also the killing of another dissident, shot dead in the city of Almere in December 2015.
That man, Mohammad-Reza Kolahi Samadi, was a member of the exiled People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK), wanted by the regime in connection with a deadly bombing of the Islamic Republic Party headquarters in Tehran in 1981.
The MEK and its affiliated National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) was the target over the summer of another, much bigger alleged regime plot – to bomb an NCRI rally near Paris. Among the reported 25,000 attendees were prominent American NCRI supporters, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
France early this month froze the assets of two senior Iranian officials and the regime’s ministry of intelligence and security (MOIS) internal security division, saying that the “extremely grave attack” planned to take place on French soil “cannot go unanswered.”