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Source: RFE/RL

Dec 21, 2023

Iranian Spies Wanted To Assassinate London-Based Journalists, ITV Investigation Finds

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) plotted to assassinate two U.K.-based Iranian journalists using a people smuggler to organize and carry out the killings in exchange for $200,000, British television channel ITV News has revealed.

The plot, dubbed by its organizers The Wedding, was to target Fardad Farahzad, a current presenter at Persian-language news channel Iran International, and former presenter Sima Sabet, codenamed the bride and the groom, according to the ITV News' investigation, which was broadcast on December 20.

The plot was foiled in the autumn of last year by the people smuggler, named by ITV as Ismail, who became a double agent working for an unnamed Western intelligence agency, the broadcaster reported.

IRGC operatives wanted to hit Iran International to force it off the air because its journalists were subjecting Tehran to “a lot of humiliation in the media,” Ismail said.

Initially, the assassination was to be carried out by a car bomb placed outside the TV station's studios in London, but because of the heavy security presence there, the IRGC subsequently decided it would be more likely to succeed if the two journalists were stabbed to death, ITV said.

When British police caught wind of the plot they alerted Iran International, which switched its broadcasting to Washington in November last year.Mohammad Reza Ansari, a commander in the IRGC's Quds Force active in Syria, was identified as the alleged mastermind of the plot, ITV reported. Ansari has close ties to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's family, it said.

Ansari, sanctioned by the United States in June for his role in the IRGC, reportedly instructed Muhammad Abd al-Razek Kanafani, an associate of Assad, to execute the killings.

ITV's investigation suggests that the plot was commissioned from Damascus by Assad's associates, and not from Tehran, which has not commented on the report.

International human rights organizations have consistently ranked Iran as one of the world's top oppressors of journalists and free speech.

In December last year, Iran's Foreign Ministry sanctioned several individuals and entities in the European Union, including RFE/RL's Persian-language Radio Farda.

The sanctions include visa bans, prohibiting the listed individuals from entering Iran, and the seizure of their assets within territories under the jurisdiction of the Islamic republic.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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