Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, has announced that it has thwarted an Iranian plot to attack Israeli business people in Cyprus with a detailed probe hinting at Pakistan’s involvement in the assassination bid.
In a counter-terrorist operation on Iranian soil, the Mossad apprehended the head of the cell, Yusef Shahabazi Abbasalilu, who gave his investigators a detailed confession bringing about the dismantling of the attack cell in Cyprus.
Abbasalilu received detailed instructions and weapons from senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel in Iran. During questioning, parts of which were shared with the media, he admitted to his involvement in an attempted attack and described how he tried to carry it out.
In the wake of the information that he gave to the Mossad investigators, the cell was dismantled in an operation by the Cypriot security services, the announcement said.
In the video footage released by the spy agency, the Iranian also reveals Pakistani spy agency ISI’s involvement in the plot to kill Jews and Israelis. Pakistani nationals have been caught recently in several other such plots targeting Israelis.
This is a direct testimony of an Iranian operative of the direct involvement of the IRGC in organizing a terrorist act on European soil. The IRGC is a terrorist organization and needs to be dealt with accordingly https://t.co/zsZjOSOgXQ
— Joshua L. Zarka (@yzarka) June 29, 2023
Abbasalilo names his handler as Hassan Shoushtari Zadeh, a known senior figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Foreign Intelligence Branch, who he said “trusted Pakistanis” who had carried out “very important activity for me”.
In the video, Abbasalilo said Shoushtari Zadeh “discussed with me what he was planning to do in Cyprus. He told me you need to enter northern Cyprus, where we have certain people who can send you from there to southern Cyprus”.
“He told me himself, ‘I trust [The Pakistanis] and their group, they have carried out very important activity for me'”, Abbasalilo says in the released video.
“I replied: ‘If it is possible, I will carry out this mission immediately.’ He replied: ‘Wait, it is not possible yet, as there are policemen searching for you'”, the English translation of his confession in Persian released says.
Abbasalilo said that he buried the weapon he had received from his handlers under a bush, and eventually “I received my target via a WhatsApp interface that I received from the IRGC Intelligence Organisation”.
“I received a photo from Shoushtari and the GPS route to the house where he lives”, he said.
Abbasalilo then began following his target from afar, taking photographs and otherwise preparing for the assassination.
“My plan was that if the man was there – I mean after I found out that he was there and where he was going – if it was a quiet and empty road, I would kill him with the weapon”, he confessed.
But his handlers “found out that the police were after me and ordered me to hide the weapon, get rid of all the equipment, and return [to Iran].” The released video also shows his boarding pass back to Iran.
It was not clear as to what became of Abbasalilo after his interrogation by Mossad operatives.
Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Greece have been recently thwarted, and they have invariably had a Pakistani hand in it too.
Mossad in its statement said that it would “continue to act decisively to prevent harm to Jews and Israelis around the world”.
In April, Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals who were allegedly planning mass-casualty terrorist attacks on behalf of Iran against Israeli and Jewish targets in Greece.
In October 2021, Israel had said that an Iranian plot against Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus had been foiled.
According to reports, the hired killer was of Azeri origin and had arrived in Cyprus on a flight from Russia, using a Russian passport.
Cyprus charged six people in the plot, including the main suspect and three Pakistani nationals.
In another such attempt in Georgia recently, local media reports said that the Georgian security officials foiled an attempt by a Pakistani citizen to murder an Israeli in that country on orders from an Iranian operative.
Iran and Israel have been engaged in a decades-long shadow war across the Middle-East and beyond.
The Jewish state considers the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme an existential threat and has vowed to foil it using “all options on the table”.
Iran says that its nuclear programme is for peaceful means.