According to the sources in the Israeli intelligence community and Iranian sources, one of the militants, detained in Azerbaijan, during recent operations to neutralize Iranian agents in Azerbaijan, was involved in an unsuccessful terrorist attack against Israeli businessmen on Cyprus last year.
The purge of Iranian agents in Azerbaijan was one of the responses to Tehran’s series of threats against Baku – both of military attack (exercises of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – IGRC and Iranian ground forces on the border) and destabilization (active inflating separatist sentiments among minorities). The threats are connected to Iranian claims that Azerbaijan is Mossad’s beachhead for organizing mass protests in the country.
Many of the detained last week by Azerbaijani counterintelligence were trained in Syria in the camps of the Liwa Fatemiyoun armed group, created by the IRGC, the Israeli IntelliTimes experts report. It is noted that in Azerbaijan these militants created the Muslim Unity (Müsəlman Birliyi Hərəkatı) movement, with the assistance of the IRGC agents.
According to the specialized closed TG-channel AZfront, the IRGC Sepah-e Qods special unit is behind the activities of both Liwa Fatemiyoun and Müsəlman Birliyi Hərəkatı. It was a personal project of Sepah-e Qods commander, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in 2020 in Iraq. The Lebanese Hezbollah provided assistance in training these militants. The project involved pro-Iranian elements from all regions with a dense Shia population. Their mobilization began in January-May 2013, and within a year the number of Shiites operating in Syria under the leadership or control of Sepah-e Qods reached 10,000. Between 2013-2017 more than 80,000 Shiites from different countries have been trained in Syria under the coaching of the IRGC agents.
In Azerbaijan, Müsəlman Birliyi Hərəkatı was led by Taleh Bagirzade. He was arrested in 2015 during the pro-Iranian riots in the city of Nardaran and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2017.
But let’s get back to the terrorist attack against the Israelis in Cyprus, in which one of the detainees in Azerbaijan was involved. According to Israeli media, on September 28, 2021, the Secret service of the Republic of Cyprus detained a 38-year-old Azerbaijani citizen Orkhan Asadov, who used his Russian passport to arrive to the island. A pistol with a silencer was found on him. He arrived in Larnaca, crossed the border into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with an Azerbaijani passport, and rented an apartment and two vehicles in the TRNC. He then returned illegally to the southern part of the island, where he monitored offices at the Angumi business district in Larnaca for several days.
The companies of Israeli businessmen living on the island (in particular, those who, with the permission of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, are engaged in the sale of special equipment to the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf) are situated in this district. His suspicious actions were captured by video cameras of the building security. The anti-terrorist department of the local special service CIS was notified and detained him. Five of his accomplices from Pakistan and Lebanon were detained later.
During the interrogations it turned out that Asadov was recruited by the Sepah-e Qods agents and trained in Syria. His task was to either kill several Israeli businessmen or kidnap one of them as a revenge for the November 27, 2020 elimination of the “father of Iran’s nuclear program” Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a high-ranking member of the IRGC, an atomic physicist, who worked in the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Republic.
Israeli sources claim that Asadov is the one who was captured by the Azeri secret services. But if it is so, it is unclear how he got back to Azerbaijan.