Earlier this week in Belgium, an Iranian diplomat and members of what authorities described as an “Iranian sleeper cell” were arrested as they allegedly planned to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that took place last Saturday, June 30th, outside of Paris. Several European intelligence agencies were involved in the arrests, which were announced by Belgium’s Minister of the Interior, Jan Jambon.
Members of Belgium’s Special Forces Group stopped a Mercedes automobile in Brussels on Saturday. The car was carrying a married Belgian couple of Iranian descent. They were found to be carrying 500 grams of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosive and a detonator inside a toiletries bag, according to the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. As part of the operation, on Sunday, July 1st, German police arrested an Iranian diplomat stationed in Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Austria.
Reports say that the diplomat was driving a rental car in the southeastern German state of Bavaria, and was heading to Austria. That same day, a fourth person was arrested by authorities in France in connection to the other three arrests.
It is alleged that the four detainees were in contact with each other, and were working for the Iranian government. All four have been charged.
The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is an umbrella group of Iranian dissidents, led by Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The group initially supported the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but later withdrew its support, accusing the government of Ayatollah Khomeini of “fascism”.
The European Union and the United States officially considered the MEK a terrorist organization until 2009. However, by 2006, the US military was openly collaborating with MEK forces in Iraq, and in 2012 the group was dropped from the US Department of State’s foreign terrorist organizations. Today the group is protected by the EU and the US.
Belgian authorities affirm that the four members of the Iranian sleeper cell were planning to bomb the MEK-sponsored NCRI “Free Iran” event in Paris under instructions by the Iranian government.
Tens of thousands of members of the Iranian diaspora were joined by more than 30 senior US officials, including US President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Canada’s former prime minister, Stephen Harper, also spoke at the conference.
Belgium’s Interior Minister Jambon praised his country’s intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies for foiling the alleged bomb plot in Paris.
Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, however, dismissed claims of an Iranian sleeper cell as “fake news” and described reports of a foiled bomb attack as “a sinister false flag plot”.