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UK Police Provide Update on Attempted Murder of Iranian Journalist in Exile

By Christina Davie
April 3, 2024

In a startling revelation, the Metropolitan Police of the United Kingdom announced the escape of suspects involved in the recent assassination attempt on an exiled Iranian journalist. This incident has sent shockwaves through the international community, spotlighting the ongoing threats faced by journalists in exile.

The police disclosed that the perpetrators behind the attack on Pouria Zeraati, a prominent figure at Iran International, managed to flee Britain shortly after their failed assassination bid, as the Daily Wire reports.

Last week, Pouria Zeraati became the target of a brutal attack right outside his residence. He was confronted and stabbed by a group of assailants, necessitating a brief hospitalization before he could be safely released.

Zeraati is well-known for his work with Iran International, particularly on the program Last Word, which has made him a figure of significance within the Iranian diaspora.

Police Investigation Reveals International Escape

The investigation into this grave incident has been spearheaded by the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police, owing to the nature of the threats previously made against journalists working for Iran International by Iranian intelligence. The decision to lead the inquiry under the auspices of counter-terrorism units underscores the serious implications of the attack and its connections to state-level threats.

According to police reports, the attack involved three individuals who, after committing the assault, fled the scene using a vehicle. This vehicle has since been recovered and is currently undergoing forensic examination, which is a critical component of the ongoing investigation.

The swift departure of the suspects was further detailed by the authorities, who disclosed that after abandoning their vehicle, the trio made their way directly to Heathrow Airport. From there, they managed to leave the U.K. within just a few hours of the attack, though their final destination remains undisclosed by the police.

International Collaboration and Unresolved Motives

Commander Dominic Murphy, who heads the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, has confirmed that the investigation is actively ongoing, with efforts to trace the suspects' steps and uncover further details with the help of international partners. Despite the progress, the motive behind the attempted assassination of Zeraati remains a matter of speculation.

The broader context of this attack reveals a disturbing trend of threats and aggression towards journalists associated with Iran International. In recent years, Iranian intelligence has directly threatened the organization’s staff, including announcing bounties for the assassination of journalists Sima Sabet and Fardad Farahzad, signaling a chilling escalation in tactics against dissenting voices.

This is not the first time Iranian operatives have targeted the London-based news organization. A previous plan to attack the studios of Iran International with a car bomb was foiled, with attackers later switching their strategy to direct assaults on journalists' residences, exploiting the relative vulnerability of these locations compared to the secured studio premises.

The Growing Challenge of Proxy Assassinations

Matt Jukes, a senior figure in Britain’s Counter Terrorism Policing, has shed light on the troubling increase in such assassination attempts. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Jukes revealed that the U.K. had successfully thwarted 15 assassination attempts by Iran, using proxies, in the last year alone. His insights reveal a significant shift in Iran’s tactics, emphasizing the use of indirect methods to target dissidents and critics abroad.

The involvement of Iranian intelligence in directing threats and attacks against journalists outside of Iran illustrates the regime's reach and its determination to silence opposition voices, regardless of international borders. The adoption of knife attacks, as seen in Zeraati's case, reflects a tactical adaptation, with assailants opting for methods that circumvent the robust security measures in place at potential targets like media studios.

The Metropolitan Police's ongoing investigation into the assassination attempt against Pouria Zeraati is a critical endeavor, not only in seeking justice for the attack but also in understanding and mitigating the broader threats posed by state-sponsored terrorism.

With the suspects having fled the country, the case highlights the complexities of international law enforcement cooperation in addressing crimes that cross borders and involve state actors.

Conclusion: A United Front Against State-Sponsored Threats

In conclusion, the assassination attempt on Pouria Zeraati serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by journalists working against authoritarian regimes. The Metropolitan Police's revelation that the suspects have left the country post-attack underscores the challenges in bringing such individuals to justice.

The ongoing investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, the direct threats from Iranian intelligence, and the foiled attacks on Iran International’s personnel reveal a disturbing pattern of aggression towards freedom of speech and press.

This case not only highlights the risks to individual journalists but also the broader implications for global security and the need for international cooperation to counter state-sponsored terrorism.