(Photo Credit: AFP)
The Azeri security forces carried out a mass arrest of 39 individuals on 1 February, suspected of being a part of an alleged Iranian “espionage network.”
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Internal Affairs disclosed that these arrests are a part of an ongoing operation against the alleged network to prevent acts of sabotage against Baku, such as “propaganda activities,” according to the Azerbaijani Press Agency (APA).
The ministry said that the detainees posed as “believers, made propaganda for Iran on social networks, and abused the freedom of religion in the country, carrying out the assignments of the Iranian special services.”
On the same day, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry condemned Iran for allegedly preventing last week’s attack on the Azeri embassy in Tehran “from being widely exposed at the international level,” calling on Tehran to fulfill its commitments under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
On 27 January, an individual attacked the Azerbaijani embassy in Iran, leaving one dead and two injured. The culprit told the police that his wife disappeared when she visited the embassy in April last year, hence his reasoning for the attack. He added that he visited the embassy several times after his wife’s disappearance to inquire about her whereabouts to no avail.
In response to the simmering tensions, Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said that Tehran is “deeply sorry” for the attack, adding that the country is investigating the incident “accurately and comprehensively.”
Ghalibaf went on to say that no proof has been found to consider the shooting a terrorist attack committed by one individual, stressing that “emotional decisions regarding Iran-Baku ties are what the common enemies of the two countries and the ill-wishers of the Islamic world, especially the Zionist regime, are wishing for.”
Ghalibaf further noted that any decision with the potential to have long-term consequences should be made carefully.
As of now, Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tehran has suspended its work, according to Baku.