Forty held over Eurovision terror plot

Security services in Azerbaijan say they arrested 40 suspects and seized weapons as they thwarted a series of planned terror attacks against the Eurovision Song Contest.

Targets included the song contest venue and major hotels housing foreigners, the National Security Ministry said.

Azerbaijan has in recent months reported being the target of terrorist activities planned by groups with ties to al Qaida and Iran, and this appears to be most extravagant alleged plot revealed to date.

An oil-rich nation of 9 million people wedged between Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan has nurtured close relations with the United States and played an active role in Western-led counter-terrorist programmes.

That policy has placed a strain on its ties with Iran, which hosts a sizeable ethnic Azeri community.

Today’s statement said other plots included plans for an assassination attempt on President Ilham Aliyev in April, as well as attacks on religious pilgrimage sites and police stations.

Officials said 40 people have been arrested. Weapons seized included 13 assault rifles, one machine gun, 12 handguns, three rifles, 3,400 rounds of bullets, 62 hand grenades, and several kilograms of explosives.

The statement provided no details on when the arrests took place.

“The armed group set itself the aim of mounting terrorist attacks in several regions of Azerbaijan, creating a mood of powerlessness and lawlessness, sowing panic, ethnic and religious enmity, disrupting the public peace and damaging Azerbaijan’s international image,” the statement said.

The Eurovision attack would have centred on the Baku Crystal Hall, where the singing competition took place on Saturday. Other planned targets included Marriot and Hilton hotels in the capital, Baku.

At least one suspected plotter, 37-year-old Azerbaijani citizen Vugar Padarov, and a security agent were killed during raids to shut down the terrorist group, the statement said.

Padarov was identified in an April security statement as the leader of a group that had received religious training in Syria. Some of its members had weapons training with the Jihad Islami group in Pakistan and took part in fighting Nato-led troops in Afghanistan, the National Security Ministry said.

In March, the ministry announced the arrests of 22 Azerbaijani citizens it said had been hired by Iran to stage terror attacks against the US and Israeli embassies as well as against western-linked groups and companies. It said they had been trained in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard.

Earlier this year, it announced the arrest of several other suspected terrorists allegedly working for Iran’s secret services.


More in this Section

Total UK deaths involving Covid-19 passes 50,000Total UK deaths involving Covid-19 passes 50,000

Hong Kong and Beijing hit out at foreign critics over Chinese actionsHong Kong and Beijing hit out at foreign critics over Chinese actions

Tributes for retired police captain killed during street protestsTributes for retired police captain killed during street protests

Food insecurity increases in Burkina Faso amid Islamic extremist activityFood insecurity increases in Burkina Faso amid Islamic extremist activity


Lifestyle

Award-winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw share 10 of the best container plants. By Hannah Stephenson.10 of the best plants for pots

A slimmed-down Irish couple has written a bestselling cookery book featuring healthy versions of indulgent meals, says Clodagh Finn.The Daly Dish serves up healthy version of our favourite meals

David Brophy's new choir and a classic Ireland v Holland game feature among today's top tips.Thursday's TV Highlights: David Brophy's new choir and a classic Ireland v Holland game

More From The Irish Examiner