Azerbaijan Detains 'Iran-Linked Terror Plotters'

Police in Azerbaijan have detained two people accused of plotting attacks on prominent foreigners masterminded by a man with alleged links to Iranian intelligence, officials said Thursday.

The two Azerbaijani citizens "were making preparations for the assassination of public figures who are foreign nationals ... that is, preparing to commit a terrorist act", the national security ministry said in a statement.

It said "large amounts" of guns, ammunition and explosives were smuggled in from neighboring Iran so that the men, named as Rasim Aliyev and Ali Huseynov, could stage the planned attacks.

The ministry said the alleged mastermind, Balagardash Dadashov, a resident of Ardabil in the Islamic republic, had "contacts with Iranian intelligence agencies".

After decades of Soviet rule, Azerbaijan emerged as one of the most secular countries in the Islamic world and has become a key supplier of oil to Europe and an ally in the NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan.

The secular authorities led by President Ilham Aliyev have a problematic relationship with Iran, which has been accused of sponsoring Islamic radicals in Azerbaijan.

Up to a quarter of Iran's population are ethnic Azeris, according to some estimates, far outnumbering Azerbaijan's own population of 9.2 million.

Source: Agence France Presse

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