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Azerbaijani Police Expose Iranian Spy Network in Azerbaijan

By Gunay Hajiyeva February 2, 2023

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Special forces units of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry / Interior Ministry of the Republic of Azerbaijan

The task force of the Interior Ministry of Azerbaijan has detained members of the spy groups in the country who reportedly carried out assignments for Iranian special services.

As a result of special operational measures, 39 people, including InterAz and SalamNews media outlets founder Matlab Baghirov (Haji Matlab), were identified and detained earlier this week based on charges of subversive actions under the guise of religion.

Local media reported that the arrested individuals, masking themselves as believers, carried out propaganda in favor of Iran on social networks. The individuals abused freedom of religion in Azerbaijan and carried out assignments for Iranian special services in order to undermine the traditions of multifaith tolerance in Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry's operation against the spy network followed the recent bloody attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran. On January 27, an armed assailant broke into the embassy to kill the chief security officer and wound two others.

The government of Azerbaijan evacuated the diplomatic mission on January 29 and suspended all diplomatic activities at the embassy putting the responsibility for the fatal incident on the Iranian authorities. Baku demanded Tehran conduct a thorough investigation into the event and bring the culprits to justice.

On Wednesday, President Ilham Aliyev said the terrorist act is being thoroughly investigated by Azerbaijan. In a video conference meeting with Turkish government officials, President Aliyev underlined that despite the fact that the process of the terrorist act committed by that person in the building of the embassy took a long time, no serious measures were taken by the police and security forces of Iran.

The recent raid against the Iran-operated spy network in Azerbaijan is not the first of a kind operation.

On November 14, 2022, the State Security Service of Azerbaijan exposed a spy network created by the special services of Iran. An investigation conducted identified five Azerbaijani citizens who were paid to cooperate with the Iranian special services. Three of them traveled to various cities in Iran for different purposes such as medical treatment and religious education, before they were involved in treasonous activities against Azerbaijan.

According to the information, the Iranian special services recruited Azerbaijani nationals to obtain photos and videos of the areas along the routes of oil and gas pipelines in the capital Baku, the storage locations of the drones, tanks, and other armored equipment of the Azerbaijani army and State Border Service, as well as other strategic and military objects, anti-aircraft missile complexes, radar-monitoring devices. The spies reportedly used WhatsApp to communicate with their curators.

At the same time, the investigation established that one of the spies was tasked with collecting information about political processes, military units, their locations, and assignments, as well as the command staff of the Azerbaijani army and submit them to special service members in Iran.

Earlier on November 1, 2022, the State Security Service exposed a clandestine group of Azerbaijani citizens illegally involved in military exercises outside the country under direct financing and guidance by the Iranian special services. Nineteen citizens of Azerbaijan were detained and brought to justice for attending military exercises, smuggling banned radical extremist ideology books and video materials, and disseminating them within the borders of Azerbaijan.

Four more people, who fled Azerbaijan and are currently hiding in Iran, were established as the leaders of the illegal group.