Two Belgians of Iranian origin suspected of having wanted to commit an attack in France

(This article was originally in French in Europe1.fr

July 2, 2018

The couple has been charged with attempted murder in Belgium. They are suspected of wanting to commit a bomb attack at a conference of an Iranian party on Saturday in Villepinte (France).

Two Belgians of Iranian descent, a man and a woman aged 38 and 33 respectively, were charged on Monday with "attempted terrorist assassination" and "preparation of a terrorist offence" and placed under arrest warrant, according to a statement from the Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office. Both are suspected of having wanted to carry out an attack on French soil.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE PLANNED ATTACK?

500 grams of TATP. According to the Belgian prosecutor's office, the couple is suspected "of having wanted to commit a bomb attack on Saturday, June 30 in Villepinte", in the Paris region, "at a conference organized by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK). " The man and the woman were arrested Saturday in a commune of Brussels, in their vehicle, in which the Belgian authorities found 500 grams of TATP and a firing mechanism.

Three in custody in France. In this case, an alleged accomplice of the couple, 54 years old, as well as two other people, are currently in custody in France. "The investigations are aimed at clarifying the nature of the relations they could have with the suspects arrested in Belgium," a judicial source told AFP. An Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, described as a "contact" of the two suspects, has also been arrested in Germany.

WHAT WAS THE TARGET?

The MEK is an Iranian opposition party, founded in 1965 and banned by the Tehran authorities since 1981, according to the Belgian prosecutor.

A congress of 25,000 participants. Two figures close to US President Donald Trump, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani attended the meeting, which we are told was the couple's target. 25,000 people attended.

WHAT IS THE CONTEXT?

The context extends beyond Europe. Thwarted on European soil, the attack relates to the internal politics of Iran. On Monday afternoon, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an entity close to the MEK, accused the regime of Tehran of having fomented the planned attack. "The plot of the terrorist dictatorship in power in Iran to commit an attack (...) against the great rally of the Iranian Resistance in Villepinte was foiled," he said in a statement.

Tehran pointed at the opposition. The NCRI has also called for the "closure" of Iranian diplomatic representations in Europe, described as "spying centers". "The Iranian resistance has repeatedly warned about terrorist preparations in various European countries, by the regime's diplomats, agents of the VEVAK (Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran), and the Quds Force" of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, adds the statement.

The announcement of the double indictment also falls on the day of arrival in Switzerland of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for a trip deemed of "paramount importance" in Tehran on the cooperation between the Islamic Republic and Europe, following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.