Foiled terror attack in Baku targeted two Israelis: paper

The terror acts recently foiled in the Azerbaijani capital Baku targeted two Israelis employed by a Jewish school in Baku, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry said in a statement last Thursday that the law enforcers had seized two Azerbaijani nationals - Rasim Aliyev and Ali Huseynov, who planned attacks on foreign public figures in Baku. The crimes were ordered by Balagardash Dadashov, a resident of the Iranian city of Ardabil, who is wanted over such grave crimes as banditry and kidnappings, the ministry said. It also said firearms and explosives were brought to Azerbaijan from neighboring Iran bypass customs agencies to stage the terror attacks.

Haaretz claimed that the intended victims were two Israeli Chabad emissaries, a rabbi and a teacher employed by the Chabad Or Avner Jewish school in Baku. It said the killings were apparently planned as retaliation to the gunning down of Iranian nuclear scientists.

"The Azeri security forces acted covertly without alerting us," claimed Rabbi Shneor Segal, one of the two targets. "It was published that they originally planned to attack 'people who look Jewish and hold foreign passports,' near the school, but when the school guards began suspecting them, they started monitoring the area where I live," he told Haaretz.

Segal added that the second target was Rabbi Mati Lewis.

Investigators established that Dadashov, who had connections with the Iranian secret service agencies, in Ardabil in August 2011 ordered attacks on Baku-based foreign public figures to be orchestrated by Aliyev, his brother-in-law, and promised to pay him $150,000 for the commission of these crimes. After Aliyev accepted the offer, Dadashov gave him photos of the victims of the planned attacks and their cars, and a sketch indicating the location of their offices and home addresses in Baku. To carry out the attacks, Aliyev further conspired with Huseynov, his acquaintance, who could handle firearms, and promised to give him half of the money he would receive if the planned attacks were successful. Huseynov agreed and subsequently received a total of $7,000 to plan the murders and buy a car to be used in committing the crimes, according to the ministry’s statement.

Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, which were never rosy, deteriorated further after the Azerbaijani communications minister said recent hacker attacks on 25 government and public websites of Azerbaijan were carried out from Iran and the Netherlands, according to the outcomes of an official probe. Ali Abbasov told reporters last Saturday that the investigation revealed that the 24 attacks were carried out from Iran and one from the Netherlands. "We sent a letter to the Iranian side yesterday indicating the exact [IP] addresses whence the attack was carried out. We believe that Iran could have been used as a transit country and the attack could have been initiated from a third country," he said, adding that Baku believes that government agencies of those countries were not involved in the incident.

A group of hackers calling themselves Azerian Cyber Army attacked the websites of the interior ministry, the communications ministry, the state customs committee, the council for state support to NGOs under the President, and the education ministry. Also attacked were the sites of the Constitutional Court, the ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan Party (YAP), Trend and AzerTAj news agencies.

On the hacked websites the intruders posted critical remarks about Azerbaijan-Israel relations.

The same day, several websites in Israel -- including the sites of the El Al airline and the Tel Aviv stock exchange -- were attacked.

In retaliation to the cyber-attacks, Azerbaijani hackers crashed over 20 Iranian websites, including those of government agencies, and warned they would continue attacking Iranian websites.

Iran has dismissed the reports linking it to the attacks on Azerbaijani Internet resources. Iranian embassy spokesman Abbas Isgandari told the Baku-based Trend news agency that his country has no bearing on the cyber-attacks, and the reports to that end damage relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, an Azerbaijani commentator launched "a scathing indictment" of Iran, Haaretz reported.

Vafa Guluzada, an Azerbaijani former state adviser, reportedly warned Iran that "planning the murder of prominent foreign citizens in Azerbaijan by a band of terrorists, one of whom [Dadashov] resides in Iran, amounts to 'hostile activity' against our country."

Guluzada said Iran would "break all its teeth trying to break us ... no Iranian provocation will influence the sociopolitical situation in Azerbaijan. Iran and its primitive ayatollahs sense their end is near and are trying to terrorize their neighbors. If this persists they will be answered by us, and by our Western allies."

Azerbaijan has accused Iran of supporting Armenia in the conflict over the occupied Azerbaijani region of Nagorno Karabakh. Last November an Iranian parliament member accused Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan of being "local Mossad bases."