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Denmark Pursues Sanctions After Iranian Plot

Michael Johnson
Danish police closed the Oresund bridge to Sweden as part of their September 28 operation to find and individual responsible for an assassination plot. (AP: Nils Meilvang)

Officials in Denmark announced on Tuesday that they would work with their European allies to pursue new sanctions against Tehran, following a foiled plot to assassinate an Iranian opposition figure on Danish soil. The Nordic country also withdrew its ambassador to Iran and summoned the Islamic Republic’s envoy to the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen.

According to news reports, Iranian intelligence agencies recruited a Norwegian national with an Iranian background to spy on and eventually help kill a Danish citizen leading the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) group. ASMLA seeks to gain Arab independence from the Persian-dominated government in Tehran, advocating for a separate state for the citizens of Iran’s oil-rich southwest province of Khuzestan. Iran has also accused the group of orchestrating an attack on a military parade in Ahvaz that killed 29 people on October 4.

Days after the unnamed suspect was seen photographing the home of the ASMLA leader last month, Danish law enforcement began a massive operation to locate the individual, culminating with police almost completely cordoning off of Copenhagen from the rest of Europe on September 28. During the manhunt, security forces halted ferry services to Sweden and Germany as well as shut down traffic on Great Belt Bridge.  

About a month later, on October 21, Swedish Security Services arrested the person of interest in Gothenburg. According to the government, the suspect has been extradited to Denmark. An unnamed Israeli diplomat also indicated that the Mossad had also provided some intelligence about the pending attack.  

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen characterized the alleged assassination attempt on Danish soil as “totally unacceptable” and U.S. Secretary of State congratulated the government on “its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin.”

However, getting caught has not dissuaded the theocratic leaders in Tehran from attempting to kill their opponents around the world, and especially in Western Europe. In November 2017 an Iranian exile and fellow ASMLA member Ahmad Mola Nissi was gunned down in The Hague. Additionally, last summer the Mossad helped thwart a plot to bomb the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rally in a Paris suburb. Belgium arrested two individuals of Iranian background, finding an explosive device in their car.