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Diplomat arrested in Bavaria on suspicion of aiding planned terror attack

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Diplomat arrested in Bavaria on suspicion of aiding planned terror attack
A gas station near Aschaffenburg was searched for explosives on Sunday. Photo: DPA
11:01 CEST+02:00
An Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was arrested in Bavaria on Sunday evening on suspicion of carrying explosives and aiding a planned terror attack in Paris.

An Iranian diplomat was arrested in Bavaria on Sunday evening on suspicion of carrying explosives and aiding a planned terror attack in Paris.

Police stopped Assadollah S., a diplomat in Austria, and his three companions at a service station at Spessart-Süd near Aschaffenburg on suspicion of transporting explosive materials, reported Focus Online on Monday evening.

During the operation, explosives specialists from the Bavarian State Criminal Police and Bavarian riot police came to the scene, encompassing more than 20 vehicles as the A3 autobahn was shut down, said police in Unterfranken in a statement.

While local police reported that no materials were found, Assadollah S., 47, was taken into custody under warrant for international arrest, and is to be brought before an investigating judge in Bamberg for extradition to Belgium. He is thought to be a mastermind behind a planned terror attack at a gathering by an Iranian opposition group.

Part of a greater plan

S. was allegedly aiding a husband and wife team, both of whom were arrested in France on Monday over a plot to bomb a weekend rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in Paris, where close Donald Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was in attendance.

Amir S., 38, and Nasimeh N., 33, both Belgian nationals, "are suspected of having attempted to carry out a bomb attack" on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, during a conference organised by the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor said.

The couple, described by prosecutors as being "of Iranian origin", were carrying 500 grams of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.

The Belgian statement confirmed that an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, a contact for the couple, was also arrested in Germany.

In cooperation with the Belgian secret service as well as authorities in France and Germany, the public prosecutor's office in Brussels said that the terrorist attack in Paris was successfully thwarted, and that Belgium is also not in danger.

What's behind the attack

The Monday arrests of Amr S. and Nasimeh N. came on the day Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Switzerland for a trip Tehran said was of "crucial importance" for cooperation between the Islamic Republic and Europe after the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

President Rouhani is also due to visit Austria, the country holding the six-monthly presidency of the EU.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Sarif expressed doubts about the reports on the planned attack. "How convenient: just as we leave for a presidential visit (Switzerland, Austria) to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation is being uncovered and two (Iranians) are being arrested," the chief diplomat wrote on Twitter.

Yet he described the incident and its connection to Iran as dubious. Nevertheless, he said, Tehran was prepared to cooperate with the relevant authorities in solving the case.

With reporting by AFP.

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