The British government has sanctioned two Iranian officials after a plot to kill two journalists on British soil was uncovered.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials Mohammed Ansari and Muhammed Abd al-Razek Kanafani were among seven people sanctioned by the US and UK, for threatening to kill two journalists from a dissident news channel in London.
A group within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Unit 840, was also sanctioned today for the involvement in the planned stabbing of the two journalists from Iran International, based in Chiswick in London.
Ansari and Kanafani were allegedly involved in a plot, which had the codename ‘The Wedding’, to stab Fardad Farahzad and Sima Sabet to death. The plot was originally going to involve a car bomb.
The two Iranian officials, both of a high rank, were part of Unit 840, known for undertaking assassinations abroad.
Fardad Farahzad (pictured) was one of the two journalists targeted by Iran
Sima Sabet was also in the crosshairs of the Iranian regime
The UK’s foreign secretary Lord David Cameron (pictured) warned Iran that threats on British soil would not be tolerated
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members on a march (File image)
The UK’s foreign secretary Lord David Cameron warned Iran that threats on British soil would not be tolerated, telling ITV, which first exposed the plot:
‘We’ve issued sanctions with several individuals and one organisation connected with Iran because frankly they were carrying out threats to kill people here in this country.
‘Completely unacceptable and that’s why we’ve acted. These sanctions are asset freezes and travel bans and this comes on 400 people that we’ve issued sanctions on in the past.
‘It’s completely unacceptable behaviour and we will always respond rapidly and correctly.’
The plan initially involved a car bomb, but later changed to be a simple stabbing at their respective homes, which was assessed to have a higher chance of success.
A people smuggler was offered £158,000 to assassinate the pair, but later turned double agent and began leaking details of the plot to a Western intelligence agency.
His handlers told him in October 2022: ‘This London thing must be done in any circumstances.
‘We must finish them.’
A people smuggler was offered £158,000 to assassinate the pair, but later turned double agent and began leaking details of the plot to a Western intelligence agency
The initial plan to assassinate them at the business park that acted as the headquarters for the dissident channel fell through after Unit 840 saw that security guards were protecting the studios
The initial plan to assassinate them at the business park that acted as the headquarters for the dissident channel fell through after Unit 840 saw that security guards were protecting the studios.
The smuggler told ITV news at the time: ‘It had to be done where they live, in their residence, in their home, in the lifts, on the stairs or in the corridors.’
The Met Police told the channel about the threats, and the directors chose to go public with the information, saying in a statement in November: ‘Two of our British-Iranian journalists have, in recent days, been notified of an increase in the threats to them.
‘The Metropolitan Police have now formally notified both journalists that these threats represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.’
But the channel’s officials referred to two of its directors in their November statement, unaware that two of its journalists were the targets of the plot.
Ansari and Kanafani weren’t the only ones to target Iran International. In December, a terror scout was found guilty of spying on the channel, claiming he was in ‘wonder at the architecture’ of the business park it is based in.
Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, 31, took seven videos detailing the security arrangements of Volant Media, which runs Persian-language television channel Iran International, based in Chiswick Business Park in west London in February.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, the Chechnya-born Austrian national was found guilty of attempting to collect information on the news organisation, described as an ‘independent Farsi language news channel which has been critical of the current regime in Iran.’
Prosecutors said during his trial that he was seen taking a keen interest in Building 11, the home of Volant Media.
Security guards said Dovtaev, who was wearing a baseball and a facemask at the time, retreated to a nearby Starbucks after he realised he was being observed, they added.
‘Before this time, he had been moving around with his phone and holding it up in a movement which looked like he was recording a movie or taking a photo.’
Iran has thrust itself into the centre of global politics in recent weeks, after the US claims it backed militants in Jordan that killed three American soldiers on Sunday.
The US has today named the three soldiers killed, the youngest being just 23 years old.
Sergeant William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia, Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia, and Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia were all killed in the drone strike, while an additional 40 troops were also wounded.
It was the first deadly strike against US troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October and marks a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.
The United States is trying to determine exactly why the nearly 350 troops at the base in Jordan, known as Tower 22, were unable to stop the drone.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a U.S. drone was approaching the base around the same time the attack drone was incoming. One of the officials said the attack drone was also flying low, factors that may have contributed to it being missed by base defences.