An Israeli intelligence official told Iran International that the IRGC routinely uses criminal gangs for terrorist operations in other countries such as Turkey.
“The IRGC has for many years employed criminal gangs and mafia [like groups] in various countries including Turkey for terrorist operations,” an Israeli intelligence official told Iran International’s correspondent in Tel Aviv regarding Turkish media’s recent allegations that the Iran’s Guards had employed organized criminals for foiled attacks on Israeli tourists last month.
The official who did not want to be named alleged that the IRGC’s extra-territorial arm, the Qods (Quds) Force and the its Intelligence Organization (SAS) have used criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and even ordinary criminals for such operations in Turkey, South America, and Cyprus.
Turkey’s intelligence organization (MIT) and Israel’s Mossad last month said they had foiled alleged Iran-hatched plots to abduct and assassinate Israeli tourists in Turkey.
On June 23, just before the arrival of then-Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Turkey, MIT revealed that it had detained eight suspects, allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell, who were involved in the plot.
The suspects who were arrested in raids on three separate houses in Istanbul said that they were not in direct contact with Iranian intelligence and took their orders from the leader of an Iranian organized crime group who was in Iran, through WhatsApp, Turkish media reported.
Turkey’s Yeni Şafak has reported that the cell was plotting two different operations, one to abduct former Israeli diplomat Yossi Levi-Sfari and his partner, and another against three Israeli women who resided in an Istanbul hotel.
According to Turkish media, three of the six Iranian suspects, have said in their interrogations that the terrorist operations were ordered by Iranian intelligence. One of the Iranian suspects who had the actual assassin’s role traveled to Iran four times in two months and met with a criminal group’s leader in Iran four days before his arrest.
The Iranian members of the of the terrorist cell had entered Turkey legally two months earlier but two of them had used forged passports, Turkish media say.
The Israeli intelligence official cited Mansour Rasouli, an Iranian national reportedly abducted and interrogated inside Iran by Israeli Mossad, as an example.
On April 30, Israeli media released an audio recording with the photo of a man introduced as Iranian national Mansour Rasouli, 52, who they claimed the Mossad had interrogated inside Iran. Israeli media did not provide a source for the audio file that they said Mossad operatives posing as Iranian secret service agents recorded at Rasouli's home in Iran.
In the audio file Rasouli admitted that that he had been instructed by the IRGC to establish an operational network to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Istanbul, a Germany-based US general, and a journalist in France. Officials in Tehran never commented on Israeli media’s claims but Rasouli himself later released a video online in which he said he had been coerced by the Mossadto confess to terror plots.
In past few months there were multiple mysterious incidents in which IRGC officers and operatives were killed or died in unexplained circumstances. Iran blamed Israel for some of the incidents. Israel has not taken responsibility for the assassinations but has not denied involvement, either.
The IRGC’s counter-intelligence chief Hossein Taeb was replaced last month. Taeb was recently harshly criticized by social media activists and some politicians for failing to detect and prevent Israel's operations in Iran.