After a gunman assaulted Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran’s capital Tehran, Baku says it is evacuating staff and family members from the country.
On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry labeled the attack, in which a security guard was shot dead and two others were wounded, as an "act of terrorism," adding that the embassy will be evacuated immediately.
A video has been released on social media, showing a truck outside the embassy loading furniture at night. It is not yet clear whether the embassy will continue to function.
Police in Tehran says it arrested the attacker at the scene and authorities condemned Friday's incident, claiming that the gunman appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive. But Azerbaijan summoned the Iranian ambassador and media in Baku seemed eager to portray the incident as a terror attack, claiming the assailant was a member of the Revolutionary Guard.
Azerbaijani media outlet Trend News Agency reported on Friday that “the perpetrator of the incident, identified as Iranian citizen Yasin Hosseinzadeh, and there are suspicions that he is related to Iran's special services, especially the IRGC.” It added that Iranian security forces guarding the embassy did not try to stop the attack.
Earlier, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry said the shooting was the result of Tehran failing to heed its calls for better security. CCTV footage of the incident showed the attacker forcing his way into the embassy building and shooting at two men before a third embassy employee grappled him away.
According to an article in Trend, the incident at the embassy occurred as “part of Iran's policy of hostility towards Azerbaijan.” A deputy of the country’s parliament said, "Iranian televisions and radios continuously promote hostility towards Azerbaijan. This once again shows that the Iranian state has a hand in the terrorist incident at the embassy, because it is known that Iran has always been a nest of terrorism and is one of the main countries that support terrorism. The terrorist incident against our embassy proved this once again."
Iran’s state media broadcast confessions by a grey-haired man identified as the assailant, who claimed he attacked the embassy believing that his wife was held inside the building. The embassy staff had given him a written statement attesting that she was not there, but the man said he was sure his wife was in the building and attacked the embassy to prove that.
The perpetrator of the attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran’s capital Tehran
Apparently his wife, who was an Azerbaijani citizen, left him ten months ago and he believed she found refuge inside the mission.
The Islamic Republic’s state broadcaster also talked to the seven-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter of the family, who purportedly were in the car outside the embassy. The girl said she had told her father that their mother was not in the embassy, adding that she was in contact with her mother in Azerbaijan and spoke to her on the phone about 10 days earlier.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for "a comprehensive investigation" of the incident and sent his condolences to Azerbaijan and the family of the dead man, identified as First Lieutenant Orkhan Rizvan oglu Teymurov. During a phone call with his Azeri counterpart late Saturday, Raisi said Tehran and Baku have inseparable historical relations and will not allow those relations to be affected by the two countries' ill-wishers.
Member of the Iranian parliament’s presidium Ali Nikzad has promised that necessary investigations will be done regarding the attack. The Iranian foreign minister also held a phone call with his Azeri counterpart, calling for the return of the country’s ambassador to Iran.
The incident came amid increased tensions between the neighboring countries triggered by territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Yerevan as well as over Baku's decision this month to appoint its first ever ambassador to Israel. Iran is dangerously implicated in regional tensions centered on Azerbaijan-Armenia that are exacerbated by fall-out from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In November, at a Baku conference ‘Along the Middle Corridor,’ Azeri President Ilham Aliyev launched a broadside against Iran, his toughest so far since relations soured over Iran’s role in the 2020 Azerbaijan-Armenia war, when adjacent Iranian military exercises followed the Azerbaijanis capturing areas around the disputed Nagorno-Karabagh enclave and along the Iran border. Tehran-Baku tensions have simmered since the 2020 war, when Iran moderated its past support for mainly Christian Armenia due partly to domestic pressures from both ethnic Azeri and Shia clerics supporting fellow Muslims.
“We worked with three presidents of Iran, [Mohammad] Khatami, [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, and [Hassan] Rouhani,” Aliyev said. “For all these years there was no situation similar to the current one. Never has Iran had two military exercises near our borders within a few months. There have never been such hateful and threatening statements against Azerbaijan,” he said, referring to warnings from President Ebrahim Raisi and other leaders against any border changes or threats to Iran’s transit route to Armenia, which is vulnerable since 2020 changes. Iran carried out more military drills along the border October, when Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also visited Yerevan.