The entrance of MEK’s camp Ashraf in Albania

Albanian Police Raid Iranian Opposition MEK Camp

Tuesday, 06/20/2023

Exiled opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) says hundreds of Albanian police officers raided the group's exile center, Camp Ashraf, in an unexpected move. 

The group said on Tuesday that one of their members, identified as Ali Mostashari, was killed and more than a hundred others injured, with some hospitalized in critical condition after police raided the camp using tear gas and pepper spray. The group alleged that the attack was instigated by the Iranian regime.

Albanian authorities denied any loss of life or injuries, claiming that the incident happened due to the group’s refusal to cooperate with the police. 

“This morning around 1,000 Albanian policemen attacked Ashraf in a criminal and suppressive onslaught,” the group said in a statement, adding: “They broke many doors, closets, and equipment and attacked the residents with tear gas and pepper spray. Many computers were broken or taken away.”

The MEK claimed that the actions by the Albanian police are “reminiscent of the criminal attacks by forces of Nouri al-Maliki (former prime minister of Iraq) on the original Camp Ashraf in Iraq between 2009 and 2015.” 

According to Albanian local media, the raid was carried out following a decision by the country’s organization of Special Court against Corruption and Organized Crime (GJKKO) at Ashraf 3 and Ashraf 4 camps in Manzë town, in the city of Durrës, where the group has been in exile since 2014, settling in Albania for humanitarian purposes. 

Supporters of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran opposition group-- also known as the MEK -- rally in solidarity with the Iranian people, in Paris, France, February 12, 2023.

Albania’s police said it had suspicions that there may be people in the premises involved in cyberattacks against Tirana as well as criminal “acts of larger dimensions.” 

The country’s Ministry of the Interior defended the raid, calling it a 'check' and saying that it complied with state laws.

The suspected perpetrators of the cyberattacks, who are being interrogated following their apprehension, are believed to be infiltrators of the Islamic Republic regime, Albanian Daily News reported. According to the news website, leaders of the camp had reported on several occasions that they suspected regime infiltrators among them. 

The police also said that the operation followed a request by the organization for permits to hold an event inside the camp on July 1 as a measure to prevent any risks. The Tuesday incident came a day after Reuters reported that France banned an upcoming MEK rally over the risk of an attack. 

In September 2022, Albania severed its relations with the Islamic Republic and expelled all Iranian diplomats and embassy staff following an investigation into a large-scale cyberattack that targeted the country’s infrastructure in July. "This extreme response...is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country," Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said at the time. 

The attack happened around the time of a conference held by the MEK. In early August, cybersecurity firm Mandiant expressed “moderate confidence” the attackers were acting in support of Tehran’s efforts to disrupt the MEK conference, which had to be cancelled as well due to a terror threat.

In its report, the company said that several factors reveal that the attack was carried out by pro-Iran hackers, including the timing, the content of a social media channel used to claim responsibility, and similarities in software code used with malware long used to target Farsi and Arabic speakers.

The July 2022 conference by the dissident group, titled The Free Iran World Summit, was canceled following warnings from local authorities of a possible terrorist threat. Several US lawmakers were also among the invitees.

MEK, a revolutionary organization with a Marxist-Islamist ideology emerged before the Iranian revolution in 1979 and for a time supported the new Islamist government in Tehran. But soon the ruling clerics decided they would not tolerate leftists and other organizations remaining active and launched bloody repression. MEK was exiled and many found refuge in Iraq under Saddam Hussein who helped them continue their fight against the government in Tehran.

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