Iran International journalist Pouria Zaraati

Iran International TV Host Stabbed In London Attack

Friday, 03/29/2024

Pouria Zeraati, the television host of the "Last Word" program on Iran International, was attacked by a group of unidentified individuals as he exited his residence in London on Friday.

Zeraati, who was attacked in the early afternoon in south London, suffered knife wounds. He is in a stable condition, but remains hospitalized. The Metropolitan Police in London are conducting an investigation into the incident.

While the motive is unclear, the attack comes just a few months after a plot by the Iranian regime to kill 2 other Iran International journalists was revealed.

The Metropolitan Police in a statement said that "due to the victim’s occupation as a journalist at a Persian-language media organisation based in the UK, coupled with the fact that there has been a number of threats directed towards this group of journalists in recent times, the incident is being investigated by specialist officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command."

A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed they were aware of the incident and were investigating. Although the motive for the attack remains unclear, it is understood that MI5 have been made aware.

Iran International’s journalists have long been a target by the regime for their coverage of Iran, and the platform it provides to critics and human rights activists.

A frame of the footage released by UK police showing Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev gathering intel on Iran International's former headquarters

In November 2022, the London Police provided protection to Iran International’s offices, acting upon credible intelligence about real threats against two of its journalists based in London.

In early 2023, the network had to temporarily shut down operations in London and move its broadcasting studios to Washington DC. In September of that year, operations resumed at a new location in London.

A man surveilling the previous London office was arrested by the police in February 2023. The Central Criminal Court of England sentenced him in December for gathering information on Iran International's London headquarters to 3.5 years behind bars.

Originally from Chechnya but residing in Austria, Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev (Mohammad-Hussein Dovtaev) was detained at Chiswick Business Park by officers from London’s Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command. He was charged with a single count of attempting to collect information "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." The jury court returned a guilty verdict for him.

UK's National Union of Journalists condemned the attack on Zeraati. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said, “This cowardly attack on Pouria is deeply shocking, and our thoughts are with him, his family and all of his colleagues at Iran International. We hope he makes a swift recovery...this brutal stabbing will inevitably raise fears amongst the many journalists targeted at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service that they are not safe at home or going about their work."

British MP and Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns said, "This is deeply upsetting, Iran International had to shut down its UK arm for a short period, it only recently returned to the air from London. Whilst we don’t know the circumstances of this attack, Iran continues to hunt down those brave enough to speak out against the regime. Yet I remain unconvinced that we and our allies have clear strategies to protect people in our countries from them, and protect our interests abroad."

In December 2023, UK’s ITV revealed that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) was plotting to assassinate two Iran International television anchors in London in 2022 amid Iranian anti-government protests.

The plan was foiled because the man hired to do the job turned out to be a ‘double-agent’ working for a western intelligence agency. He would relay all information to his handler, but then shared some details with ITV.

Based on irrefutable evidence – seen and verified by ITV and multiple officials– the plot was commissioned and signed off by Mohammad Reza Ansari, the IRGC commander in charge of assassinations outside Iran.

Ansari is the ‘mastermind’ behind failed plots to assassinate former US officials Mike Pompeo and John Bolton –for which he’s been sanctioned by the US treasury. He is based in Syria and is reported to have links with the family of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to ITV, Ansari hired and directed the hitman (Ismail) through another Assad associate, Mohammad Abd al-Razek Kanafani, requiring him first to use a car bomb and then a ‘quiet’ way to kill his targets: “simply stab [them] with a kitchen knife.”

The plot was cynically codenamed the “wedding”. The targets, Sima Sabet and Fardad Farahzad, were “bride” and “groom”. They did not know about the details of the plot until told by ITV during the making of the report.

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