London Metropolitan police says the three suspects involved in the stabbing of Iran International presenter Pouria Zeraati fled the UK shortly after the attack, triggering an international manhunt.

Zeraati was stabbed outside his residence in Wimbledon, south London, on March 29, and sustained injuries to his leg. He was discharged from hospital on Sunday.

According to a statement by the Metropolitan Police, the motive for the assault remains unclear. However, due to prior threats against Iran International journalists, the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command is spearheading the investigation. The attack occurred just a few months after a plot by the Iranian regime to kill 2 other Iran International journalists was revealed.

Detectives investigating the stabbing said they have identified three suspects in the case, but did not disclose their identities. Zeraati was approached by two men before being attacked. The assailants then escaped the scene in a blue Mazda 3 driven by a third accomplice. Their getaway vehicle, however, proved to be their undoing. Police located the abandoned car in New Malden and are currently conducting a forensic examination.

Pouria Zeraati, the television host of the "Last Word" program on Iran International, at hospital following a knife attack in London (March 30, 2024)

Authorities discovered that the suspects, instead of lying low, made a beeline straight for Heathrow Airport and vanished from the UK within a few hours of the attack.

"We've identified three suspects who we believe left the country shortly after the incident," revealed Commander Dominic Murphy, Head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.

The investigation, which included extensive CCTV analysis and inquiries, led the detectives to the abandoned vehicle, he added. “Detectives trawled CCTV and made extensive enquiries resulting in the identification and recovery of a vehicle used by the suspects to leave the scene. We have established that after abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled to Heathrow Airport and have left the UK. We are now working with international partners to establish further details.”

Commander Murphy said they are still in the early stage of the investigation, stressing that all possibilities are being considered, and no definitive reason for the attack has been established yet.

The incident has understandably caused significant concern “for local people and all those impacted, "Murphy admitted, adding that they have increased police patrols in Wimbledon and other key areas across London.

Many activists and human rights and journalist unions have raised concerns about the incident, calling for action to confront and deter the regime in Tehran from expanding its malign activities.

Activist Masih Alinejad, herself a victim of an assassination plot by Iran, said the attack on Zeraati must be “a wake-up call for the UK. This attack on Zeraati was a sinister message from the Islamic Republic she said: "If you are a dissident, then you are not safe, no matter how far from Iran's borders you may be, she said in her opinion piece."

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

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, 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.

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