Part 2: History of Iran-backed Terrorist Attacks

November 7, 2018

Since the revolution's early years, Iran has been linked — directly or indirectly — to acts of terror on five continents. The Islamic Republic has “conducted terrorist plots, assassinations, and attacks in more than 20 countries worldwide,” according to a State Department report released in September 2018. Most have been linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Hizbollah — the Lebanese political party and militia that is Iran's primary proxy — has also often been involved in the attacks. Many targets have been Iranian dissidents and Israeli or Jewish facilities. 

The pattern of attacks has increased since a lull in the 1990s and early 2000s, the State Department reported. Three plots, uncovered in 2018, took place in Europe. In January 2018, German authorities searched the homes and businesses belong to 10 suspected Iranian spies. In June/July 2018, two Belgian nationals of Iranian origin in possession of explosives and a detonator were arrested by Belgian police. An accomplice was arrested in Paris. An Austria-based Iranian diplomat, allegedly an MOIS agent, was arrested in Germany. The four people were involved in an attempt to bomb a conference of the Mujahadeen-e Khalq, an exiled dissident movement, in Paris. In October 2018, Denmark charged that an Iranian intelligence agency had plotted to assassinate an Iranian dissident in Ringsted. Iran denied involvement in all three cases. The following is the State Department’s timeline chronicling Iran’s alleged attacks worldwide in chronological order. 

 

The following is a timeline released by the State Department that chronicles attacks on five continents, reproduced in chronological order. 

 

Europe

June 14-30, 1985 – Athens, Greece: Lebanese Hizballah – with Iran’s logistical support – hijacked TWA flight 847 and murdered a U.S. Navy diver.

Hezbollah flag
Hizballah flag

December 1985-September 1986 – Paris, France: Lebanese Hizballah bombed a number of soft targets. Iran provided logistical support, and the attack resulted in 12 dead and at least 200 wounded.

July 13, 1989 – Vienna, Austria: Iranian operatives using diplomatic cover assassinated the head of an Iranian Kurdish dissident group and two others.

August 6, 1991 – Suresnes, France: Iranian operatives assassinated the former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, who led an anti-Iranian regime movement. One operative was convicted, but two fled.

September 17, 1992 – Berlin, Germany: Lebanese Hizballah – with Iran’s logistical support – assassinated four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a small-arms attack at a café. Four operatives were tried and convicted in 1997.

July 2012 – Sofia, Bulgaria: An IRGC-QF operative was arrested by Bulgarian authorities for surveilling a synagogue.

2012 – Turkey: Four IRGC-QF operatives entered Turkey to attack Israeli targets; the attack was disrupted by Turkish authorities.

2013 – Bosnia and Herzegovina: Two Iranian diplomats were discovered to be Iranian intelligence officers and expelled for espionage and connections to terrorism.

2016-2018 – Germany: German authorities searched the homes and offices of 10 suspected IRGC-QF operatives in early 2018. In 2016, German authorities convicted an IRGC-QF operative for spying on the ex-head of a German-Israeli group and people close to him.

2018 – Belgium, France, Germany: Authorities in Belgium, France, and Germany arrested several Iranian operatives, including an Iranian government official, in a plot to plant a bomb to disrupt a political rally in Paris, France.

 

Africa

October 2010 – Nigeria: Nigerian authorities seized an Iranian shipment of rockets, rocket launchers, grenades, and ammunition destined for rebels in the Gambia and Senegal.

June 2012 – Nairobi, Kenya: Two IRGC-QF operatives were arrested for planning bomb attacks against Western interests. Authorities discovered 33 pounds of explosive materials.

February 20, 2013 – Nigeria: Three Iranian operatives were arrested for planning attacks against U.S. and Israeli tourist sites and organizations. A terrorist cell leader received weapons training in Iran.

November 2016 – Kenya: Two Iranian operatives and their Kenyan driver, a local embassy employee, were arrested and charged with information collection in connection with a terrorist act after surveilling the Israeli embassy.

 

North America

July 22, 1980 – Bethesda, MD, United States: An Iranian operative assassinated a former Iranian diplomat-in-exile, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a vocal critic of then-Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

September 2009 – Glendora, CA, United States: An Iranian operative hired a hitman to assassinate an Iranian-American regime opponent and radio personality.

September 29, 2011 – Washington, DC, United States: The IRGC-QF supported a plan to bomb a restaurant to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

August 20, 2018 – United States: Two Iranian operatives were charged for conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, and collecting identifying information about U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals who are members of an Iranian opposition group.

 

South America

March 17, 1992 – Buenos Aires, Argentina: Lebanese Hizballah detonated a VBIED outside the Israeli Embassy. Iran provided logistical support. The attack killed 29 people and wounded 252.

July 18, 1994 – Buenos Aires, Argentina: Lebanese Hizballah detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) outside the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association. Iran provided logistical support, and the attack resulted in 95 dead and 200 wounded.

 

January 8, 2015 – Montevideo, Uruguay: A senior Iranian diplomat was expelled for planning an attack near the Israeli Embassy.

 

Asia

May 16, 2011 – Karachi, Pakistan: Iranian operatives assassinated Saudi diplomat Hassan al-Qahtani.

February 13, 2012 – New Delhi, India: IRGC-QF directed a bomb attack targeting Israeli diplomats that injured one Israeli and three Indian citizens.

February 14, 2012 – Bangkok, Thailand: Three IRGC-QF operatives planned attacks against Israeli diplomats in Thailand, but the operatives were arrested after accidentally detonating explosives. One operative and five others were injured.

April 13, 2013 – Kathmandu, Nepal: An Iranian traveling on a fake Israeli passport was arrested for conducting surveillance of the Israeli Embassy.

February 2016 – Manila, Philippines: Philippine authorities thwarted an Iranian plot to hijack a Saudi Arabian civilian aircraft.

 

Click here for the full State Department report. 

Click here for a history of terrorism against Iran.