Two Pakistani nationals of Iranian origin were arrested as part of an overseas terrorism network, said officials in Athens.
By Erin Viner
“Authorities have uncovered members of a terrorist organization involving foreign nationals, who have been taken to the public prosecutor,” Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said in a message posted on Twitter, adding, “The operation demonstrates that the country’s security authorities maintain a high state of readiness for all Greeks and all visitors to our country.”
Greek police said the 27 and 29-year-old suspects, who are believed to have received training in Iran, were planning to recruit more people to carry out imminent attacks on ‘highly symbolic’ Jewish and Israeli targets intended to cause mass casualties.
One Greek official told the Associated Press news agency that one of the targets was a Jewish restaurant frequented by Israelis in Athen’s Pasiri neighborhood, while the Kathimerini newspaper cited sources who identified a synagogue in the center of the capital city. Other reports said the targets included a Chabad religious center.
Greek media reported that the network was exposed following the arrest of Pakistani citizens planning to attack Israelis in Cyprus in 2021, in addition to attempted efforts to kill Israelis in Turkey last year.
“Their aim was not only to cause the loss of life of innocent citizens, but also to undermine the sense of security in the country, while hurting public institutions and threatening Greece(‘s) international relations,” said a police statement, which said that the country’s Anti-Terrorism Police Division and National Intelligence Service were involved in the arrests with the assistance of an unnamed foreign intelligence service.
In a rare statement from Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disclosed that the Mossad was involved in “intelligence priming of the network, the methods of operation and the connection to Iran.”
“The affair that was uncovered today in Greece is a severe case that was successfully thwarted by the Greek security forces. It was an additional attempt by Iran to perpetrate terrorism against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad,” Netanyahu announced last night.
“After the start of the investigation of the suspects in Greece, the Mossad rendered intelligence assistance in unraveling the infrastructure, its work methods and the link to Iran. The investigation revealed that the infrastructure that operated in Greece is part of an extensive Iranian network run from Iran and spanning many countries,” he added, underscoring that, “the Mossad, together with its partners in the community, is working relentlessly to thwart intended Iranian attacks around the world.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – whose position remains in tandem after being fired by Netanyahu earlier this week – stated that the capture of the terrorists “serves as another proof to the superiority of Israeli intelligence and the importance of international cooperation against terrorism and its generators.”
“The Mossad and Israel’s intelligence agencies will continue to act to ensure that wherever Iran seeks to act against our citizens, it will be met with an effective response,” he emphasized.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen released a statement thanking the Greek government and the Greek intelligence and security service for thwarting the terrorist attack against Jewish and Israeli targets.
“Terrorism is a common enemy and the fight against it is our top priority. The government of the Ayatollahs in Tehran exports terrorism to the Middle East and the whole world and only a firm and joint stand will stop the terrorist activities of the Iranian regime,” said Jerusalem’s top diplomat.
The incident comes just a week before Jewish celebration of the Passover holiday when many Israelis visit the nearby island nation.