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One dead in attack on Azerbaijani Embassy in Iran

27 January 2023
Security camera footage purportedly showing the attacker inside the embassy. Screenshot from video from Report.az

A gunman has killed the head of security and injured two other guards in an attack on the Azerbaijani Embassy in Iran. Azerbaijani officials have blamed Iran for the attack, an allegation that comes amidst rising tensions between Tehran and Baku. 

The attack took place at around 08:00 local time on Friday morning.

Surveillance footage released by pro-government media in Azerbaijan appears to show the assailant, who they identified as Iranian citizen Yasin Huseynzadeh, entering the building wielding an automatic rifle. Footage from inside shows the man opening fire, before a member of staff wrestles control of the gun from him. The man was later arrested by the Iranian police.

Responses from senior Azerbaijani and Iranian officials were swift and conflicting.

Tehran’s chief of police, Sardar Huseyn Rahimi, announced that the assailant had arrived at the embassy with two children, and had claimed after his arrest to have been motivated by ‘personal and family problems’.

However, surveillance footage purportedly from outside the embassy shows the man arriving alone.

The Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported that the assailant claimed his wife had gone to the embassy in April 2022 and not returned home. After receiving no response to his enquiries to the embassy, the assailant reportedly concluded that his wife was inside the embassy and unwilling to meet him, prompting his attack.

Security camera footage of the assailant outside the embassy. An Iranian police officer in the guard booth appeared to do little to confront the attacker. Screenshot from video, Report.az

Azerbaijani media was quick to respond, alleging that the Iranian accounts were ‘unfounded’, and describing the attack on the embassy as an act of terrorism.

‘In order to evade responsibility, the Iranian state is distorting the nature of the incident and trying to present the terrorist attack as a family incident’, stated APA, citing ‘diplomatic channels’. 

Other pro-government Azerbaijani outlets, including Report.az and Caliber, have more explicitly alleged that the Iranian special services were behind the attack. 

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has summoned Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan over the incident.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aykhan Hajizadeh stated that Baku did not believe the attack was carried out ‘on personal grounds’. 

‘All responsibility for the attack falls on the Iranian side’, said Hajizadeh, adding that embassy employees were being evacuated to Azerbaijan. 

The ministry accused Iran of failing to fulfil its obligation to ensure the security of the embassy and its staff as per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

The security footage from outside the embassy shows Iranian police failing to confront the attacker as he runs inside with his weapon drawn.

The attack comes following months of mounting tension between the two countries, with Iran and Azerbaijan exchanging accusations and conducting military drills on their shared border since late 2022. Among other allegations, Azerbaijan has accused Iran of sending weapons to Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin corridor, which has now been blocked for over a month. 

Demanding investigation and punishment

Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, took to social media to pay tribute to the family of Lieutenant Orkhan Asgerov, who was killed in the incident, and demand an ‘investigation of the terrorist act and the punishment of the terrorists’.

Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Iran, Ali Alizadeh, added that he had condemned ‘this cruel act of terrorism’ and that the protection of diplomatic missions needed to be ‘fully ensured’ by the receiving state. 

Azerbaijan’s State Security Service also announced that it had opened a criminal case related to the attack, under articles related to ‘terror committed abroad’ and ‘illegal arms trafficking abroad’. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased and the people of Azerbaijan. Kanani stated that the Iranian authorities were investigating the incident, also highlighting that the preliminary investigation indicated that the attacker’s motives were ‘personal’. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke to his Azerbaijani counterpart soon after details of the attack were made public, reportedly telling Bayramov that ‘Turkey is always with Azerbaijan’. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, the Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, the Georgian Embassy, and a number of foreign leaders and diplomatic missions also expressed their condolences and condemned the attack.

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