French Anti-Terror Police Bust an Iranian Mosque in Dunkirk

Well, the reports refer to the “Center Zahra France”, but as far as I know, anything called an “Islamic center” in the West is a mosque in all but name.

The Islamic center that was raided is a Shi’ite one, and the French government says it is part of an Iranian government network that planned a bombing attack against an Iranian opposition group in Paris.

Many thanks to Ava Lon for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

This article from Asia News has more:

Paris: Teheran Behind the Failed June Attack. Iran Denies the Accusations

According to the transalpine government the Iranian intelligence ministry is behind the foiled attack on Villepinte against an anti-Tehran opposition group. Assets of two senior officials of the Islamic Republic frozen. Tehran rejects claims and hopes for new talks to dispel the “misunderstandings”.

Teheran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The French authorities accuse the Intelligence Ministry of Tehran of having planned a (failed) bomb attack last June, targeting an Iranian opposition group in Paris. In a note the transalpine government claims to have arranged the freezing of assets of two senior officials of the Islamic Republic.

Iranian leaders have claimed that the attack has been “framed” and renews the invitation to the Élysée for further clarifying talks.

On June 30th, some supporters of the Iranian opposition met in Villepinte, a town not far from the capital Paris, in the context of a meeting promoted by the National Council for Resistance in Iran (Ncri). Among the personalities present were US politicians Newt Gingrich, former president of Parliament, and Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney of US President Donald Trump and former mayor of New York.

The NCRI is considered the political arm of the dissident movement Mujahideen-e-Khalq (Mek): for Teheran it is a terrorist organization that aims to overthrow the regime of the ayatollahs. In the days following the alleged (unfinished) attack, the Belgian police arrested two citizens (husband and wife) of Iranian origin, in possession of over a pound of explosives. Amir A and Nasimeh N [the police did not want to reveal the whole identity] are implicated in the attempt to attack the French anti-Tehran dissident movement. A third man, called Merhad A, was arrested in Paris and also accused of complicity.

With an official note released yesterday, the French government openly accuses the Iranian intelligence ministry of having planned the Villepinte attack. The joint document signed by the Ministry of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Economy speaks of “a very serious gesture on our territory” that could not remain “unanswered”.

The Iranian government strongly denies all involvement. According to Teheran groups that “intend to damage long-term relations with France and, more generally, with Europe” are behind the attempted attack . Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, hopes for new talks with the Elysee to dispel “any misunderstanding”.

Finally, yesterday, in an event that could be linked to the attack foiled early this summer, the French police raided the headquarters of a Shiite Muslim association, Center Zahra France, in the town of Dunkirk.

Investigators suspect that the center would have woven close ties with Iran to promote religious and political activities of an “extremist” nature. The agents have made numerous arrests, seized different probative material and frozen the assets of some belonging to the group. In recent years, its members had intertwined ties with anti-Zionist groups of the extreme right.

See also this Reuters article.

Video transcript:

00:00   It’s a thunderclap in French-Iranian relations. This morning
00:04   a search in Grande-Synthe [Pas-de-Calais] at the premises of the Shia Association
00:08   Center Zahra France, as well as in the homes of the principal leaders,
00:12   resulted in three temporary arrests for illegal possession of firearms.
00:16   Six computers were also confiscated for analysis. This action, which mobilized 200 police
00:21   officers, including members of RAID [antiterrorist unit] and BRI [Research & Intervention Brigade],
00:24   was realized thanks to the law on interior security.
00:28   In a joint communiqué the Interior Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs
00:32   and the Finance Minster denounce an attempted attack
00:37   that was prevented in Villepinte [NE suburb of Paris] in June of this year, an act
00:41   of extreme gravity which must not be left without consequences.
00:45   France therefore took measures to freeze the assets of two Iranian nationals,
00:49   also of the directorate of internal security of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.
00:53   A necessity for a demanding approach to our relations with
00:57   Iran, according to Jean-Yves Le Drian. According to the North Prefecture,
01:01   the activities of the Association were in particular followed because of
01:05   the support showed to several terrorist organizations and in favor of a movement
01:09   having the ideas contrary to the values of the Republic. —It’s a militant association,
01:14   like everyone of Shia vocation, yeah. —It’s true
01:18   that we were seeing a lot of people coming to visit the Association, yeah.
01:22   According to their Facebook page the association
01:26   Center Zahra France was created in 2009, and according to them its goal was to spread
01:30   the message of Islam. A discrete organization, but accused
01:34   of propagating very virulent anti-Zionist propaganda.

Hat tips for the articles: C. Cantoni and Reader from Chicago.