Suspects in Iran International journalist stabbing fled UK within hours – police

Three suspects identified by police over the stabbing of an Iran International journalist are believed to have fled the country within hours of the attack, the Metropolitan Police said.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating the attack on Pouria Zeraati, who has now been discharged from hospital after he was attacked and injured in his leg outside his home in Wimbledon, south London, on Friday.

The Met said in a statement the motivation for the attack was not yet clear, and his occupation coupled with recent threats to UK-based Iranian journalists meant the investigation was being led by specialist counter-terrorism officers.

Three people are thought to have been involved in the incident, and a vehicle said to be linked to the attack has been recovered, the force said.

Detectives believe Mr Zeraati was attacked by two men who fled in a vehicle driven by a third man.

The vehicle, a blue Mazda 3, was abandoned in the New Malden area shortly after the attack. It is being examined by forensic experts.

“Detectives trawled CCTV and made extensive inquiries 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.

“We do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this.

“I appreciate the concern this incident has caused, for local people and all those impacted.

“Additional patrols are continuing in the Wimbledon area and at other locations in London. If you have any concerns, please do speak with these officers.”

Iran International spokesman Adam Baillie said Tehran’s revolutionary guards have been targeting the broadcaster.

The London-based dissident channel aims to provide independent coverage of Iran, but the Tehran regime has declared it a terrorist organisation.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been targeting journalists and their families, Mr Baillie said.

Iran’s charge d’affaires in the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, said “we deny any link” to the incident.

Asked what he believed lay behind the attack, Mr Baillie told BBC Radio 4’s Today on Saturday: “We can’t say. The fact that counter-terrorism is leading the investigation probably speaks for itself.

“Along with our colleagues at BBC Persian, Iran International has been under threat, very heavy threats, for the last 18 months since the IRGC said ‘we’re coming for you’, which they have consistently repeated.”

He said the IRGC “get in touch through proxies, they don’t leave a paper trail”.

“No-one’s going to call up from the IRGC and go ‘hey, it’s us’, but families have been taken in for questioning and threatened.”

He added: “The scale of that has increased dramatically over the last few months, and the scale and the type of questioning is more aggressive, ‘tell your relatives to stop working for this channel’ and so on.”

In January, the Foreign Office announced sanctions against members of the IRGC’s Unit 840, after an ITV investigation into plots to assassinate two of Iran International’s presenters in the UK.

Officials said the plot was the latest credible example of Iran’s attempts to kill or intimidate Britons or people with links to the UK, with at least 15 such threats since January 2022.

In a separate case in December 2023, an IT worker was jailed for three and a half years for spying on Iran International before a “planned attack” on British soil.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev carried out hostile reconnaissance for others unknown at the London headquarters of Iran International in February.

After a trial at the Old Bailey, the Chechnya-born Austrian was found guilty of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.

Anyone with information about the incident who has yet to speak with officers is asked to call police on 0800 789 321.

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