Terror target in Azerbaijan was Israeli embassy

Local security services have arrested an Afghani on suspicion of planning the attack.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The state security services of Azerbaijan arrested on Monday an Afgani citizen suspected of planning a terrorist attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku.

The Azeri authorities are reportedly working in close cooperation with their Israeli counterparts after detaining Pavzan Musa Khan, 23, on the street outside the embassy, which is located in one of the towers of the Hyatt hotel complex in the capital city.

In their announcement of the arrest, they said that Khan had contacted potential co-conspirators to carry out the attack. He helped buy explosives and other weapons as well as conducting extensive surveillance of the area.

His aim, they said, was to murder innocent people and cause damage to property “in order to destabilize the social stability of the country, create panic among the population and influence the decision-making of the state authorities and international organizations.”

The State Security Service released footage of Baku streets and buildings that it captured on Khan’s mobile phone. He can be seen pretending to have phone conversations to cover his actions.

The footage also includes portions of his interrogation in which he talked of the parameters of the task, such as finding out how big the embassy is, who the people are who work there, “when they come and when they leave.”

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He said he knew it would be necessary to have a car, a machine gun, and clothes, as well as to “conduct a lot of observation… consult, and determine the time of the operation. How many people will participate … how to get in there.”

“Ninety-nine percent of this work is observation,” and one percent is action, he added.

The moment of the arrest is also shown, with two men in plain clothes crossing the street and then one of them lunging at Khan, catching his arms behind his back. Within seconds, six more casually dressed men surround him.

Jerusalem and Baku have had diplomatic relations almost since the moment Azerbaijan declared its independence in late 1991. The relations are very warm, even though it is a Shiite Muslim-majority country. Israel has supplied Azerbaijan with significant arms, while the Azeris are the source for 40% of Israel’s oil imports.

Despite the good terms of the relationship, Baku opened an embassy in Israel for the first time only in March. This may have had to do with the fact that it shares a border with Iran, although the two nations are not allies.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen noted at the embassy opening that Azerbaijan’s “strategic location makes the relationship between us of great importance and great potential. Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threat. The Iranian ayatollah regime threatens both our regions, finances terrorism and destabilizes the entire Middle East.”

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Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is expected to land in Azerbaijan this week for a working visit. This follows President Isaac Herzog’s state visit to Baku last month, where he talked of expanding relations to areas other than defense, such as tourism and energy.