(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Police in Azerbaijan arrested a number of people with links to Iran and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, AFP reported Tuesday according to Azeri state TV.
Azeri police said the detained suspects were planning attacks on foreign citizens in the Eurasian nation, but it was unclear from the report which nations were targeted.
The state TV report said the suspects had bought weapons including firearms and explosives, and had gathered intelligence on potential targets. The suspects had links to Iran's intelligence agency and to Lebanese Hezbollah.
According to reports, one of those arrested is an Iranian member of the Quds Force.
The Quds Force is the elite unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is separate from Iran's regular military. It is headed by General Ghassem Suleimani, who reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
It is tasked with operating outside of Iranian territory, assisting and arming proxies like Hezbullah, and orchestrating terrorist attacks. The Quds Force has been linked to the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Argentina, in which 85 people were murdered.
The Force spent years building up Hezbullah's arsenal of rockets in south Lebanon and training its fighters, as well coordinating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Terrorists in India and Georgia, which neighbors Azerbaijan, targeted Israeli diplomats last week when they planned bombings of the Israeli embassies in New Delhi and Tbilisi. While Georgian sappers defused the bomb in Tbilisi, an Israeli diplomat's wife and her Indian driver were wounded when a bomb attached to their vehicle exploded.
Israel blamed Iran for the attack. Tehran denied any role in the attacks, saying Israel seeks to tarnish the Islamic Republic's image.
The Foreign Ministry announced last week that Israeli missions in foreign countries were on high alert after the terror attacks; four undisclosed embassies were closed for a number of days.
Israel fears reprisal attacks from Hezbollah after the recent anniversary of the assassination of the Lebanese group's terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh in 2008, which Hezbollah blames on its proclaimed archenemy Israel.Herb Keinon contributed to this report