Georgia foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate an Israeli residing in the country, its State Security Service said Tuesday.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force orchestrated the plan to kill Itzik Moshe, a businessman who also worked to advance Israel-Georgia relations, with a number of teams from different countries, it said.
One team of assassins from Pakistan have ties to al-Qaeda and arrived in Tbilisi to gather intelligence on the target. Another was arrested last week and found with weapons and ammunition, as well as other incriminating evidence.
In addition, Georgian authorities arrested two dual Georgian-Iranian citizens on charges of smuggling weapons from Turkey to the assassins.
The teams received instructions from an Iranian citizen named Mohammad Reza Ebadi Arablu, who worked in the past for the Quds Force in Georgia. His boss is Ali Feyzipour, of the Quds Force, who works on terrorist attacks around the world, the State Security Service said.
The hiring of Pakistani and Georgian citizens for the assassination attempt is a part of an Iranian pattern of using foreign terrorist fighters to try to cover its tracks.
The assassination plot
The Georgian authorities seized firearms and ammunition as part of the investigation, as well as cellphones, on which they found information about the planning of the murder and the location of the hiding places.
“Thanks to the actions of Georgian security forces, the plan was revealed and the threat was removed,” an Israeli security source said. “After the plot was uncovered in Georgia, their security forces worked with the Israeli intelligence community.”
Iran has planned terrorist attacks in Georgia in the past, including in 2021-2022, and this is not the first time Moshe was targeted, the security source added.
Among those working on the attempted attacks was Shahram Poursafi, of the Quds Force, who was charged with attempting to murder former US national security advisor John Bolton.
“The connection between Iran and al-Qaeda is not new,” the security source said. “This attempted terrorist attack once again shows the close and years-long connection between [them] – specifically the use Tehran makes of the terrorist organization, including hosting its members on Iranian soil – to advance attacks on innocent civilians while trying to hide its direct involvement.”
The National Security Council said there was no new travel warning for Georgia. This is because travel warnings are meant for the broader public, and this attack was against a specific Israeli, an NSC source said.
Past Iranian assassination attempts against Israelis
The news from Georgia came months after Israeli and Turkish intelligence worked together to thwart an Iranian plot to assassinate Israeli tourists in Istanbul. Jerusalem warned Israelis not to visit Turkey in June, and soon after, Turkey arrested eight members of an Iranian cell in hotel rooms in a popular tourist district, with weapons and ammunition.
Last October, Cyprus foiled an Iranian plot to attack Israelis, including billionaire Teddy Sagi, which Tehran denied. Cypriot authorities arrested a Russian-Azeri man who had a loaded pistol with a silencer in his rented car.
This is a developing story.