A Hizballah cell backed by intelligence from Tehran and external Iranian terror cells in Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia, was captured in Baku on Jan. 19 by Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry (MNS) officers as it was about to launch a series of attacks on the Israeli embassy, Chief Rabbi Shneor Segal and Rabbi Mati Lewis at the Habad center and visiting Israel personages.
debkafile's counter-terror sources disclose that two of the Hizballah cell members live permanently in Baku. The third, who resides in Tehran, was recruited by Iranian intelligence to lead the Hizballah operation, which was the first joint Iranian-Hizballah terrorist attack ever discovered.
In its sights too were the former Israeli chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi who was due to visit to the Azerbaijan capital and several local high officials who work with the United States and Israel. They were suspected by Tehran of helping the US and Israel set up an attack on Iran from Azerbaijan.
The two Habad figures are Israeli-born heads of the Jewish community in Baku and the Ohr Avner Chabad Jewish Day School,
The cell was rounded up just weeks after a Hizballah terrorist strike against the local Habad center was preempted in Bangkok, thanks to Thai-Israeli counter-terror cooperation. There, Hizballah had intended to take hostages and blow up the Habad headquarters, aping al Qaeda's 2009 outrage in Mumbai.
Israel's Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz had this to say Tuesday, Jan. 24: "We stand guard over the nation's security in near and distant arenas. Our borders appear calm. But at the very time that our enemies in the north avoid striking us for fear of painful punishment, Hizballah and other hostile elements are making every effort to bring off savage terrorist attacks against Israelis and the Jewish people in far places."
The general added: "I advise them not to test our resolve."
Gantz was referring to the constant Hizballah efforts to avenge the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the terrorist group's special security chief, on Feb. 12, 2008 in Damascus, and Iran's threats following the death of the Iranian nuclear scientist Prof. Mostafa Ahamdi-Roshan on Jan. 11 in Tehran.
Hizballah and Iran both attributed the attacks to Israel.
Our sources can identify the Hizballah terror cell's Baku chief as an Iranian Azeri by the name of Balaqardash Dadashov and the two local operatives as Rasim Aliyev and Ali Huseynov. Found in their possession were guns and explosives said to have been delivered to them by smugglers from Iran, although debkafile's counter-terror sources say they entered Azerbaijan from Armenia.
The operation leader Balaqardash arrived from Tehran with a file full of photos of the targeted Israeli figures, plans of the buildings to be attacked, and maps as well as $9,300 to cover the costs of the preparations. Each of the terrorists was promised a fee of $150,000.