An article by Levina
In the month of February this year, 4 Iranian intelligence operatives were found guilty of planning to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in 2018, by a Belgian court. The verdict came weeks after US President Joe Biden took office, and as Iran gets sanguine that it will ease some of the sanctions introduced by Trump.
Assadollah Assadi and his 3 accomplices which included a women were given jail terms ranging frm 20 years to 15 years. This was the first time in European Union that an Iranian diplomat was tried since ‘79.
Had their plan not been thwarted on time by the Police of 3 countries—Belgium, Germany and France, a bomb called mother of Satan would have exploded and killed scores of innocents. That day in 2018, 25000 people were expected at the rally in Paris.
It’s a story that began in 2018, and ended with jail terms for terrorists in 2021.
Assadollah Assadi was the “operational commander” of the planned attack and had brought the explosives to Austria on a commercial flight from Iran in a diplomatic bag. He handed over the special package to a couple in Luxembourg. The package contained “mother of Satan” which was immaculately stacked in a woman’s beauty bag, usually easy to smuggle through airport security. Nasimeh put the package in her handbag and the couple headed back home. The plan was going as expected until Belgian Police officers halted the couple’s car. The couple was found to be carrying half a kilogram of explosives –Triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and a detonator. The bomb if had exploded would have caused a bloodbath, as NCRI’s lawyers would later describe it.
NCRI (National Council of Resistance in Iran), is the political arm of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which aims to overthrow of the Islamic Republic in Iran.
The rally was to be attended by many behemoths, which included Bill Richardson (former US Ambassador to the UN), a number of former US generals, Bernard Kouchner (former French Foreign Minister), Stephen Harper (former Canadian Prime Minister), and a host of other luminaries. The main target though was the leader of MEK, Maryam Rajavi.
The operational commander Assadollah Assadi was part of Iranian intelligence community and held key positions in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, he had participated in many successful operations in Iraq. He was stationed in Vienna, Austria, since 2014 as a third consul at the Iranian regime’s embassy. He was arrested a day after the couple got arrested while he was on holiday in Germany and handed over to Belgium.
Nasimeh Naami—was seen as the lead in the couple. She had been recognized as refugee in 2010, and had travelled to Iran atleast 13 times, without her passport getting stamped during these visits. She was a trained agent of Iranian ministry of intelligence. In her statement she had said—that she didn’t know she was carrying an explosive and that she assumed it was firecrackers. Nasimeh Naami was identified as having a “manipulative” personality and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Her partner Amir Saadouni, was also an Iranian secret agent whose area of expertise was to infiltrate supporters of the People’s Mujahideen. The couple had been staying in Belgium since long.
Mother of Satan—The Bomb
TATP– Triacetone triperoxide, or the mother of Satan, is called so because a small quantity of it can trigger large explosions. Albeit, it is highly unstable explosive and prone to unintended detonation. First discovered towards the end of the of 19th century by a German chemist, it is now used by terrorist groups in battlefields from Syria to Iraq as it comes with many advantages:
- It is easy to prepare. The ingredients used are easily available at home or supermarkets. There’s hardly a need for a terrorist to have any knowledge of chemistry to prepare TATP.
- Until recently it was difficult to detect TATP by standard explosives screening methods. Though now security measures at airports and at other security checkpoints are updated, and can detect TATP.
But the biggest disadvantage of TATP is –that it is very unstable. As a military explosive expert puts it—even when it is kept on a shelf it can lead to an explosion as it can go off at the slightest shock and littlest friction. Add to it the fact that TATP is sensitive to heat.
It’s first known use was in 2001 when Richard Reid, famously known as the “shoe bomber,” hid it in the soles of his shoes during a flight from France to USA. Fortunately, it didn’t explode.
Since then it was used in many major attacks across the world including Sri Lankan Easter blasts in 2019, twin assaults in Spain in 2017, the 2005 London transit bombings and a foiled attack in New York Sub way in 2009, where the terrorist bought items from a supermarket and assembled the bomb in his hotel room.
Now a more dangerous cocktail of small quantity of TATP as detonator is used with TNT and other explosives. This helps terrorists deal with the instability of TATP, and effectively utilize it’s explosive properties.
Looking into the picture of the shoe worn by the bomber in 2001, should give one an idea of how a very tiny quantity of TATP is enough to blow up an airplane. In an Indian lab there was an accidental TATP explosion which left several injured in 2019.
This operation is a proof of how often the diplomatic bags and refugee status are misused. Assadi lawyers tried to invoke the clause of diplomatic immunity to protect him, but Belgian court struck it down as his diplomatic immunity did not apply outside of Austria, where he was stationed as a diplomat.
The Iranian government shunned the legal proceedings as “not legitimate”. But seems the story doesn’t end here. The minutes by Begian Police show that Assadi warned them—”you do not realize what is going to happen, in the event of an unfavourable verdict”.
An article by Levina
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