Unit 400 of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is recruiting Afghans for suicide attacks and working with Al Qaeda to target Israelis.
The Quds Force team responsible for recruiting Afghans includes Hossein Rahmani, Hossein Rahban, Hamed Abdollahi, and Alireza Tajik who was implicated in a plot to assassinate an Israeli businessman in Tbilisi, Iran International can reveal.
Iran’s use of Afghans for targeting Israelis was first reported by The Israeli weblog Intellitimes.
In November 2022, Georgian security officials revealed that the Quds Force, the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, attempted to kill a prominent Israeli-Georgian living in Tbilisi.
Georgia later announced that the plot to kill Itsik Moshe, the chairman of Israel Georgia Chamber of Business had been masterminded by the IRGC-QF and implemented by Al Qaeda members.
An Afghan-Iranian named Alireza Tajik and a Pakistani agent named Amir Khan were involved in the operation. Additionally, more reports point to Iran involving Pakistanis and Afghans in carrying out terrorist attacks.
The Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, stated in July that Iran was responsible for a foiled attack on the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan, “Tehran stands behind the attempt.”
At least three incidents involving alleged Iranian plots to target Israelis have occurred in Cyprus in more than a year according to AP. An alleged Iranian-backed hit squad planning to kill Israelis and other Jews was busted by Cyprus authorities in July.
It was reported in March that the Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals who were alleged to be planning mass-casualty terrorist attacks against a Jewish restaurant and Chabad House in Athens. The perpetrators received orders from the IRGC.
“It seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran, Al Qaeda, and Taliban have put aside their religious differences for a broader war against Israel, using Afghan suicide bombers,” Mojtaba Pourmohsen reported for Iran International.
Historically, the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iran dates back to the early 1990s. During that time, al-Qaeda and Iran forged an agreement under which al-Qaeda members would train with Iranian intelligence operatives in Iran and Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
After 9/11, Abu Hafs al-Mauritani and Mustafa Hamid, bin Laden’s emissaries, were able to negotiate a deal with Iranian authorities. Iran provided a safe passageway for al-Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan to return to their respective countries or to relocate to third-party countries.
Additionally, Iran provided a permissive sanctuary within its borders to al-Qaeda leaders and their families. Bin Laden’s son Hamza was also named among those believed to be residing in Iran. In 2020 Israeli agents shot Abu Muhammad al-Masri Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader, on the streets of Tehran.
In 2021 the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly accused Iran’s government of allowing the jihadist network al-Qaeda to establish a “new home base” there, “al-Qaeda today is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”
The UN reported in February that Seif al-Adel, the apparent new leader of al Qaeda, was in Iran. This information was later confirmed by the US authorities. A US federal grand jury indicted and charged al-Adel in November 1998 for his role in the bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which resulted in the deaths of 224 civilians and the wounding of more than 5,000 others.
Adel was already reported to be based in Iran by the US State Department. A reward of up to $10 million is being offered by the department under the Rewards for Justice program. According to the program’s website, the former Egyptian army lieutenant colonel relocated to southeastern Iran under the protection of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps after the Africa bombings.
Between 2003 and 2015, he and four other Al Qaeda leaders were placed under virtual house arrest. The country released them in exchange for a kidnapped Iranian diplomat called Ahmad Nikbakht. However, he remained in Iran.
In October 2022, fifteen people were killed and 40 others injured in an attack on a Shiite religious shrine in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, according to Iranian state media agency, IRNA. According to the report, ISIS-affiliated three armed men carried out the attack at the Shah Cheragh Shrine.
Nevertheless, these men were Tajik, Azerbaijani and Afghan extremists who were linked to Al-Qaeda, which led to speculation that this raid was a false flag operation.
The ongoing war in Gaza has led to a new phase in the partnership between Iran and Taliban as the Taliban wishes to be physically involved in the conflict. “Israel is now a common target for both the Taliban and IRGC,” Iran International’s Pourmohsen says.
The IRGC has been recruiting Afghans since 2014 to fight alongside Syrian government forces by forming an Afghan Shia militia, the Fatemiyoun Division. The Guardian reported in 2016 that Afghans are offered “residence permits in Iran and approximately $500 per month” in exchange for fighting.
While Taliban leaders are motivated by ideological reasons, ordinary Afghans are driven to join mainly due to economic deprivation and vulnerability in a country ravaged by war and poverty.