Intelligence agencies are searching for members of an Iranian network of assassins that have been ordered to attack Jewish, Israeli and Western targets in Turkey, Sky News reported on Sunday.
Sources told the news network that Unit 400, a secret Iranian special-ops division of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, is believed to be preparing an attack that is already in its advanced stages and is meant to be carried out in the near future.
Intelligence sources told Sky News that in recent months Unit 400 has been developing “a standing operating procedure for carrying out an attack in Turkey against Western targets as well as Israeli and Jewish [ones].” The source added that intelligence assessments have shown “these procedures are in a very advanced stage, and that the intention is to act on the plans very soon.”
The sources also told Sky News that in the wake of growing threats of possible military action against Iran’s nuclear program, Unit 400 has been instructed to carry out “more frequent and more daring terror attacks around the world as a demonstration of ‘Iran’s asymmetric power.’”
Unit 400 falls under the direct command of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who reportedly controls the Quds Force through his close associate Qassem Suleiman.
“He runs the whole thing - directly,” a source told Sky News, adding that President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad “makes all the noise and gets the attention” but that Khamenei “is in charge of what is going on especially when it comes to international operations.”
The report also quoted an unnamed study by a foreign intelligence agency, which said Unit 400 “plans and carries out terror attacks on external targets, and provides material support to foreign militia groups, at the direct behest of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”
The intelligence sources who spoke to Sky News said a senior officer in Unit 400 is a key Iranian agent who “has been working up plans for potential attacks in European countries.”
Earlier this month, Turkish media reported that the Mossad had warned Ankara that Israeli diplomatic missions in Turkey could face imminent bomb attacks.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quoted a story aired on NTV news, which said that four individuals had already “entered Turkey from Iran” with weapons and the materials to carry out alleged attacks on Israeli diplomats.
Following the report, Israel urged its citizens not to travel to Turkey. The prime minister’s counterterrorism bureau issued the warning, saying, “terror groups are planning to carry out attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites inside Turkey in the coming days.”
Israeli diplomats abroad have been targeted in several attacks in recent months. Tal Koren-Yehoshua, the wife of an Israeli diplomat, was wounded when a car bomb exploded outside of Israel’s embassy in the Indian capital of New Delhi in February. That same day there was also an attempted attack on Israel’s embassy in Georgia, but that plot was foiled.
The next day, three Iranians accidentally blew up a house in Thailand, and Israeli authorities said the similarity between their explosives and the two earlier plots linked Iran to all three incidents. Israel has accused Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terrorism and has threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Following the attacks, the U.N. Security Council in February strongly condemned terrorist attacks aimed at Israel.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad last week, said an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be “disastrous,” according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
“The entire region would be devastated if Israel strikes Iran,” Erdogan said Saturday, adding that he had shared his views with U.S. President Barack Obama.
A regional conflict triggered by a possible Israeli strike “would not end up like the war between U.S. and Iraq. Israel should not attack Iran,” Erdogan said. “Israel has between 250 to 300 nuclear warheads. Nobody is discussing that,” the Turkish leader said.