January 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

DOJ Reveals New Iran-backed Assassination Attempt on Iranian American Journalist

January 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

DOJ Reveals New Iran-backed Assassination Attempt on Iranian American Journalist

Latest Developments 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed on Friday that the FBI disrupted another plot to assassinate Brooklyn-based Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad. A federal court in New York unsealed murder-for-hire and money laundering charges against Rafat Amirov, 43; Polad Omarov, 38; and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, all of whom are members of an Eastern European criminal organization known as “Thieves-in-Law.” The attempt on Alinejad’s life is the second effort by an Iran-backed group to kill the longtime Tehran critic and human rights advocate. In 2021, U.S. prosecutors charged four alleged Iranian intelligence operatives with plotting to kidnap Alinejad.

Expert Analysis

“We cannot wish away these acts of war as merely a problem for law enforcement to resolve. We need a fundamental change in U.S. policy when the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism believes it can plot terror attacks on U.S. soil with impunity.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Suspects Surveilled Alinejad’s House for Days

According to DOJ, Mehdiyev, a New York resident, staked out Alinejad’s home. From July 24 to 28, he made multiple unsuccessful efforts to assassinate Alinejad and plotted with the other two suspects how to lure her out of the house. Alinejad noticed suspicious activity around her residence on July 28 and left the area. While Mehdiyev drove away, police stopped him for a traffic violation and arrested him after finding weaponry, ammunition, a black ski mask, and $1,100 in cash inside his vehicle.

Law enforcement arrested Omarov in the Czech Republic on January 4, and the United States is seeking extradition. Amirov was arrested outside the United States and arrived in the Southern District of New York on January 26.

Iran Targeted Americans in the United States

Besides targeting Alinejad, Iran has repeatedly backed plots to assassinate its opponents on U.S. soil. Operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have threatened former government officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and former Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook.

In August, an attacker inspired by a fatwa — religious edict — by Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and a bounty from an organization closely linked to the clerical regime attempted to assassinate novelist Salman Rushdie while he was giving a lecture in upstate New York. European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials believe the attacker had contacts with IRGC members prior to the attack.

Plots Subverted Throughout the World

According to the State Department, Iran committed as many as 360 targeted assassinations throughout the world between 1979 and 2020. The Israeli prime minister’s office revealed in April that the Mossad thwarted an attempt to assassinate French-Jewish journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy in Paris, a U.S. general in Germany, and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey.

Related Analysis

UK Preparing to Designate IRGC as a Terrorist Organization,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Targets Salman Rushdie,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran’s Long, Bloody History of Terror and Espionage in Europe,” by Toby Dershowitz and Benjamin Weinthal


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism