Israel fights secret war against Iranian terror cells in Africa; attacks in Ethiopia foiled but Quds Force expected to intensify activity in region.
An Iranian terror plot in an eastern African country was recently thwarted, Kan News reported this week. It was later revealed that authorities in Ethiopia arrested 16 suspects who were planning to attack the UAE embassies in the country and in Sudan.
Iranian agents, some with European passports, were sent to Ethiopia to collect intelligence on the Israeli, US, and Emirati embassies ahead of future attacks, the report said. The plots were meant to avenge the killings of Iranian leaders, security officials told Kan.
Iran’s plans to strike in Africa didn’t come as a surprise to Israel. The security services, led by Mossad, have been closely monitoring threats on the continent. By now, Africa has become a major hub for Iran’s Quds Force and its secretive Unit 400, which is charged with setting up sleeper cells and orchestrating terror activities overseas.
Shortly after the assassination of Iran’s nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizaden, security was elevated at Israeli embassies worldwide with a focus on Africa, Israel Hayom daily said. A recent Kan report revealed that the diplomatic mission in Ethiopia has been on alert for two months.
Intensive Iranian activities
Israeli and Western intelligence agencies are investing growing resources to thwart Quds Force activity in Africa, researcher Hamdi Bashir says. Mossad works closely with local governments to pursue terrorists and played a key role in the arrests of Hezbollah and Iranian agents, he wrote in a paper for the Emirates Policy Center.
Quds Force is very active in Africa and conducts special operations and intelligence gathering, the report said. The Iranians also provide training, equipment and funds to many separatist groups on the continent.
Unit 400 maintains ties with criminals and terrorist groups, while Hezbollah recruits operatives among local Lebanese communities, the study said. It added that Iranian activities in Africa are expected to intensify as the new Quds Force chief, Esmail Ghaani, ran its operations there for years and is closely familiar with the region.
Defense officials told Walla! News that Africa has become a major hub for recruiting Iranian agents against Israel. The report said that Quds Force invests great efforts to infiltrate Israel with foreign agents. In 2018, the security services uncovered a West Bank network recruited and financed by an Iranian agent from South Africa.
Notably, Mossad leads Israel’s battle to curb Iran’s operations in Africa in cooperation with the IDF and Shin Bet. Much of this activity takes place behind the scenes and remains classified.