Iran said one of the two suspects in a US alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington belongs to the outlawed and armed opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) – a terrorist group responsible for the death of thousands of Iranian, Iraqi and western people and officials during the last 5 decades.
Gholam Shakuri, who the US Justice Department claimed to be an operative of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force is actually a "key member" of the Mojahedin-e -Khalq Organization, MNA reported.
The agency did not explain the group’s possible motive but left the implication that the plot was a bogus scheme meant to frame and ostracize Iran.
It said Shakuri, who is at large, had last been seen in Washington and in MKO’s main training center in Iraq, Camp Ashraf.
"The person in question has been traveling to different countries under the names of Ali Shakuri/Gholam Shakuri/Gholam-Hussein Shakuri by using fake passports including forged Iranian passports," the report said.
The MKO, also known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and MEK, is regarded by Iran as a violent insurgent organization with a history of assassinations and sabotage aimed at overthrowing the Islamic government that took power in 1979. While the group claims to have renounced violence a decade ago, it is still classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.
The report said it had learned what it called the new information about Shakuri from Interpol.
The revelation that Shakuri is in fact a member of the opposition group is viewed as an embarrassing turn for the United States, which announced the suspected plot with some fanfare a week ago in a televised news conference by Attorney General Eric. H. Holder Jr., who said American investigators believed high officials in Iran’s government were responsible.
The US Justice Department has accused Shakuri and Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized Iranian-American citizen from Corpus Christi, Tex., of conspiring to hire assassins from a Mexican drug gang for $1.5 million to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.
American officials have acknowledged the suspected plot sounds hard to believe but asserted they have the evidence to back it up.
Different Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, have rejected the claim. Yet, to prove that the US allegations are baseless, Tehran has asked the Washington officials to present their case along with their proofs and allow a consular access to Arbabsiar who is now under detention in the US.
Tehran has accused the Obama administration of concocting the plot to divert attention from its internal problems and stir a rift between the regional and OPEC kingpins Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The MKO, whose main stronghold is in Iraq, is blacklisted by much of the international community, including the United States.
Before an overture by the EU, the MKO was on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations subject to an EU-wide assets freeze. Yet, the MKO puppet leader, Maryam Rajavi, who has residency in France, regularly visited Brussels and despite the ban enjoyed full freedom in Europe.
The MKO is behind a slew of assassinations and bombings inside Iran, a number of EU parliamentarians said in a recent letter in which they slammed a British court decision to remove the MKO from the British terror list. The EU officials also added that the group has no public support within Iran because of their role in helping Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988).
Many of the MKO members abandoned the terrorist organization while most of those still remaining in the camp are said to be willing to quit but are under pressure and torture not to do so.
A May 2005 Human Rights Watch report accused the MKO of running prison camps in Iraq and committing human rights violations.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, the outlawed group puts defectors under torture and jail terms.
The group, founded in the 1960s, blended elements of Islamism and Stalinism and participated in the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979. Ahead of the revolution, the MKO conducted attacks and assassinations against both Iranian and Western targets.
Leaders of the group have been fighting to shed its terrorist tag after a series of bloody anti-Western attacks in the 1970s, and nearly 30 years of violent struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In recent years, high-ranking MKO members have been lobbying governments around the world in the hope of acknowledgement as a legitimate opposition group.
The UK initiative, however, prompted the European Union to establish relations with the exiled organization now based in Paris. The European Court of First Instance threw its weight behind the MKO in December and annulled its previous decision to freeze its funds.
The group started assassination of the citizens and officials after the revolution in a bid to take control of the newly established Islamic Republic. It killed several of Iran’s new leaders in the early years after the revolution, including the then President, Mohammad Ali Rajayee, Prime Minister, Mohammad Javad Bahonar and the Judiciary Chief, Mohammad Hossein Beheshti who were killed in bomb attacks by MKO members in 1981.
The group fled to Iraq in 1986, where it was protected by Saddam Hussein and where it helped the Iraqi dictator suppress Shiite and Kurd uprisings in the country.
The terrorist group joined Saddam’s army during the Iraqi imposed war on Iran (1980-1988) and helped Saddam and killed thousands of Iranian civilians and soldiers during the US-backed Iraqi imposed war on Iran.
Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the group, which now adheres to a pro-free-market philosophy, has been strongly backed by neo-conservatives in the United States, who also argue for the MKO to be taken off the US terror list.
The MKO has been in Iraq’s Diyala province since the 1980s.
Iraqi security forces took control of the training base of the MKO at Camp Ashraf – about 60km (37 miles) north of Baghdad – in 2009 and detained dozens of the members of the terrorist group.