Iranian diplomats burn documents hours before leaving Albania

Tehran has condemned Tirana's decision to cut diplomatic ties

A policeman stands guard outside the Iranian Embassy in Tirana, Albania, on Wednesday. AP
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Iranian diplomats burnt documents on Thursday morning, a few hours before they were set to leave Albania after the country cut diplomatic relations with Tehran over a cyber attack in July.

In a rare video address on Wednesday, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama said he ordered Iranian diplomats and staff to close the embassy and leave the country within 24 hours.

Mr Rama said the cyber attack “threatened to paralyse public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country”.

A Reuters witness saw a man from inside the embassy throwing papers in a rusted barrel, with flames illuminating the walls of the three-storey embassy.

Washington, Albania's closest ally, also blamed Iran for the attack and promised to “take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a US ally”.

Tehran has strongly condemned Tirana's decision to cut diplomatic ties and said Albania's reasons for the move were “baseless claims”.

Albania and Iran have had tense relations since 2014, when Albania accepted about 3,000 members of the exiled opposition group People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, also known by its Farsi name Mujahideen-e-Khalq, who have settled in a camp near Durres, the country's main port.

Days after the cyber attack, Tirana-based media reported that hackers had published the data of opposition members that was saved in Albania's state computers such as personal, social and security numbers, names and photos.

On Thursday morning, it appeared calm outside the embassy in Tirana, which is located only 200 metres away from the prime minister's office.

A black Audi with diplomatic car plates and darkened windows was seen going in and out as a police officer guarded the entrance.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 8:02 AM
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