Iranian journalist stabbed in London says he will be back on air soon

Pouria Zeraati says he will carry on with his work regardless of who was behind the attack

Pouria Zeraati, an Iranian journalist working out of the UK, was attacked near his home. Photo: Iran International
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Pouria Zeraati, an Iran International journalist who was stabbed outside his London home last week, has vowed he will be back on air soon.

Following the attack on Friday, Zeraati is now at a safe house while the incident is investigated by Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officers.

Zeraati said through a friend that he would carry on his work regardless of who was behind the attack.

The journalist has been advised not to give any interviews but gave permission for his friend Kasra Aarabi to speak to the BBC on his behalf.

Mr Aarabi said his friend is recovering and in a positive frame of mind.

“Pouria has told me, regardless of who is behind this, he won't be silenced, he'll carry on,” he said.

He added that the 36-year-old journalist told him that he had sensed that something was about to happen right before the attack when he saw two people on his quiet street in Wimbledon, south-west London.

“Pouria crossed the road to get to his car, he noticed one man approaching, so he backed off,” Mr Aarabi said.

He said the man asked Zeraati in English: “Brother, can I have £3?”

Zeraati replied in the negative and turned back to his car to open the door.

He said the man then signalled to a second person, who ran towards the TV host with his face covered and grabbed him in a bear hug, pinning his arms.

“Pouria told me he couldn't move, he had lost all control,” Mr Aarabi said.

“At which point the first person, who asked for money, stabs him several times in the back of the thigh.”

Mr Aarabi said the attack was over quickly with the assailants running down the road to a parked car.

Zeraati has said on social media that the attack was “purposefully planned”.

“Nothing was stolen from Pouria, his phone, he had brand new Apple AirPods, his wallet with cash in it and a valuable watch – they weren't interested in taking anything of value,” Mr Aarabi added.

“It could be a local gang who have been paid to do this – we know the Iranian regime has been accused of this before. The regime may have also flown in its operatives.

“The other option is that these are local home-grown attackers radicalised and recruited by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards [IRGC] in the UK, which is a terrifying but real prospect.”

The Metropolitan Police said that while the motivation for the attack was not yet clear, Zeraati's occupation coupled with recent threats to Iranian journalists in the UK meant the investigation was being led by counter-terrorism officers.

Suspects flee country

The force said three people are suspected of carrying out the attack. A vehicle believed to be linked to the incident has been recovered.

“We have identified three suspects who we believe left the UK within hours of the attack,” said Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s counter-terrorism command.

“Detectives trawled CCTV and made extensive inquiries resulting in the identification and recovery of a vehicle used by the suspects to leave the scene.

“We have established that after abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled to Heathrow Airport and have left the UK. We are now working with international partners to establish further details.

“We do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this. I appreciate the concern this incident has caused, for local people and all those impacted.

“Additional patrols are continuing in the Wimbledon area and at other locations in London.”

Iran International spokesman Adam Baillie said the broadcaster and its journalists have been targeted by the IRGC.

The channel in London aims to provide independent coverage of Iran, which has declared the outlet to be a terrorist organisation.

Iran’s chargé d’affaires in the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, said “we deny any link” to the stabbing attack.

Asked about who was behind the attack, Mr Baillie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “the fact that counter-terrorism is leading the investigation probably speaks for itself”.

“Along with our colleagues at BBC Persian, Iran International has been under threat, very heavy threats, for the last 18 months since the IRGC said, ‘We’re coming for you’, which they have consistently repeated,” he added.

He said the IRGC “gets in touch through proxies, they don’t leave a paper trail”.

“No one’s going to call up from the IRGC and go, ‘Hey, it’s us’, but families have been taken in for questioning and threatened,” Mr Baillie said.

“The scale of that has increased dramatically over the last few months, and the scale and the type of questioning is more aggressive, ‘tell your relatives to stop working for this channel’ and so on.”

In January, the British Foreign Office imposed sanctions on members of the IRGC’s Unit 840 after an ITV investigation into a plot to assassinate two of Iran International’s presenters in the UK.

Officials said the plot was the latest credible example of Iran’s attempts to kill or intimidate people on UK soil, with at least 15 such threats reported since January 2022.

In December, an IT worker was jailed for three and a half years for spying on Iran International before a “planned attack” on British soil.

After a trial at the Old Bailey, the Chechnya-born Austrian citizen was found guilty of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 2:40 PM