Albanian police raid exiled Iranian opposition camp

One man reportedly killed and dozens injured following violence

Residents of Ashraf-3 camp attend speech by former US vice president Mike Pence last June. AFP
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Police in Albania have raided a camp belonging to an exiled Iranian opposition group, reportedly leaving one man dead and dozens injured.

Authorities raided the Ashraf-3 camp in Manez, located about 20 kilometres from the country's capital Tirana, early on Tuesday morning.

The camp is home to hundreds of members of the People's Mujahedin, or MEK, a group that advocates the overthrow of the Iranian regime. It has its power base in Albania.

Officers had been authorised to carry out the operation by the Special Court Against Crime and Corruption due to concerns that the MEK had been involved in terror and cyber attacks.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition that includes the MEK, said one man was killed and up to 36 others injured in the disturbances. Albania's interior ministry has so far refuted the claims.

“This morning, June 20, about 1,000 Albanian police attacked Ashraf-3 in a criminal and oppressive act. Many broke doors, cupboards, belongings and attacked residents with tear gas and spray. Many computers are broken”, the NCRI said.

“After this criminal attack, Ali Mousashari was martyred and more than 100 people were injured by burning gas, some of whom were sent to the Mother Teresa hospital in Tirana.”

The group demanded that the US and UN condemn the attack on the camp.

“The Albanian State Police have assured us that all actions were conducted in accordance with applicable laws,” a US State Department representative said of the raid.

“We support Albania’s right to investigate any potential illegal activities within its territory.

“The US doesn't see MEK as a viable democratic opposition movement that is representative of Iranian people.

“The US State Department continues to have serious concerns about MEK as an organisation, including allegations of abuse committed against its own members.”

The MEK was labelled a terror group by the US in 1997, a decision which was reversed after the group publicly renounced violence.

The far-left group was initially involved in attacks on US personnel during the 1979 Iranian revolution, but later turned against Ayatollah Khomeini.

The MEK later fled to Iraq and backed Saddam Hussein during his eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s, resulting in many citizens opposing the group.

Although largely based in Albania, the group claims to operate a network inside Iran.

Earlier this month, a group of hackers claimed responsibility for defacing websites associated with Iran's presidency.

Following the apparent hack on Monday, several websites displayed the portraits of two leaders of an exiled opposition group, while others showed pictures of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi with their faces crossed out.

Updated: June 20, 2023, 9:48 PM