US and UK uncover Iranian network targeting dissidents for assassination

'The regime increasingly relies on organized criminal groups in furtherance of these plots in an attempt to obscure links to the Government of Iran and maintain plausible deniability,' the Department pointed out.

US and UK uncover Iranian network targeting dissidents for assassination
Iranian Army via AP
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On Monday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in collaboration with the United Kingdom, disclosed their efforts to counter a network that has been engaging in the assassination of Iranian dissidents and opposition activists under the orders of the Iranian government.

“The network is led by Iranian narcotics trafficker Naji Ibrahim Sharifi-Zindashti (Zindashti) and operates at the behest of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS),” the Treasury Department stated. “Zindashti’s network has carried out numerous acts of transnational repression including assassinations and kidnappings across multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to silence the Iranian regime’s perceived critics. The network has also plotted operations in the United States.”

At the end of January, the Department of Justice charged Zindashti, aged 49, Damion Patrick John Ryan, aged 43, and Adam Richard Pearson, aged 29, with plotting to assassinate two individuals living in Maryland. They used a secure messaging platform named "SkyECC" to enlist people who would enter the United States to execute the killings, the Daily Wire reports.

“The Iranian regime’s continued efforts to target dissidents and activists demonstrate the regime’s deep insecurity and attempt to expand Iran’s domestic repression internationally,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson stated. “The United States, alongside our international allies and partners, including the United Kingdom, will continue to combat the Iranian regime’s transnational repression and will utilize all available tools to stop this threat, especially on U.S. soil.”

The Treasury Department has pointed out that the MOIS has backed several terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al-Qaeda, noting that, “The MOIS and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have long targeted perceived regime opponents in acts of transnational repression outside of Iran, a practice that the regime has accelerated in recent years. A wide range of dissidents, journalists, activists, and former Iranian officials have been targeted for assassination, kidnapping, and hacking operations across numerous countries in the Middle East, Europe, and North America.”

“The regime increasingly relies on organized criminal groups in furtherance of these plots in an attempt to obscure links to the Government of Iran and maintain plausible deniability,” the Department pointed out.

“In 2021, Zindashti’s network recruited Canadian national and British Columbia-based Hells Angels Outlaw Motorcycle Group member Damion Patrick John Ryan (Ryan) to assassinate individuals in the United States who fled Iran. Ryan, whose criminal history ranges from firearms trafficking charges to international drug trafficking, has ties to criminal elements in Canada, the United States, and Greece. Zindashti associate Asan worked closely with Ryan to plan the assassinations, sending the location and photos of the targets, in addition to coordinating payment details. Ryan also recruited Canadian national and Hell’s Angels affiliate Adam Richard Pearson (Pearson) to carry out the murders,” the Department explained, adding, “Both Ryan and Pearson are presently incarcerated abroad on unrelated criminal matters.”

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