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Three suspects in stabbing of London-based Iranian journalist fled UK by plane ‘within hours of attack’

Pouria Zeraati released a defiant hospital picture after being stabbed on Friday  (@pouriazeraati)
Pouria Zeraati released a defiant hospital picture after being stabbed on Friday (@pouriazeraati)

Detectives investigating the stabbing of Iran International journalist Pouria Zeraati outside his London home believe the three suspects fled the UK within hours of the attack.

The broadcast journalist at the dissident Iranian news channel was stabbed outside his home in Wimbledon shortly before 3pm on Friday, and was hospitalised with an injury to his leg. British counterterror police have been investigating the attack

Iran International, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Tehran, said it had faced “heavy threats” for 18 months, and noted that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have been targeting journalists and their families. Iran’s UK charge d’affaires Mehdi Hosseini Matin said “we deny any link” to the incident.

Iran International journalist Pouria Zeraati was stabbed in London on Friday (Iran International)
Iran International journalist Pouria Zeraati was stabbed in London on Friday (Iran International)

Scotland Yard said on Tuesday night that detectives believe three suspects were involved – but that all are thought to have fled the UK via Heathrow just hours after the attack.

The force said in a statement: “Detectives have established the victim was approached by two men in a residential street and attacked. The suspects fled the scene in a vehicle driven by a third male.

“The vehicle – a blue Mazda 3 – was abandoned in the New Malden area shortly after the attack. Detectives have located the vehicle and it is being examined by forensic experts. Searches in the area continue.

“The investigation team has established that after abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled directly to Heathrow Airport and left the UK within a few hours of the attack.”

Iran International spokesperson Adam Baillie said on Saturday that the incident was “hugely frightening” but that Mr Zeraati was “doing very well” and recovering in hospital. Hours later, Mr Zeraati posted a picture of himself in hospital, flashing the peace sign.

Sharing the Metropolitan Police’s statement on Tuesday, Mr Zeraati – who was discharged from hospital on Monday – noted in a social media post that his suspected attackers allegedly “managed to escape from British soil by air, within a few hours after the attack”.

The Met said the motivation for the attack remained unclear, but that Mr Zeraati’s occupation, coupled with recent threats towards UK-based Iranian journalists, meant that the probe was being led by specialist counterterrorism officers.

Commander Dominic Murphy, said: “I must reiterate that we are still at an early stage of our investigation, we do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this. All lines of enquiry are being pursued and we are keeping an open mind on any potential motivation for the attack.

“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. If you have any concerns, please do speak with these officers.

“I am grateful to everyone who has assisted officers with their enquiries or provided witness accounts to police.”

It is understood that several plots to either kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime have been disrupted by police over the past two years.

“It was a shocking, shocking incident, whatever the outcome of an investigation reveals,” Mr Baillie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But for him as a leading presenter, as with our other presenters and journalists, yes, it is a great shock. It’s the first attack of its kind.”

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

He added: “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 Foreign Office announced sanctions against members of the IRGC’s Unit 840 following an ITV investigation into plots 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 Britons or people with links to the UK, with at least 15 such threats having been reported since January 2022.

In a separate case in December 2023, an IT worker was jailed for three and a half years for spying on Iran International in preparation for a “planned attack” on British soil.

Anyone with information about this incident who has yet to speak with officers is asked to call police on 0800 789 321.