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UK police say suspects left country hours after stabbing Iranian journalist

LONDON (Reuters) - British police on Tuesday said three suspects believed to be involved in the stabbing of a journalist working for a Persian language media organisation in London last week left the country within hours of the attack.

"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," London's Metropolitan Police (the Met) said in a statement.

The victim in his 30s sustained an injury to his leg in the attack in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Friday afternoon. Police said he has since been discharged from hospital.

Police said that after abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled directly to Heathrow Airport and left the United Kingdom a few hours after the attack.

Britain's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the victim was British-based Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati, who hosts a show on the Persian language television news network Iran International, which is critical of Iran's government.

Police said it remained unclear why the victim was attacked and officers are "keeping an open mind as to any motivation behind this."

The incident was being investigated by counter-terrorism detectives because the victim was a journalist at a Persian language media organisation based in Britain, and previous threats had been directed towards this group of journalists, the Met said.

In January, Britain imposed sanctions, in coordination with the United States, on Iranian officials it said were involved in threats to kill journalists on British soil, and others it said were part of international criminal gangs linked to Iran.

(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Sandra Maler)