ATHENS: Greek police told AFP Tuesday they had arrested two young Pakistanis of Iranian origin over planned anti-Semitic attacks in central Athens, as Israel accused Tehran of being behind the plot.
The Jewish state said it was a fresh attempt by arch-foe Iran “to promote terror against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad”.
“After the investigation of the suspects in Greece, the Mossad helped untangle the intelligence of the network, its operational methods and ties to Iran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said referring to Israel’s national intelligence agency.
“As part of the investigation, it emerged that the infrastructure in Greece was part of a broad Iranian network, operated from Iran toward many countries,” a statement said.
Greek police spokeswoman Konstantina Dimoglidou told AFP the “mastermind” of the cell is “a Pakistani who lives outside Europe”.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the person lived in Iran.
“After coordinated actions by the Greek police and the National Intelligence Service, a terrorist network was dismantled which, from abroad, was planning strikes against carefully selected targets on Greek territory,” a police statement said.
Police said the network had “already chosen the target of the attack” and was planning how to execute it.
Greece’s Jewish community numbers around 5,000. The government has good relations with Israel, including a number of security and military agreements.
The Greek police source told AFP the two Pakistanis of Iranian origin were aged 27 and 29 and were planning attacks on areas frequented by Israelis in central Athens.
The source said the men were targeting a building which houses a synagogue and a Jewish restaurant.
The mobile phones of the two arrested men had allowed investigators to capture conversations, videos and sketches of the places targeted, according to the same source.
The country has not been the target of any terrorist attacks in recent years.
Greek police said the suspects were trying to undermine state security and its “international relations”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Greece’s under-fire prime minister announced elections would be held on May 21, as popular anger seethes over government failures blamed in last month’s train tragedy that killed 57 people.
PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose four-year term is to end in July, is seeking re-election on pledges of safety improvements after the nation’s worst rail disaster and strengthening the economy.
His government has also pledged to tighten security and prevent illegal migration by sealing its frontier with help from the EU’s border agency Frontex.