‘Brutal stabbing’ of exiled Iranian journalist prompts counterterror investigation

A prominent exiled Iranian journalist was stabbed outside his home in London on Friday, prompting British police to launch a counterterrorism investigation.

Pouria Zeraati, a television anchor at the UK-based channel Iran International, was reportedly attacked by a group of men outside his home in south-western Wimbledon. The assailants then fled in a car.

London Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Friday that Zeraati’s injuries were not believed to be life-threatening and that he was in stable condition.

The Met said it is too early to determine a motive for the crime, but given the victim’s occupation “coupled with the fact that there has been a number of threats directed towards this group of journalists in recent times,” the department’s counterterrorism command would be investigating.

“We do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this. While we continue to assess the circumstances of this incident, detectives are following a number of lines of enquiry,” Commander Dominic Murphy, the head of the command, said in a statement.

While Tehran has not been implicated in the attack, the incident has already fueled concerns it could be involved. Iran has designated the television station a “terrorist entity.” Iranian state media has repeatedly accused the channel of fomenting unrest.

Zeraati’s stabbing comes after an investigation by Britain’s ITV last year revealed that Iranian spies had attempted to pay a people smuggler $200,000 to assassinate two Iran International journalists. The probe prompted the British government in January to sanction seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite paramilitary organization established in the aftermath of the country’s revolution in 1979.

The chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, and the general secretary of the British National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, both issued carefully worded statements that avoided pinning blame on Iran but called for more to be done to protect journalists.

”This brutal stabbing will inevitably raise fears amongst the many journalists targeted at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service that they are not safe at home or going about their work,” Stanistreet said.

“The international community needs to up the pressure on Iran and the UN needs to hold Iran accountable for its actions,” she added.

Kearns noted on Twitter that Iran International had only recently returned to the air from London after having to shut down in the UK.

“This is deeply upsetting,” she said on X. “Whilst we don’t know the circumstances of this attack, Iran continues to hunt down those brave enough to speak out against the regime.”

Iran’s charge d’affaires in the UK, Seyed Mehdi Hosseini Matin, denied “any link to this story of this so called journalist” on X.

CNN has approached the Iranian foreign ministry for comment

CNN’s Mostafa Salem and Hande Atay Alam contributed to this report

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