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Global manhunt launched for 'hit squad' suspected of stabbing Iran International journalist in Wimbledon

Pouria Zeraati smiling and holding up the peace sign in his hospital bed (Pouria Zeraati/instagram)
Pouria Zeraati smiling and holding up the peace sign in his hospital bed (Pouria Zeraati/instagram)

A global manhunt has been launched to catch a suspected hit squad who fled the UK within hours of the stabbing of an Iranian journalist in south-west London.

Counter-terrorism police are investigating the attack on Pouria Zeraati, 36, after he was jumped outside his Wimbledon home and wounded in the leg on Friday afternoon.

Two suspects left the scene in a vehicle driven by a third male and travelled to Heathrow Airport.

The blue Mazda 3 was abandoned shortly afterwards in the New Malden area. It has since been recovered and is being examined by forensic experts while local searches continue.

Scotland Yard, Britain’s secret intelligence services, the National Crime Agency and their colleagues in Interpol, the international police agency, are involved in finding the knifemen.

Mr Zeraati was attacked as he left home to record the Last Word programme on Iran International at 2.49pm.

He took to Instagram to post a defiant message from his hospital bed and has since been discharged but is now in hiding with his wife.

“I want to thank you for all your calls, messages and support,” he wrote.

“The amount of your sympathy, kindness and love in past few days has been and is the greatest and best energy for my recovery process.”

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said motivation for the assault was not yet clear.

However, Mr Zeraati’s occupation, coupled with recent threats to UK-based Iranian journalists, meant the investigation was being led by specialist anti-terror officers.

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “We have identified three suspects who we believe left the UK within hours of the attack.

“Detectives trawled CCTV and made extensive inquiries resulting in the identification and recovery of a vehicle used by the suspects to leave the scene.

“We have established that after abandoning the vehicle, the suspects travelled to Heathrow Airport and have left the UK. We are now working with international partners to establish further details.

“We do not know the reason why this victim was attacked and there could be a number of explanations for this.

“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.”

London-based dissident channel Iran International aims to provide independent coverage of the country, but the Tehran regime has declared it a terrorist organisation.

Iran’s charge d’affaires in the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, denied “any link” to the incident.

In January, the Foreign Office announced sanctions against members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Unit 840 after an ITV investigation into plots to assassinate two of Iran International’s presenters in the UK.

Officials said it 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 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 before a “planned attack” on British soil.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev carried out hostile reconnaissance for others unknown at the station’s London headquarters in February.

After a trial at the Old Bailey, the Chechnya-born Austrian was found guilty of trying to collect information for terrorist purposes.

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