PARIS, June 24 : An Iranian opposition group operating in France that was the target of a large police operation last week had plans to attack Iranian embassies and assassinate former members working with Iranian intelligence services in Europe, according to a classified report by France's counter-intelligence service prepared two weeks before the crackdown.
The report also said that the group, known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, had discussed having their members commit suicide by setting themselves on fire to draw attention to their cause.
The organization, whose aim is to overthrow Tehran's Islamic Republic by force, has operated in France for more than two decades and has its headquarters and military wing in Iraq. It pays for its operations through complex fund-raising that may be legal. Its main financier used to be Iraq, which over time gave the group several hundreds of millions of dollars, the report said. It added that since the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein, militants of both its political and military wing "have fled the country and a number of them have based themselves in Europe and in France."
In France, the organization "conducts many activities that have a clandestine, sect-like and unlawful character even criminal," the report said.
Lengthy excerpts from the report were first reported in today's editions of Le Figaro newspaper and independently verified with the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry is reponsible for the counter-intelligence service, known as the D.S.T., or the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance.
A week ago, in one of the biggest domestic anti-terrorist operations in years, 1,300 French police arrested more than 150 members of the group, accusing them of organizing terrorist acts, and seized more than $8 million in $100 bills and sophisticated communications and transmission equipment. The organization is officially listed by both the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group.
Although the move against the group was designed to shut down its operations in France, in the absence of hard evidence against them, most of those detained were set free. A small group is still being held on suspicion of planning possible terrorist attacks.
One of those who is still in custody is Maryam Rajavi, who is known by the group as "the first lady of Iran" and is also the head of the group's political arm known as the National Council of Resistance. She is married to the Mujahedeen leader Massoud Rajavi, who runs the organization with an iron hand and has been based in Iraq since 1986 but has recently gone into hiding.
It was Ms. Rajavi's detention that prompted Mujahedeen members and sympathizers to demonstrate every day since then, and several set themslves on fire in Paris, London, Rome and Berne. Two of those who set themselves ablaze — one woman in Paris and another in London — have since died of their burns.
A Paris appeals court today rejected requests to free Ms. Rajavi and the 10 other members of the group who are still being held.
Ms. Rajavi uses several aliases and holds permanent refugee status in France until 2006, the report said. According to senior intelligence officials, she returned from Iraq to France in April with other senior Mujahedeen operatives with the intention of making it a global headquarters to launch the group's activities, including possible terrorist operations. The group has denied such accusations.
The report, prepared by France's domestic intelligence agency, provides the fullest official description of the Iranian exile movement since last week's crackdown.
"According to recent information, in case of a British-American attack," the report said, Mujahedeen Khalq, planned to "organize operations against Iranian targets within Europe (embassies, consulates), and to physically eliminate former members of the movement collaborating with Iranian intelligence services."
It was not clear whether the reference to the British-American attack referred in general to the recent war against the regime of Saddam Hussein or to a potential attack against the Mujahedeen itself.
The report said that many members of the organization in France have traveled regularly to Iraq where they received military and political training. They often use false documents and vary their itineraries to get to Iraq to avoid surveillance of their travels.
Members of the organization's "liberation army" based in Iraq regularly travel to the group's French headquarters in the Paris suburb of Auvers-Sur-Oise, and some of their army veterans have become "established in France."
The report stated that the organization in France consists of 200 to 300 militants and sympathizers and a much smaller "hard core" group. It listed its legal and illegal publications, adding that the illegal publication, "Mojahed," constitutes "a risk to the public order because it incites its readers to murder the main leaders of Iran who are likely to make an official visit to France."
The organization, according to the report, needs a "a substantial budget" to manage its real estate holdings, finance its communication networks, the trips of its militants and its army in Iraq, the report said, adding that the group uses a complex banking network in France, Europe, North America and the Middle East.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli called for tougher measures against the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, also known as the MEK, PMOI and NCRI) terrorist group by the European Union...